The Bible, Part 1: Translations


It amazes when I meet some Christians who are not new Christians yet they haven’t read all that much of the Bible.  They seem intimidated by it for some reason.  I don’t quite understand.  I love to read the Bible.

Of course, my main reason for reading the Bible is to learn about God.  I consider the Bible his letter to us.  But it’s so neat that he didn’t give us something in just one style.  There are stories, poetry, accounts, instructions, letters, and prophecies...different styles of writings, each revealing God in a different way.  There is plenty of variety that keeps the reading interesting.

When I began regularly reading the Bible at 12 years old, my version of the Bible was the English paraphrase called The Living Bible.  I read the youth edition of it, called The Way.

It was 1972, still in the

hippie & Jesus People era,

and as you can tell by the cover,

the pictures were right with the

times, as were the introductions

to each book of the Bible.  But

I loved the hippies and the

Jesus People, also called

Jesus Freaks, so this Bible was

right down my line.

In college, I decided I wanted to get a Bible that was closer to the original language, rather than a paraphrase,

so I got the Good News Bible.  This originally came out in the mid-sixties as only the New Testament called Good News For Modern Man, released in paperback form with a background of faded newsprint behind the title.  By the time I was in college, the Old Testament had also been completed, so I was able to get the whole Bible in this translation.

What I liked about the Good News Bible was that it was a translation rather than a paraphrase, yet it was still easy to read.  It was easier to read than any other translation that was out at the time.  The New International Version had just come out in 1978, a couple years (or perhaps less) before I got my Good News Bible, but I didn’t like it because the language was much too formal.  I still do not like the NIV at all, other than to use it as a comparison during accuracy checks.

Something else I soon became fond of about the Good News Bible was its pictures.  There is no other Bible like this.  Other Bibles have pictures, but they’re like photographs of Biblical places or something like that.  The pictures in the Good News Bible are related to the Biblical text, and bring some life to the page.

Here is a picture accompanying

the story of the triumphal entry

of Jesus into Jerusalem on a

donkey, where the people laid

palm branches on the road before

him.  This drawing captures the

excitement of the day, and for

me, adds to the text.  Unlike

many Bibles who have modern

day photographs of the places,

or some paintings that have an

ancient look to them, these drawings look timeless, and capture the mood of passages, helping bring them to life.

In this picture of Job, you see

his frustration and anger at

God for all that has happened

to him, even though he hadn’t

done anything wrong.

Since I’m very fond of the

drawings in the Good News Bible,

when I saw the cartoon at the top of this page, I immediately loved it.  (Sorry, I can’t remember where I got it from; I’ve had it a long time.)

The Good News Bible that I got around 1980 was falling apart by the early nineties, so my wife got me another one.  I was disappointed to find in this one, though, that             they had removed about half of the pictures!  What was that for?

  1. Bullet Waking The Dead by John Eldredge

  2. Bullet The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard

  3. Bullet Creative Prayer by Chris Tiegreen

  4. Bullet The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity by Philip Jenkins

  1. Bullet Bruce Almighty

  2. Bullet Dogma

  1. Bullet Good News Translation (formerly known as Today’s English Version)

  2. Bullet

  1. Bullet Kings

  1. Bullet Revelation

  1. Bullet Jeremiah

  1. Bullet Jonah

  1. Bullet Luke

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My Favorite Bible Translation

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Then in the late 1990s, a new edition of the Good News Bible came out that had ALL the pictures again.  This edition featured pages scattered throughout the Bible that had pictures of those billboards that had supposed quotes from God, with some additional supposed messages from God.  After seeing all those billboards, I thought the title of this edition was cool:  “My Book.” -- God.  But what I liked most was the fact that all the Good News Translation’s pictures were back once again.

In the mid-1990s, the Good News Translation was changed to make the text less gender specific.  This change has irritated me.  Most of the time it’s okay, but sometimes the language gets too convoluted when you try to eliminate all the third person singular references to avoid limiting them to “he.”  Some chapters, such as in instructions for punishments for crimes in the book of Exodus, I have to dig out my old, cover-less (yes, the cover completely fell off of it, I used it so much) original Good News Bible and read to escape the annoying politically correct language.

Other irritations for me in the politically correct version are:

  1. 1)Changing “brothers” to “friends” when Paul addresses the believers. This takes away the feeling that as the body of Christ we are related, like it or not.  Friends you choose; relatives, you’re stuck with.  Some gender-sensitive translations say “brothers and sisters.”  That’s closer--and preferable to “friends,” but after awhile, gets awkward.  Why not just stick with “brothers”?

  2. 2)When Solomon speaks to his son in Proverbs, he often addresses him, “My son.”  Yet in the new GNT, it’s rendered as “My child.”  Doesn’t quite work.  Almost certainly, he was an adult by then, so it seems weird to say “My child.”

  3. 3)The word “fellow” is eliminated, as in “your fellow Israelites.”  In that context, how is “fellow” gender specific??

So I sometimes get a little irritated with that nonsense, but not enough to make me go to another version.  I like the overall translation style of the GNT.

The main problem for me now with this My Book edition is that the print is too small.  My poor middle-aged deteriorating eyes can’t read the small, serif-less font.  I’ve tried finding a larger print version in the bookstores, but the Good News Translation is not very popular anymore, so there isn’t much to choose from.  I’ve considered going to another version in order to get larger print, but I just don’t like any other version as well.  I have an interest in the Holman Christian Standard Bible, mainly because it rejects convoluted sentences to stay politically correct, but it doesn’t have the pleasant flow to my ears that the GNT has.  I guess I’m also used to the wording of so many of the verses that I’d like to stick with the GNT also to help keep the wording of the verses in my head.  I don’t practice memorization (though I think it’s a good thing to do), but at least if I use the version I’ve been using, it helps the words pop up in my memory.

Though I strongly prefer the translation style of the Good News Bible, what really makes it unique is those drawings.  They add so much life to the page that I want to keep on reading the Good News Bible especially because of them.

(Written Summer 2008)

Click here to read some good background on the making of the Good News Translation and the history of its acceptance...or lack of it.

Click here to read about the artist who made the drawings in the Good News Translation.

Click here to find a webpage that compares almost 40 English translations of the Bible as to their literalness in examples of three verses.  The Holman Christian Standard Bible ranks 11th, New American Standard Bible ranks 12th, and the New International Version ranks 23rd.  The Good News Translation comes in at 31, but still beats the New Living Translation, which comes in at 37.

Here’s a quote from the author on what he means by “literalness”:

“This ranking does not infer that one translation is more accurate than another, but only to spatially represent their literal and interpretative differences. Frequently this process becomes challenging, for some interpretative versions may capture the true literal essence of a passage and some literal translations digress into interpretation.

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