When most people are asked what they would take with them if they were going to a deserted island, often will say they would take a Bible. But if you can only take one Bible with you, what translation would it be?

While a thought for thought translation like the New Living Translation or New International Version sounds ideal, such Bibles need to be compared to a more literal translation to see where the inspired writer ends and where the scholar's opinion of what he thinks the writer says begins, which belongs in a commentary and not the Bible. But you can take only one Bible, so a thought for thought Bible would be out. I would take a Bible that is "essentially literal." But while the New American Standard Bible is very literal and ideal for deep word study, it's too wooden and wordy to be used for casual reading.

Next, what style of a translation would I prefer? Should I select a Bible that reads like a newspaper? While I believe that the Bible should be around the reading level of a newspaper, it does not have to sound like one. I would choose a Bible that has it roots in the great literary style of William Tyndale. This rules out Bibles like the NIV, NLT, or the Christian Standard Bible. Being on that deserted island, I would enjoy the literary beauty of a Bible that descended from Tyndale, who died at the stake for his translation of the Bible.

I would take the English Standard Version. While there are some untranslated idioms (Hebrew and Greek figures of speech), all Bibles have that problem. It has beautiful English and reveals what the inspired writer said and avoids scholars uninspired thoughts and opinions. An Bible that is suited to casual and devotional reading, and for deep study would be ideal for taking on a trip to an deserted island. The ESV fits the bill for all-around usage.

Maybe the only thing I do not like about the ESV is its constant revision every five years or so. One has to keep buying the ESV to have the latest revision. Maybe that is the true reason behind the revisions, to keep sales churning.

Postscript: Now I would take either the Christian Standard Bible, the 2020 revision of the NASB, or NIV over the ESV, though all four are excellent Bible translations. If I had to pick one, I would pick the CSB. It is both accurate and readable. If I could have a second translation with the CSB, I would choose the New Living Translation, as it explains many difficult passages.

David Bryant

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