Which English Bible translation is the best? Which is the most accurate? With the profusion of translations available today, these questions have become common and important among those who use their Bibles regularly.
What is Translation?
To answer these questions, we must first understand the peculiar difficulties involved in the process of translation. When God confused the languages of men at the tower of Babel, he ensured that not only would vocabulary be different but that grammar too would vary widely from language to language. And because people live in different environments and cultures, special ways of describing things develop within each language group.
These are called idioms, and they can be very colorful. For example, where American English-speakers might describe a proud person as having a “big head,” in Holland it would be said that he “walks in conceit next to his shoes” (Hij loopt van verwaandheid naast z’n schoenen), or, in better English, “He is so conceited he is walking beside his shoes.”
Translators speak of a tension that exists between maintaining the form of the source language and conveying the meaning into the receptor language. It would be possible to translate the phrase he “has a big head” word for word into Dutch, but the Dutch reader might then think the man needs a large size hat. The form of the English would have been maintained perfectly, but the meaning would be lost.