Bible Translation Issues


 

Translations and Copyright Information

These are most, if not all, of the translations I have used in these articles. Additional information (including purchasing information) can be found at the links provided.

  • ASV - Scripture quoted from the American Standard Version of 1901 (public domain).
     
  • ESV - Scriptures quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (www.gnpcb.org)
     
  • GW - GOD'S WORD® is a copyrighted work of God's Word to the Nations. Quotations are used by permission. Copyright 1995 by God's Word to the Nations. All rights reserved. (www.godsword.org)
     
  • KJV - Scriptures quoted from The Holy Bible, King James Version, public domain. [Note: The KJV is not public domain in Great Britain. Also, most people don't realize that they use the 1769 revision, rather than the original 1611 version, which is almost unintelligible to modern readers!]
     
  • NAS - Scriptures quoted from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)
     
  • NIV (1984 version) - Scripture quoted from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. (www.zondervanbibles.com)
     
  • NIV (2011 version) - Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
     (www.biblica.com)
     
  • NLT - Scripture quoted from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. (www.newlivingtranslation.com)
     
  • NRS - Scripture quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (http://www.ncccusa.org/newbtu/permiss.html)
     
  • WEB - Scripture quoted from the World English Bible (public domain). (www.ebible.org)
     
  • My own translation

You may notice that I tend to not use certain translations. Sometimes, this may be due to the poor quality of the translation (in comparison to others). More often, it is because of the copyright restrictions. (In some instances, I can't even quote one verse without getting written permission and discussing royalties!)


Why do I sometimes make my own translation?

There are a variety of reasons. Sometimes, I might just want to do it. But more often, it is out of necessity.

The copyright restrictions of many translations will place limits on the number of verses that can be quoted in an article. The specific limitations will vary with different translations, but here are some typical examples:

  1. The total number of verses, such as "500 verses." (So far, this has not been a problem in any of the articles on this website... and it probably won't be a problem in the future.)
     
  2. The amount that is quoted from any one book in the Bible, such as "50% of a book." (This is rarely a problem with the larger books, but when it comes to short books such as Jude or 3 John, problems can occur.)
     
  3. The percentage of the article that involves Scripture quotes, such as 25% of the article. (Several of my articles have "too much Bible"!)
     
  4. Some translations have some rather quirky restrictions, when it comes to the internet. There may be time limits on how long you can place an article on the web, when their translation is quoted. (If you plan to keep an article on the web indefinitely, then you basically can't use such a translation.) Or they may restrict the total number of verses you can use on the web, regardless of how many articles you have.
     
  5. Some publishing companies are very "user-unfriendly." There are some copyright owners who won't allow people to copy even one scripture verse without written permission... and they won't discuss whether or not we have to pay royalties until after the permission is granted! [Don't be surprised at this. Many Bible translations are owned by non-Christian publishing companies, who have discovered that selling Bibles is a great money-making venture. They have very little interest in the fact that it is God's Word... but only in the fact that they can make a dollar (actually, lots of dollars).]

If I keep within the above limits, I don't have too much of a problem (at least with the translations that are more "user-friendly"). However, I sometimes write something that has "too much Bible." (Can you imagine someone complaining that I am using "too much Bible," when I'm trying to communicate what the Bible says!)

So I've come up with the following solutions to these problems:

  1. Use the translation and get special permission (unlikely) or pay royalties (and somehow keep people from making copies of the articles?). This is not a good option. Royalties could cost thousands of dollars per year. (I checked.) [Note: It's not necessarily the translators who are pocketing the money. Normally the copyright is owned by a publishing company, instead.]
     
  2. Use several translations in the same article, to keep the total number of verses from each translation below the limits. I've done this on occasion, but it takes a lot of effort trying to keep track of what verse is where - since I have to include all that information in the copyright notices.
     
  3. Use the King James Version. This is public domain in the United States (but not in Great Britain). Many people like this version, but those who aren't used to it may find it very difficult to read (because of the "oldness" of the language). It is nearly useless for people who use English as a secondary language. There is the additional problem that some of the word definitions have changed, thus creating the potential for a faulty interpretation of some passages, even by people who think they understand it.
     
  4. Use another "public domain" translation. Sometimes I do that, but some of them are still difficult to read - especially if they are trying to imitate the old English of the King James Version. The "World English Bible" seems to be more readable, and I do use it sometimes.
     
  5. "Modernize" an older "public domain" translation. Sometimes I will base a translation on one of the older public domain versions, but will "modernize" the language. For example, in one article, I started with the American Standard Version of 1901, which is now public domain (and difficult to read). I ran it through my grammar checking and spell checking software, modernized the "old English" way of saying things, replaced obscure words with more common words, broke up the sentences into shorter ones, and ran it through the grammar checker again, etc. In some places, the final results might look quite different from the original ASV. By the time I'm done, the translation may be close to becoming my own translation - the option mentioned below - but it probably took less time for me to do it.

  6. Translate it myself. This may be anything from a "literal" translation to a paraphrase, depending on my purpose. Sometimes I may need exacting detail; at other times, the general message of the verse will suffice. Either way, it is my goal to avoid any mistranslation of the verse. (Even the New Testament authors varied in the way they quoted the Old Testament - anything from exacting literalness to a paraphrase!)
  7.  

A WARNING for anyone who might attempt to translate a passage or "modernize" a public domain translation: Make sure that your final result doesn't look too much like any one specific copyrighted translation! Who knows what would happen if some publishing company became convinced that you were plagiarizing or "stealing" their translation? As for me, I don't want to find out!

  • [I think this would be a problem only if you had enough passages translated, that they could prove a "trend" or something. Passages which are commonly translated the same way in many translations would probably not be capable of proving anything. But some passages can be translated several ways and still communicate a similar message... and in these cases, make sure you don't always resemble any specific translation.]

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