Its a hobgoblin of mine, biblical translations. I can’t just let it go. I suppose it comes from when I started reading the scriptures. My confirmation was still done in KJV. (My brother two years later had the NIV). My first bible was actually a gold tone Good News Translation. Most my life I used an NIV. In seminary we used the Greek/Hebrew texts themselves.
This news article talks about today’s proliferation of English versions. There is a bible for every niche, but sometimes is seems like a tower of Babel instead of the Word. It is almost enough to make one envy Islam with its insistence upon Arabic as the only language of the Koran…almost.
I really think it comes down to a couple of simple things. 1) Are you willing to put the time, effort and trust into a good pastor and congregation? If you say no, then you need to learn Greek and Hebrew. Sometimes you just need to go back to the original. If you say yes, find a good minister and progress on to using English. 2) Are you a history buff, theology fan or just enjoy $10 words? If you are, pick up the KJV, NKJV or the ESV. These versions are best an maintaining historical continuity and they don’t back away from using the big words. (NKJV is the KJV with minor grammar updates, think ye becoming you.) 3) If you are none of those things, or if you are a novel reader, go get the NLT. The New Living Translation does the best job I’ve seen at making the Bible very readable and understandable. In the narrative sections (the psalms this way lack a certain aesthetic), for me it reads 2x-3x as fast without hurting understanding. The words just don’t get in the way of reading. 4) Make a commitment to that translation. Read it, learn it, and inwardly digest it. This is where a couple generations use the NIV. If you use the NIV, stick with it. If you don’t read it, try the NLT.
And please don’t get any hierarchy of translations out of this. When you leave the Greek/Hebrew, it really is more about what you will actually read and your personality. If you know Greek or the historical theology, the ESV is wonderful, you can see the original grammar and know what is being used. But that comes at the expense of English style.
As far as the tower of Babel complaint – I take it a bit more as nostalgia or longing for a lost or never seen wholeness. Were things perfect when everyone used the KJV? Like my hobgoblin about translations, everyone using the same is an authoritarians hobgoblin. We have to wait for the last day for that wholeness.