Blomberg Gives Clarity in the Translation Wars

Which is the best Bible translation to use? I know for many, answering that question can lead to quite a feud among believers, with some going so far as to question the salvation of those who don’t hold to their view on a particular translation. But for the most part, it actually comes down to preference. The KJV, NKJV, ESV, NIV and even the NLT are all acceptable translations.

This is the case made by Craig Blomberg, in his book Can We Still Believe the Bible? In his book, he shows that the Bible we have, is reliable and trustworthy, as long as it falls into one of these translations. The differences between the differing versions comes about because of the philosophies each group of translators used when they began their projects. Blomberg writes:

Put differently, once you set aside the KJV and the NJKV due to their idiosyncratic textual bases, you have three major options, each beautifully representing one of the three major translation philosophies. Every Bible translation aims at various degrees of (a) accurate renderings of the meaning of the original biblical documents and (b) fluency, clarity, and intelligibility for its readers.

What flows from these two choices is either an emphasis on (a) or (b) or a combination of the two. This leads to the NASB, ESV, and NRSV representing (a) in that these three are putting meaning ahead of clarity. The NLT, CEV, and GNB represent (b) putting clarity ahead of meaning. And the final group includes the NAB, NET, HCSB, CEB and NIV aiming at the optimal amount of meaning and clarity simultaneously.

From these philosophies comes the five leading translations which are the KJV, NKVJ, ESV, NLT and NIV. Blomberg also writes:

In the foreseeable future for English translations, it would not be surprising if only five continue to vie for any sizable portions of the Bible market share; the KJV, because it is so venerable and has exercised so much influence in the English language over the last 400 years; the NKJV, because it is a much more readable version of the KJV; the NIV, because of its enormous popularity for the past thirty-five years; the NLT, because it has become the version of choice for those who want something that prioritizes clarity over literal translation and yet is eminently defensible as a legitimate way of translating the Hebrew and Greek; and the ESV, because of the huge advertising campaigns undertaken on its behalf, it usefulness as an essentially literal translation with some poetic elegance, and its use of the best textual basis available.

In fact, given the five options I just listed, it really comes down to what you are looking for when you pick out your version, although I still lean towards the ESV simply because it is a bit more readable than the NKJV I’m using and has “the best textual basis available.”

We must admit that all of these translations are good ones and God can use any one of them to bring us to the saving knowledge of Christ. He used an NIV in bringing me to know Him. But He could have just as easily used a New Living Translation.

What we must not do is try to make the claim that one version is better than the other based on the fact that one is “more literal” than the other. Blomberg makes a point of debunking this myth. He shows us this truth by giving us Phil. 2:6-8 in a literal translation:

who in form of God belonging not prize considered the to be equal to God, but himself emptied form of slave having taken in likeness of men becoming and scheme having been found as man humbled himself becoming obedient until death, death but of cross.

As you can see, not very readable and showing us that a version is not necessarily better because it is more or less literal.

All this to say, if you stick with one of these five versions, then more than likely, the translation you have is perfectly acceptable as long as you read it, believe it and obey it. Otherwise, this entire argument is moot.