Book Review: A User’s Guide to Bible Translations

Book Review: A User’s Guide to Bible Translations

Author: David Dewey

Publisher: InterVarsity Press ISBN: 9780830832736

A User’s Guide to Bible Translations: Making the Most of Different Versions

First published in February of 2005, A User’s Guide to Bible Translations has been around for a while. I am glad that I have finally gotten a firsthand look at it.

I love the Bible and I enjoy collecting various English translations and versions. I am fascinated by the science and art of translation, this in addition to the very real belief that access to various translations and versions helps me to understand more fully what the original intent of the Scriptures was.

We live in unprecedented times; we have more knowledge and access to information than any other time in the history of humankind. This is especially true in Western nations and the United States in particular. In Dewey’s book, he claims there are over thirty different English translation versions of the Bible in circulation today. This begs the question; “Which version is best for me?”

This is the purpose of Dewey’s, A User’s Guide Bible Translations, to help the interested reader identify and determine which version is right for their purposes.

“Dewey [also] reminds us that it’s not enough to ask, Which Bible is best? We need to ask, Best for what? For personal study? For reading aloud? For leading a Bible study for inquirers? For lending to an international student struggling with English? Filled with charts comparing versions and diagrams showing translation difficulties, A User’s Guide is just that—an easy-to-use handbook for digging through the mountain of translation options until you find the right Bible for the right purpose.”


Dewey approaches Bible Translations in two major parts. In Part One he deals with the actual art and task of translation. It is here that he deals with the science and nuance of formal equivalence versus dynamic equivalence and functional equivalence. In this section, he also addresses a number of other translation approaches and concerns such as style questions, readability, denominational traditions, theological biases, as well as a few other criteria. Part Two was particularly fascinating to me as Dewey approached the details of various translations from a linear or time-line perspective. He proceeded to inform the reader of the various (primary) translations through the history of the Bible, how they came to be, what their main purpose for creation was, and the role of the translation during its time in the history of the church. I found this information very interesting and very useful.

There are some very helpful resources included in the appendices at the end of the book. Appendix 1 includes information concerning primary texts used in translation as well as methodology by which translation rules are used. Appendix 2 details a list of lesser-known Bible translations/versions that have been created through the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Final Thoughts

Although it has been around for a while, I think A User’s Guide to Bible Translations is a highly valuable resource that can be very helpful for the person looking to decide which Bible or Bibles are right for them and their desired purposes. I found the book was well researched and objectively presented. I recommend it for every student of the Bible.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from InterVarsity Press to read and post a review on my site. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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