When I first began reading the Bible in earnest, I used the NIV (New International Version). The NIV is a very good translation. It took a lot of criticism in the beginning, largely I believe, because it was such a break from the then tradition of biblical translation. However, it’s been a number of decades and a lot of the KJV (King James Version) Only crowd have died off. Many many more translations have been produced and the NIV has more or less fallen out of the popular spotlight though it is still quite popular. Anyway, that’s the one I read at the time. Using that Bible, I read through the New Testament a handful of times and the minor prophets and a few other Old Testament books here and there.
Then I heard about the ESV (English Standard Version). It gained some sexiness in the mid 20-oughts. Add to that, the Crossway covers (very sexy) and that was the first Bible I bought. They had a free Kindle version too, which was nice. Mark Driscoll also endorsed it along with a number of the Calvinist crowd. But reading through the Bible, I started noticing some liberties being taken, especially in numerology. People do complain about versions and the conversion of the word “man” to “people” but that’s not really what I’m after. What I started noticing was that certain phrases or words were translated in ways other than the original text warranted. It was things like in Exodus 20:6 where it says “showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me.” In the foot notes it says “or to the thousandth generation.” A simple interpretation of a thought, yes, but when you mess with numbers in the Bible, you are missing with contextual meanings. Can’t do that. “Thousand” is used a number of times in the
Bible and specific meaning can be drawn from its usage.
Compare the HCSB: “but showing faithful love to a thousand [generations] of those who love Me.”
These make interpretations too, but they keep the terminology and they demonstrate what they’re doing while they’re doing it. No footnotes. Well, the NIV left out steadfast/faithful.
Another problem I have with many modern translations of the Bible is the traditional lack of translation of God’s personal name in the text. Of course anybody reading the text knows that LORD means YHVH, the Hebrew transliteration of God’s name, so God’s name has not been “left out,” just left untranslated for tradition sake. Virtually all scholars agree that the correct pronunciation of the tetragrammaton (four letter name) of God is Yahweh or Yah’weh. But few translations of the Bible do.
So I started reading LORD as Yahweh in my own personal reading. The thing is, the name is used A LOT, over 6000 times in the Old Testament. But I was still reading the ESV, a version I knew had problems I didn’t like.
I had been told about the Holman Christian Standard Bible a while back by a Jehovah’s Witness or two. They use the name Jehovah (a bastardized and Anglicized version of God’s name) profusely and stick it in everywhere in the OT and everywhere they feel it necessary to excise Jesus’ divinity in the New Testament. Naturally, I distrusted anything coming from a JW. They are after all perhaps the most well-known dangerous mind control cult. But I came upon the HCSB on my own one day when researching the name Yahweh.
The HCSB uses Yahweh when the name of God is stated in the Hebrew. For instance, if the author says something like “our God, whose name is the LORD” it doesn’t really make much sense in English. It’s like “they call me the Doctor!” “Doctor who?” “Exactly.” Well, fun, but not useful. It would seem to me a better translation would be “our God, whose name is Yahweh.” Now you know what we’re talking about.
The HCSB still uses LORD pretty regularly. They only use Yahweh a few more than one in ten times. But remember, the name is in there over 6000 times. That’s like eight times per page.
So after reading virtually all the Bible in NIV, and again in ESV, now I’m reading the HCSB. Of course I still have access to every version available on various Bible apps, and my personal copies of the ESB, NIV, NASB, and even the Greek NT. I can’t wait to get back to the New Testament to see how the HCSB translates those.