New Translations in Selection Tool

I’ve updated my Bible Translation Selection Tool to include some additional, older versions. As I add these versions I want to note a couple of things about this tool.

The ratings should be regarded as subjective. I make an effort to use objective standards, but especially on the fine points, it can be difficult to do. For example, I can be certain that the REB is much less formal equivalent that the NKJV or the NRSV. But the difference in formality between the NRSV and the NKJV is a little harder to measure objectively. Nonetheless, I count words in certain passages and try to determine which are justified in terms of form, so that I can get a scaled result indicating how close to the forms of the source language the translators stayed. Similarly for the index indicating how functional equivalent a translation is, I check numerous passages and look at the use of idiomatic translations. Generally the results agree with what I will get if I simply read and compare the versions, and also with what the translators claim in the preface.

When I get to such issues as readability, and value for public reading, my comments are even more subjective. For example, I like something that is clear, but in a formal register for use in public reading. That bias is bound to show through. In my own earlier comments on choosing a pew Bible, which normally will also be used for public reading, I have indicated cases in which this bias would be inappropriate. For example, while I don’t regard the NCV as particularly good for public reading, it might be the best public reading version for a church involved in outreach to people whose native language is not English, or for a church in outreach to people in its literacy program.

Now, here is the list of translations added to my selection tool yesterday and today:

  • JPS Tanakh
    Hebrew scriptures only, the Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh is an extremely valuable translation for the serious student, especially for those who are not Jewish, but want to understand the Jewish point of view.
  • New Life Version
    A simple language version done by missionaries. It’s fairly good, but I didn’t find much to get excited about compared to similar offerings in the NCV, CEV, and so forth.
  • New International Reader’s Version
    Believe it or not, early rumblings of the gender language war came when this version was first released. It is mostly used for children’s Bibles, and is an excellent choice for that use.
  • RSV
    This is an old standby, though mostly superceded by the NRSV and the English Standard Version.
  • The Complete Jewish Bible
    Some might be confused by the title, but this is in fact a Christian version translated by a Jewish believer in Jesus. I would prefer other terminology than “Jewish” Bible simply because I don’t like to get into fights over Jewish identity and the appropriate use of various terms. I should point out that the translator of this Bible means something different by “Jewish” than do the translators of the JPS Tanakh.
  • New English Bible
    Again, I had previously not included this version because it has been replaced by the more current REB. Some are still using the NEB, though less than use the RSV.

Use the selection tool to get a list of versions to check out. My judgment is subjective like everyone else’s. I believe, however, that if you choose your priorities carefully, I’ll be able to help direct you to a short list of versions to check out for yourself.

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