Comparing English Readings

Passage Translation Reading
1C 11:10 Williams This is why woman ought to wear upon her head a symbol of man's authority, especially out of respect to the angels.
Montgomery For this reason the woman ought to have authority over her head, because of the [guardian] angels.
These renderings exhibit the degree of opinion that exists surrounding the role of women in general and the passage in 1Cor 11 about the "Corinthian head covering." Paul's writing is not at its clearest in this passage, and the translations show it.
Mt 11:12 NIV ...the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing,
NASB ...the kingdom of heaven suffers violence,
The NIV stands virtually alone in its rendering of biazw in the middle voice rather than the passive voice. Is the kingdom being invaded (passive) or is it invading (middle)? The evangelical translators of the NIV choose the latter.
Jn 1:1 NET And "God" the message was.
NWT And the Word was a god.
others And the Word was God.
The Greek text is the same in all cases. Taking the logoV (word, message, saying, etc.) to be not a being but an expression of communication, the NET has "message." The others understand the "Word" to represent Jesus preincarnate. The NWT (Jehovah's Witnesses) translate qeoV (theos) without an article to signify "a god" (alt. "divine"). The view shared by Trinitarians and Oneness people is that the Word, Jesus, was God.
1T 3:1 KJV If a man desire the office of a bishop,
Williams Whoever aspires to the office of pastor
Montgomery If any man is seeking the office of a minister
NIV If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer
REB To aspire to leadership...
NET Whoever longs for oversight...
The NET is literal. Each of the others presumes a position and renders episkophV (oversight) according to their understanding of leadership. "Bishop" is the traditional form from Latin; "Overseer" is closest in English. "Pastor" and "minister" normally come from different Greek words, but here the translators understand the terms to be proper in context.
Mt 16:23 KJV Get thee behind me, Satan
NIV, REB Out of my sight, Satan!
NAS Get out of my sight, you satan!
NET Go behind me, enemy!
The KJV, NIV, and REB all transliterate "satanas" as the name Satan. Their underlying doctrinal presupposition is that Satan was manipulating Peter at this point. The NAS chooses to transliterate but takes the view that Peter (by his own choice) was acting as an enemy, a satan. The NET translates satanas as enemy, following the NAS interpretively.
Gen 1:1 KJV, NIV, NASB, RSV In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
NAS In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth...
JPS, NLT (alt.) When God began to create the heavens and the earth...
Taking the view that the passage indicates God creating the universe out of nothing, most translators arrive at the first rendering. The NAS and JPS take the view that it was at the beginning of God's creation that the earth was a formless void. The NLT chooses the first rendering but lists the last as an alternative.

Translations not previously mentioned are: JPS -- the translation of the Jewish Publication Society known also as Tanach or Tanakh; NLT -- New Living Translation; Williams -- translation of Charles B. Williams, 1937; Montgomery -- translation of Helen B. Montgomery, 1924; REB -- Revised English Bible, 1989.

As the reader can hopefully see, every translation is limited by both the underlying text and the way of thinking, or paradigm, of the translators. Translations by groups tend to compromise in areas of disagreement and to reinforce areas of common bias. Translators by individuals or by persons of a single belief system tend to be more consistent throughout but in doing so may reinforce bias throughout. All translations are the work of human beings and are therefore biased.

It is not the intent of this article to label one translation as uniquely superior or uniquely inferior. Hopefully the citations above will show the added bias that creeps in as a translation becomes less literal. Yet for reasons mentioned before, a most literal translation may not always be comprehensible.

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