David asked for some notes from Ben Witherington’s talk On choosing a Translation.
Ben opened with presenting the usual three different types of Bible translation.
Literal – NASB
Idiomatic – RSV, NEB, NIV, NRSV, KJV
Paraphrase – Message, NLT
He commented that you need to avoid sectarian translations or any translations that were promoting a particular platform, such as the Mormon or JW translations. Team translation is much to be preferred above a translation by one individual in order to ensure greater expertise and less bias.
He warned against using a paraphrase or more interpretive Bible for study although it may be useful for devotional purposes. He also was not in favour of overly literal translations.
In particular, Witherington did not recommend ancient English translations and he gave two examples of the difficulty which could be caused by this. One was of a young girl who wondered why God was an “awful” God, and the other was a mentally handicapped man who could not understand why the scripture said, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” “But I want him,” he said. “Why shouldn’t I want him?” So Witherington warned, “Do not rely on an ancient translation or even an updated ancient translation.” He put great emphasis on the use of modern English.
His next point was that the Greek word anthropos means a “human being” or “humankind” and the translation that one chooses should follow this pattern. These would be the Inclusive NIV or the NRSV.
He then went on to discuss a variety of Bibles which one may prefer depending on the style of the liturgy. The more formal ones are the NEB, Jerusalem Bible or the NRSV. At the other end would be the Good News Bible.
I don’t think he mentioned any more translations than these, except oh yeah, there was a taped segment of a chapter from the Aussie Bible. There is more on Nathan’s blog. I certainly concur with many of the comments there. In sum, Witherington said to chose a translation that is as close to the Greek as possible, which means translating anthropos as “human being” (or an equivalent term) and not “man,” and a translation in good modern English.
PS There is also a good post and a great thread beneath it here. What fun!