I posted last week about the need to pick one translation of the Bible to teach with, and thought this would be a good time to do so, in accordance with the need to get a large print Bible for teaching purposes. I polled the congregation to get an idea as to what most people use when they follow along with me, and got mixed results. But also playing largely in the decision was my thoughts on the best translation for both study and public reading purposes (Note, I’ve been using HCSB all along for sermon prep, along with several other translations.). I started this post as an actual Bible review for my new teaching Bible (coming soon), but thought the translation talk would bloat that review, since it’ll be a review of an actual Bible and not the HCSB translation itself. So, here’s my thoughts on the HCSB and why I decided to return to it for public teaching…
(1) It’s a translation.
That may seem like a bit of needless or redundant information, but it’s pertinent. Almost all of the new ‘translations’ in the past 30 years or so have been revision of older (some quality) translations. The NKJV, ESV, NRSV, NLT while great translation which I highly respect and actually use for both study and devotional reading, are all revisions–not new translations.
Now, there is nothing wrong with revisions. There are good points to a revision, but a new translation that uses the latest in discoveries per manuscripts, ancient languages, ancient cultures, etc, is a good thing if the translators use proper translation principles. The HCSB does, as we’ll discuss.
(2) It’s a trustworthy translation.
The translation philosophy was to be as literal as possible, while expressing the thoughts and intents of the author in a way that we can best understand them. In other words, it’s not a paraphrase. The translators tried to be as literal as possible, but they made allowances for such things as literal word order, and translated cultural idioms (which would have been lost on us) into phrases that get the point across.
To be honest, I’ve always been a little conflicted about the two translation philosophies. Is it better to translate literally what they wrote, and leave interpretation to the reader? One would think so. Especially if the reader has the technical knowledge to correctly interpret. (But how many do? How many know that the phrase “I gave you whiteness of teeth”, in OT Israel, was a bad thing? How many know that it’s a description of starvation?)
Or is it best to translate something into a less literal format that is more comprehensible to the reader? I’m conflicted, except for the fact that I’m realizing that the purpose of language is to get the thought across in such a way that the reader can comprehend. I may use technical language to a fellow System’s Analyst and non-technical language to my wife, who just recently broke down and accepted a smart phone. Either is appropriate, and either is inappropriate, depending on who the audience is, and whether they can understand what I’m saying. That’s what I’ve come to.
I think the HCSB, of the translations available to us today, does the best job of walking the line of literal but understandable. It’s made only better by the fact that it is better ‘footnoted’ than any translation I have ever come across. If they make a decision between different manuscript evidences, they give alternates in the footnote. If they make a decision to not translate something literally, they offer a footnote offering the literal translation.
So… It’s trustworthy, yet easy to read. It’s perfect for my study and teaching Bible.
For more detail than you probably want on translation philosophy, go here.
(3) As mentioned above, it’s easy to read.
The language is concise and natural, which lends itself well to public reading. This is a big deal for me. As mentioned in my other post, there are a couple of decisions that have made it a bit harder at times to read aloud–like the use of “Messiah” when the traditions in my brain are expecting “Christ”. But in researching their motives in making such changes, it makes sense, I’ll deal with it, and I can defend their decisions if anyone ever asks me about it. It’s not a deal-breaker.
(4) I had gotten lots of folks in our congregation hooked on the HCSB, then quit teaching from it for a while.
I have no good reason for not using it on Sunday mornings. I have a lot of good reasons to use it. I have always loved it. And I have to look people that I love in the face every week. (OK… This wasn’t really the big reason, but it looks good on the blog.)
So, that was the translation decision, if not a full translation review.