Perspectives in Translation

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Bible Gateway and The Gospel Coalition have teamed up to host a discussion of English Bible translation. We have convened a team of world-class scholars representing different versions of the English Bible who will address specific passages from the Old and New Testaments and answer questions about the translation process.

We hope that by pulling back the curtain on translation, this discussion will help readers understand their Bibles more clearly and learn to love God's Word more deeply. And we pray that careful attention to Scripture will excite readers to behold God's glory as he has revealed himself to us in our own language.

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When and Why Do We Update Bible Translations? Michael Bird

Posted in New Testament, Translation Philosophy by Michael Bird on November 29th, 2010

Question: When and why do we update Bible translations?

Call me cynical, but the main reason why people create new translations or update them is because it is financially profitable. There is big money in printing and selling Bibles. As to how often we need to update translations, well, it is a bit like asking how long is a piece of string. We need to keep English translations current with the vernacular of the English language. There is no formula as to how to do that. Certainly when words radically change in meaning we have to do something. A good example is 1 Thess 4:15 in the KJV, which says that we “shall not prevent them which are asleep.” I’ve even heard unlearned men with a weird fetish for the KJV Bible explain this passage by saying that we cannot stop or hinder the dead in Christ from rising from the grave at the second coming. They are ignorant of the fact that the word “prevent” was itself derived from the Latin previens, which means to “precede.” A proper translation is “we shall not precede them who are asleep.”

Michael Bird formerly lectured in New Testament at the Highland Theological College (UHI Millennium Institute) in Scotland and is currently lecturer in theology and New Testament at Crossway College in Brisbane, Australia. He is also an honorary research associate at the University of Queensland. He is the translator of 1 Esdras in the Common English Bible.

This entry was posted by Michael Bird and is filed under New Testament, Translation Philosophy.