There are two major textual traditions within the church. Some hold to what is called 'the critical text' and others hold to 'the majority text' or the 'received text'. Those of us who hold to the latter have only a few choices to choose from in Bible translations. There is the Geneva Bible of 1599 which was just republished, there is the Authorized Version (King James), and there is the New King James version (as well as a couple of other small and obscure translations).
Those in the critical textual tradition have a huge variety to choose from. There are very poor translations such as the NIV and New Living Translation; but there are some very good and accurate ones as well. The New American Standard is good as well as the English Standard Version. These are both very accurate 'word for word' translations.
Some have said that the textual variations only make up for about 20% of the problems that translations run into. Some are big problems though, such as the ending of the Lord's Prayer being taken out- even though in Confessional churches we swear to that ending in our Confessions.
My congregation uses the Authorized Version which is a very good and accurate translation, but I fear that we do not heed the words of our forefathers who said that the Bible needs to be in the vulgar, or common language. People (I have not heard this from members of my congregation) often say that we need to retain the thees and thous and that people should have to learn how to understand these archaic words. I do not think that this is the correct attitude. The church's job is to provide an accurate and understandable version of the Bible that can be read and studied in homes and churches. I do not think that those with only a high school education should miss out on what the Word actually says because the ministry wants to hold onto language that is not common to today's people.
I mean no disrespect to those who use the AV, I am one of those people. But I do think that being 393 years removed from a version is a problem (especially when it is a translation that was authorized by a man who hated the Reformed faith and was trying to push an Anglo-catholic agenda).
I do not know what the answer is. I have a few ideas and suggestions that could be implemented though:
- Read the AV, but replace the archaic words with a more common word. This would mean that when you see, "I am the Lord thy God which brought thee out of the land of Egypt" it would be read, "I am the Lord your God which brought you out of the land of Egypt". This would allow for the nuances of the word you in Greek and Hebrew to be kept, as well as break the awkwardness of the reading. (This would be quite difficult at first, but it is possible. This is what I do during family worship quite often.)
- Use the ESV or the NASB, but double check for any variations in the original language. This would cause some difficulty in public worship, but it could be overcome with a good teacher.It also would be difficult at home, causing some to stumble over the reliability of the Word of God.
- Call a summit of like-minded denominations who hold to the majority-received text for the writing of a new translation. I know that at our seminary, Dr. Bilkes and Dr. Murray both have a command of the original language to undergo such a task. The problem here is that people often hold traditional 'church' language in a high place and do not want to leave the Authorized Version behind. (Remember that 'church' language in prayer and text is not something that is in the original languages but has become a custom that many require of people in prayer. Since it is custom and extra-biblical, it is not something that we are permitted to bind men's consciences to.)