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Why I plan to switch Bible translations.

Have you given much thought about which Bible translation you use? Have you ever switched Bible translations?

Did you know that different translations have unique approaches to helping readers understand the text? Some are more intentional about translating word-for-word, while others focus more on delivering thought for thought. Different versions/translations are also written for specific grade levels – for example, the NIV is a grade 7 level while the NIrV is a grade 3 level (similar, but when read side-by-side, you’ll quickly see the differences).

This post is Amy sharing her own personal experience and why she plans to switch Bible translations for studying at home. 

 

Why I plan to switch Bible translations for my next Bible

 

Do you remember your childhood Bible? Mine was the NIV New Adventure Bible – you know, the classic hardcover, blue with writing on the cover. It was very popular back in the 90’s, along with the Adventures In Odyssey Bible and Precious Moments Bible. Back then, I didn’t even know there were different translations (though I still remember the time I thought I’d read the Bible I got when I was dedicated – it was the KJV – and I found it so tricky as a young girl I didn’t use it again).

The retro New Adventure Bible NIV version from the 90s

 

Choosing a Translation Based on my church

 

For years, the NIV was the only translation I knew. Memory verses are all in NIV, the Lord’s Prayer, and other familiar passages. When my husband got a job at a church, the pastor there used the NLT. We went to the Christian bookstore, and I bought my first NLT Bible. That was the first time I would switch Bible translations, and I have been reading the NLT ever since.

 

New Living Translation

 

If you look at a Bible translation chart/spectrum, you will see that Bibles are categorized based on the “thought for thought” or “word for word” approach. With a translation like the NLT, the editors were more concerned with readers understanding the point of what was being conveyed rather than translating the words perfectly. If you want to do a deeper study of a passage, you should use multiple translations!

The NLT’s approach to translation has been beneficial as I’ve come to understand “the gist” of every passage.

Did you know that every Bible has an introduction that explains the translation process and the history of the translation? 

 

Understanding the Difference in Translations

 

Over my years working on the Bible Reading Blog and conversing with some brilliant colleagues, I’ve learned a lot about Bible translations. Realizing that editors have different approaches and goals for translation was a huge “ah-ha” moment for me.  I began to be more intentional in using different translations that would complement each other in my studies (for example, the NLT and ESV).

Here’s an example of how translations can be different: instead of translating a passage word-for-word to say “brothers,” the NLT team might use gender-inclusive language like “brothers and sisters” to convey that the author was speaking to people in general. However, a word-for-word translation (like ESV) would use “brothers.” If you translate exactly what is there, they wrote “brothers,” meaning people in a family or sometimes the church family. It’s like the modern-day version of us using “guys.” If one translated it literally, it would be “men,” but if it were translated contextually, it means “people.”

Example: James 1:2

  • NLT: Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.
  • ESV: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.
  • KJV: My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;

KJV, ESV, and several others use “Brothers” or “brethren,” while the NLT (and a few other translations) say “brothers and sisters”. The footnote in the ESV offers some clarification, saying:

“Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church; also verses 16, 19″’

The decision to switch translations

 

The NLT has been an excellent translation for me for the past ten years. I’ve found it easy to read and understand.

Recently, I decided that my next Bible will not be another NLT. Instead, I want to move to one that is more word-for-word like the ESV or AMP.

Have you ever read the Amplified Bible? It’s one I regularly open when studying a passage because it is a word-for-word translation that gives several possible words (often in brackets) to help you understand a passage.

 

Better Understanding the Bible

 

There is no problem with the NLT, in my opinion. Instead, I think my understanding of the Bible will be strengthened and deepened by starting with a new translation. It will force me to read more carefully, give a new perspective on different passages, and be a great way to mix it up.

Here’s the Bible reading spectrum – look at your current translation/version, and consider trying something on the other end of the spectrum! If not for your daily reading, at least when you study!

 

 

Everyone has their personal opinions and thoughts – this is just me sharing my journey and experience. Using multiple translations when studying the Bible and stepping outside of our comfort zone is valuable!

 

Read some of our other blog posts on translations: What Bible Translation Should I Use?, What is the King James Version?, Why Do you Choose To Read a Particular Bible TranslationHow Do I Pick a Bible For My Child?

© Scripture Union Canada, 2021

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