November 5, 2011 in Question of the Week, Spotlight Answers, Which translation of the Bible do you use and why? by Burton Carley
Which translation of the Bible do you use and why? Why King James? Why not King James? How do you decide which translation/version of the Bible or other holy scriptures to use?
Translating the Latin Vulgate into the vernacular was as revolutionary in Europe as the American battle for independence. In a largely illiterate world, having the Bible read in your native tongue shifted control of scripture from the authority of church and state to the populace. It was an important prelude to the Protestant Reformation.
So John Wycliffe died a natural death but his 14th century translation was so threatening that his body was exhumed and burned. William Tyndale completed his version of the New Testament in 1526 and he too was burned for his effort to make the Bible accessible to the common people. Thus were the bloody beginnings that paved the way for the King James Version of the Bible in 1611.
In 2005 there were something in the neighborhood of 6,134 different editions of the Bible. The Bible market industry churns out for profit the Good Book with new illustrations, re-translations, and supplemental interpretations for contemporary issues. Sometimes a translation is less a translation than an argument from authority to legitimize a particular theological or political interest.
From 1611 to 2011 the scholarship about the origins of the Bible and its many adaptations has advanced as much as the evolution of the flat earth to current theories of cosmology. While the King James Version holds a special place in the English language for its beauty of expression, the scholars who translated it did not have access to the advances of biblical scholarship. The most accurate translation is found in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Revision. The footnotes add much depth to understanding ancient references and words not in common usage.
I use this version of the Bible because I believe in the study of the Bible the first task is to determine what the authors intended in the context of their social and cultural situation. For this the most accurate translation is essential. Truth only has relevance in context. Then one may enter into the biblical narrative personally to discern how it may or may not apply to our own situation.
Understanding how a book of the Bible came to us, why it was written, and how it was read in its time and context, provides the necessary background for understanding contemporary interpretation. We should never confuse what the authors brought to their text with what we bring to it.