English translations of the Bible are generally expected to be more or less “faithful” to the original Greek and Hebrew, and in order to do so, there are various decisions that translators must make. Some translators may focus on keeping the English as literal as possible to the host language, others may desire to keep the same tone, while still others may place emphasis on putting scripture into modern English. Each of these decisions will have its own impact on the meaning of the words. This essay provides a close reading to assess multiple ways that meaning shifts depending on the literary choices the translators have made with respect to diction, meter, and punctuation. The essay delves into the heart of one of the core scriptures in the Bible—John 3:16 and its surrounding verses—in an attempt to assess what has been changed, reveal why translators offer new versions, and uncover what is to be gained from these changes. The specific translations reviewed are the King James Version (1611), the Revised Standard Version (1952), the New Revised Standard Version (1989), and The Message (2002).

Laurel Fraser, ’16
Urbandale, IA

English & Creative Writing

Sponsor: Michelle Mouton