The Best Bible Translations and Why in a Nutshell
By Steven Speray
There are basically two types of Bible translations, formal equivalence and dynamic equivalence.
Dynamic equivalence means translating the thought process of each word or sentence, or thought-for-thought. The problem with this way of translating may come from the bias of the translator. Many different meanings, ideas or thoughts can come under certain words and sentences. The bias may be in the form of culture or theology, which may give way to extremely false translation.
Formal equivalence is the literal word for word translation. Its only downfall is direct mistranslation, which may include inclusive language.
Then there is the issue of footnotes and commentaries, which range from extremely modernist or liberal based on biased theologies to very accurate based on historic and logical affirmation.
Two examples of popular but bad Bibles
The so-called Catholic NAB or New American Bible uses the formal equivalence. Due to the modernism of its translators, the footnotes include clever but radically altered interpretations from the historical record. For instance, it claims the author of Matthew may not be Matthew and that he borrowed as a source the Gospel of Mark. If this were true, then Matthew wouldn’t truly be inspired but rather a plagiarized work. The NAB charges the Gospels as contradicting one another in reality rather than just in appearance.
The NAB implies some readings are fraudulent and that Christ was sometimes mistaken. You can find all this and much more in the NAB’s footnotes in the Gospel of Matthew alone, not to mention the whole of Scripture. The NAB is so bad that it would not at all be excessive to call it blasphemous. It’s not surprising that Paul VI approved it.
The popular NIV or New International Version uses both types. Because this translation is biased against Catholicism, you get direct and intentional mistranslation with words such as tradition. Since anti-Catholics hate the traditions of Catholicism, each time the Greek paradosis or tradition is used in the Bible in a good way such as Second Thessalonians 2:15, the NIV translates it “teachings” with a footnote that it can be rendered tradition. However, when the paradosis refers to bad traditions as found in Mark 7:8-9, the NIV then correctly translates it tradition.
The commentary found in the NIV is radically biased. For instance, I Peter 3:21 states quite clearly baptism saves. The anti-Catholic translators footnote that Baptism doesn’t really save but only symbolizes. In other words, the Bible doesn’t really mean what it states. The Catholic doctrine of Baptism teaches that water actually does what it symbolizes which is saving the soul by washing it away of sin and Peter is teaching the Catholic doctrine precisely.
Many other Bibles have inclusive language and most have many mistranslations.
As with all Protestant versions of the Bible, many Scriptures are intentionally left out.
Imagine if you will a group of churches that rejected certain books in the Bible such as Genesis, Numbers, Job, as not being the Scriptures or Word of God, because they were considered problematic either historically or theologically.
Yet, this is precisely what the Protestants did with the Christian Bible. They rejected the Old Testament deuterocanonical books of Tobit, Judith, Wisdom (of Solomon), Sirach, Baruch, First and Second Maccabees, including parts of Esther and Daniel. Protestants refer to these books as apocrypha. Actually, there is a difference between the apocrypha and the deuterocanonicals.
There are several reasons given by Protestants as to why these books should not be considered canonical, but all such reasons are either false, illogical, and without any merit.
One such reason given is the books are not found in the Hebrew Bible and were rejected by the Jews at the Council of Javneh (Jamnia) in 90 AD. Why this reason is given is puzzling since the Jewish council has no authority whatsoever. It also rejects Christ, all the New Testaments writings, and anything that has to do with the Gentiles.
While it is a fact that the Hebrew Bible does not contain the deuterocanonical books, the Septuagint Bible most certainly contains them and this was the version used by Christ and the Apostles. Even in the Gospels (Mark 7:6-8), Christ quotes from Isaiah found only in the Septuagint version. As a matter of fact, two-thirds of the Old Testament passages quoted in the New Testament come from the Septuagint.
This fact also squashes any argument that would accuse the Catholic Church of adding these books in the Bible. St Athanasius of the fourth century was the first to give the list of all the books in both the Old and New Testaments that we have today.
Considering also that the first Bible with the 27 books of the New Testament were first given in Rome in 380 by the authority of the Roman Pontiff. This doesn’t mean that the books are Scripture based on the authority of the Catholic Church since they are the Scriptures regardless. However, it took the authority of the Catholic Church to discern them in order that the world can be sure. In other words, it took an authority outside of Scripture that must be infallible or else the Canon of Scripture itself would not be. Prior to the 380 AD Roman Council, there was no set Canon of Scripture. In other words, there was no Bible. What constituted the Word of God was up for grabs.
Just because the Church existed with conflicting lists of Scripture before 380 AD also doesn’t mean that one has the right to reject the deuterocanonicals. Some New Testament books were also not always considered Scriptural such as the books Hebrews and the Apocalypse. Therefore, this excuse cannot be logically used with the deuterocanonical books.
The Divine inspiration of Scripture did not provide the list of Scriptures and even if it did, one could not be sure if they were actually the Scriptures. The Quran claims that all its books are the word of God but does that make it so? Of course not. Christ would need to set up an infallible authority to not only to give the Canon but also to provide the limits on interpretation or else the Word of God is only as good as the one interpreting it. The infallible Word of God would not be very useful if you didn’t know the infallible interpretation of it or at least the limit thereof.
Funny thing is, without realizing it Protestants have accepted the infallible authority of the Catholic Church by accepting their Bibles, as the canon was determined for the exception of the books mentioned.
This moves us to the next point used as an excuse not to include the deuterocanonicals, which is that they don’t claim to be Scripture. The problem with this excuse is that neither do many Scriptural books. Should we toss them out also?
The books Sirach and II Maccabees seem to deny they are Scriptural but so does St Paul in I Corinthians 7:12 and 7:40. Should we throw-out First Corinthians too?
Finally, some Protestants will say that the deuterocanonicals have errors. For instance, the books of Judith and Tobit are historically and geographically erroneous. The author of Tobit goes out of his way to let us know his story is fictional, but the Church accepts the stories of God for their theological and moral truths based on what the author is asserting. The Word of God may tell us truths apart from the historical record, and it is the Word of God just the same.
Some Protestants bring up the fact that Judith and the angel Rafael lie and God would be condoning immorality if these books are Scriptural. However, God accepts some deception as praiseworthy under certain circumstances provided that it is contrary to the deception unto sin, such as the Hebrew midwives lying to Pharaoh about the birth of Moses or even Christ saying that He knows not the Day. Other examples would include the saints that have deceived the government when it came to promoting the Faith and to distribute the sacraments under anti-Catholic law as it did in England, Japan, Mexico, and many other places.
Chapter 12 in Second Maccabees most clearly shows the doctrine of Purgatory. Of course, most Protestants would reject this book since their systematic theology won’t allow for the doctrine of Purgatory. But hey, if you don’t like the theology of a certain book in the Bible because it doesn’t line up with your theology, then just toss it out right? Luther hated the New Testament book James because it says man is not justified by faith alone but by faith and works and this did not square up with his theology. Others just twist the second verse of James to mean something different from what it actually states because they know throwing out James would be wrong, but then you’re back to the problem that God’s Word is only as good as the one interpreting it.
Be that as it may, some deuterocanonicals have nothing to be answered for and yet they are still rejected. The reason for this deletion is these books are profoundly Catholic. This is not what Protestants will say. They use the other excuses, but ultimately it comes down to authority.
While there are many good bibles without the deuterocanonicals, such as the KJV, NKJV, and the RSV, why not use the Bible with the same authority that gave us what we have? Of course, the consequences would be devastating for some of those who did.
With all this is in mind, two Bibles stand out as the best translated, best-footnoted, best commentary, and best readable.
While there is no such thing as the perfectly translated English Bible, the Douay-Rheims is the most accurate, and the RSV-CE is the best readable. Both should be used in Bible study and prayerful reading.
The Douay is the only Bible to get two very important verses translated correctly into English.
In Genesis 3:15, the first prophecy of Our Lord and Lady is told. All Bibles but one says “HE” will crush the head of Satan. However, this is a false translation.
The historic rendering of this Hebrew pronoun “hu” has always and should be rendered “SHE,” because the “woman” and not the “seed” is the antecedent of “hu.”
This follows the context, because Gen 3:15 says the enmity is between the “woman” and “Satan”, then it says, between her “seed” and Satan’s “seed.”
If you read the Hebrew pronoun as “he” crushing the head of “Satan” then you have misplaced the context of who has enmity with whom. “She” will crush the head since she was the object that follows and the one who was said to have enmity with “Satan.” We know of course that it is because of her “seed” that she does this.
The next verse is Luke 1:28. The angel Gabriel addresses Mary as kecharitomene. The Douay translates this word as it was translated in Latin. “Hail, full of grace.” It is not a transliteration. All other Bibles give a variation of “Rejoice, O highly favored.” This translation from the Greek lacks what God was conveying to Mary. The Greek is indicating a permanent perfection of favor or grace of a singular kind, not just highly favored. Several saints in Scripture are highly favored, but none are perfectly and permanently favored of a singularly kind and this is what kecharitomene means. It is a title and a description. “Hail, Full of Grace” nails it down.
All the other Bibles take away from Mary what God has told us about her in these two verses. Therefore, only one Bible gives the greatest glory to God by rightly translating these two verses.
Though the Douay is in the older English making it more difficult to read, the RSV-CE helps when using in prayerful study.