Choosing The Translation For Me

There is one "problem" that the American church has to deal with that not many others have to deal with in our world. The "problem" is what translation of the Bible to use. There are plenty of translations in the English language to choose from. A list of some of these translations can be found here.

Having the Bible in a translation that one can read and understand is very important. At least I think so. Things would be a lot easier if we all could just read Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek - the original languages of the Bible. Not many can do that. English is tough enough. I am grateful to those scholars who have worked so hard through the years to bring us translations in our languages. 

I have used many different translations in reading and studying the Bible. While there are many translations, I have typically stayed with the "popular" ones: New International Version (NIV 1984 edition), New King James Version (NKJV), English Standard Version (ESV), New Living Translation (NLT), and Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).

I will say that the majority of my Christian life has been spent reading the NIV (1984).  I still believe that the 1984 edition of the NIV is one of the best English translations that has ever been produced.  It was a good mix of "word-for-word" and "thought-for-thought," and it had great readability.  I was very displeased with the revisions that were made in the latest edition of the NIV.  Plus the fact that they jerked all the 1984 editions off the shelves really turned me off.

For the time that I spent in the world of student ministry, I found the New Living Translation (NLT) to be the best for me.  We were seeing many teens from unchurched families.  This translation was very easy to read in today's English.  It also had a good translation team from a wide variety of denominations.

In 2011, as I felt the Lord leading me out of student ministry and into the pastorate, I knew that I would probably need to look towards a different translation.  There are not many churches that look highly on using the NLT from the pulpit.  I am not saying that I agree with that stance.  I think that it is a good translation, but I knew it needed to be something else.  I began looking at the ESV and the HCSB.

Being a part of the Southern Baptist Convention, I was torn between using the ESV and the HCSB.  I thought that I would get more use out of the HCSB since a great deal of the literature that we used also used the HCSB primarily.  I thought that the HCSB was a good new translation.  It did some good stuff in that it was easier to read for people just coming to the Bible in these recent times.  There was a question that I just never could get away from... why do we need another English translation?

Here recently, I have been evaluating certain things in my life.  One of those things has been my choice of Bible translations.  I have been asking questions such as: "Why do I preach from the translation that I do?" or "Why do I find myself drawn to other translations?"  As I asked myself these questions, I examined certain things about myself to answer those questions.

I have been finding myself going to one particular translation here lately in my devotional time.  It is not a translation that I have preached or taught from much.  As I examined myself and ways in which God has gifted me (teacher), it makes sense that I would be drawn to the New American Standard Bible translation (NASB).  This translation is one of the most literal translations from the original languages.  Being a believer that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible word of God... pair that with my spiritual gift of teaching (wanting to make sure I understand it clearly), this makes the most sense.

I know that people have many different reasons for choosing the translation that they use.  Some are looking for easy readability.  Some are looking for what their pastor (or denomination, heroes, etc) use.  I would just encourage you to not use a particular translation because it is the "cool" or "popular" translation.  Find one that best helps you understand what the Holy Spirit inspired the human authors to write because your spiritual welfare could hang in the balance.