A recent survey conducted by Lifeway Research on Bible translation found that people who read the Bible regularly prefer “word-for-word translations, where the original words are translated as exactly as possible.”
Below are excerpts from the survey published by Lifeway Research:
Most American Bible readers prefer word-for-word translations of the original Greek and Hebrew over thought-for-thought translations and value accuracy over readability.
That is the finding of a new study by LifeWay Research. A total of 2,000 Bible readers participated in the study through a demographically representative online panel. To qualify, participants had to read the Bible in a typical month either by themselves or as part of a family activity and not merely in a corporate setting.
When asked whether they prefer “word-for-word translations, where the original words are translated as exactly as possible” or “thought-for-thought translations, where the translators attempt to reproduce the intent of the original thought rather than translating the exact words,” 61 percent chose word-for-word.
That includes 33 percent who strongly prefer word-for-word translation and 28 percent who somewhat prefer it. In contrast, 20 percent prefer thought-for-thought, including 6 percent with a strong preference and 14 percent who somewhat prefer it. Fourteen percent say both translation philosophies are equally fine, and 5 percent are not sure.
Regarding accuracy, respondents were asked, “In general, what is more important to you in a Bible: total accuracy to the original words, or easy readability?” Three out of four (75 percent) opt for total accuracy, with 43 percent saying accuracy is much more important and 32 percent saying it is somewhat more important.
Study participants were told: “Bible translators have to make choices regarding gender issues. For example, the original Greek and Hebrew versions of the Bible often uses masculine words such as those literally meaning ‘man’ to describe people in general. Some translators think these should be translated literally as ‘man’ while others think they should be translated into gender-inclusive terms such as ‘humankind,’ ‘human being,’ ‘person’ or ‘one.’ Which do you prefer?”
A majority (53 percent) strongly prefer literal translation while 29 percent somewhat prefer the literal rendering. Only 9 percent somewhat prefer gender-inclusive translation, and 3 percent strongly prefer it. Six percent are not sure.
Bible readers are even more adamant about not making references to God gender-inclusive.
They were told, “Another issue Bible translators face relates to references to God as ‘father’ in the Greek and Hebrew. Some translators think these should be translated literally as ‘father’ while others think they should be translated into gender-inclusive terms such as ‘parent.’ Do you prefer the literal or more gender-inclusive?”
In response, 89 percent want a literal translation of gender-specific references to God, including 68 percent who strongly prefer literal translation and 21 percent who somewhat prefer literal translation. Five percent somewhat prefer gender-inclusive translation, and 2 percent strongly prefer gender-inclusive translation. Four percent are not sure.
Read the complete study published by Lifeway Research by clicking here
This survey of Bible readers confirms what I have discovered in my own teaching. People who study the Bible prefer literal translations of the original Hebrew and Greek texts as opposed to translations that try to convey the intent of the original words because they really want to know what the original writers said.
Every translation of the Bible is an interpretation of the text. It is almost impossible to translate word-for-word from the Hebrew into any language. However, when Bible readers say that they prefer a word-for-word translation, they mean to say that they want to decide for themselves how to understand what the original writers were trying to say to their original audience.