Tag Archives: bible translations

2020 Updates for English Bible Translations

Newcomers to the English Bible often lament the seemingly never-ending proliferation of Bible translations: Which one do I pick? Long gone are the days when the King James Version of the Bible ruled them all!

The past ten years have seen a particular spurt of growth of newer English Bible translations. The late 20th century classic, the New International Version (NIV) 1984, got a major facelift in 2011. The English Standard Version (ESV) got its last update in 2016.

But while the well-known NIV and ESV battle it out over which one is more popular, other English translations have emerged. The New English Translation (NET) Bible, known for its extensive footnotes, and all available online, got a major revision in 2019. The Holman Christian Standard Bible was replaced by the Christian Standard Bible (CSB), in 2017.

Bible translations. How many do we really need?

Just when you thought we would be worn out by all of these new translations and updates, we learn in 2020 of yet another round of updates.  First, the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) got a minor revision of updates, of less than 1% of the text, in early 2020. The CSB project was driven a lot by Dr. Thomas Schreiner, of Southern Baptist Seminary. Dr. Schreiner was once a graduate student of Dr. Donald Hagner, at Fuller Seminary. Hagner was my primary New Testament professor, when I went to Fuller. An interview with Dr. Schreiner, about the CSB, can be found here on YouTube. The CSB committee suggests that the small update this year will be the last one, for perhaps the next 10 years. Find out all about it here. A downloadable PDF of the changes can be found here.

Secondly, the venerable New American Standard Bible (NASB), developed by the Lockman Foundation, first published in 1971, was last updated in 1995. A new update for 2020 is expected to hit the printers by early 2021. But you can see a preview of the changes on Facebook.

Finally, we learn that Southern California pastor John MacArthur is planning on yet another revision of the NASB, to be called the Legacy Standard Bible. The impetus behind the Legacy Standard Bible is to provide an “accurate” translation, based on the latest advances in the study of ancient Bible manuscripts, while shying away from some current interpretive trends in certain modern translations.

Here is my take: The positive side of having all of these Bible translations is that it helps to compare different nuances in how English words and phrases can be used to translate the original Hebrew and Greek. All of the major translations available today are very good (only a handful, like the Passion Translation, generally should be avoided). That is why I make regular use of websites like BibleGateway.com, where you can compare different Bible translations, side-by-side, as part of my devotional and study reading, in addition to normally reading from my English Standard Version (ESV) study Bible.

But sometimes we can go too far. The downside to having so many Bible translations available, the situation will continue to lead towards more tribalism in English-speaking Christianity. Different Bible translations, with different perspectives, will compete for different readerships in mind, and individual believers and churches will find themselves gravitating towards one silo, or another, thereby undermining widespread trust across multiple segments of evangelicalism, a case that Bible scholar Mark Ward strongly made most recently.

In other words, the plethora of Bible translations will thrill the Bible nerd, like me, but it will surely frustrate and confuse the average Christian, for whom a regular pattern of Bible reading and study can be a struggle…. and it is simply better to have in mind the plumbers, Soccer moms, and restaurant table waiters, than in trying to cater to the Bible nerds.


Why Keep the King James Version? (… Or Why the “Thee’s” and “Thou’s” Are More Important Than You Think)

I am a big advocate for modern English Bible translations. However, even though I am not a “King James Only” Bible person, I do think there is a good argument for hanging onto a copy of the King James Version for Bible study.

I read Mark Ward’s marvelous Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible recently, and he makes a very gentle and persuasive case for using multiple Bible translations when studying the Bible. It is perfectly fine to have one Bible version as your “Go-To” translation of choice. But, if possible, we should make use of several versions when doing in-depth Scriptural study, to give us insight that our favorite translation might be missing.

For example, some might be tempted to ditch the old King James Version, as one among your versions, due to its archaic language. But there is a good case for why you should hold off on doing that.

As noted in my book review of Mark Ward’s book, the use of the “thee’s” and “thou’s” in the King James Version, might lead us to think that such language shows a special reverence for God, but this would be wrong. The problem has been accentuated in recent years, by the decision of those who produced the New American Standard Bible (NASB), back in the 1970s. The NASB kept the “thee’s” and “thou’s” with respect to referring to God, and ditched that language when addressing non-divine characters. Apparently, readers of the NASB liked the traditional language for God, so the NASB committee decided not to buck that tradition.

Unfortunately, traditions can easily confuse people. The NASB folks finally fixed that problem by getting rid of all “thee’s” and “thou’s,” by the time of their 1995 revision, but the stigma associated with “thee’s” and “thou’s,” as being formal and more reverent, was pretty well common knowledge by then, and difficult to uproot. Interestingly however, the original purpose for including the “thee’s” and “thou’s” in the King James Version,  in the first place, has been often missed.  Continue reading


Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible: A Review

As a teenager, the first church I started attending, after coming to have personal faith in Christ, was an Independent Baptist church. My closest friend at the time took me there, as it was known for its expository teaching from the Bible, something that was lacking in my more nominal Protestant upbringing.

They also had great potluck suppers.

These people loved their Bible, and I was hungry for it. I devoured what the preacher had to say. The problem was that I had a hard time understanding the Bible version they were using:

It was the King James Version (KJV).

Do not get me wrong. To this day, I love the KJV. There are aspects of modern translations that simply do not hold a candle to the KJV. But some of the KJV English can be rather…confusing. For example, take the all time classic, Psalm 23:1:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

The first phrase I got, as a 17 year old, but “I shall not want?“… I shall not want, what? Shall I not want the Lord to be my shepherd??

Huh???

So, I went down to the local bookstore, to see if I could find a Bible translation that was easier for me to understand. I found something called the “NIV” (New International Version):

The Lord is my shepherd; I lack nothing.

Ah, that made better sense. Because the Lord is my shepherd, I have all that I need.

But here was the catch: In addition to the NIV, the book store had a whole shelf of different Bible translations. Today, the situation can be even more bewildering, with even more Bible translation choices available. Which one do I pick? Continue reading


The Elusive Quest for the “Best” Bible Translation

I ran across this comic today, posted in an excellent piece by Andy Naselli, a New Testament instructor at Bethlehem College & Seminary, founded by Minneapolis pastor, John Piper. Naselli’s argument is that while many Christians tend to argue that their favorite Bible translation is the best, and every other translation is inferior, it would greatly help if we had some humility here.

Evangelical Christians can get pretty picky when it comes to Bible translations that they implicitly trust. But one of my pet peeves is when people, who have absolutely no background in biblical scholarship, tend to think they know better than people who have been studying the Scriptures in-depth for decades.

The latest brouhaha is over a new Bible translation, the Christian Standard Bible, which is a revision of the Holman Christian Standard Bible. The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) was completed in 2004, by a team of scholars, sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention.  The new Christian Standard Bible (CSB) is a modern revision of the HCSB.

Critics have charged that the Christian Standard Bible, produced by conservative evangelical scholars, have nevertheless “changed” the Bible to make it “gender inclusive,” thus hiding a liberal agenda. But as I wrote a few years ago, in one of Veracity’s most widely read posts, the issue of “gender accuracy” between the ESV and NIV 2011 translations, two of the most popular translations read by Christians today, tends to vary from passage to passage. In other words, sometimes the ESV is more “gender accurate” than the NIV 2011, but in other cases, the NIV 2011 is more “gender accurate” than the ESV. I tend to prefer the ESV, but I see a number of strengths in other translations, such as the NIV 2011, and the new CSB.

It is true that no scholar, even conservative evangelical scholars, operates without a personal bias. Even the best scholars can be wrong at times. Therefore, one should not take the message of the comic to mean that the average person, without a PhD, should never be able to make their own informed decisions, when reading the biblical text, in order to understand its meaning.

All I am saying is that we all need a little dose of humility, and not quickly dismiss a Bible translation, simply because one or two passages in a different translation do not conform to our own presuppositions. My suggestion would be to visit BibleGateway.com, and pick some passages in your favorite Bible translation, and then compare them to something like the new Christian Standard Bible. Who knows? Perhaps reading something in a different translation may give you greater insight into the Bible.

Here is an interview with Trevin Wax, publisher of the CSB, about the new Bible, and with Tom Schreiner, one of the lead translators, and then a brief comparison review at BibleGateway.com, with other translations.


The Final Update to the English Standard Version (ESV)

Plumb LineCrossway Publishers recently announced that they have arrived at a permanent revision of the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible. This last revision, conducted in the summer of 2016, involves just 52 words out of 29 Bible verses, as detailed on Crossway’s website.

I bought my first ESV translation of the Bible in 2008. Even though the first edition came out 2001, there had been rumors of a Study Bible being produced. I am glad that I waited. This is now my favorite Bible to use, as it contains a wealth of resources and maps to aid the student of Scripture (though I also really like the Zondervan NIV Study Bible, too). Unlike some other study Bibles produced by a single Bible teacher, the ESV Study Bible was produced by a team of evangelical scholars across a wide set of backgrounds, thus making sure the reader is not limited to one person’s view of the Bible.

The original vision of the ESV translation committee was to produce a modern, and yet permanent, alternative to the venerable King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, for English readers. The idea of having a fixed text that would stand the test of time was the primary reason why the church that I am a part of selected the ESV as our new pew Bible.

But not every initial printing of a new Bible is perfect, and so the ESV made allowances for some changes since 2001. The largest set of changes were announced in 2011, and while I could not find those changes listed anymore at Crossway.org, another blogger at Bible-Researcher.com has still hung onto them (PDF format), 500 words out of 275 verses. Before the ESV Study Bible appeared, another set of changes were made in 2007 (If you know of any other previous changes, let me know, as I would like to link to them here).

But it looks like the ESV translators are now finished with their work. Note that the “final” version of the King James Version of the Bible was not fixed until 1769, 158 years after the KJV was originally produced.

ChristianityToday has an article about the summer 2016 changes to the ESV here.   I blogged about how believers can navigate through their decision on what Bible translation they should use, the ESV vs. NIV 2011, in a earlier Veracity post. Blogger Jon Burnett details some of the recent 2016 changes. For you total Bible geeks, Old Testament professor Claude Mariottini has reviewed these changes (spoiler alert: Mariottini does not like some of the changes. One of his biggest gripes deals with an issue related to the complementarian/egalitarian debate, which is pretty current in evangelical circles and explored at Veracity here). And finally, blogger Scot McKnight addresses the most controversial change.

UPDATE: September 15, 2016. Dave Rudy, a faithful Veracity follower, sent me this link to a post by blogger/theologian Denny Burk interacting with Scot McKnight, defending the ESV’s permanent revision.

UPDATE: September 30, 2016. Crossway has reversed their decision. Details here.


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