Of the readers and visitors of Covenant of Love, 50% who answered February’s poll said that when they go looking for a bible translation, what they look for most is how literal it is. 22% look for a bible translation they can easily read; 11% are most concerned with the Greek text underlining the translation; 6% choose a bible often based on how it feels to hold and 3% will choose a bible based predominately on it’s study notes. 8% said “other” which included things like it must contain the “entire OT” including the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical books and some said it must be “gender inclusive”.
All of these have merit, of course. When I used to do a little translating I found myself leaning heavily toward as literal a translation I could create while still keeping it “readable”. But no translation, no matter how literal, is without interpretative bias. The weakness to literal translations is that – strictly speaking – it is impossible to have one while still making sense in the English language. This is because unlike the English language, word order is less important in Greek.
Having a bible that is readable can be both good and not so good. Good because a bible which cannot be read does not accomplish one of it’s primary tasks – that of being read; it becomes no good at all. Yet the more readable a translation is – to the extreme point of becoming a paraphrase – the more interpretation is done. The result may be a complete exchange of the word of God for the views of men (Romans 8:9 is a classic example).
For me, the Greek text beyond the English is crucial. There can be little doubt by anyone who’s done the study that the Greek Text behind the King James and New Kings James – the Textus Receptus – is the most corrupt. Note, we have no “perfect” Greek manuscripts today and in that sense they are all a little “corrupt” in some sense. And yes, they are still all highly reliable and trustworthy – even the King James – but this is one of the many reasons why many translations are useful.
I also appreciate translations which contain the Deuterocanonical books because – like the Church Fathers – I believe they are useful. I also think bible translations which are “gender inclusive” – to some extent – are useful too. For example, when Paul writes to a church and employs the Greek word for “brothers” we know that that word is meant to incorporate both men and women. A modern example is when we join a party and say “hey guys, what’s up?” We don’t mean to imply that only men are at the party. So a translation that conveys the idea of the text, “brothers and sisters” is preferable. The danger with “gender inclusive” language is when it dabbles in matters with great theological repercussions such as employing the term “Mother” in reference to God.
For all of the reasons listed above I’ll now reveal my vote: What is most important to me when choosing a bible translation is how the new bible feels in my hand. I voted for comfort. Because on my shelf I have bibles that are so literal they are difficult to understand and so readable they are laughable (and a wide variety in between). Bibles in the KJV tradition and others in the NA27ed. Bibles with the apocrypha and bibles without the apocrypha.
When so I go looking for a bible, I don’t look for one which I can use as my “standard” translation. I look for one that can contribute in some way to my understanding of what the original authors – and by default, the Original Author, intended to communicate.
[P.S. While you are here, you might as well cast your vote in March’s poll]