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Choosing the Correct Bible Translation for the Task

With so many Bible translations available today, it’s easy to ask the question, “Which one is the best?” While ultimately the answer to that question is “The one you have with you” or “The one you’ll actually use,” the question itself isn’t the most helpful. The question we should probably be asking instead is, “Which translation is best for this task?"

This question invites us to examine the different translations we have at hand and take advantage of their unique strengths as we accomplish particular tasks.

Know Your Task

You might be a big fan of the New American Standard Bible (NASB), valuing how literal its translation of the original languages is. But that same literal wording might make it a poor choice for reading to your kids. Every Bible has its particular strengths; if they didn’t, then we wouldn’t have so many translations. Those strengths make them well-suited to different tasks. So, the first step in choosing a translation is knowing what task you want to accomplish.

How to Choose the Right Bible Translation for the Task (0.75 hour course)
How to Choose the Right Bible Translation for the Task (0.75 hour course)

Which Bible translation is the best? Christians love to argue about this. But it’s always the wrong question, because it’s incomplete. We should ask, “Which Bible translation is best for a given purpose?” Which translations are best for close study, for evangelism, for preaching, for reading big chunks quickly? This brief course teaches students how to choose the right translation for the right task.

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Choose a Translation for the Task

While there are many different tasks we may seek to accomplish, in this section we’ll quickly discuss three by way of example:

Reading large chunks quickly

If you’re looking to read through large chunks of Scripture quickly, it’s important to choose a translation that eases you along. You don’t want to be stumbling over word order when you could be reading text that more closely mirrors the way people talk today. Here are a few recommendations of translations that aren’t likely to trip you up in your extended readings:

Teaching emerging or struggling readers

When it comes to emerging or struggling readers, difficult language can present a huge obstacle both to their understanding and enjoyment of reading. So, selecting a translation that simplifies the language and shortens the sentences can help to engage readers who might otherwise be put off. Here’s a good place to start:

Close study of Scripture

In all honesty, everyone has a perspective, and when it comes to Bible translation, even the most literal translations on the market must do some interpretation. Even so, they should try to be objective and present their translation with the minimum amount of interpretation necessary. Choosing to present an ancient metaphor as it was written rather than putting it into a modern idiom is one example of how this can be done. These translations are particularly helpful for closer reading:

Logos 8 Basic
Logos 8 Basic

The free version of Logos Bible Software gives you access to God’s Word and your notes from your phone, tablet, or computer. It comes with Bible dictionaries, classic Christian works, and a ton of tools to help you explore Scripture in even more depth.

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Conclusion

Hopefully, you see that changing our question about Bible translations from “Which one is best?” to “Which one is best for this task?” opens us up to the potential to encounter and reencounter the Word of God afresh. And remember, at the end of the day, the best translation is the one you have with you.