I used to hate to go to restaurants that served smorgasbord style. My appetite is good, and I enjoy eating out. But I was overwhelmed by the jumble of dishes spread out before me. Then someone kindly took me in tow at a buffet table and showed me how to approach it. I learned I didn’t have to try everything. My plate didn’t have to hold a chicken leg lying atop a slab of ham floating in some shrimp Newburg, paved over with dabs of seven vegetables and four salads, then finished off with carrot sticks, black olives, and a dash of piccalilli. I could choose what suited me best.

My purpose here is to try to perform a similar service for the Bible reader who boggles at the array of Bible translations spread before him today. So far in this century alone more than seventy English versions of all or part of the Bible have appeared in print. Should we try to use them all?

First I should state some convictions I have about translations in general: (1) there is no one perfect, inspired, best, or final translation; (2) few translations deliberately distort the message of the Bible by setting forth a particular theological viewpoint, orthodox or otherwise; (3) every translation is, nevertheless, to some extent an interpretation of the original writing; (4) the extremely hard work that has gone into producing translations has been done to aid the reader, not to enrich the translater; and finally (5) all translations worthy of use must meet three crucial criteria: (a) they must be based upon the best Hebrew and Greek texts presently available, (b) they must include the abundance of new information about Hebrew and Greek vocabulary and structure now at hand, (c) they must be accurate—at least, their lodestar must have been a determined ...

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