Three out of four American Bible readers say they prefer a literal translation of Scripture even if some of the words or concepts do not fit easily into modern culture, according to a new study by Lifeway Research.
The study polled 2,000 people through a demographically representative online panel. All participants read their Bibles at least monthly – either for personal study or as part of a family activity. People who read the Bible only in a corporate setting, like a worship service, were not included in the study.
Survey participants were told: “In the original Greek and Hebrew, the Bible occasionally uses words that some might think do not fit in our society today, such as ‘slave.’ Some translators think these should be translated literally as ‘slave,’ while others think they should reflect current context and be translated as ‘servant.’ Which do you prefer?”
Nearly half (46 percent) strongly prefer a literal translation, and 28 percent somewhat prefer a literal translation. Fourteen percent somewhat prefer a translation to reflect current context while 4 percent strongly prefer such a translation. Seven percent are not sure.
The HCSB translates many ancient concepts literally, including “slave,” and uses bullet notes at the end of the Bible to explain them.
“The Bible includes concepts that may be uncomfortable or may require more study to fully understand,” said Scott McConnell, director of Lifeway Research. “This example shows more Bible readers prefer to see the literal translation rather than glossing over such concepts in a translation.”