6. Bible Versions Book Summary

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Edit July 26, 2012 11am
“How to Choose a Bible Version”
By Robert L. Thomas

This is a book summary to condense the material for Twelve Mile Creek Church. Approximately 98% of the thoughts, research, work, and words are copied from Robert Thomas’ book. Please read the book for greater detail. This is for the sole purpose of helping the local church better understand Bible versions. Some additional information has been included.

Textual Basis of Bible Translations

Early “Texts” can be small fragments, incomplete letters, mostly complete letters, complete letters, multiple letters found together, and complete NT/OT manuscripts. Thousands of “texts” exist for the New Testament. Much much less for the OT.

The earliest ancient translations from the Greek NT are in three languages:
Syriac 150AD, Coptic 200AD, and Latin 150AD. These can be researched and used to compare against Greek Texts but would be for another study, and are not contained in this paper.


*The Original Greek New Testament Does Not Still Exist*
Copies of the original are generally categorized into regions forming families.
There are thousands upon thousands of copies from copies within the 4 family groups.

The 4 Text Types or Families for the Greek New Testament are:
1-Alexandria, Africa 2-Byzantine, Turkey 3-Caesarea, Middle East 4-Western, Italy

Alexandrian, oldest Greek texts follow this family, might be oldest since Egypt’s geographic/topographic/climatic conditions are best suited for preserving manuscripts, Westcott and Hort Greek NT based off these, so is Nestle-Aland Greek NT, most English Translations since 1900’s used this family since many like the older manuscripts. Used Greek upper case letters called uncials, mostly from 1st to 9th Century. Usually shorter and less paraphrased.

Byzantine, also called the Majority Text, since a majority of the preserved surviving manuscripts are from this family, most numerous, some think as proof that these are the most reliable, but they are not the oldest, thus others disagree about them as being the most reliable. Main family used for the Textus Receptus by Erasmus. Byzantine texts seem fuller, more complete, utilizing other scriptures to fill out, this seems to support the idea that these are indeed later manuscripts. Used Greek lower case called minuscules, mostly from 9th Century on. Usually longer and paraphrased.

Caesarean, mildly paraphrastic in amount somewhere between the shorter Alexandrian and longer Western texts. No texts considered purely Caesarean but with a mixture of Byzantine. Some argue it’s not a separate text type.

Western, an Old Text type which the Latin versions are derived from. Usually longer, frequently paraphrased, inserted, and omitted words to make for a smoother reading. Fewer manuscripts, but date from the earliest to very late.

Techniques Used in Bible Translations

1) Formal Equivalence (formal correspondence)
Literal translation.
For accuracy or faithfulness to the original text. Seeks as close a match between the receptor language and the original language.

2) Dynamic Equivalence (functional equivalence)
Free translation, paraphrase, thought for thought.
For readability, convey the thought of the original language. Desire is to produce an effect on the reader in the receptor language equivalent to what was produced on the reader in the original language.

English Translations Historical Backgrounds

Jerome’s Latin Vulgate
380AD Hebrew Greek Translation into Common Latin, known as the Latin Vulgate. Revision of older Latin translations, using mostly Alexandrian texts for the Gospels and Western texts for the remaining NT.

John Wycliffe
1380sAD Sponsored translation of the Latin Vulgate into English.

Erasmus of Rotterdam
1516AD Dutch Christian humanist created the Greek New Testament from mainly Byzantine texts… also created a Latin New Testament at the same time.
This Greek NT was used by Martin Luther to translate NT into German. Subsequent versions of Eramus’s Greek NT became known as the “Textus Receptus”.

William Tyndale
Translated Erasmus’ Greek translation of New Testament into English in 1526.
Also parts of the OT.

King James Version (1611)
KJ took throne in 1603. 90-92% of the KJV is still from the work of William Tyndale. There were 50 scholars, divided into 2 teams on the OT, 3 teams on the NT, and 1 team on the Apocrypha. Interpreted the Hebrew and Greek. Also made use of Jewish and Catholic scholars. Based off Textus Receptus of the Byzantine texts.
For use of Churches in England. Without marginal notes. The first Bible printed in the USA, in USA it was printed without the Apocrypha.
Values staying close to the original text. Conservative bias. Outdated English. Textual basis on Byzantine family.

English Revised Version (1881-85)
Westcott and Hort key 2 of the NT 4 translators. These 2 preferred the Alexandrian text family and just days prior finished their own Greek NT.

American Standard Version (1901)
The ERV counterpart created due to variances in English spoken across the Atlantic. ‘Strict literalism’ (formal equivalence), thus English is choppy, long sentences with commas, syntax similar to Greek (syntax is word order, structure, framework of sentences.)
Better textual basis of manuscripts. Close to original text translation. Evangelical bias. Outdated English.

Revised Standard Version (1937-1952)
Revision of ASV. 32 scholars, blessed by Protestants, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox.
Like ASV in textual basis. Formal equivalence. Liberal bias.

New American Standard Bible (1963-1971)
Revision of ASV. 68 more conservative scholars/pastors than RSV.
Word-for-word correspondence.
Great textual basis. Formal equivalence. Conservative bias. Not smooth English style.

New King James Version (1979-1982)
119 translators from protestant denominations.

The New Revised Standard Version (1974-1989)
Less formal, elimination of ‘sex-biased’ language for inclusive gender language.
Great textual basis. Dynamic equivalence. Gender neutral. Pleasing English style. Liberal bias.

The New American Standard Bible Updated (1995)
Easier to read, not as literal as the 1963-71 ASV edition.

English Standard Version (2001)
A revision of the RSV (1971) by a team of 14 men of the Translation Oversight Committee. Assisted by 50 Translation Review Scholars and another 50 on an Advisory Council. All were evangelical in theology.
Word-for-word rather than thought-for-thought translation philosophy.
Called ‘essentially literal’ allowing for more deviation than the ASV (1901) which was ‘strict literalism’. Utilized the Alexandrian family of manuscripts.
Great textual basis. Essentially literal translation. Conservative bias. Pleasing English style.

Outside the Tyndale Philosophy and Family of Translations
Meaning the Earlier English Translations were not utilized as the basis of the translation.
These Are the More Freer Translations:

The New World Translation (1950, 1961)
The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society Inc., translation from the Greek and Hebrew. Unorthodox Jehovah Witness subjectivities.

The Amplified Bible (1958, 1965)
By Francis E. Siewert, Zondervan Publishing, expansive non literal renderings.

The Good News Bible (Today’s English Version) (1966, 1976)
The American Bible Society’s showpiece for a philosophy of translation called “dynamic equivalence” developed by Eugene Nida. He attempted to provide a theoretical basis for what many English translations were already doing. One scholar for the NT and 7 for the OT.

The Living Bible (1971)
One author using the ASV as basis. A conservative who founded the Tyndale Publishing Company. Billy Graham promoted and in 1974 46% of all Bible sales in the USA.

The New Living Translation (1996)
Revised the Living Bible, with 90 translators, using Hebrew and Greek texts, a new ‘dynamic-equivalence’ translation from protestants and evangelicals, use of gender-neutral terminology.

The New International Version (A Contemporary Translation) (1973, 1978)
An evangelical effort of 110 scholars from many countries, split into 20 teams, with a translator, co-translator, two consultants, and English stylist in each team. Zondervan publishing, not a revision of an earlier work, wanted to be the standard among evangelicals.
Great textual basis, more eclectic than others. Evangelical bias. Easy to read. Dynamic equivalence.

The Message (1993)
By Eugene Peterson, to everyday English, a paraphrase, Peterson’s own interpretations rather than what the Greek text says, capturing idiomatic street language at the cost of accuracy. For the casual popular reader.

Theological Bias in Bible Translations

1) General Knowledge. If the translations is sanctioned, financed, and/or endorsed say by: The Catholic Church, Evangelicals, Liberal Schools, Reformed or Arminians, etc.
2) The Introductory Statements. Like in the inspiration of Scripture, the school of translators, one translator or 100 translators.
3) The Study Notes. Can be heavily Calvinistic, or Pre-millennial, or Ecclesiological.
4) The Words. OT prophesy about a ‘young girl’ or ‘virgin’ giving birth. Prophesy dealing with Israel and Messiah. Tongues as a foreign language unknown or a heavenly spiritual language. Therefore as causal or resulting.

Bibliology (Biblical Inspiration)
Moffatt felt freed from the influence of the theory of verbal inspiration in 1913. The NASB foreword reads “the words of Scripture as originally penned in the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek were inspired by God”. The NKJV reads “a verbal and plenary inspiration of Scripture, and in the inerrancy of the original autographs.” The RSV was more liberal in orientation yet produced a literal translation. The NIV was more evangelical with a belief in the “full authority and complete trustworthiness of the Scriptures” yet produced a dynamic equivalent translation.
The RSV diminishes possible OT fulfillments of prophesy as for example: Ps. 45:6a “Your divine throne endures for ever and ever.” and Hebrews 1:8a “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.” Could legitimately be written exactly the same, yet the RSV diminishes fulfillment with other optional readings. The NASB and ESV translate both passages exactly the same.
Gender-neutral translation views can effect the translation. Some translations interpret the general “brothers” to “brothers and sisters” when it appears appropriate.

Translating Jesus Christ as God. In Romans 9:5 since punctuation didn’t exist in the early Greek, some have clearly separated Christ from God like the NAB, RSV and others, and some have kept Christ as God affirming his deity like the KJV, ASV, NASB, ESV, NIV, NRSV.
In Acts 20:28 the KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV, NIV read “the church of God (Theos) which he purchased with his own blood”… but the RSV reads “the church of the Lord…” avoiding a statement of the deity of the Son. The Greek word here is Theos which is God, while Kurious is the Greek word for Lord, Theos is what appears in the Greek text.
The NRSV reads “the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son”, also avoiding deity. “That he obtained” is added instead of the simple ‘which’ translation.
The RSV and NRSV translate Is. 7:14 as “young woman” in failure to relate it to Matt. 1:23 the ‘virgin’.

Pneumatology (The Holy Spirit)
Translating the word for “tongue” in 1 Cor. 14 as tongue in NASB, ESV, RSV and others is potentially non-committal. The NIV footnotes tongues as ‘other languages’ or ‘unknown languages’.

Soteriology (Salvation)
Calvinistic influences with Hebrews 6:6 translated in the KJV, RSV, ESV, NIV as “if they fall away” but for Arminian influences “while they recrucify the Son of God” making it more temporal instead of the causal “because”… to avoid a Calvinistic “once lost always lost” destination as recorded in the NASB, NIV, some in footnotes.
In Acts 13:48 KJV, NIV, NEB, NRSV, have “destined for eternal life” while others might have “as wanted” added.

Ecclesiology (The Church)
In Matt. 16:18 the NASB an approved Roman Catholic translation, Peter is the “Rock” upon which the new Israel (the Church) is to be built, moving towards the theology of the papacy. Others with protestant influences preferring the “rock”.

Quick Repeat Concluding Summaries of Popular Translations

Values staying close to the original text. Conservative bias. Outdated English. Textual basis on Byzantine family.

Better textual basis of manuscripts. Close to original text translation. Evangelical bias. Outdated English.

Like ASV in textual basis. Formal equivalence. Liberal bias.

Great textual basis. Formal equivalence. Conservative bias. Not smooth English style.

Great textual basis. Dynamic equivalence. Gender neutral. Pleasing English style. Liberal bias.

Great textual basis. Essentially literal translation. Conservative bias. Pleasing English style.

Great textual basis, more eclectic than others. Evangelical bias. Easy to read. Dynamic equivalence.

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