You could think of translation styles as varying levels of zoom on a camera. Word-for-word zooms in the closest and gets right to each word. Thought-for-thought zooms out a bit and looks at sentences as a whole. And if you zoom out even more, you’ll get to the area of the paraphrase.
A solid paraphrase focuses on a section of Scripture, which might be an event, a speech, or even a whole chapter. Instead of trying to capture the exact wording, the paraphraser attempts to convey the meaning in modern English. This might require changing the order of words or how something is phrased. They may even change a metaphor or comparison to a similar one in our culture. Beyond this, they also focus on making the poetry of the original language sound poetic in ours.
That doesn’t mean they have free rein, though. The paraphrases on our site do not change the basic facts of Scripture. They maintain the people, places, events, and theological truths found in God’s Word. In fact, if you compare them to a word-for-word translation, you’ll see how similar they are.
For many Christians, a paraphrase helps them cross the cultural divide and get into the Bible. They more readily understand the purpose of the text when it’s presented with the language and rhythms they’re used to. We certainly recommend that you try one out along with the other translations.
If you’re interested in a paraphrase, we have the Message (MSG) on our site.
Next week, we’ll wrap up this series by answering the big question: Which type of translation is best?