Shelf Life Book Review: One Bible, Many Versions

Abram Kielsmeier-Jones

One Bible, Many Versions: Are All Translations Created Equal?
InterVarsity Press, 2013

In this helpful resource, Bible translator Dave Brunn analyzes Bible versions, including the ESV, NASB, NIV (2011), KJV and HCSB. Brunn categorizes translations as one of four types: “highly literal,” “modified literal,” “idiomatic” and “unduly free” (63). A key point is that “English versions presumed to be literal are not as literal as presumed” (98). In fact, in some places the more “idiomatic” versions translate more literally than the “highly literal” ones.

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Much of the book is composed of examples that support Brunn’s claim. Tables, figures and charts abound, such as “One Hebrew Word Translated Many Different Ways” in a given version (101) and examples of “literal” versions that make frequent use of “Replacing a Word with a Phrase” (118). This sort of move is inevitable (and not a bad thing), Brunn says. While one can preserve meaning across languages, the form, word order and other features change when going from one language to another.

Brunn’s frequent references to Hebrew and Greek are accessible to readers with no original language knowledge. Pastors, missionaries and especially Bible translators will find this book particularly helpful.

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 5 No. 6