Which Version?

I have nearly finished reading the Bible through in two years. I have often over the years tried to read the Bible through in one year, and even succeeded a couple of times, but my success rate at this has been around 30%, and I think I'm not alone at finding it a challenge. But reading the Bible through in two years I have found much more achievable and more rewarding — you have more time to reflect on what you are reading.

I want to do the same over the next two years. And with my birthday approaching at the right time, I have asked for a Two-Year Bible. The only question I have is what version? I did a scary calculation today, and realised that I have been reading the NIV almost exclusively now for over seventeen years! Time for a change methinks.

I had thought of going to the New Living translation, because they have a two-year version, and because Keri Jones, our apostle always recommends it so highly. But my recent meditations in Amos have made me think twice. The layers of symbolism in Amos 1:3 and similar verses is an excellent place to compare versions:

ESV: For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment

NIV: For three sins of Damascus, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath.

NLT: The people of Damascus have sinned again and again, and I will not forget it. I will not let them go unpunished any longer!

In the ESV (which is a recent discovery I am appreciating more and more) the NKJV and NASB the word and is preserved which allows an exploration of all the layers of significance. In the NIV the dynamic equivalence has obviously picked up on the tetrad and translated it to fit better with this form using even instead, but you miss the possibility that this is actually a seven split into 3 and 4. Whilst in the NLT you are completely oblivious to any levels of prophetic symbolism at all!

What to do? Am I splitting hairs (and numbers) and could do with just taking in the broad-brushstrokes? Should I stick with the ol' faithful NIV and aim for 20 years!? Or should I go to the ESV and really dig down deep!?

Any comments or advice appreciated. Two years is a long time so I want to get the right version before I set out!!


Anonymous said...

Chris, I have also been reading the ESV quite a bit lately. Generally I like it, but was a little taken aback by the equating of epilepsy and demon possession [Mat 17:15,18].

And one or two places where it seems to lack the force of other translations. It is definitely more readable than the NASB which I would not use for a reading programme though I use it a lot for studying.

I have only found one verse I like in the Noddy Language Translation, Matt 5:3. Otherwise I try to avoid it!

Anonymous said...

Chris, I'd definitely say get out of the NIV!! Its great, but its good to see what else is out there. If its 2 years, why not try the Amplified?! Surely a man of your weight and character should be tackling the NASB though, although it is a tough read! Isn't it the ESV that's the newest, and apparently most accurate?!
I also am searching for a new translation, having almost completed the Bible in 1 year from the Message (I don't advise it if you're going to be in any meetings with Matthew!). Debating taking on the Amplified, but it may take me longer than 1 year to complete!
I'm also quite tempted to go for the chronological, help me to understand the order of events and how it all ties together so much better.
Let me know what you go for.

Anonymous said...

For readability I like the NCV, this is what my kids read and has the lowest reading age of all true translations.
My biggest complaint about the NIV is its use of "sinful nature" for "flesh". My nature is not sinful (and I don't have 2 natures) but I do still have flesh (plenty in fact!)

Anonymous said...

I'm just getting into the ESV. Been reading Hebrews in it and really enjoying the change from NIV. Mind you, I did through the Bible in the NLT and enjoyed that too. But knowing you Chris, the ESV is more your style than NLT. Matthew: Noddy? Trey Romans 12:1-2 in it - rather good.

Anonymous said...

Sir, you should consider obtaining a nasb wide margin bible there is plenty of room to make notes and the print is easy to read.The Bible is a legacy of personal wisdom and insight that grows as you commit to noting what God shows you of his heart in the Scriptures. May God bless you as you take up His Word again as you search the Scriptures Daily.The lady Sarah has given good advice about the NASB.and may God bless her too.

Anna Sacha said...

i dont know if this might help but while researching for the essay, i found 'the Darby Bible' and 'YOung's Literal Translation' very interesting. wanna try that?

Anonymous said...

well, reading from the comments on this latest blog entry, your friends have suggested between them all, 6 or 7 translations to choose from! Seen as the number 6 is a 'perfect number' and seen as the number 7 means 'completeness and fullness', I see it that you are now....'completely and fully' able to make your decision and find the 'perfect' choice of translation for your 2 year bible reading venture! Just being cheekily funny after a fun night out! Happy Hunting!

Anonymous said...

Sorry to spoil Cerys wonderful comment symmetry...

Roger - I took your advice and Romans 12:1-2 is rather good in the NLT isn't it? Maybe I should give it more of a chance...

A couple of the School of the Word students had the Moffatt Bible in class recently, and I really liked his rendering of Matt 11:12 (especially as it read very close to what I said I thought the verse meant!)

"From the days of john the Baptist until now, they are pressing into the Realm of heaven - these eager souls are storming it!"

Anonymous said...

Hi Chris.

My name is Paul and I enjoy reading your blog from Norway! I live and study in Oslo. I am a part of a young Covenant Community with close links to the Norwegian brothers in Bergen who work with Keri Jones&Co in Ministries Without Borders. I'm writing my master thesis in English literature at the University of Oslo at the moment.

However, I've also taken a course on translation. As I read your blog regularly I find you to be the kind of guy who loves to study the Word in a thorough (almost scientific) way. Something to do with your education? I think this means that you might be prone to fancy, like Tony and Matthew, a concordant word-for-word Bible (focused on equivalence on the word level; preserves symbolism and prophetic/mathematical images very well, more stilted language than what we use in everyday speech, e.g. NKJV, ESV etc.) over idiomatic meaning-to-meaning translations (focused more on equivalence above word level; e.g. NLT and The Message. The Message has been a great help to Bono in U2 to preach the gospel in a most understandable and everyday manner. One example can be seen in this interview when he used 'Grace over Karma' as his topic sentence to preach forgiveness through Jesus. See http://havard.blogspirit.com/archive/2005/12/04/bono-about-the-power-of-grace.html).

I think that you will gain most from reading a more idiomatic translation like the NLT over the next two years. This is based on the following three arguments:

1) You have an eye for symbolism and the things your are likely to miss from reading a 'less acurate' (not my words) translation. This means that you will check your ESV immediately if you suspect the NLT is cheating you in a way that discriminates in favour of overall readability. Bottom line, you will not loose anything by reading a Bible like the NLT because you know the Bible so well already.

2) The translations that border to paraphrase (somewhere between NLT and the Message depending on your perspective, cf. Tony (on translation vs paraphrase): 'All is fine as long as you don't call it [NLT] a translation!') might give you a different perspective on certain passages because these translations tend to choose a spesific interpretation and embody this interpretation in the text (which makes it impossible to base doctrine on a brilliant paraphrase like The Message!). However, since you already know the NIV so well, a switch to the NLT might prove to be a breath of fresh air.

3) In your blogging project I think you would gain by incorporating more language from the Bible that sounds like it could be spoken in 2005 - which is just what you find in a translation like the NLT. Your exegetical (i.e. spesific, accurate, thorough) skills in studying the Bible need no strengthening - in fact they might be overdeveloped by further workouts!

Chris Hamer-Hodges said...

And the winner is....

I got a hardback ESV One Year Bible for Christmas. So, if you don't like my choice... blame Santa!

Seriously though, many thanks to everyone who contributed to this post; there is much valuable thought here. In the end I went with what I believe is right for me at this time.