Wednesday, July 7, 2021

IBS-4 Lost in Translation? The best translation for Inductive Study


The Big Idea: Why it is useful to use the New American Standard Bible for Inductive Bible Study (IBS).

Lost in translation?

Have you ever read a menu, sign or instructions where English is not their first language or there is a misprint? Bakery sign reads, "Do not touch bread with hands. Please use tongue." They meant tong, but you gotta chuckle!

The Bible, originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, must be translated into English for our understanding. Bible translators have a colossal task to put the Bible into understandable modern English while being faithful to the original meaning of the text.

There are two sides to the spectrum of Bible translation theory. Word-for-word, and thought-for thought.

Word-for-word translation seeks to be true to the original languages, as literally as possible, but still understandable. (i.e. NASB, ESV)

Thought-for-thought translation seeks to get the idea across using modern language, idioms, and phrases. (i.e. The Message, The Living Bible)

Both are important qualities to understanding the Bible. Word choices are critical because words matter. The idea behind an ancient foreign language should be plainly understandable to everyone. The grammar and idioms of the original languages of 2000+ years ago could be lost on us. Translating to explain the thought sometimes carries bias. It is constructive to compare different Bible versions when a verse is not easily understood.

Why the New American Standard Bible?

1. An accurate translation for the serious reader.  In college I invested in a New American Standard Study Bible in fine black leather. I was in Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. This Bible version was all the rage for accurate, serious Bible study.

2. Used by Precept. Precept regularly publishes excellent Inductive Bible Study guides with leader training and support. For years all studies printed were based on the New American Standard Bible (NASB), because its literal style is as true to the original language as possible. The NASB came out in 1977 (1995 update, and 2020 update). New studies coming out may be updated to the 2020 version but many studies are sold using the 1995 edition. About ten years ago they also offered their studies using the English Standard Version (ESV) which is also a tried and true word-for-word translation.

3. Top Word-for-Word Translation. Both the NASB and the ESV are high on the spectrum for literalness and accuracy. This is important when we dig deep into the text of the Bible.

4. On the Same Page. When a Bible study group looks intimately into the Word of God together, it can be useful to examine the same translation; be on the same page, so to speak. Discussion is enriched as people share the way a verse reads in their favorite translation. Bible versions are a very personal thing. You should love your favorite version. But examining a literal translation together in deep study can be constructive.

5. Valuable NASB Tools. Two Inductive Study Bibles are published. One from Precept, one from Harvest, International. Both offer NASB and ESV versions. Thomson Chain and McArthur's Study Bibles are also popular using NASB. There is an exhaustive concordance for NASB. Some Bible apps use NASB with Strong's Greek words highlighted, such as the Tecarta e-Bible, and Logos Bible Software.

Be assured that no matter what Bible version you choose, the Holy Spirit will guide you. 


This is the fourth in a series called Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study.

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1. Did you know there are different Bible versions? When did you realize that? Do you find it confusing or have you learned to use them for your advantage toward understanding?

2. What's your favorite Bible version? Why do you appreciate it?

3. Look at a verse in a couple of translations and ask yourself what you learn about the verse through that exercise. For instance look at Ephesians 1:9.

He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He set forth in Him. NASB (New American Standard Bible)

God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan. NLT (New Living Translation)

God did what he had purposed, and made known to us the secret plan he had already decided to complete by means of Christ. GNT (Good News Translation)

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