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A Variety of Bible Versions
The following passages are from J. I. Packer’s book, “God has Spoken,” first published in 1965, with the fifth edition in 2005.
This century has brought forth a large litter of new versions, so many indeed that some folk now feel swamped, and by a natural if irrational reaction are resolved to trust none of them, but stick to the King James Version of 1611. In fact, however, all the main modern renderings are very good; no English-speaking generation was ever better served with vernacular Bibles than ours. They fan out. At one extreme are paraphrases and ‘dynamic equivalent’ versions, aiming at a total impact like that of the original on its own first readers. Such versions cut loose from the word-order and sentence-structure of the original, thus concealing the terms, and therefore the existence, of many problems of interpretation, and identify with one current literary culture. Thus, Kenneth Taylor’s Living Bible reflects American ‘pop’ magazines and paperbacks, the Good News Version sticks as closely as it can to Basic English, and J. B. Phillips’ New Testament in Modern English uses the full resources of twentieth-century English prose. At the other extreme are versions which as far as possible are word-for-word, clause-for-clause and sentence-for-sentence; the English Revised Version of 1881, and the New American Standard Version, go this way, but sacrifice smooth English in the process. Striking a balance between these extremes are two sober and steady versions, the New International and the Revised Standard, and two brilliant but uneven ones, the New English Bible and the Jerusalem Bible, a Roman Catholic translation. The two former aim at good plain English, and achieve it; the latter pair are more ‘literary’ in style, sometimes with odd results. All have the defects of their qualities and the limitations of their strengths.
So what to do? No perfect, definitive version of the Bible is possible, any more than a definitive performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony or C sharp minor quartet is possible; there is more in it waiting to be expressed than any one rendering can encompass. Both the word-for-word and the ‘dynamic equivalent’ versions are needed if we are fully to appreciate the meaning and force of the original: the former safeguards accuracy, the latter deepens understanding. I suggest that you try, as I do, to get the best of all worlds by having four Bibles at hand---the King James, with its majestic language and hallowed associations; a paraphrase; a word-for-word version; and one from the middle---and regularly comparing them. In any case; however, concentrate on one version for reading and memorizing. This brings most benefit with least confusion. (20-21)
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