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The Perfect Translation

There are occasions when I like blending multiple translations together to make the perfect translation. I do this when I believe there is not one translation that does not have the degree of accuracy or clarity that I desire. Some readings are accurate but are unclear. Some readings are clear but cover up the real meaning. Why be a slave to one translation? We all admit that no translation is perfect (except the KJV only camp).

I had to do this recently when I taught from Titus 1. I decided to use both the ESV and HCSB together. I did not like either translation exclusively. I used the HCSB for its reading of “faithful children” because I believe the ESV’s reading “children who are believers” is inaccurate and misleading. But I could not exclusively use the HCSB for my lesson because I did not like the reading “bully” instead of “violent” (1:7; ESV). I also disagreed with the reading from verse 10: “For there are also many rebellious people, idle talkers and deceivers, especially those from Judaism.” The rendering of “Judaism” is too broad in my opinion. The ESV reads “the circumcision party.” This reading is preferred because I believe the apostle Paul was not dealing with a Judaism, but with the controversy over circumcision. As Acts 15 reveals, this problem came from Jewish Christians who were demanding circumcision of Gentile Christians. “The circumcision party” lets us consider whether the problem was from Jews or Jewish Christians.

So, what was I to do? No translation read perfectly (I also consulted the NASB, NRSV, TNIV, NLT, and NKJV and was not happy with these). So I created a perfect translation and used both. There are times when I have two or three Bibles on the pulpit while preaching so that I can move between the translations freely. Powerpoint also smoothes this process for teaching.

Rather than being ardent defenders of one translation or vociferous slanderers of other translations, why not be glad that we have so many to consult and can use them all in our teaching and preaching? I wish we had the perfect translation. But having multiple translations will probably be as close to perfection that we will achieve.

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