Position on Bible Translations

The doctrinal statement of Cole Community Church states,

The Old and New Testaments, inerrant as originally given, were verbally inspired by God and are complete revelation of His will for the salvation of men. They constitute the divine and only rule of Christian faith and practice.

We believe that God inspired the writers of Scripture, guiding them so that the original texts penned by the original authors were accurate and true. We believe that God’s inspiration extended even to the choice of words, hence the term “verbal inspiration,” while at the same time employing the individual styles and personalities of each author. We also believe that even though the original manuscripts were lost long ago, the great quantity of extant copies permits us to construct an accurate representation of the originals.

Because few English speakers are fluent in biblical languages today, translations are required. Fortunately, the English language is blessed with an abundance of fine Bible translations. While most modern English translations are based on careful study of the text in the original languages, it is important to remember the limitations of translations. It is very difficult to capture the full range and depth of meaning intrinsic to a text steeped in a foreign language and culture.

Over the years, two major translation approaches have been utilized. One approach is to translate in a word for word manner (called formal equivalence) that reflects the wording and style of the original text, but sometimes strains English readability. The New American Standard Bible and the English Standard Version are examples of this kind of translation. The second approach is to strive for a thought for thought translation (called dynamic equivalence or functional equivalence) that provides better English readability and easier comprehension, but sometimes obscures the varying shades of meaning in the original text. The Living Bible is an example of this kind of translation.

Because of the abundance of translations, Cole Community Church provides the following guidelines regarding translations.

  • We recognize that no single English translation can completely and accurately capture all subtleties of the original language. Thus we recommend the use of multiple translations as a way to better understand the text.
  • We recommend translations backed by good scholarship.
  • We recommend translations not dominated by the theology of one person.
  • We recommend translations that do not cater to current cultural fads.
  • We recommend translations that accept as fact God’s omniscience and omnipotence, and thus accept the existence of accurate prophecy of future events and the historical existence of miracles.
  • We recommend, for the purpose of detailed study, versions that strive for a word for word translation, while recognizing that versions using the dynamic equivalence translation approach may provide helpful illumination.

Acknowledging that no translation is perfect, we commend the following translations:

English Standard Version (ESV)

The ESV employs formal equivalence, seeking to capture the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each Bible writer, while taking into account differences of grammar, syntax, and idiom between current literary English and the original languages. (Excerpted from the ESV Preface) The ESV is also very readable, making it a good all-around Bible for study and general reading.

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

“The NASB strives for literal accuracy while rendering grammar and terminology in contemporary English. Special attention has been given to the rendering of verb tenses to give the English reader a translation as close as possible to the sense of the original Greek and Hebrew texts.”
Excerpted from http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/New-American-Standard-Bible-NASB/

The NASB is a good Bible for detailed study of the text.

New International Version (NIV)

“Concern for clear and natural English – that the New International Version should be idiomatic but not idiosyncratic, contemporary but not dated – motivated the translators and consultants.” (From the NIV Preface)

The NIV translation employs moderate use of functional equivalence, rephrasing some words and passages to smooth out the readings and make them more understandable to modern readers. Note that versions after 1984 have introduced gender-neutral language. Overall, the NIV is a good Bible for general reading. However, for more careful study the NASB or ESV tend to be more helpful.