If you seek [Wisdom] as for silver and search for skillful and godly Wisdom as for hidden treasures (searching for it like a prospector panning for gold, like an adventurer on a treasure hunt,) then you will understand the reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:4-5, Amplified/The Message)
I want to offer a few tools that may, perhaps, prove helpful in digging for this buried treasure Solomon so richly describes in Proverbs 2. (This is Part 1 of a 3-part series).
A lot’s happened since King James authorized the 1611 version of the Bible. There was a day when Baskin-Robbins had only 31 flavors, and a person’s choice of biblical translations was fairly simple. But today, the choice of translations from which to choose more resembles the number of food choices offered at the buffet at Furr’s Cafeteria. But remember, there’s a vast difference between the nutritional value of baked chicken and pecan pie.
Within the arena of modern Bible translations there are two extremes: Formal Equivalence (essentially literal) and Dynamic Equivalence. Formal Equivalence is translated more “word for word,” and Dynamic Equivalence more “thought for thought.” Parenthetically, a literal word-for-word English translation would be extremely difficult to read since translating any foreign language requires interpretation in regard to nuance. (For something close, though, I’d recommend Young’s Literal Translation).
Examples of Formal Equivalent translations are our New American Standard, New King James, Holman Christian Standard, and the English Standard Version. Good examples of the Dynamic Equivalent translations are the New Living, Good News, and the J.B. Phillips New Testament .
The extremely popular New International Version is a solid middle-of-the-road translation. I love Eugene Peterson’s The Message Bible, but rather than a literal translations, it is a paraphrase of the original languages. And one of my favorites, the Amplified Bible, actually attempts to go beyond the “word-for-word” concept of translation to bring out the richness of the Hebrew & Greek.
A responsible use of multiple translations can, at times, help communicate a point by employing wording one can better grasp. For instance, in Romans 12:19 (esv), Paul warns, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Here’s the same passage from Peterson’s Message Bible: “Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Personally, I read from a number of translations regularly to help me better understand.
Bottom line, do your homework. Choose prayerfully. And start mining the Scriptures.
Soli Deo Gloria, Nick