Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Review: The Complete Guide to Bible Translations

The Bible tells Christians to “as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2), but it also warns against false teachers who will wrongly interpret or add to God’s Word. So, what is a Christian to do in a modern world abounding in Bible versions? In his book The Complete Guide to Bible Translations, Ron Rhodes attempts to help Christians pick the right version for them. He gives Christians basic overviews of the various versions available in most Christian bookstores, including the King James Version, the Amplified Bible, the New International Version, the New King James Version, the New Living Translation, the English Standard Version, the Message, and two Catholic Bible versions.

Rhodes, president of Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries, spends three chapters introducing the general theories of and controversies over Biblical translations and paraphrases. Translators, he explains, cannot create a perfect, word-for-word translation. Due to language differences, no version exists without some amount of interpretations. Some translators do their best, however, to adhere to the formal equivalence (or word-for-word) method as much as possible. Others, however, seek to create versions that modern readers can thoroughly understand (especially modern readers with lower reading levels), adhering to a dynamic equivalence (or thought-for-thought) method. Some versions take a middle-of-the-road approach, but the fact remains, differing opinions on translation methods have led to debate and controversy, including the debate over gender-inclusive language. Rhodes notes that most versions are not meant to stand alone, and that despite certain negatives, each version has positives that, when put side-by-side with other versions, make for great Bible studies.

Rhodes also includes helpful appendices at the end of his book on the textual basis of translations, how divine names are translated, whether the Apocrypha (which Catholic Bibles include) belongs in the Bible, whether the King James Version is the only reliable version, and whether cultic (Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness) versions of the Bible are accurate. The section on textual basis may confuse some readers because Rhodes spends such a short time on it. The information he presents would have been more helpful incorporated into the rest of the book. In the area of textual basis, Rhodes also misses some key arguments for certain texts, and he makes his own opinion well known.

Rhodes does a good job of covering each version without inserting personal biases, however. While he often leaves behind hints of which versions he “is proud to have on his shelf,” Rhodes manages to objectively discuss each version’s history, translation philosophy, content, pros, and cons. His observations open the eyes of readers to whether most modern versions are as bad as they seem The Complete Guide to Bible Translations, a great summary for any Christian interested in deeper study of God’s Word, will help most readers decide which Bible version best suits them.

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