In the church, there are a number of topics that seem to generate varying levels of controversy. Whether it’s the type of music you sing/play, how often you celebrate the Lord’s Supper or your view on creation/evolution, there’s no shortage of topics which garner a range of (often emotional) reactions.
One such topic is what Bible version should be used in the church. When it comes to different kinds of Bibles, options – often expressed as acronyms – abound. Do you like the NASB, NJB, ESV, RSV, NIV, NIrV, GNT, ASV, CSB, CEV, NEB, KJV, NLT, NRSV, NKJV, TLB, NCV, AMP, or “the Message” Bible? There are many options, and the English-speaking world is truly blessed to have so much to choose from.
Many Christians who read their Bible regularly (admittedly, a minority of Christians today) feel a strong attachment to the wording and tone of a particular translation. This means any discussion of what Bible translation is best to use in the church will be caught up in a web of opinions, feelings and experiences. One of the key sticking points is whether you should use a more “literal” (word-for-word) translation or a more free-flowing translation that offers “thought-for-thought” translation. Or should you use something in between these two options?
One impediment to having a clear-thinking, robust discussion about this topic is the fact that almost nobody who holds an opinion about Bible translations actually knows much about the nature and process of translation. The videos below offer some useful information about Bible translation/s. I hope you can spend a little time looking at them.
Here’s a short presentation by Mark Strauss, professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary, in the U.S.:
Bill Mounce, an expert in Biblical Greek, addresses the word “literal” that comes up all the time in these discussions:
Our church uses the NIV translation, which is carefully translated from the original languages, often seeking to convey the intended meaning of the Greek and Hebrew – particularly where a phrase might be unclear to our modern ears. In our post-Christian Australian context (where Biblical illiteracy is a pandemic), the simplicity and clarity of the NIV is very helpful. In this next video, Bill Mounce addresses the reason why the NIV has been updated over the years:
If you have a little bit more time, watch this video where the NIV’s Committee on Bible Translation answers numerous questions:
Whatever you think about Bible translation our hope is that you read, study, memorise, and believe the translation of your preference! The world and the church need a growing number of Christians who know their Bibles!