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Bible Versions: What is the Best Bible Translation? by David Malcolm Bennett

Propitiation, though, is a thoroughly biblical concept,9 and it fits well with the contexts of the verses in which the hilasterion word group appear. In Romans it follows Paul’s detailing of the universality of sin. In 1 Jn. 2:2 it comes in the context of the advocate, Jesus Christ, speaking in our defense because He has dealt with our sin. While the context of 1 Jn. 4:10 is love, propitiation still fits well. God’s love in action deflects His judgment from those who trust in Christ.

It has to be admitted that this issue is a complex one, but I favor “propitiation”. Amongst the more recent translations that use it are the NASB and the ESV.

The NIV has its faults, but it is still a great translation. I have been greatly blessed in using it over many years.

Are there too many English Bible Translations?

Simply put, there are too many English Bible translations. But they exist and we have to weave our way through the maze. Some of these versions are without question superfluous. Others, such as revisions of existing translations, are necessary. Even the KJV had revisions. The English language is changing all the time and translations need to keep up with that. Some expressions that seem good to one generation seem unintelligible, weird or just plain wrong to a later one.

I always find the KJV’s “superfluity of naughtiness” (James 1:21) decidedly odd, even, I am embarrassed to say, a little amusing. The NIV by comparison has “the evil that is so prevalent”. It says the same thing, but in a more modern way.

Then, according to the RSV New Testament, published in the 1940s, the Apostle Paul says the stunning, “once I was stoned” (2 Cor. 11:25). It meant, of course, that people threw rocks at him to try to kill him. Back in the forties you could have the Apostle Paul saying “once I was stoned”, but today that phrase means something very different to most people. The NRSV revises it to “Once I received a stoning”, which says the same thing but eliminates the problem. Revisions are necessary because language changes.

Inclusive Language

Leading from that is the thorny issue of inclusive language. That is, language that, for example, says “brothers and sisters” instead of just “brothers”, though the issue reaches much further than that.

Bible translators must be alert to how language is changing as they go about their work. They cannot ignore it. They are translating the Scriptures to be read and understood. They must do it in the language that people use.

Over the last thirty years or so inclusive language has become common. Most of us use at least a little of it, while some try to use it exclusively. I confess that I have always found such expressions as “chairperson” rather artificial, though other aspects of inclusive language seem perfectly reasonable to me. But whatever is our opinion, the fact remains that many people are speaking and writing in this way, therefore translators need to respond to that.

The NRSV has been translated with, what I think is fair to call, an “inclusive language agenda”.10 Translating the Greek adelphoi (brothers) in Paul’s letters as “brothers and sisters” is perfectly reasonable. For the most part Paul was not just speaking to men, he was writing to all the men and women who made up the congregations that he was addressing. Other forms of it I also regard as fine.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Pneuma Review, Spring 2013

About the Author: David Malcolm Bennett, Ph.D., is an Anglo-Australian Christian researcher and writer with over 15 books in print. They include The Altar Call: Its Origins and Present Usage, The Sinner’s Prayer: Its Origins and Dangers (companion website:, The Origins of Left Behind Eschatology, Edward Irving Reconsidered: The Man, His Controversies, and the Pentecostal Movement, and The General: William Booth. He is also the transcriber, editor and publisher of The Letters of William and Catherine Booth and The Diary and Reminiscences of Catherine Booth.

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