Bible translations have a history of controversy. In the English speaking world, there would still be a large body of Christians that would view the King James Version as the only reliable, and in fact infallible, Bible translation.
There would be other prominent (and more mainstream) evangelical preachers who would flat out refuse to preach from the NIV. And increasingly, as more and more new translations, dynamic translations, transliterations and paraphrases fill bookshop shelves and Amazon listings, endorsements and denouncements resound ever more loudly from pulpits and blogs (sometimes with justification).
While Christians arguing online is never a pretty sight, the temperature of these discussions is totally understandable. We are, after all, talking about the word of God here. For Bible believing Christians, this book (or more accurately, collection of books) represents God’s most reliable and direct objective means of communication to us, his creatures, that we have available today. I think that it’s therefore quite encouraging that people actually take this book seriously enough to care whether our translations are up to scratch or being skewed by personal bias.
At Churchcentral, we’ve decided, for the first time, to dip our toes ever so slightly into these discussions. As leaders of the church, we do have concerns over some ‘translations’, but the main driving force behind this post is much simpler. We just want to make things easier for people attending our meetings.
As you’ll know, if you’ve been along to any of our sites on a Sunday morning that, as we preach from a Bible passage, we try to help you follow along by projecting that passage on to a screen. However, there has, up to this point, been no consistency as to which translation of the Bible is being used. Until now…
Brace yourselves, people, because we’re not going for the NIV! I know that will be a blow to some, as it’s the version of the Bible that many of us have grown up with and even memorised. If it’s any consolation, that version of the NIV (the 1984 edition is the one I have the strongest emotional connection to) has now been almost completely phased out online and replaced with a variety of new UK English, American English and easy to read versions.
We’ve also not gone for the ESV. This is a more literal translation, and we like it a lot. However, although it is easier to read than other literal translations like the KJV or NASB, it is still quite fond of sentences that last half a page and odd sentence structures (as those who joined our memorising Colossians project found out last year!)
The Bible version we’re going to use each week in our preaching is the NLT- the New Living Translation. This is the sequel to the Living Translation, and while the original LT was a bit lightweight and, in my opinion, fluffy, the updated version is a vast improvement. Now, just to be upfront about this, this translation is not without its critics and we’re not claiming that this is the inerrant translation of God’s word or even that it’s the most accurate translation. However, as for striking a balance between readability (especially for people who are totally new to church and the Bible) and accuracy, we’ve decided to go with this one.
Let me be clear, it’s not that the people preaching will only use this version in their preparation. As a general rule, we would thoroughly recommend everyone who studies the Bible seriously to use multiple translations as no translation will ever fully capture the original message and we would certainly do this as we present God’s word to you on a Sunday morning.
There may also be times when we have to refer to a more accurate translation of a particular phrase in a sermon if the readability of the NLT has obscured the true meaning of the text (which it does on occasion). However, this would happen whichever version we use.
Now, I am aware that for some of you, this may still raise questions. I mean, this seems like a pretty major shift, you may say. If Babylon Bee (the satirical Christian site) doesn’t like it, maybe we shouldn’t either.
Well, I would understand these sort of concerns. This is the word of God after all. However, if it helps to calm fears of an imminent drift into apostasy and liberalism, it may be worth pointing out that Jonathan has been preaching from the NLT for the past 5 years! Hopefully, bringing things in line across the preaching team will stop confusion and also help the guests we bring to our services to engage more meaningfully with God’s powerful word.
If you’d like to buy a copy of the NLT, Amazon has a variety of versions available (all the same translation though), from as cheap as £4.51. (On Prime too! Bargain!) There are also several NLT Bible apps, ranging from free simple versions to more price-y study Bibles (£19.99-£39.99). We’d love to hear from anyone who has tried any of these, as to which to particularly recommend.