Here are some additional thoughts that I didn’t take time to share during the message yesterday.
Paraphrase vs Translation
During the message I quoted Matthew 22:39 from The Message paraphrase. “Love others as well as you love yourself.” I wanted to take a moment to make a distinction between a Bible TRANSLATION and A Bible PARAPHRASE.
Most of us are familiar with what the word “paraphrase” means. It means to say something “in your own words.” We do this when we try to explain to someone what aa given word means. We are not spouting off the actual definition, at least not usually. Rather we are trying to explain what the word means “in our own words.” This is what a Bible paraphrase is. It is scripture, written in the words of the author or authors.
This sort of writing makes for great readability. The Message paraphrase is very easy to read. However it sacrifices a lot in scriptural accuracy. You see, the goal is not to be completely accurate to every word. Rather the goal is to be faithful to the general message of a given passage, while making it easily readable.
With Bible translation great care is made to be as faithful to the original writings as possible. There are different types of translations, word for word, and idea for idea.
For some translators the goal is to translate word for word, as much as possible. This makes for extremely accurate translation, but can sacrifice greatly in readability. Even with modern languages, translating word for word can communicate the idea, but it often doesn’t flow smoothly. It often simply doesn’t sound good. With word for word translation this is sometimes the case.
For others the goal is to translate idea for idea. In other words, to use whatever modern words best translate the IDEA. This can sacrifice a little in word for word accuracy. In some cases, the literal translation of a given word may not communicate the same thing to modern readers as it did to the original audience. Consider popular words from recent generations. “Awesome” literally means something that is very large. However, when I was a kid this meant something that was very exciting. “Cool” literally refers to temperature, but when I was a kid, it was used as a term of appreciation for an object, or someone’s actions. Idea for idea translation take such changes in language into account.
How translation doesn’t work
I once sat in a meeting with a man who said he only used the King James Version. He went on to say, “Because everything else is just a copy of the KJV. It’s like a copy of a copy. Each time you lose a little something.” While I don’t fault anyone for having a preference for a given translation, this gentleman’s understanding of Bible translation was faulty. Newer translations are not simply “copies of copies”. They are not translated from the KJV. They are translated from the oldest manuscripts we have. In fact modern translations are translated from older manuscripts than the KJV was. This explains some of the differences between the KJV and new translations.
Why does it matter?
Some may look at the distinction between paraphrase vs translation, or between different methods of translation and wonder why it even matters. First, if matters because it explains why one can walk into a Christian book store and see so many different “versions” of the Bible. They are not, in fact, different “versions”. Rather they simply represent different ways of saying the same things. Understanding the difference is important because it effects which one you choose.
Which one SHOULD I choose?
Ultimately, the choice is up to you. But, I would give some advice. If you are looking for a version that is easy to read, then a paraphrase like The Message is great. This is great for daily reading, or for getting a general idea of what a passage says. However, if your goal is to STUDY the Bible, then you need to stick with an actual translation, not a paraphrase. My recommendation would be to try some different translations and see which one speaks to your spirit more. At Bible.com you can do exactly that. They have a huge variety of translation, paraphrases, and more languages than you can imagine… and it’s COMPLETELY FREE! You can also find hundreds of daily devotionals and other materials there. I’d also recommend downloading the app to your smart device. Then you can literally NEVER be without your Bible.
Here is a list of all the verses that I shared in the message.
If you ever have comments or questions related to the message I shared, feel free to share them with me. Even better, share them in our public Facebook Group. I don’t claim to have all the answers, so let’s discuss it. Plus, if you have a question, I promise you there is someone else who had the same, or a similar question.