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Which Bible translation is the most accurate?

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by yaddoe, Mar 28, 2013.

  1. yaddoe

    yaddoe Kyle Adams

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    Which Bible translation do you believe is the most accurate and why?
     
  2. LegionOnomaMoi

    LegionOnomaMoi Well-Known Member

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    The NRSV. Mostly because if I were forced to pick a way to translate a line, phrase, etc., using one and only one rendering, I have found that the way the NRSV has translated it is pretty close.

    It's really less about getting the most accurate translation and more about avoiding certain translations. For example, avoid any translation with the word "literal" in the title. Avoid translations in which there are significant differences between that translation and all the others at specific points (i.e., John 1:1 ff is translated in a way which makes it mean something different than other translations). I wouldn't go for any Jesus Seminar publications or translations like them either.

    The differences between the most popular translations are not as great as the differences between any translation and the texts in the original language, so it doesn't matter all that much.
     
  3. yaddoe

    yaddoe Kyle Adams

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    2,261
    And among the Greek and Hebrew texts we have today, which is the most accurate?
     
  4. LegionOnomaMoi

    LegionOnomaMoi Well-Known Member

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    We have thousands and thousands of manuscripts just for the NT. For the bible itself, we go into over 10,000.

    Accuracy here is an entirely different question. It is methodology, and specifically methods within textual criticism. Textual critics working with biblical manuscipts (or at least NT manuscripts) have an advantage that any classics or near eastern specialist would kill for. The number of textual witnesses is enormous.

    For the most part, the disagreements between manuscripts are things like spelling errors. There are not that many places where textual critics are unsure of what the original text looked like.

    Also, manuscripts are not divided into individual texts so much as traditions. Certain primary manuscripts and textual traditions divide our available manuscripts rather nicely. When trying to discern which reading among various alternates is the likely original, most manuscripts need not be consulted at al. Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, the papyri, and a few others have pride of place because they are early and/or complete (or almost complete). Variations between them are then compared to the large manuscript pool. Also, issues like grammar/syntax and typical scribal error (e.g., inserting a commentary colophon into the text) are taken into acount. The best version of the NT in Greek is the SBL's. When it comes to the OT, you not only get into the issue of fewer witnesses, but the problem of the LXX vs. the later Hebrew manuscripts and the Qumran finds.
     
  5. sojourner

    sojourner Annoyingly Progressive Since 2006

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    The NRSV is considered by most eminent bible scholars to be the most accurate translation to date. it takes advantage of both the earliest manuscripts and the latest available scholarship. Here, "accurate" means "closest to the meaning implied across a wide range of biblical scholarship" -- not "supporting a particular theological agenda."

    The Scholar's Version, put out by members of the Jesus Seminar, is likewise as accurate, but it's translational choices take some liberties with strict transliteral accuracy, in order to place the meaning within a more modern context.
     
  6. rusra02

    rusra02 Well-Known Member

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    3,687
    I think the New World Translation. The explanation for this is extended and can be found in the reference edition of the NWT, available from Jehovah's witnesses.
     
  7. ChristineES

    ChristineES Tiggerism Staff Member Premium Member

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    Religion:
    Disciple of Yeshua.
    I don't think there are any bad translations. The hardest for me to read was the New World Translation, which I used when I was studying with the JWs (for a time). I've read the KJV, NIV, MKJV, NKJV, NASV, and others. They all say the same thing in a slightly different way.
     
  8. Levite

    Levite Higher and Higher

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    Religion:
    Jewish
    None of them. Definitely none of the complete Tanach translations. But if I had to pick something in Torah translations that came closest, it would either be Everett Fox's The Five Books of Moses, or possibly Robert Alter's The Five Books of Moses.

    But ultimately, I've never seen any translation that truly captures the Hebrew, either in accuracy or in style and feel, or in nuance.
     
  9. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule Well-Known Member

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    Religion:
    Judaism
    Could you offer a few examples of JPS inaccuracy?
     
  10. cataway

    cataway Active Member

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    the most highs God's name is Jehovah ,can you show me that name in the NRVS
     
  11. Brickjectivity

    Brickjectivity Borg Lego: proves that anything can be assimilated Premium Member

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    Suppose you were studying Shakespeare but translated into Chinese. Pretty much all of the Bible translations have similar problems, and the question "Which translation would be most true to the original?" might mislead one to think that any of them could be . It would be more of a stylistic choice, and whoever wrote the Chinese could try to match the poetry but it would never be true to the original. Bible translations are probably not either.
     
  12. LegionOnomaMoi

    LegionOnomaMoi Well-Known Member

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    I have two problems with the SV (I have The Complete Gospels: Annotated Scholar's Version) other than the pretentious title. The first is the impossibility of rendering the context accurately in a translation, and the second is the ways in which trying to do so force particular connotations that aren't there.

    I applaud the efforts to modernize and simpify (or clarify) the translation, but unfortunately the context of the NT wasn't a modern one. All translations involve various choices (how closely do I try to translate individual words with words as opposed to using a phrase? are there times when I should just transliterate the word, rather than translate it? etc.). Seamus Heaney translates the Old English Hwaet in his rendering of Beowulf as "so", although it is usually translated "Lo!" or "Behold!" or some such thing. He does this because certain people in "rustic" regions of his home country spoke simply but the simplicity carried a certain force. Thus "So" as the beginning of an epic story would, for these people, not be out of place. The problem, however, is that Heaney is not an anthropologist or even a folklorist but a poet. It may be that "So" would be a good translation for the people he listened to when he came up with the idea, but this does not mean that Anglo-Saxon oral poets lacked the dramatic intro he removed from his translation.

    The SV does the same thing, exchanging "behold" for "look". And certainly, nobody starts a business meeting with "behold! I send you out as salespeople amidst reluctant consumers!" However, nobody in the first century had equivalents for words and phrases like "what's up?" or "online" or "chat" or "dating" and so on. On the other hand, words which do have a very easy translation like neighbor (plesion), which literally means (with the genitive) "person near you", just like the etymological root of the english word, actually mean very different things thanks to social structures. No English speaking region in the world has the kind of social structure so deeply rooted in kinship and community as did most of the world (especially in villages, but even in Roman cities) since the advent of agriculture. I have some issues with the readiness with which Kenneth Bailey equates certain villages he preached in with 1st century Palestine (in the book which is really two of his books combined, Poet & Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes I believe, as well as his paper or two on orality the first of which was published in a journal called something like Asian Journal of Theology). However, the kind of traditions, oral genres, kinship structure, etc., he encountered are about as close to the kind of society Jesus lived in as is possible.

    There is a great deal of evidence that different socio-cultural structures can literally shape the way people think (as in how people judge what is fair, or how they deal with odds/chance in games/gambling). There is no reason to suppose that an oral culture with a long history of story-telling would not have begun a profound or otherwise serious statement/story with something like "behold!"

    And that's about the least of the modernizations used. Were it so easy to communicate not simply cross-linguistically but also cross-culturally than translations wouldn't need large panels of experts.

    The second (and related) problem is that such translations make it almost impossible to avoid christological/theological implications by trying to simplify and modernize the language. Many translation difficulties result from the normal issues like translating a language which has an inflected verbal system to indicate Tense-Aspect-Modality to one which uses aux. verbs and word order. However, context is a translation issue as well. When Jesus addresses his mother in John at the wedding as "woman", it makes sense to translate it differently. If I started a response to my mother with "woman", as a child or now, it would be a offensive.

    The contrast between Greek (where lexical meaning is readily extended) and English (where new lexemes are created, borrowed, or otherwise introduced into the language quite readily rather than extend meaning) makes trying to translate the Greek into idiomatic, modern English perhaps even than would be the case with such a translation to German or French. English tends to have multiple words which are translated into other languages as only one, because nuances tend to rely less on context and more on lexical choice. It gets worse when the two are combined. There is a difference between "chat" and "talk to", but not necessarily between "talk to" and "speak with". However, while one might say "the president will speak with you now", it is not as natural to say "the president will talk to you now" ("speak with" is somewhat more formal). Or take "tell": there is all the difference in the world between "I'll tell him later" and "I'll tell him off".

    Translating a word like lego or logos (and not as in John 1) can be hard enough, as the words for things like report, story, rumor, saying, talking, speaking, etc., can all come from the same word. When a word can mean both "untie" and "destroy", translation is already quite challenging. When you are trying not just to get the meaning across, but also to render it into a more natural, idiomatic English, the problem is magnified greatly. Using "congratulations" instead of "blessed" is such an example. In a world where atheist can mean "I worship one god" and nobody asks questions like "are you religious? (nor is there even often really a word for religion), "congratulations" does carry religious connotations.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2013
  13. LegionOnomaMoi

    LegionOnomaMoi Well-Known Member

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    This is true. It's less a question of "which is the best" vs. "what should I avoid?" I actually "translated" large sections of Hamlet for a native American-English speaker, despite the fact that Shakespeare is considered modern English. Much English poetry and certain components of Shakespeare use rhyme ("the play's the thing/wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king"), whereas ancient Greek epic poetry used rhythm and only rhythm/meter ("MEH-nin a-AY-de thee-AH-- pe-;LEH-ee-a-DEO AH-kil-EH-os"). One cannot capture the rhyme of English poetry in a language in which the words won't rhyme, nor the rhythm of the Iliad in a language in which the translation cannot convey that which makes it epic poetry (rather than, for example, Greek history).
     
  14. yaddoe

    yaddoe Kyle Adams

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    2,261
    Yeah, the major differences are mostly spelling errors, however there are different instances where different words are used, for example the KJV says cattle and the New World Translation says domestic animals. Now there are instances just like that but with the different Hebrew Manuscripts, so which manuscript has the most accurate wording?
     
  15. yaddoe

    yaddoe Kyle Adams

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    2,261
    I actually have one of those, but the biggest problem I have with it is I want to know exactly which manuscript each verse was translated from. It doesn't tell me, nor does it tell me why they translated each verse the way they did.
    Instead I understand I get the vague answer that "Oh we just used a bunch of the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts and made our decisions based off of those." Real specific let me tell you. For all I know they just decided "Genesis 1:1 lets use the Masoreic Text to translate this one, and ene meni miny moe, lets do 1:2 using the Septuigaint.
     
  16. LegionOnomaMoi

    LegionOnomaMoi Well-Known Member

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    You are talking about the same Hebrew words being translated in two different ways, not differences between manuscripts.
     
  17. yaddoe

    yaddoe Kyle Adams

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    Are you really a Levite?
     
  18. sojourner

    sojourner Annoyingly Progressive Since 2006

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    I've read Alter's Psalms. I really like his work. But you're right -- it's really really difficult (if not impossible) to capture the nuance of meaning available in the original languages. And if one does manage to capture some of the impact, then a strict transliteration has been eschewed in favor of such impact.
     
  19. sojourner

    sojourner Annoyingly Progressive Since 2006

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    Since "Jehovah" is a mushing together of two versions of the Tetragrammaton -- not from the Hebrew, but from German -- I'd have to say that the appearance of "Jehovah" in the NRSV would represent a gross departure from its accuracy.
     
    SageTree likes this.
  20. sojourner

    sojourner Annoyingly Progressive Since 2006

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    25,954
    I happen to be a student of one of the scholars who did the translation, so I understand the difficulties involved. Not one of them would disagree with you. In fact, my prof. asserts that "If you're not reading the NT in Greek, you're not reading the NT. He reads it in Greek.

    So, knowing that all translation is a balancing act between true transliteration and something that makes sense culturally, one has to make choices. But here's the thing: My prof feels that most of the gospel stories were originally transmitted orally, and in whole (Rhoads agrees with him on this). It wasn't an exact rendition word-for-word, so really, "gist" is far more important to the ancient mind than word-for-word accuracy. It was this position that led the team to go for something that makes more sense and has more emotional impact for us, rather than something that attempts a picayune transliteration that's boring and holds little meaning.
     
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