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Discussion Forum : Scriptures and Doctrine : Which is the best Bible Version?

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philologos
Member



Joined: 2003/7/18
Posts: 6566
Reading, UK

 Which is the best Bible Version?

This is a thread which would be charged with a lot of strong feelings, but it could be really valuable if we could discuss it in a spirit of mutual respect and open mindedness.

I take it as read that anyone on this forum is most likely to believe in plenary inspiration of the scriptures as originally given. If not, that might be a further thread, but it would be a distraction from this particular thread.

This topic has been well-aired on many a web-site but often in the spirit of a street corner harangue. If we could start with the presuppositions that all contributors are seeking truth, rather than victory, it could be of real value.

What do you think folks?


_________________
Ron Bailey

 2003/8/22 3:19Profile
crsschk
Member



Joined: 2003/6/11
Posts: 9192
Santa Clara, CA

 Re: Which is the best Bible Version?

O.K. I am interested, again under the "rules of engagement" you outlined. This is something that has sat in the back of my mind and am glad you brought it up. Since the only objective in my mind is "what did the writers [i][b]mean[/b][/i], not what do I think it means" or better yet what was God telling us through these men.

Since not all of us are scholars or from higher education, I ask that you bear with us 'lay people'.

Maybe some basic outlines for starters.
For instance;
Scripture interprets scripture.
The bible was written in Hebrew, Greek and Aramiac.
Context, culture and audience at the time they were written.
The entire collections of books is about God's plan of redemption centered around one solitary figure, Jesus Christ. (Is that a correct assumption?)
more?

Also, without the Holy Spirit we might as well be reading the phone book, how do we discern which versions have a particular 'bent' towards man's thinking? A Hebrew scholar without the Spirit of God dwelling inside of him might be able to tell me something about language but spiritualy might as well be talking quantum physics.

I have a ton of questions, so I will most likely be asking as oppossed to stating, an observer trying to get to the bottom line, which is truth. This is an imporant subject in light of the fact that there are many who would have us rewrite the scriptures to support their particular point of view and have done so. Translating from language to language is a difficult endevour and will always fall short in the hands of fallible men. So how do we keep this in a right perspective without spinning off into arguments over words, taking scriptures out of there proper context (which I at times am guilty of) and keep in mind what you originally stated?;

Quote:

If we could start with the presuppositions that all contributors are seeking truth, rather than victory, it could be of real value.


I offer up this suggestion:
Pray before you post.


_________________
Mike Balog

 2003/8/22 9:33Profile









 Re:

This is a hard question to answer, mainly because it would partly involve subjective criteria rather than empirical objective data. Most on this board are likely aware of the KJV only defenders. I do not fall into that camp. I own about 20 versions of the Bible but consistently only use 3, the New King James, New American Standard, and the Darby. I guess I fall more into a "literalist" camp. However, I do recognize some problems with literal translations. Figures of speech can often times be better conveyed in versions that freely paraphrase. Or even cultural subtleties are lost in literal translations. Still for myself, since I have a good personal reference library, I prefer literal translations. My problem with paraphrase is that it brings in the translators own private interpretations many times. The "Living Bible" and "The Message" are probably the worst for this. I like as close to a word for word as possible and let the Spirit help.

Next would come as to which Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic texts are the least tainted and which translations are built on those texts? Byzantine? Alexandrian? Western? Caesarean? That's a whole subject that I think is too involved for the average Bible student and often times just brings in confusion.

Currently I use the NKJV for my regular Bible reading but most of my study is done using my Hebrew Greek Key Study Bible in the NASB.

Everyone has a preference and I think that you should use whatever translation you are comfortable with and that speaks to your heart. If it doesn't do that and reads like a textbook it might be best to consider a different translation. Just my 2 cents!

Kevin

For anyone wanting to read about comparative translations etc. perhaps I could recommend a site. I do not agree with every finding of theirs but it is a useful and informative website.

[url=http://www.cob-net.org/compare.htm]SEE HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!![/url]

 2003/8/22 10:48
philologos
Member



Joined: 2003/7/18
Posts: 6566
Reading, UK

 Re: The x and y axes

In one sense the answer to the question is easy. The best Bible version is the one that you will read. If you had the Pentateuch in Moses' handwriting, and Galatians in Paul's they would be no benefit if they just sat on your shelf. Likewise if you had the purist Hebrew or Greek text they would be of no advantage unless we were fluent in those languages ourselves.

This first posting is going to be long one. Sorry.

Having said that, there are two major influences which affect all Bible translations. They are both vital so I won't say first...

The underlying text. The Bible was originally written in Hebrew and a little Aramaic/Chaldean, and Koine Greek. Koine Greek distinguishes the Greek of the NT from modern Greek and more importantly from Classical Greek. None of the original 'autographs' (e.g. manuscripts in the handwriting of Paul) are known to exist. Every ancient Bible, no matter how ancient, is a copy.

There are hundreds of ancient copies of the NT. There are some which are very old, back to the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. (I was looking at 2 of these in the British Library just last month. Only through the glass of the display cabinet; I don't want anyone to think I am claiming to be very expert on these matters.) When scholars examine all these copies they find that although the vaste proportion of each copy is exactly the same as other copies, there are some differences. They then discover that sometimes several copies have one word whereas several other copies have another word. They put the copies which have the same word into 'families'.

They then try to work out why the differences exist; this is called textual criticism. Criticism here just means 'judgement'. These same scholars then decide that some families are 'better' than the others. You may have seen version of the Bible which have footnotes saying 'best mss (manuscripts) have ***'. This is where the problems begin, because different scholars have 'judged' that different 'families' are the 'best'.

The reason that the RSV is sometimes different from the KJV is that the translators of the KJV judged that one family of manuscripts was the better, and the translators of the RSV judged that another family was better. Consequently the KJV and RSV translators, on this small percentage of different words, are translating from different Greek texts. Hence their translatons will be different at some points.

If you decided that there were 2 main families you could make this your x axis, with The Western Family on the left and the Majority Family on the right. Every Bible could then be plotted on your graph depending on which family you judged (best) most reliable. Its a lot more complicated than this but this graph would have the RSV over on the left and the KJV over on the right. (we can go more deeply into this later if folks want to)

So what is the y axis? The y axis is the translation philosophy of the translators. Some expert translators say we should translate one Greek word into one English word; this would be called Literal Equivalence. Other translators would say we should translate every Greek 'idea' into an English idea; this would be called Dynanic Equivalence. Your y axis could have dynaminc equivalence at the bottom and literal equivalence at the top.

We can now plot every Bible translation on our xy graph, if you know which manuscript families they thought were best, and which translation philosophy they thought best.

That's enough for one posting, but here is a true story. Bible translators were translating the sayings of Jesus into a tribal language in Papua New Guinea (PNG). "if you had a son who asked for a fish would you give him a snake?" said the translator. "YES", said the listeners. "Whoa", said the translator, "how come?" PNG is very hilly, the streams run very quickly and the fish are very small and boney. Snake, on the other hand, is highly nutritious, so if your son asked for a fish you would certainly give him more than he asked for if you were able, so by all means give him a snake.

How would you have translated it?


_________________
Ron Bailey

 2003/8/22 10:51Profile









 Re:

Quote:
Bible translators were translating the sayings of Jesus into a tribal language in Papua New Guinea (PNG). "if you had a son who asked for a fish would you give him a snake?" said the translator. "YES", said the listeners. "Whoa", said the translator, "how come?" PNG is very hilly, the streams run very quickly and the fish are very small and boney. Snake, on the other hand, is highly nutritious, so if your son asked for a fish you would certainly give him more than he asked for if you were able, so by all means give him a snake.



Sorry Ron, but I would still have translated it literally. As someone became familiar with the Bible they would soon enough figure out why Christ used the symbol of the snake. Even paraphrasing it would still have been dificult to convey the meaning. Not to mention that even in English there were many things obscure to me when I first started reading the Bible but became more clear over the years.

Kevin

 2003/8/22 11:05
philologos
Member



Joined: 2003/7/18
Posts: 6566
Reading, UK

 Re:

Hi Ktrek
I'm not telling you what I would have done, so you don't need to apologise. However, if you wanted a strictly literal translation it would have to read..

"which (untranslatable word) of you the father shall request the son bread (untranslatable word) will give to him if also a fish (untranslatable word) instead of a fish a serpent he will give to him."

I'm not sure what that would communicate.


_________________
Ron Bailey

 2003/8/22 11:52Profile









 Re:

Well, since I don't speak New Guinean I guess I'll just have to trust you that the words were indeed untranslatable. :-D

Kevin

 2003/8/22 11:57
philologos
Member



Joined: 2003/7/18
Posts: 6566
Reading, UK

 Re:

Nor me, the Greek words are not translatable into English. It is a idiomatic form of contrast.

Here's another story. This time from South America. Again Bible translators were beginning with some simple stories and sayings of Jesus.
They wanted to use the phrase "I am the living bread". There were no edible grains in the rain forest so they began a working translation by referring to manioc, which was the staple diet of the tribe. The problem was that the tribe only distinguished between living and cooked. (Their only interest was food, so living had got away but the dead things were cooked.) Their opposite to 'living' was 'cooked'

The problem is that uncooked manioc root is highly poisonous.


_________________
Ron Bailey

 2003/8/22 12:09Profile
crsschk
Member



Joined: 2003/6/11
Posts: 9192
Santa Clara, CA

 Re:

Quote:
That's enough for one posting, but here is a true story. Bible translators were translating the sayings of Jesus into a tribal language in Papua New Guinea (PNG). "if you had a son who asked for a fish would you give him a snake?" said the translator. "YES", said the listeners. "Whoa", said the translator, "how come?" PNG is very hilly, the streams run very quickly and the fish are very small and boney. Snake, on the other hand, is highly nutritious, so if your son asked for a fish you would certainly give him more than he asked for if you were able, so by all means give him a snake.

How would you have translated it?



If you had the foreknowledge of their culture, I don't see any reason why you could not just reverse the order to; "if you had a son who asked for a snake would you give him a fish?" So that it would make sense to them. Then you could explain that in the 'original' the opposite is true and was written as such because of the culture and audience it was given to.

Meaning. Is not that what should be considered the highest value in translating? I realize this is not always easy to do as you have well stated.

Another example. 1 Cor 11:14 "Does not even nature
itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him?" My particular version (NKJV MaCarthur Study Bible) gives a vauge explanation, are we talkin a matter of 'degrees'? What constitutes 'long'? I am assuming the culture of the people Paul was addressing would have understood his [i]meaning[/i], what about those who have taken a Nazirite vow?
I just so happen to fall into this camp, since I have shoulder length hair, so am I now 'dishonored'? Or if I followed all the prescriptions of a Nazirite vow, would I skirt the issue? Or am I confusing the issue by these examples? (It's not something I have any anxiety over) :-)
Surely there are those who like to use a pretext as a proof text. But do we do a disservice by holding to the use of words 'as written' even if the meaning is lost on the hearers because of their particular culture?
Your thoughts are appreciated, since you guy's seem to have a better grasp of all this.
P.S. No, I am not getting a hair cut! :-D


_________________
Mike Balog

 2003/8/23 9:37Profile
Jason
Member



Joined: 2003/3/15
Posts: 138


 Re: Which is the best Bible Version?

I've been working some on an article this summer (several parts to it) that hopes to address this question. When I finish it, I will post the link.

Suffice it to say that it is impossible to answer the question of "Which Bible is Best?"; better questions would be "Which Bible is the most accurate?" or "Which Bible is the clearest?"

 2003/8/23 14:26Profile





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