We're sure that most people, regardless of their religious backgrounds, don't understand Bible translations or the need for them. So here's a little background information:
The Bible as we know it today started being written by Moses about 1500-BCE in the Hebrew language. However, even that isn't completely accurate, because portions of the Bible were compiled from earlier writings. Parts of Genesis, the book of Job, and some of the Psalms were written in an early Hebrew dialect that appears to pre-date the Israelite exile in Egypt. Later writings (including Daniel and possibly Matthew, Hebrews, and the books of Peter, James, and Jude) were likely written in the related language, Aramaic; and the Bible books of Mark, Luke, and Acts were probably written in Koine (common) Greek for the benefit of Greek-speaking gentiles, since that was the predominating language in the early Roman Empire.
What is called the 'Old Testament' was first translated into another language (Greek) in the Third Century BCE. This translation, the Greek Septuagint, was reputedly created for the Great Library of Alexandria, Egypt. However, translating of the entire Bible has continued to this day, to the point where it is now available in almost every language and dialect throughout the world. In fact, the Bible is the world's most translated book.
The problem with translating, however, is that it is often very difficult to convey the proper shades of meanings between different languages. This is because the nuances of ancient words and the sentence structures are often quite different from modern English (for example). As the result, what was originally said might come out as implying something else due to the translator's misunderstanding of the original meanings or due to the translators' preconceived religious ideas.
In addition, since many early Bibles were translated from sources other than the earliest original languages, errors have been duplicated and multiplied. This is especially true of some existing old Bibles that were translated from LatinÉ and in some cases, translated from Latin to Greek, then into English.
Also, people have added verses to the Bible through the years. How do we know? Because ancient Bible manuscripts have been found that don't include these texts. For example; two different conclusions to Mark's Gospel are available today, and those who examine the earliest writings suspect that Mark wrote neither.
The finding of ancient manuscripts is the reason why modern Bible translations can be far more accurate than those that were written in English and German in the late 1500s and early 1600s. Also, many of the archaic words that they used back then carry very different meanings today.
In the English language, the first major Bible translation was created in the late 1300s before the Protestant reformation by John Wycliffe, when he translated the NT from the Latin Vulgate. This was followed by the heroic efforts of William Tyndale, who was the first one to translate most of the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into English in the early 1500s, and who thereafter had it printed and widely distributed. But for his efforts, the Catholic Church burned him at the stake in 1535. However, his easy-reading Bible in the common language of the people of that time eventually led to the creation of the first popular (and compromised) English Bible, the Authorized King James Version (in 1611), which has remained the principle Bible of most English-speaking Protestants since the middle 1700s. A similar Catholic English translation from that era is the Douay-Rheims Version. And although both of these Bibles have been proven inaccurate (due to the lack of availability of ancient texts at the time and the effects of established doctrines) and that they are always difficult to read (due to language changes over the past 400 years), many wrongly believe that these are the only 'truly inspired' Bibles.
Of course, there will always be questions about the correct translation of some Bible words, because Ancient Hebrew and Greek are dead languages that haven't been spoken for a couple of millennia, so many true meanings and actual pronunciations may have been lost forever. This doesn't mean that we will never get close to what Bible writers meant though, because modern archaeology continues to make amazing finds of ancient Bible documents. Note that parts of John's letters have been found that have been carbon-dated to within just twenty-years or so of his original writing, and a fragment of the Gospel of Matthew (or possibly Mark) may date to within twenty years of Jesus' death. So, translators have much more to work from today, and modern Bibles can be much more accurate as the result.
This doesn't mean that all Bible translations are good though. Two translating problems affect almost all modern versions:
Those that try to be accurate are usually difficult to read; and as the result, they actually discourage Bible reading. Also, in an attempt to be accurate, such translators often use old English words, the actual meanings of which are no longer understood by most people today. As an example: Do you know what the words exult and exalt mean, and how they differ? Most people don't, because you won't find either word in most contemporary writing. Nevertheless, you'll still find both of these words used throughout some 'modern' Bible translations.
The problem with most easy-to-read Bibles is that the translators often take great liberties with what was actually said, which distorts the meanings of texts. Some of the newer Bibles read beautifully, but the meanings they imply usually can't be found in the original texts. Such translators also make changes to fit preconceived ideas of what they think the Bible should have said, rather than what it really does say.
Other common problems include such things as not wanting to 'make waves' when it comes to the way some words are translated. Understand that if potential readers dislike the way that translators renders certain words to make them more accurate, it could hurt their Bible's commercial success. So you don't see many adventuresome Bible translators, even if major changes are sorely needed (and they are).
Also, some have sponsoring religious groups to please; so slight alterations in the translating of words are made to bolster the religion's doctrines. This of course creates a 'catch-22' situation for the religions that use these Bibles, because misleading and wrong doctrines then seem to be proven by the Bible, and the religion can make no spiritual progress as the result. And frankly, we have found no other Bibles to this point that haven't been heavily influenced by wrong established doctrines that have corrupted their texts.
What we have been surprised and shocked to find is that many Bible translators apparently just didn't believe that the Bible was written to be understood, for we often find phrases, paragraphs, and even chapters that simply make no sense at all. Have you ever wondered what a Bible verse meant after you read it? If so, the problem may not have been your lack of comprehension, but poor translating; for if a sentence doesn't follow the basic rules of common English, the translator probably didn't understand the thought that the Bible writer was trying to convey.
We've heard it said that all Bible translators are just paraphrasing what was actually written. And this is true, because there are great differences between the sentence structures and colloquial expressions of modern English and those of the ancient languages. However, the most important function of any translator should be to convey the original thought as honestly, accurately, and as understandably as possible; and that is truly what we have tried to do with the 2001 Translation.
The reason why we translated this Bible was to provide something that is easy to read in contemporary American English, while still conveying the original messages, meanings, and even the poetry as accurately as possible. We aren't interested in making this a commercial venture, for this Bible is not and will likely never be for sale; and since we represent no religious philosophy and we have no religion's doctrines to support. Rather, our goal has been to convey the true meanings of what its words meant before they were corrupted by two-thousand years of religious dogma. In fact, you will notice that we have often used synonyms for the purpose of breaking the mind-set conveyed by traditional doctrinal meanings, in order to give you a fresh look at what was really meant.
We often receive letters from readers asking about our religious backgrounds. In reply, we wish to say that the editors, contributors, and translators of this Bible come from various religious backgrounds. We truly represent no particular religious view or persuasion, and this Bible is not approved by or authorized by any religious group. However, we recognize that all Bible translators come with the baggage of beliefs that they have been taught in the past, and where someone can prove bias on our part; we are willing to insert any changes that will make this Bible more accurate.
As the result, if you've done your research and you disagree with any portion of the translation of these texts or with the points made in the Notes or Linked Commentaries, please communicate your concerns and findings via e-mail using the link below. We promise to evaluate your views as honestly as possible and to make any changes necessary to convey the proper meanings. Just understand that we are busy and we don't have the time to argue established religious viewpoints or to read lengthy published essays. What we are looking for is better word choices and any scriptural references that might contradict what we've written.
Also, we have tried not to use any obscure words that readers wouldn't understand or added needless extra words to convey some shadow of a meaning, such as free gift (sounds like a TV ad) or undeserved kindness (we think that true kindness has no strings). Such major changes for minor results simply clutter the text and discourage Bible reading.
We hope you will notice that an important part of the accuracy of this Bible comes from the fact that we have invited reader input and feedback. We are probably the first Bible translators in history to do this, and hundreds of corrections have already been made. So we invite you to submit the results of your personal independent research.