Versions I have used
which version(s) do you personally use for your own studies and devotional life?Michael's question is timely since I've been thinking it might be helpful for me to give this information in a post, so here goes.
I was born in Alaska in 1949, not long after the RSV New Testament was published. But that was not an event celebrated in our church (my birth was, not the RSV publication!). In fact I remember hearing things about the RSV that made it sound like it was close to being a communist book. My church only used the KJV and considered the translators of the RSV to be liberal and to have some kind of communist associations. I look back now and consider the communist part rather humorous. In any case, I grew up with the KJV. I heard it read extensively in good sermons. It was read in our home in family devotions. I memorized huge portions of it and can still remember much of what I memorized.
When I was junior high age, I believe, I was briefly exposed to Living Letters and other parts of the Living Bible as they were produced. I read them a little but dismissed them, thinking that they couldn't really be a Bible because the English was so clear.
It was not until I began to attend Bible school that I really used any other Bible version. In one of my Bible classes the version assigned for us to use was the ASV of 1901, called the Rock of Integrity, because conservatives trusted it so much. It was very literal.
While I was in Bible school the New Testament of the NASB was published and I began to use that. I found the updated English refreshing. That began many years of using the NASB. Later, of course, I purchased the entire Bible in the NASB after the Old Testament translation was completed.
In the summer of 1969, when I was a counselor at a Bible camp in upstate New York, I began reading a New Testament published in paperback which was written in the kind of English which I spoke and wrote. It was called the Good News for Modern Man. That version really spoke to me in my personal devotions and other Bible study. When I got back home to my home church, however, I found tracts in the bookrack with titles like "Bad New for Modern Man." They and our pastor criticized the Good News Bible. Some people even suggested that it was a Satanic version. I found that difficult to believe since it seemed to me to be saying essentially the same thing that other Bible versions did, only with contemporary English words.
Also while at Bible school I attended some seminars at which the seminar leader encouraged us to memorize and meditate upon some important passages of the Bible. He suggested that we do so using the beautifully literary translation by J.B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English which was so meangingful to him in his own meditations. So I followed his suggestions and did that memory work. Still to this day I love the beauty and literary power of the portions I memorized in Phillips' translation.
Later I married and my wife and I became members of a Bible translation mission. We studied Bible translation principles as part of our training. I got to learn about how the different language forms in the Bible could be expressed accurately in naturally corresponding forms of the languages into which the Bible is translated. I found that exciting. We were invited by Cheyenne church elders in the fall of 1975 to help them produce a translation of the Bible into their language. We accepted and began this fulfilling work among the Cheyennes. The pulpit Bible in the cross-cultural church which invited us to live on their church property was the Good News Bible. This Bible had English was easier to understand by Cheyennes. (Most Cheyennes have been bilingual in their mother tongue, Cheyenne, then, later in English for several decades. But even though they could carry on basic conversations in English, they missed a lot of the English. This was especially true of the Bible. We did testing before accepting the invitation to work among the Cheyennes to see if they really needed a translation in their language, and the answer was yes, based on the difficulties in understanding the Bible in English.)
We have worked with the Cheyennes since 1975. It has been long, difficult work. But we have learned a lot, both about the Bible and about translation, but, also, about ourselves. God has been good to teach us things we needed to know about ourselves so that we could minister more effectively to the people to whom we have come to help bring the Good News of God's salvation and spiritual growth to them.
During our work we have consulted a number of different English versions to help us understand the meaning of verses before we could translate them. I would also use as much of the New Testament Greek that I could remember from my classes in Bible school. That was helpful, especially as I would consult commentaries which referred to the original Greek.
I never used the NIV as my personal Bible, other than occasionally to look at how it worded something while we were working on Cheyenne translation. I just never found myself attracted more to the NIV than I was attracted to versions I was already using. The NIV was often the pulpit Bible when we would visit various churches to talk about our tribal translation work and I was always grateful when I discovered that a church was using the NIV. I felt the NIV was so much better for people to use, to understand the Bible in contemporary English, than for a church to continue to use the venerable KJV which still sounded so good to me. But I had come to realize that I did not understand the KJV nearly as well as I understood versions which were written in more contemporary English.
My wife and I examined the CEV (Contemporary English Version) when it was published. We found that it answered even more of the translation questions than the TEV (Good News Bible). Translation questions are questions we needed to ask to try to get at the meaning of verses as we translated into Cheyenne. Ultimately we realized that the CEV had English phrasings that were even closer to the way that we ordinarily spoke and wrote than the TEV, so we began using the CEV for our personal use also. By that time, I believe, our children were mostly gone from home, for college. When our children were home we continued using the Good News Bible in our family Bible readings because it was our church Bible when they were used to.
As time went on I was able to get Internet access. I discovered the NET Bible posted on the Internet, along with requests for comments from Internet visitors. I appreciated that transparency with the public and the opportunity to help contribute to making the NET Bible better. I submitted lots of comments to the NET team and they even publicly thanked me in one of their website open letters after one of their major revisions was completed. I appreciated being able to consult the many translation notes in the NET which helped me in our translation work.
Today when I translate with Cheyennes I use a computer program called Paratext which has been designed for Bible translation work. Several windows can be open at once within Paratext. I do all our revision work for the translation from within Paratext. I have one window open for the Cheyenne translation. The next window contains the English "back translation," needed for us to check to see if we have accurately gotten all of the meaning of the Bible into the Cheyenne translation. Then I usually have two English versions open as well which I can easily consult. I have another Bible translation program which synchonizes verse-by-verse with Paratext which has many more English versions, and I often consult them. The two versions I usually have open in Paratext are the CEV and NRSV, the CEV in very idiomatic English which I like and which the Cheyenne translators can understand more easily than any other English version, and the NRSV because it is literal and highly regarded among biblical scholars.
Today my wife and I have our family (just the two of us now) devotions using The Message which has such vivid English. Of course we do find a number of passages where Dr. Peterson, the translator of The Message, didn't translated as accurately as we think the Bible should be translated. We take note of those places, and I am now trying to remember to post them to The Message section of this blog. We find ourselves moved spiritually by The Message.
So, as usual, when you ask me a question, you probably get a longer answer than you might have wanted. But all this tells you what versions I have used and also why we have used them.
If I were to list the versions which I find most helpful to me today, either for my personal devotions or work, they would be the CEV, the NLT, the NET Bible, and The Message (this last one not for our translation work). If I have room for only one Bible version when I am traveling I take the CEV. I have a pocket edition of it. I also have a HP Jornada PDA pocket computer which has many English editions on it. I often read from my pocket computer while traveling, since I like to be able to compare wordings in different English versions.
I have not yet found my "ideal" English version, or as I've seen in some Christian literature "the Bible I am waiting for." That ideal Bible would combine the accuracy of the NET Bible, NIV, and NASB with the contemporary English of the CEV, but I would like it to have more literary beauty than I find in the CEV (which isn't bad literary-wise, it just doesn't sparkle, as I like a Bible version to do, if possible). I find it painful to read any English Bible which uses obsolete English syntax and vocabulary. I find it a joy to read and be moved spiritually by a version which is written in my heart language, and which also appeals to my literary senses, as a poet and someone who appreciates good quality English literature. The NLT probably comes close but I am so keen on quality English (as I understand it, anyway) that I spot "seminary English" in some passages in the NLT (far less, of course, than in most other major English Bible versions) and my heart language is not seminary English. Fortunately, I have become friends with Mark Taylor and I can freely tell him about NLT wordings which I think lost some of the literary sparkle they had in the paraphrase done by his father, Ken Taylor.
Categories: Bible translation, Bible versions, CEV, GNT, KJV, Living Bible, NASB, NET Bible, NIV, New Living Translation, NLT, NRSV, plain English, literary style, The Message, translation accuracy