How does one get to be an official biblical translator?

In the world of biblical studies, there is no degree or certificate conferring “official” status as a biblical translator. Rather, scholars with higher degrees — generally PhDs — in scriptural studies or biblical languages work individually and in groups translating the Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek. Generally, scholars are better versed in one language or the other, one Testament of the other. (The Old Testament was written almost entirely in Hebrew, the New in Greek.) On the rare occasions when a biblical committee calls for a new translation of the Bible or a revision of a translation, the committee invites well-respected academics to collaborate in the translation. To give an example, the New American Bible — which is the official translation used in American Catholic churches today — was produced in 1970 by some 50 Catholic biblical scholars.

Of course anyone with knowledge of the biblical languages can produce his or her own translation, and biblical scholars often use their own translations in their research and writing. Yet major translations such as the New American, are always collaborative efforts of many scholars checking, cross-checking and challenging each other’s translations.

Ann Naffziger

Ann Naffziger

Ann Naffziger is a scripture instructor and spiritual director in the San Francisco Bay area. She has has written articles on spirituality and theology for various national magazines and edited several books on the Hebrew Scriptures.