English Bible Translations

Dear Church Family,

We just concluded our adult Sunday school series in “The Word of God Written.” The title of our series comes from the Westminster Confession of Faith which explains that in the past, “God has revealed Himself and to declare His will unto His Church; and afterwards…to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing His will unto His people being now ceased. Under the name of Holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are not contained all the books of the Old and New Testament…” (WCF 1:1-2).

The Origins of English Bible Translation

Using a DVD series by Timothy Paul Jones called “How We Got the Bible,” along with supplemental lessons, we have explored such topics as: what makes the Bible special, how we got the Old and New Testaments, and how the books of the New Testament were chosen and copied. In our last lesson, we learned a bit of the history of the English Bible and the various translations in English. For a review or refresher, here is a good summary overview of the history of the translation of the Bible into English.

The Bible for the Masses

In our class, I also recommended the Wycliffe Discovery Center in Orlando, FL. Wycliffe is an organization that seeks to translate the Scriptures into the native tongue of peoples throughout the world – or, as our confession puts it: “the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come” (WCF 1:8). [‘Vulgar’ is used here by way of an older definition meaning, ‘characteristic of or belonging to the masses.’] Several years ago, our family had the opportunity to visit the Wycliffe Discovery Center, and I highly recommend it. So, if you’re ever in central Florida, try to make some time to visit and learn about some of the challenges of Bible translation and the work that continues today.

Various English Translations

Finally, we had some discussion about the many English Bible translations that are available today. Here is a chart that compares most of the modern English translations, when they were published, reading level difficulty, method of translation, who translated it, and what manuscripts and texts they used. For further study of the process and methodology of translating the Bible into English, I recommend Leland Ryken’s book, The Word of God in English.

For those who may not have access to the original languages – and especially for those teaching the Bible – it is often helpful to compare translations. Printed books containing parallel versions of the Bible do just that; however, there are also many helps online. Just one example is: biblegateway.com. Using this resource, one is able to quickly and easily search for any passage in the Bible and then add various translations to read them in parallel. For example, if you go to this link, you will find that I searched for “John 3” and then added parallel translations consisting of the NASB, NIV, ESV, RSV, and NKJV (I think five versions in parallel is the max available). There are also other versions in different languages available, and tutorials on how to use this site. There are many other resources available for Bible study, but this is just one that I found to be easy to use.

Conclusion

The purpose of this Sunday school class on “The Word of God Written,” was to help firm up the foundation of our confidence in the Scriptures, and to better understand (and defend) the popular but often ignorant attacks which are brought against the reliability and accuracy of the Bible. The audio recordings for the class, along with the handouts, are available online here. And, if you would like to view (or re-view) any of the DVD lessons that we watched, just let me know and I can loan them out.

The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch