The Intent of English Bible Translators

One of my desires here at pastorbrett.com is to help people not only know their Bibles, but also know about their Bibles. Each Bible translation is the result of diligent work by a team of translators (I prefer to consider translations by one person as paraphrases rather than translations). These teams of translators are guided by a set of translation principles which aim to fulfill the original purpose or intent behind the project. It is usually in the Foreword or Preface that you find such a statement of purpose or intent. I decided to look at each of these in the most popular Bible translations to discover the stated intent of each translation. Here is what I found:

King James Version

“Truly, good Christian reader, we never thought from the beginning that we should need to make a new tranlsation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one…but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principle good one, not justly to be excepted against; that hath been our endeavor, that our mark.”

“But we desire that the Scripture may speak like itself, as in the language of Canaan, that it may be understood even of the very vulgar.”

New King James Version

“In harmony with the purpose of the King James scholars, the translators and editors of the present work have not pursued a goal of innovation. They have perceived the Holy Bible, New King James Version, as a continuation of the labors of the earlier translators, thus unlocking for today’s readers the spiritual treasures found especially in the Authorized Version of the Holy Scriptures.”

New American Standard Bible

“The purpose fo the Editorial Board in making this translation was to adhere as closely as possible to the original languages of the Holy Scriptures, and to make the translation in a fluent and readable style according to current English usage.”

New International Version (1984)

“From the beginning of the project, the Committee on Bible Translation held to certain goals for the New International Version: that it would be an accurate translation and one that would have clarity and literary quality and so prove suitable for public and private reading, teaching, preaching, memorizing, and liturgical use. The Committee also sought to preserve some measure of continuity with the long tradition of translating the Scriptures into English.”

English Standard Version

“The English Standard Version (ESV) stands in the classic mainstream of English Bible translations over the past half-millennium. The fountainhead of that stream was William Tyndale’s New Testament of 1526; marking its course were the King James Version of 1611 (KJV), the English Revised Version of 1885 (RV), the American Standard Version of 1901 (ASV), and the Revised Standard Version of 1952 and 1971 (RSV). In that stream, faithfulness to the text and rigorous pursuit of accuracy were combined with simplicity, beauty, and dignity of expression. Our goal has been to carry forward this legacy for a new century.”

New Living Translation

“English Bible translations tend to be governed by one of two general translation theories. The first theory has been called “formal-equivalence,” “literal,” or “word-for-word” translation. According to this theory, the translator attempts to render each word of the original language into English and seeks to preserve the original syntax and sentence structure as much as possible in translation. The second theory has been called “dynamic-equivalence,” “functional-equivalence,” or “thought-for-thought” translation. The goal of this translation theory is to produce in English the closest natural equivalent of the message expressed by the original-language text, both in meaning and in style.”

“The translators of the New Living Translation set out to render the message of the original texts of Scripture into clear, contemporary English.”

Holman Christian Standard Bible

“The goals of this translation are:

  • to provide English-speaking people across the world with an accurate, readable Bible in contemporary English
  • to equip serious Bible students with an accurate translation for personal study, private devotions, and memorization
  • to give those who love God’s Word a text that has numerous reader helps, is visually attractive on the page, and is appealing when heard
  • to affirm the authority of Scripture as God’s Word and to champion its absolute truth against social or cultural agendas that would compromise its accuracy

The name, Holman Christian Standard Bible, captures these goals: Holman Bible Publishers presents a new Bible translation, for Christian and English-speaking communities, which will be a standard in Bible translations for years to come.”

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