Adventures in Translation [Why Comparing English Bibles is Worthwhile]

So I’m on to the next section of the Gospel of John (John 7.1-9).  Being blessed to be English speakers we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to Bible translations.  If you use YouVersion, you have a free embarrassment of riches because you don’t even have to pay for many of these translations.  One of the cool things about comparing many Bible texts when we study is that when there is a broad range of differences between translations on a word, phrase, or sentence, we can capture the nuance by comparing different versions.

There is a good example of this in John 7.3.  The ESV translates the first part of this verse as: For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. So far so interesting.  Let’s see how some other versions translate this sentence:

  • No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. – NIV
  • You can’t become famous if you hide like this – NLT
  • For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. – NASB95
  • No one hides what he is doing if he wants to be well known. – GNT
  • No one who wants to be widely known acts in secret. – NRSV
  • No one does anything in secret while he’s seeking public recognition. – HCSB

I kind of like the NLT translation the best: You can’t become famous if you hide like this.  Given the fact that John follows this comment from Jesus’ brothers with the notation that his brothers did not yet believe in him, we probably should take their statement here as a little sarcastic and mocking.  “Hey Jesus, if you’re gonna be a famous man with all of your talents and miracles, you need to get out there in the open!”

The point is, you can add a lot of color and depth to your understanding of a biblical text, if you take the time to compare English translations.  Take advantage of the deep blessing that you have being a native English speaker!

Don’t waste your language!

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