Question: When and why do we update Bible translations?
In the HCSB introduction we explained why we thought another English translation was needed. Several of those explanations also apply to the need for periodic updating. The most important is the rapid advances in biblical research. Many new Bible commentaries, reference works such as lexicons and works of theology, and groundbreaking works in biblical studies, including advances in our understanding of Hebrew and Greek, are published each year. Advances in computer technology are also constantly opening new doors for biblical research. Periodic updating of translations allows for new understandings of texts to reach Bible readers.
Continuing changes in the English language probably do not justify an update every few years, but would justify the various “updates” that have been made to the KJV since it first appeared. The third reason for updating is the rather embarrassing fact that nothing is perfect. No matter how many brilliant scholars, literary experts, and readers have worked through a translation numerous times, there are always places that can be improved and decisions that can be re-evaluated.
For example, the HCSB wanted to introduce to modern English readers the rendering of the divine name used by most Old Testament scholars, which is Yahweh. We felt it was time to depart from treating “the LORD” as if it were a name in such verses as Exodus 33:19: “I will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD’” (RSV). In the first edition, however, rather than a wholesale changing of LORD to Yahweh, we were very tentative or conservative in the number of times we used Yahweh, settling for about 75. The positive response we received to that decision encouraged us to use God’s name much more in the updated edition (about 600). Most of the changes by far, however, were in tiny matters such as punctuation.
E. Ray Clendenen is Bible commentary editor for B&H Publishing and associate editor of the Holman Christian Standard Bible.
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