Which Bible Translation is best?
The problem with most Christian translations is that they are often mistranslated towards supporting a particular Christian denomination (such as Catholic) and therefore contain what amount to mistranslations and misinformation. For example, Catholic bibles alter the words of the Ten Commandments in order to remove the prohibition against graven images. This is to allow statues of Jesus and Mary in their Churches — which would otherwise be forbidden.
After a wide search and a number of years of experience, I've run into the idea that even though some bibles are better than others, all English bibles have translation issues where a particular theology is pushed in English, which does not appear in the original Hebrew. A great example is Isaiah 53:8, where every English bible mistranslates the word ‘lamos’ as ‘he’. However, in the dozens of other cases where the word appears they all translate the word properly as ‘they’ or ‘them’. No rationale is given for this mistranslation other than it is a historic mistranslation which has become ensconced in Christian Theology. There is no other reason to translate the word in such a way; this is a prime example of eisegesis (see: exegesis, ground rules).
However with that in mind, we can still read the Bible so long as we are careful to try and understand the original meaning of the words.
Then, different bibles are best suited to a particular purpose. Then there is the idea of a reference edition or study bible; a bible is more than just it's translation, but the notes, maps, and commentary it comes with can often be very valuable as well.
I'm going to put most of this into a page Bible Reviews but here are some point-form thoughts:
The English Standard Version ESV is copyrighted, but the terms are intentionally loose:
When quotations from the ESV text are used in non-saleable media, such as church bulletins, orders of service, posters, transparencies, or similar media, a complete copyright notice is not required, but the initials (ESV) must appear at the end of the quotation. Publication of any commentary or other Bible reference work produced for commercial sale that uses the English Standard Version must include written permission for use of the ESV text.
Of course, the Artscroll Stone Chumash (and the NSV!) would be considered unimpeachable for reading the Old Testament, at least in English. But is there a decent Christian-edition of the Old Testament? I.E. issues like ESV or NRSV if you can't find an RSV, or is ESV better than RSV? Or how about, is NASB worth it? What about HCSB? And then you have issues of, which study bible is best? What should I do?
Don't panic! Keep reading.
First, read about the issue and get different people's opinions. Here are some pages I read when coming up with this page you're reading here:
To perform comparative analysis take a verse in question and compare it among many translations. It doesn't have to be over a controversial subject; for example, in the KJV the Hebrew word reim (ראם) is translated as Unicorn in Psalms 22 and Numbers 23. This is because when they were translating the word they didn't understand the Hebrew, and additionally may have been working with far older Greek translations, also some of which may have been mistranslated. Today, due to extensive research and scholarship we know that the word reim does not mean Unicorn horn but instead something more like a buffalo horn.
|Translation||Verse (Psalm 22)|
|KJV||Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.|
|NKJV||Save Me from the lion’s mouth And from the horns of the wild oxen! You have answered Me.|
|RSV||Save me from the mouth of the lion, my afflicted soul[a] from the horns of the wild oxen!|
|NRSV||Save me from the mouth of the lion! From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued[a] me.|
|ESV||Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued[a] me from the horns of the wild oxen!|
|NASB||Save me from the lion’s mouth; From the horns of the wild oxen You answer me.|
|NIV||Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen.|
|HCSB||Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued[a] me from the horns of the wild oxen.|
|ASV||Save me from the lion’s mouth; Yea, from the horns of the wild-oxen thou hast answered me.|
|AMP||Save me from the lion’s mouth; From the horns of the wild oxen You answer me.|
As you can see, all translations including he NKJV have moved away from the word “unicorn”. Why? The answer is simple and easy to understand. The actual word being used is reymim, which is plural – the animal in question cannot be a unicorn because it has more than one horn. There are of course other arguments (that unicorn was a pre-flood animal) but given that unicorns are fantastic beasts of European folklore which came hundreds of years later it seems unlikely that King David had European fantasy literature in mind when he wrote down Psalms).
This is a very simple example with no theological fallout, and (hopefully) something everyone can agree on and learn from. But not all such issues are easily resolved. You may hold a particular theology and be interested in a bible which ensures that theology is presented correctly. If you are interested in exploring this further please see Comparing Bible Translations which gives examples of theological differences between various bible translations, in order to help you choose which translation is best for you.
In summary, see part 2; but we may recommend to you today the Artscroll Stone Chumash, or the NSV, among a very few select others.