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The Bible was written in three languages: Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. Chances are you don’t speak any of those languages. This is why the Bible is translated: so that people can understand God’s Word in their own language. As English speakers we are blessed with a variety of Bible translations. But how do we choose which one to use for our personal reading and study? In general, there are three types of Bible translations: word for word, thought for thought, and paraphrase.

Word for Word Translations
Word for word translations try to stay as close to the original wording of the Bible as possible. They try and give readers as literal a rendering of the text as possible. But this kind of translation also comes across as very wooden at times, and doesn’t always reflect the way people actually use the English language. Example of this kind of translation are the King James Bible (KJV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), and the English Standard Version (ESV).

Thought for Thought Translations
Thought for thought translations try and translate each thought of the original text. These translations focus on the concepts being taught in the Bible. They attempt to give a sense of how the original text would have sounded to its original hearers. This is done by translating the Bible in a way that sounds more like contemporary language. Examples of this kind of translation are the New International Version (NIV) and the New Living Translation (NLT).

Paraphrase Bibles
Paraphrase Bibles are just that, paraphrases of the original. They are attempts to make the Bible sound familiar to modern ears. They translate the big ideas of each passage, while altering antiquated phrases to make them seem more contemporary. Examples of paraphrase translations are The Message (MSG) and The Living Bible (TLB).

Discussion Questions:

  1. Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
  2. What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
  3. Which Bible translation (if any) are you most familiar with? Why?
  4. Which Bible translation does your church usually use? Why?
  5. In your own words, explain the main differences between the three types of Bible translations.
  6. Do you think there is one “right” translation of the Bible? Explain.
  7. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.

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