As most of you know, I am very fascinated by Bible translations. I don’t know Greek. I don’t know Hebrew. I don’t know Aramaic. But it is fascinating to me to read various English translations and how they came to be, what features each offers, and who is reading and preaching from what. In fact, a couple of months ago, I posed the simple question: which translation do you use? The responses were great.
For the last 6 months or so, I have been studying and preaching from the Today’s New International Version (TNIV). Prior to picking up the TNIV, I used, almost exclusively, the New International Version (NIV). Recently, I have picked up and began reading and studying the English Standard Version (ESV).
Here are some thoughts…and then I have a question to pose to you. The TNIV is a very readable translation that offers more accuracies, I think, than a paraphrase. Translations, by nature, are going to be more accurate to the original text than paraphrases. The TNIV prides itself on being a translation of today’s English. Where the original language may say “men” and refer to all people, the TNIV will go ahead and translate it “humankind” or “all people.” I have enjoyed using the TNIV on Sunday mornings, and find that many people don’t mind the translation at all, especially since it mirrors the NIV so closely, and that still is the translation most people seem to carry.
However, in reading through the ESV over the last many weeks, I have found that it seems much more accurate. The ESV is a word-for-word translation, which will naturally provide for a more accurate rendition of the original writing. However, sometimes you lose the “readability” of a word-for-word translation. But, even despite this fact, the ESV is easy to read.
I have not used the ESV in any sermons. I have a feeling that if I were to do so, people would make remarks about it, simply because what I would be reading would not be that similar to what they have in their Bibles (primarily the NIV).
So, I pose this question: how do you decide which translation to preach from? Do you go for accuracies over readability? Do you go for ease of read? Do you go for what is popular?
I spoke about this with my wife, Keri. She made the simple observation that most folks still carry the NIV. Therefore, the NIV or TNIV would be the least offensive translation to continue to use. Of course, you could do some teaching of your people regarding the various translations, and thus open the door wide to use other, lesser known translations, like the ESV.
Interesting thoughts. Also, I found this paper written by Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll as to how their church came to the decision to use the ESV in their worship services. (Open the PDF file and read the whole thing). It’s long, but a fascinating read.
Oh well. Thanks for reading. I love thinking through this stuff.