Three Recent Bible Translations: A New Testament Perspective -- By: Peter H. Davids

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 46:3 (Sep 2003)
Article: Three Recent Bible Translations: A New Testament Perspective
Author: Peter H. Davids


Three Recent Bible Translations: A New Testament Perspective

Peter H. Davids

[Peter Davids is scholar in residence at the Vineyard Church, Stafford, TX 77477.]

I. Introduction

As certainly noted in the other reviews in this series, the three translations under consideration in this review, The Message, the NET Bible or New English Translation (The NET), and the English Standard Version (ESV) differ radically in purpose and therefore tone. The NET is full of notes, both study notes and translator’s notes, which include transliterated Greek, Greek characters, and textual information (including the traditional symbols of a selection of textual witnesses). In linguistic tone it has chosen to be a relatively contemporary study Bible. The ESV, on the other hand, deliberately seeks to be traditional, to emulate the stately English of the RSV and older translations. My edition came without significant notes other than central column cross references. The Message is unabashedly contemporary in its language, aiming at an audience that is, if anything, unfamiliar with the Bible. These three are diverse indeed.

In two ways all three are similar. First, all are computer-friendly. The NET is freely available on the web as well as purchasable in the Logos/Libronix system, while the other two came with accompanying CDs for use on my computer. Thus even a traditional translation is not so traditional as to be only a paper product. Since I do not carry a paper Bible outside my home and office (I have German, Greek, Hebrew, and English versions on my HP Jornada, which is always with me and far handier to use), this admission of contemporary reality is welcome. To my knowledge only the NET and ESV have a Windows CE version; perhaps the audience of The Message would be unlikely to use such a version. The one caveat I must add is that I had to install a new program on my desktop computer to run the ESV and The Message, for I did not find ESV available in my normal biblical software and chose not to pay to unlock The Message. Second, all use the paragraph as the primary division of the text, The Message (in the printed edition) leaving out verse numbers altogether and the ESV putting them in bold superscript where they are not too obtrusive. The NET puts them in bold regular type with the chapter number repeated for each verse, which is a rather irritating feature if one wishes to read more than a verse or two.

When we move beyond the outward features, it is fair to ask, “How does one review a Bible translation?” Since we are not critiquing the content of what is being translated (as one might with a translated NT commentary

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