By Dr. David May
Professor of New Testament
Hardly a month goes by without a new translation of the Bible appearing on the shelves of bookstores. We are flooded with options for reading the Word of God. The good news is that we have many choices for reading. The challenge is to know which translation one should choose.
Before suggesting a few translations and study Bibles, I want to note just a few points. First, no perfect translation exists; every translation is an interpretation. Each translation is influenced by the culture and theology of the translator, and no translator can capture all the original cultural elements of the original language. Second, everyone should consult and compare several translations. Just as diversity strengthens a bio-environment, so does the variety of translations strengthen a spiritual environment. Third, some important and favorite translations will be omitted. Consider these options listed below only as a small sampling of a much larger pie of possible translations.
Study Bibles. Study Bibles have well-researched and presented notes. Each study Bible will have its own perspective and assumptions; however, the ones below represent well-known and respected study Bibles. Good study Bibles include the extra works found between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament called the Apocrypha.
One should also consult a study Bible that deals with the Tanak, that is, the Hebrew Bible. This study Bible is prepared by the Jewish Publication Society. As one uses this study Bible, be prepared to note that the order of the books in the Hebrew Bible is not the same as found in the Christian Bible.
Contemporary Translations. Several newer translations have appeared over the last few years and merit some reading time.
Older Translations. Many translations from the past should not be overlooked. They also help to fire the imagination and to hear the Word of God in a different tone.
The choice of translations can seem overwhelming. Perhaps, therefore, the most important task for a Christian is to follow the simple directive heard by Saint Augustine as he sat in a garden with copy of Scripture, “Tolle lege.” These Latin words encourage us to, “Take up and Read.”
My joy is to see followers of Christ actively engaged in using their gifts, and blazing trails in effectively reaching the world with the transforming power of the gospel. As a servant leader of Christ’s church, I want to do for others what my leaders and mentors did for me: facilitate that transformational connection between life on the ground and scripture/theology.
I see the Christian faith as a journey, a way of life. Many people can affirm that “church” is the people, not the building, but were that to become a reality in how we actually function, the church would be transformed. I’m fond of using the designation “follower of Christ.” As I read the gospels, the essence of the call of Jesus is action: going, sending, doing.