English Bible translations (600s- ) turn the ancient Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic (and sometimes Latin) of the oldest known copies of Scripture into English. They have become common since the rise of printing in the 1500s.
The three main kinds of translations:
- literal – a word-for-word translation, known as formal equivalence. Sticks to the words of the original as closely as possible. Good for Bible study and learning verses by heart. Not always easy to read, though.
- loose – a thought-for-thought translation, known as dynamic or functional equivalence. Expresses the thoughts of the writer as a present-day English-speaking person would. Much easier to read, but adds a layer of interpretation.
- intermediate – strikes a balance between literal and loose.
How old a translation is matters too. Older translations have outdated English, which can be misleading or hard to understand. Older translations also do not benefit from the latest scholarship and therefore can have known mistakes (to date, none of those discovered have been earth-shaking).
In 2014, the most commonly read translations in the US were:
- 55% KJV (1611), the King James or Authorized Version (AV), a literal translation. Anglican. Highly respected, but its English and scholarship are 400 years out of date!
- 19% NIV (1978), the New International Version, an intermediate translation. Evangelical Protestant.
- 7% NRSV (1989), the New Revised Standard Version, a literal translation. Liberal Protestant.
- 6% NAB (1970), the New American Bible, a clunky, intermediate translation. Catholic.
- 5% TLB (1971), The Living Bible, a loose translation with both Catholic and Protestant versions. The version I have is clearly aimed at teenagers. Favoured by young Evangelicals.
- 8% Other – Jewish, Eastern Orthodox and other Catholic and Protestant Bibles. Also, Bibles in other languages, like Spanish.
Since 1500, the main literal translations among English-speaking Protestants have been:
- 1525-31: Tyndale
- 1535: Coverdale
- 1539-41: Great Bible
- 1560: Geneva Bible – the Bible of Shakespeare, Milton and the Puritans
- 1568: Bishop’s Bible
- 1611: AV/KJV: Authorized or King James Version
- 1881-85: RV: Revised Version
- 1901: ASV: American Standard Version
- 1952: RSV: Revised Standard Version
The RSV is an update of the ASV, which updated the RV, which updated the AV, and so on all the way back to Tyndale. Since Tyndale was burned at the stake before he completed his translation, none of these translated the whole Bible from scratch. Instead they built on a base translation that started with Tyndale. It has now been worked on by hundreds of scholars over hundreds of years. It has become less nakedly Protestant so that even Catholic scholars now use it as a starting point.
The RSV has been updated three different ways:
- 1989: NRSV, the New Revised Standard Version – liberal Protestant.
- 2001: ESV, the English Standard Version – conservative Protestant.
- 2006: RSV-2CE, the Ignatius Bible – Catholic.
All three got rid of the RSV’s thees and thous, but dealt with its sexist language differently. The RSV is sexist even where the underlying Greek or Hebrew is not! The Ignatius Bible left that needless sexism in place. The NRSV went to the opposite extreme and became less sexist than the original Greek and Hebrew, undermining its claim to be literal. The ESV seeks to preserve the sexism of the original.
– Abagond, 2016.
- Bloom on translating Plato – same sort of issues
- Biblical languages:
- Anglo-Protestant culture – base ideas about religion among both Catholics and Protestants in the US.