The question of why there are so many different translations of the Bible can be answered with a single word — language. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament was written in Greek. Hebrew and Greek both present particular challenges in translating them into English.
So scholars have to make decisions about how they are going to do an English translation. There are two main technical terms for how these translations are done. The first is often called “direct correspondence,” where each Hebrew or Greek word is translated into English, and then any grammatical adjustments are made so the sentence reads correctly. The King James Version and the Revised Standard Version are examples of this. The second is often called “dynamic equivalence,” where the sentence is written in English to say as literally as possible what the Greek or Hebrew are saying. The New American Bible and New International Version are examples of this.
The reality is that, if the scholars have done their work faithfully, each translation has something to offer readers of the Bible. I find looking at multiple translations can often help me gain insight into what I’m reading. English is a complicated language, and sometimes the nuances of various translations help me see things differently, which can be helpful for both my personal prayer and my preaching.
Bryan Lowe, Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church, Anniston
Unless you know the author, all translations are babel
In order to have a translation you must first of all have an original writing, or language. The Bible has been translated into many languages from the biblical languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. The full Bible has been translated into 518 languages, and an additional 2,798 languages have at least some portion of the Bible.
The writers of the Bible were divinely inspired by the Holy Ghost as they wrote. God intended for all men to benefit from his instructions, but not change the message contained therein. A translation is only as good as the original message. The message can only be understood and obeyed by those who have the Holy Ghost. Men, under the leadership of Nimrod, sought to build their own kingdom apart from God, but God confused their language and the result was “babel,” or confusion (Genesis 11).
Regardless of the translation, no man can know God apart from receiving his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Men seek knowledge, but Jesus said that people searched the scriptures because in them they thought they’d find eternal life, and the scriptures testify of him, yet they refused to come to him (John 5:39).
I believe that one reason we have so many translations of the Bible is because men genuinely want people to be able to read the Bible and understand what it says. Other reasons for so many translations include cultural bias, as well as financial gain. Regardless of the translation, the Bible is a spiritually discerned book, and without a born-again relationship with its author, all it is is spiritual babel, or talking in tongues without an interpreter.
Bob McClain, Living By Faith Ministry, Oxford