Thursday, May 19, 2011

NIV 2011 and The New American Standard Bible

     I hear many people say, "The NASB is the most literal English translation, and
the NIV 2011 is a paraphrase. The NIV is not a good study Bible because of its
underlying theory of translation. Meaning based translations are not good for

     One problem  with  the  foregoing  statements  is, it  is  based  on erroneous
information. Sometimes the NASB is very interpretive. Some of its renderings
are more meaning based than the NIV. 

     A key phrase in the Greek text of Acts 11:30 reads, "dia cheiros Barnaba
kai Saulou." The literal English translation is, "through/by hand Barnabas and
Saul." The NASB 77 and 95 say, "in charge of Barnabas and Saul." The NIV 2011
says, "by Barnabas and Saul."

     The phrase "dia cheiros Barnaba kai Saulou" (through/by hand of Barnabas
and Saul) is an idiomatic expression. The NASB, dubbed the most literal by many
people, interprets the idiom "in charge of Barnabas and Saul." The NIV 2011
drops the "cheiros" (hand) and says "by barnabas and Saul" which serves the same
purpose as the NASB rendering except the NIV 2011 almost does it with the
precision of modified-literal accuracy! By the way, the ASV-1901 again manifests
near word for word precision. It says, "by the hand of Barnabas and Saul."

     The meaning of "dia cheiros Barnaba kai Saulou" is Barnabas and Saul were
the ones through whom or by whom the relief was sent to the elders for the disciples
who lived in Judea. They were the ones "in charge of" delivering the funds, hence
the interpretation of the NASB.

     These findings illustrate at least two points: (1) the accuracy of a translation
must be evaluated on a passage by passage basis. (2) We must not assume that
modified-literal versions are always literal, nor should we assume that meaning
based translations are not sometimes (or perhaps often) modified-literal.

Copyright 2011  

Sunday, May 15, 2011

When Compared To The Greek Text

     Acts chapter10 records some marvelous events leading up to the conversion
of the Gentiles. Peter fell into a trance and God used the opportunity to prepare
him for the journey to the household of Cornelius. Acts 10:17 tells us about
Peter's response to the vision he had when he went up on the roof to pray.

     There is a word that is used in the Greek text of Acts 10:17 that tells us of
the degree of Peter's bewilderment regarding the vision and its meaning. The
word is dieporei. It is imperfect active in form and means to "be greatly
perplexed, be at a loss." (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament
and Other Early Christian Literature, page 235)  In the Greek text
Acts 10:17 says  "Now as Peter was greatly perplexed within himself, what
the vision he saw might mean, behold the men who had been sent by Cornelius
found Simon's house by asking, they stood at the gate."

     I compared several English translations to the Greek text of  Acts 10:17
in order to see which ones rendered dieporei in a way that accurately conveyed
the depth of Peter's bewilderment.

     The RSV says, "Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed..."
     The ESV says, "Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed..."
     The NIV 2011 says, "While Peter was wondering about the meaning..."
     The NASB says, "Now while Peter was greatly perplexed in mind..."
     The HCSB says, "While Peter was deeply perplexed..."
     The NRSV says, "Now while Peter was greatly puzzled..."
     The ASV says, "Now while Peter was much perplexed in himself..."

     Of the translations listed, the NIV 2011 rendering is the most bland,
followed by the RSV and the ESV.  The remaining four do well in translating
dieporei . I especially like the NRSV's "greatly puzzled." It is a bit more
modern than the NASB and the HCSB. The ASV rendering "much perplexed" 
is somewhat antiquated but can be understood. As expected, the ASV's rendering
is not only literally accurate, but it is virtually a word for word translation of
the Greek text in Act 10:17.

     When compared to the Greek text, the NASB, HCSB, NRSV, and the ASV
accurately convey the meaning  of dieporei in Acts 10:17. They phrase their
interpretation differently, but each exhibits good exegetical precision. This
shows the value of comparing translations, and it shows that just because a
translation is accurate in one place does not mean it maintains accuracy
throughout its text. All translations must be examined on a passage by passage

Copyright 2011

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Choices For The Top Five Bible Versions

     In this post I will list my choices for the top five Bible versions. I will also
say a little about each and give the reasons for my choices. Remember, these
are my choices and my list does not imply a blanket endorsement of any
of them. All English translations have areas that need improvement, otherwise
there would be no need for continuing revision.

     (1) American Standard Version. The British edition (Revised Version)
was published in 1881. The ASV was published in 1901. It is a revision of
the Revised Version. The ASV incorporates the textual choices made by the
American  scholars  who  were  on  the  revision  committee. The  ASV  is
generally recognized as superior to the English Revised Version. To this very
day the ASV remains unsurpassed as a study text for the person who can
navigate   through   the   archaic   English.   It   is   often   hard    to  read
because the word order and sentence structure are awkward. The ASV
is so literal that it sometimes retains the word order of the Hebrew and
Greek  texts  instead  of  striving for idiomatic English. This is one of its
greatest strengths  because  it  enables the person who does not know
Hebrew and Greek to have a text that is largely transparent to the original
scriptures. It is truly "the rock of biblical honesty." I began using the ASV
in 1976 and I love it to this very day. It is not as wordy as the NASB
because it adds fewer words to the text for clarity. Generally it pays closer
attention to the details  of  the  text  than  the  NASB.  The  footnotes  in
the ASV offer a veritable  mine  for  exegesis. The ASV stands in the
number one position among  the  modified-literal  bible versions.

     (2) The English Standard Version. It was published in 2001 and is a
revision of the Revised Standard Version which was published in 1952. The
RSV N.T. was revised in 1971. A light revision of the ESV was published
in 2007. Much of the ESV's strength is derived from its parent, the RSV.
The  RSV  is  not  nearly  as  bad  as  was alleged by its critics. The ESV
removes the archaic English forms that were retained by the RSV.  It is
a very good translation and it is a modified-literal translation in philosophy.
It also  strives  for  gender  accuracy  albeit inadequate. For instance, it
has footnotes that inform the reader that "the plural Greek word adelphoi
(translated 'brothers') refers to siblings in a family." Adelphoi should be
translated "brothers and sisters" when a congregation is addressed. The
ESV is slightly more accurate and readable than the NASB.

     (3) The  New  International  Version  (2011 edition). The revised
NIV  is  imminently  useful  as  a  reading  and  study text. It is a noted
improvement of the 1984 edition of the NIV. The most recent edition of
the NIV is aware of the need to be gender accurate. One often reads of
"brothers and sisters," "human," "person," "mankind," and the like in the
updated NIV. It is a pleasure to read and I have noticed that in many
places  the  revision   has  restored  some  of  the  inferential   particles
("therefore," "so then," etc.) to the text. This aids in following the logical
flow of the writers argument. Except for the fact that the ESV is a more 
modified-literal text, and slightly better for "technical study,"  the NIV
2011 gives it a "run for its money."

     (4) The Holman Christian Standard Bible. It, like the NIV was
not a revision of any previous English translation. It was translated from
the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. The HCSB is readable, generally
accurate, and incorporates some outstanding interpretations in a large
portion of its text! It breaks from longstanding traditions in the bible
translation process. Examples: "Yahweh" is used several hundred times
in the Old Testament for the tetragrammaton (YHWH). Most previous
versions use the word "LORD" to represent the personal name of God
in Hebrew. The HCSB also accurately translates John 3:16. Most English
versions say, "God so loved the world..." Many people interpret the word
"so" as an intensive. "God soooo loved the world." This is not the point.
The Greek text uses the word houtos, which is an adverb expressing the
manner or way that something is done. John 3:16 says, "This is the way
God loved the world; he gave his one and only/unique Son..." The HCSB
recognizes this fact in translation. The HCSB is not perfect. As an example,
it uses the word Christian several more times than it is used in the Greek
N.T. Nevertheless, it is a useful translation.

     (5) The New Revised Standard Version. It was published in 1989.
The NRSV like the ESV is a revision of the RSV. The NRSV went too
far and the ESV does not go far enough in some of their translation
choices. In  many  ways, it  and  the  ESV  work well as companion
texts. The NRSV is wonderful as a comparative translation. There are
many places where it stands among the very best English translations.
(cf. John 1:18; Acts 2:38; Gal. 3:24-25) Before the appearance of the
NIV 2011 the NRSV was among my top three favorite English versions.
The NIV 2011 is a better overall translation and it usually avoids the
awkward phrasing used by the NRSV in an effort to be gender accurate.
Nevertheless, the NRSV is a very useful translation and it is rated highly
in most religious academic circles.

     I am sometimes asked, "If a person could only purchase two English
translations; which two would you recommend?" This is a good question
and not easily answered. I would likely recommend one translation from
the modified-literal philosophy of  translation, and  one from the more
readable-idiomatic approach. This would  have a  balancing  effect so
that neither translation would  be  allowed  to  run  wild. The  student
could note the differences  between  the two translations  and  use this
as a means of increasing their knowledge of God's word. I believe the
ASV and the NIV 2011 make an awesome pair of translations. The
problem is, the ASV is only published by the Star Bible Publishers in
Fort Worth, Texas and may be very hard to find. In view of this, perhaps
the ESV is a suitable replacement for the ASV.

Copyright 2011 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Different Kinds of Accuracy

     I am often asked, "Which translation of the scriptures do you believe is
the most accurate?" There is not one particular translation of the sacred
writings that is the "most accurate." Most translations are accurate in key
areas and a person who diligently studies them can learn what to do to be
saved from sin.

     Nevertheless, it should be noted that there are different kinds of
accuracy. I will illustrate this using the Greek N.T. and three different
English translations; ASV, ESV, and NIV 2011.  Phil. 2:6, which is
very likely a portion of a Christological hymn will be the passage for

     The Greek Text: " hos en morphe theou huparchon ouch
harpagmon hegesato to einai isa theo,"

     Literal Translation: "who in form of God existing not a thing
to be grasped did regard the being equal with God."

     American Standard: "who, existing in the form of God, counted
not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped."

     English Standard: "who, though he was in the form of God, did
not count equality with God a thing to be grasped."

     NIV 2011: "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider
equality with God something to be used to his own advantage."

     As expected, the ASV known for its modified literal translation
philosophy is very "form accurate." It is almost "word for word."
The ESV is not as form literal as the ASV, and it translates the
present active participle huparchon  as a past tense "though he
was" instead of  "existing" as in the ASV. The NIV 2011, a
version that sits between modified literal and paraphrase in its
translation philosophy, accurately translates  huparchon with
the word "being." It also interprets the word morphe to mean
"nature," indicating that Paul was not using the word in its literal
sense (form or outward appearance). The NIV 2011 goes a
step further. It accurately translates harpagmon with the phrase
"something to be used to his own advantage."

     The  ASV with  almost  word  for  word precision, accurately
translates  Phil. 2:6  from the standpoint of modified-literal form.
A couple of adjustments could be made to the word order and
vocabulary in the ASV, but it is true to form.  The ESV is further
removed from the Greek text than the ASV and it is not as
concerned with the details of the text as the ASV, but it is more
readable. The  NIV  2011  is  virtually  word  for  word,  is
very readable, and is lexically up to date in Phil. 2:6. All three
translations have a high degree of accuracy, but overall the
NIV 2011 edges out both the ASV and the ESV  in Phil. 2:6.

     The accuracy of Bible translations must be determined on a
passage by passage basis, and we must remember that there are
different kinds of accuracy. The ASV often reflects form
accuracy; the ESV often combines form accuracy where possible
with meaning; and the NIV 2011 often reflects form accuracy
where possible, but it is primarily designed to convey meaning
by the use of idiomatic English.

Copyright 2011