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? E. Ray Clendenen

Posted in Translation Philosophy by E. Ray Clendenen on December 2nd, 2010

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.

This entry was posted by E. Ray Clendenen and is filed under Translation Philosophy.