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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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Should I Use Multiple Translations or Stick with One? Michael Bird

Posted in Translation Philosophy by Michael Bird on November 5th, 2010

Question: Should I consider using multiple translations or stick with one?

I heartily recommend using multiple translations for several reasons. First, in my own sermon preparation, after working through the original Greek or Hebrew, I always consult a paraphrase (e.g., Message, NLT), a dynamic equivalence translation (e.g., NIV, NRSV), and a literal/essentially literal translation (KJV, ESV, NASB). This gives me a good overview of the various ways in which the text can be rendered and interpreted. It provides a birds-eye view of the linguistic playing field that I am about to enter into when I discuss a biblical text.

Second, in our congregations and schools, you will have people with a variety of reading levels, and the fact is that some translations are better than others for young readers. I find that the NIVR, NLT, and GNB are good for children and for new Christians (personally I use the NIVR with my own children). I tend to use the NRSV in my scholarly work since it is basically the standard text in the guild and is interpretively neutral most of the time. In my English exegesis classes I like to use the ESV since it is a good text for people who don’t have biblical languages. In my preaching I use the NIV or TNIV since it is very readable and popular with lay folks. I do not hold up any single translation as the paragon of Bible translations, nor do I pledge my allegiance to any single version because they all have their relative strengths, weaknesses, uses, and shortcomings.

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 Translation Philosophy.