Fifteen Myths about Bible Translation by Daniel Wallace

By Daniel B. Wallace

1. Perhaps the number one myth about Bible translation is that a word-for-word translation is the best kind. Anyone who is conversant in more than one language recognizes that a word-for-word translation is simply not possible if one is going to communicate in an understandable way in the receptor language. Yet, ironically, even some biblical scholars who should know better continue to tout word-for-word translations as though they were the best. Perhaps the most word-for-word translation of the Bible in English is Wycliffe’s, done in the 1380s. Although translated from the Latin Vulgate, it was a slavishly literal translation to that text. And precisely because of this, it was hardly English.

  • Similar to the first point is that a literal translation is the best version. In fact, this is sometimes just a spin on the first notion. For example, the Greek New Testament has about 138,000–140,000 words, depending on which edition one is using. But no English translation has this few. Here are some examples:
  • RSV           173,293

    NIV           175,037

    ESV           175,599

    NIV 2011   176,122

    TNIV        176,267

    NRSV       176,417

    REB          176,705

    NKJV      177,980

    NET         178,929

    RV           179,873

    ASV        180,056

    KJV        180,565

    NASB 95   182,446

    NASB      184,062

    NLT, 2nd ed  186,596

    TEV         192,784

    2. It’s no surprise that the TEV and NLT have the most words, since these are both paraphrases. But the translations perceived to be more literal are often near the bottom of this list (that is, farther away from the Greek NT word-count). These include the KJV (#12), ASV (#11), NASB (#14), NASB 95 (#13), and RV (#10). Indeed, when the RV came out (1881), one of its stated goals was to be quite literal and the translators were consciously trying to be much more literal than the KJV.

    Some translations of the New Testament into other languages:

    Modern Hebrew NT             111,154

    Vulgate                                    125,720

    Italian La Sacra Bibbia      163,870

    Luther                                     169,536

    French Novelle Version2   184,449

    La Sainte Bible (Geneve)    185,859

    To read on, click here:


    3 thoughts on “Fifteen Myths about Bible Translation by Daniel Wallace

    1. Steve July 27, 2013 / 2:17 pm

      That’s one reason. Where are the other 14?

    2. chab123 July 27, 2013 / 6:48 pm

      You have to click on the part on the bottom that takes you to the rest of the link.

    3. Wintery Knight July 28, 2013 / 5:43 pm

      I have a friend who is Scottish who is a KJV-only person. I re-tweeted this for her after J. Warner Wallace tweeted it, and I think she will be confused, because it’s written by a Wallace. How can two Scottish Wallaces be wrong? It’s not possible.

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