Beloit, WI

Beloit, WI
photo by Rod Gottfredsen

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Why so many Bible translations?

Dear Friends,

Have you ever wondered why there are so many different versions of the Bible in English?  There are perhaps several reasons for this, but I would like to suggest that the most important reason is so that English readers may have the most accurate translation possible of the Old and New Testaments.  What I mean by “accurate” is that the reader will get the same message that was conveyed to the first readers of the biblical books.  While the meaning that was intended by the authors of the books, and super-intended by the Holy Spirit, has not changed; our usage of the English language continues to evolve.  Over time, the usage of many words change, new words are added to the language, and other words fall into disuse.  Thus, new translations of the Scriptures into English are needed.  While the King James Version, which was translated from Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek over five hundred years ago, does not read like a foreign language – it is not as accessible to English readers today as it was in 1611.  Since many Hebrew and Greek words can be translated into multiple English words, great care must be taken in trying to discern what English word best matches the Hebrew and Greek words.  Another complication is that sometimes a word-for-word translation does not adequately convey the same idea in English as in its original sentence.  Therefore, translators are forced to make compromises between using the English words that best match the Hebrew and Greek words, while maintaining the same meaning.  Since there is no exact way of doing this, translators are frequently faced with having to “lean” closer to one approach or the other.  What this means is that translations will “lean” either toward the exact word correspondence to the original language or to translations which more precisely carry the original meaning.  Translations which lean closer to a word-for-word correspondence are called “formal equivalency,” while those which strive to more adequately reflect the original meaning of the text are described as possessing a “dynamic equivalency.”  These two approaches are never so rigidly practiced that the other is not represented, and so looking at them on a continuum is possible.

If one is going to purchase a new Bible, I highly recommend the ESV (English Standard Version).  This is the version which I read from in worship, as it leans more closely to a word-for-word translation.  However, I want to be clear that your copy of the NIV (New International Version) or RSV (Revised Standard Version) is quite sufficient for reading and study.  In fact, I often read from the NLT (New Living Translation) when I am doing my devotional reading. 

If you are looking for a study bible, I highly recommend the Lutheran Study Bible.  This Bible, published by Concordia Publishing House, contains the full ESV text and numerous introductions and text explanations.  It can be purchased directly from Concordia at: or on Amazon at  It is also available for the Kindle: and Logos Bible software:

In Christ Jesus,