At Catholic Answers we are often asked which Bible version a person should choose.
This is an important question about which Catholics need to be informed. Some have been given very little help about how to pick a Bible translation, but keeping in mind a few tips will make the decision much easier.
There are two general philosophies translators use when they do their work: formal or complete equivalence and dynamic equivalence.
Formal equivalence translations try to give as literal a translation of the original text as possible. Translators using this philosophy try to stick close to the originals, even preserving much of the original word order.
Literal translations are an excellent resource for serious Bible study. Sometimes the meaning of a verse depends on subtle cues in the text; these cues are only preserved by literal translations.
Because literal translations can be difficult to read, many have produced more readable Bibles using the dynamic equivalence philosophy.
According to this view, it does not matter whether the grammar and word order of the original is preserved in English so long as the meaning of the text is preserved. This frees up the translator to use better English style and word choice, producing more readable translations.
There are a spectrum of respectable translations that strike different balances between literal and dynamic equivalence.
In the end, there may not be a need to select only one translation of the Bible to use.
There is no reason why a Catholic cannot collect several versions of the Bible, aware of the strengths and weaknesses of each. It is often possible to get a better sense of what is being said in a passage by comparing several different translations.
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