Compare your translations!
Ever wonder why we have numerous translations of the Bible? Why does one translation differ from others. Which translation accurately reflects the words of the original authors? Or are there multiple reliable ones?
Many of us get frustrated with sifting through questions like this. We want to know which translation is the best. We feel uncomfortable with acknowledging multiple translations may offer a reliable interpretation. To us, we see different translations as problematic—not advantageous.
But the reality is most good translations, such as the New International Version, New American Standard Bible, or New English Translation employ a host of experts in Hebrew and Koine Greek. These translators have gained the respect of the academic community for their fine scholarship in accurately interpreting the Masoretic and Koine texts.
So why does the NET interpret passages differently than the NIV? The simple reason is because we don’t have the original writers of Scripture alive to explain what they wrote! Instead, Bible interpreters rely on the best manuscripts available to them. And because the Bible was originally written a long time ago, cultural and language differences make it challenging to figure out the original meaning of Bible passages.
But this doesn’t mean translation is impossible. Instead, linguists use their expertise in making educated decisions on what certain ancient terms and phrases mean. For example, the Hebrew term Har carries the meaning of a mountain, hill, or hill country. Because there are multiple meanings associated with this one term, translators must decide which interpretation best fits the biblical author’s original meaning. In doing so, linguists choose which interpretation they believe the ancient author meant.
At first glance, this sounds problematic. “Which one is it, mountain, hill or hill country?” we mumble. “Why can’t there be only one term?” But once we trust the scholarship behind each good Bible translation, we can utilize the different translations to our benefit. By comparing translations with each other, we can see how each translation surfaces different nuances. And in doing this exercise, we get a more balanced view of the range of meanings a certain passage may contain.
So go for it! Get a few different translations. And when you read a difficult passage, consult one of your other translations to see another perspective. In doing so, you’ll gain a better understanding of what the Bible means.