Compare Bible Translations
Article Date: January 4, 2011
Compare Bible Translations
A very common question we get here at Deeper Shopping.com is "Why are there so many Bible Translations?" While this article cannot answer all your questions, it will give you a few great pointers so you can better understand some of the important differences between our best selling Bible Versions.
Word for Word, or Thought for Thought Translations
There are two basic approaches to writing a Bible Translation. These are "Word for Word" translations, and "Thought for Thought" translations.
Word for Word Compare Bible Translation starts with the original texts - and the Bible Scholar read word-by-word, to make the best possible translation by trying to match words in the original Hebrew or Greek with equivalent words in English. The result is a Bible which is as accurate as possible based on the underlying words that were used to communicate the original Biblical texts. Of course no actual copies of the original scripts and scrolls exist, so copies of copies of copies are used bringing the Translators the best possible written documents.
Over the several thousand years of copying, individual scribes made subtle changes to reflect their own reading of the text. In Greek, a slight alteration in one single character can change the meaning of an entire paragraph. So, as time carried the texts through history, the human touch altered the words of the "original texts". In order to get the best possible matches to the originals, it makes sense that you would want the oldest possible surviving copies, and when you consider that the oldest we have are still thousands of years away from when they were written. Much of The Old Testament for example, was written thousands of years BC, and the oldest copies we have are only a couple hundred years BC. Moses' originals were dust a loooong time ago. So how many "copy-centuries" removed are we from the originals? Impossible to say, but no matter how good a translator you are, the task is still daunting.
An AMAZING contribution to Biblical translation and historical support for the Old Testament Scriptures came with the discovery of The Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. It remains one of the most incredible and complete collections of Biblical and Jewish history ever discovered, and one of a handful of major discoveries ever found - rivaling the King Tut collection, and some dinosaurs. There is still some mystery which surrounds the Dead Sea Scrolls - questions as to whether Israel is entirely forthcoming about the quantity and pieces, and arguments about the possibility that some monasteries may still possess some which have never been released. At least 7 complete scrolls can be verified, some on leather, some on parchments. There are scroll fragments and pieces from at least 24 scrolls, and some have argued that they may actually represent over 800 individual scrolls! Biblical Archeology continues, but the Dead Sea Scrolls remain the oldest manuscripts in existence.
The oldest of them may date to 200 BC, making them some of the closest we have to literal "ancient Bible writings". Two of the 10 best preserved scrolls were copies of The Book of Isaiah. So how does that help in translating the Bible? Isaiah died somewhere around 686 BC. The authorship of the entire book is usually ascribed to Isaiah, but some argue he didn't write all of it. Even those critics would agree that at least 39 chapters were definitely written by Isaiah. If he did not write it all, the latest possible writings of the final one third of the book were completed sometime in the 5th century BC. So everything more recent than that is a copy of a copy. For over half a century, some of the most brilliant Archeologists, Biblical Language Scholars, Museum Curators from Israel, Experts on Ancient Hebrew Culture, Jewish and Jerusalem Historians, and thousands of peripheral students and teachers have studied the Dead Sea Scrolls, and still have conflicting theories about many of their exact interpretations.
Those scrolls represent copies of only one book of the Old Testament. That leaves room for a LOT of speculation. So, in order to establish the best possible baseline for the original texts, Bible Translators co-translated the Word-for-Word versions. In many cases 100's of Bible Scholars were involved in creating one translation! Their combined years of experience in Biblical History Studies, and Biblical Languages must have reached into the thousands! Several translations took over a decade, and involved many translators whose ultimate goal was to create a Bible which is the closest thing possible to the actual original written texts, written by the actual Biblical writers like Paul, or Luke, or Moses. Those Word-for-Word translations are noted below as [W4W].
Thought-for-Thought is the other strategy for Bible translation. In this style, the Bible Scholar reads the same information and texts as the Word-for-Word translators. He thinks carefully about what is being communicated, and then rephrases or paraphrases the text into modern English. What you get is a text that attempts to get closer in line with what the authors of the original Biblical Texts were thinking, as opposed to the actual word-for-word textual content. Why dabble with the original? You may ask. Why not just let the words say what they say? That is a fair question, and a very important one.
The reason is quite simple - the Bible was not written in English. Nor was it written in Spanish, French, Portuguese, Russian, or any other language currently written and spoken on earth. Most of the New Testament was written in Koine Greek, and in many cases - hundreds actually - an English word for the Greek word Paul or Peter, or any other author wrote, does not even exist. Multiply that fact throughout the nearly 200 years it took to write the 27 books of the New Testament and you begin to understand the monumental task a word-for-word translator faces. Add to that the complex Old Testament language of Hebrew. Some of the Old Testament was written THOUSANDS of years BC! So, now you see why the thought-for-thought approach arose. It's just not humanly possible to translate the entire Bible in a literal fashion.
So, the thought-for-thought translator says to himself, Based on the different texts in Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Latin, I've got a pretty good idea what Paul meant when he said, "For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood."[Romans 3:23 NLT] Then that scholar takes the information he sees, and based upon all that he knows from other Scriptures, and all that he has available from other books Paul wrote, he makes his determination. He knows it's preposterous to even imagine he will ever hold in his hands an actual piece of parchment with Paul's hand-written scribing on it. So, he must translate based upon what he thinks Paul meant.
Some day the translator and the author will meet in Heaven and they can sit down and talk it over, but until then, he must do the best he can to determine what will help a modern reader understand the thoughts of the ancient writer. Of course it's a subtle art - it's pretty pretentious to assume we can truly know what Moses was thinking, but the result of Thought-for-Thought translations has been some wonderfully readable Bibles. Especially for audiences looking for a translation that is relevant to modern life, and uses actual words and phrases which are equivalent to modern language, a Thought-for-Thought Bible is an excellent choice. Some great examples of Thought-for-Thought translations are listed below. They are designated by the code: [T4T]
A translation is never going to be 100% word for word or thought for thought. Both techniques will be used - the question becomes to what degree. You will sometimes see the [W4W] or [T4T] with a percentage (75% or 50-50 etc). That simply means some translations will fall somewhere in the middle, or closer to one side or the other. We use those indications to demonstrate a kind of balance, for people wanting to study the Bible, but without needing a doctorate in Ancient Hebrew Linguistics to do it. The following list will give you a quick overview of our most popular translations. If you would like to search through our catalog of approximately 4000 different Bibles, then be sure to use our Easy Bible Finder.
Bible Version Comparison
Spanish Bible Translations "Biblias en Español, Versión"
Joseph Kerr Deeper Calling Media 2011©: We hope this article has provided you with some assistance on outlining the various translations available and how they compare. For further assistance, call one of our Bible Specialists at 888-433-3788 during Business Hours and we will be only to happy to assist you with your needs. Special thanks to Zondervan Publishing, and Thomas Nelson Publishing for some content. Used by permission.