I am not a Bible scholar. I do not speak, read or write Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic. As a matter of fact, English is my second language. I grew up speaking Spanish until I was about 4 years old. I am not trying to brag but I would say that my English is better than most but not as good as some. That is one reason why I do not really push one translation over another. Yes, I do like the ESV and I do own more ESV’s than other translations but I am advocate of the use of at least four Bible translations, the King James Version, the New American Standard Bible, the English Standard Version and a more dynamic translation like the New Living Translation or the (Todays) New International Version.
Like with many things, the internet provides much that is good as well as what is bad. If not for the ‘net I never would have switched to using the ESV or one of my personal favorites the 1599 Geneva Bible. Blogs in the same manner provide valued information as well as opinion that can be both good and bad. There is much going around about Bible translations and which is the current best. I use “current best” because their will be more translations and more paraphrases to replace the current crop of Bibles. The problem with being too dynamic is that you have a very short shelf life. Reaching todays generation through a relevent translation leaves you about 10 years before your translation is dated. Sooner or later being socially relevant means that sooner, rather than later your will be socially irrelevant. “Ladies and gentlemen… The Rolling Stones.”
What does the future hold for Bible translations? Will paraphrases become the norm? The biggest knock against the King James Version is that it’s language is archaic, nobody speaks like that anymore. I do not believe that the English language has degraded so much so that the KJV is no longer understandable. The ESV too has it’s critics for being too literal or for retaining archaic language. The recent trend in the past thirty years since the introduction of the New International Version has been to introduce translations that are increasingly dynamic. The translations have gone from a more literal, word for word translation to a more dynamic, perhaps more understandable thought for thought translation. So… which is the best for displaying the truth of the revealed word of God?
There is plenty of chatter about which translation to use for public speaking and teaching. In my opinion, more is coming from the those that prefer a dynamic or thought for thought translation. Aside from Wayne Grudem’s vocal criticism of the TNIV, more is heard in the blogosphere about the more literal translations. The NASB is often called wooden or “the Yoda version,” the KJV is barely English, the ESV is “not a new translation but a slightly modernized old translation.” These translations are often knocked for their use of “biblish”, “christianese”, “church speak” or “Bible jargon.” Words like repentance, propitiation, justification and sanctification are no longer cool, dude. Will future translations replace sin with bad karma?
How does the translation we use affect our understanding of scripture as well as how we interact with the world (non believer)? Are we sacrificing true biblical understanding for the sake of the un-repented sinner? Much has been said and written about how to reach the sinner. There are books and seminars, whole movements are behind this proposition of reaching the sinner. Many of the publishers are stating that their translation was created to be readable and understandable, translated in today’s English. Do the Purpose Driven, Seeker Sensitive, Emergent movements go hand-in-hand with the thought for thought translations like the (T)NIV or the NLT? Does the translation we use at church matter in our theology?
How much does the church have to resemble the world before it no longer is the church? In an attempt to be socially relevant many “churches” have totally missed the boat on what Christianity is. There would be few if any church leaders, elders or pastors who hold to fundamental Christianity would ever call the Emergent movement a Christian church. Some would only call the Seeker Sensitive, Purpose Driven movements Christian, with trepidation. In an attempt to make the gospel more presentable and understandable, the truth of the gospel has been diluted. There is no longer a difference between the sacred and the secular. You can now play any music for worship, you can have performance dance for worship. You can invite any secular band to play at your church picnic, then have to remind them not to light a joint on stage because… oh, yeah it’s a church event. The church is conforming to the world and not the other way around, and that is the problem.
Where do we draw the line on how far we take translations? Will it stop with Eugene Peterson’s The Message? Certainly there was never a need to take things that far. If the reason for these new translations is to make Scripture understandable it won’t be long before the Bible is written using LOL, BRB, etc. Or how about a translation written in Cálo for my cholo homies? If the reason for using less and less literal translations is to make Scripture understandable then why not a cholo translation and an ebonics translation? The problem isn’t the translation it’s the teacher. If your pastor is more interested in telling you a funny story than teaching you the Bible, you need to find a new church.
The reason there are Seeker Sensitive “churches” and Purpose Driven “churches and Emergent “communities” is because these men think they have something to do with the salvation of the sinner. It is the Gospel that is the power of God for salvation, not man. Loud music, comfortable chairs, hot coffee, burgers, free amusement rides for the kids… non of it will lead a man to salvation and neither will a “more understandable” translation. The pastor needs to teach, he needs to teach what words like, propitiation, justification, sanctification and repentance mean. If the teacher is teaching, all the hard words and passages in even the King James version will be understandable. It is the pastors responsibility to feed the flock, it is the pastor who is supposed to teach from the word of God and NOT treat it like open mic night.