While much has been written about Bible versions it is often very subjective. Some defend using only the King James Version but use arguments which would be useless for a person who doesn't read English while others would promote some new version which will be out of print in a decade. In this essay I'll attempt to explain some theological truths about Bible translation which could be helpful in any language and will not become obsolete.
A foundational doctrine of Christianity is verbal plenary inspiration. In laymen's terminology, that means we believe by faith that God gave each individual word of scripture and did not merely give the general ideas to men. This is taught in the second epistle of Peter which says, Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. And Jesus said, For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
If one believes God breathed each word of the Bible then it is logical to believe he preserved the individual words for us. If God saw it important to give each word, and the scriptures are for our learning, then God must have preserved each word for us. The second letter to Timothy states, All scripture is given by inspiration of God. This is both inclusive of every word of scripture but is in a present tense which indicates that the Bible is still the Book God breathed and not just a similar work after hundreds of times being copied.
Before the scriptures can be translated into English, Chinese, or any other language the translator must first have a copy in the original languages. A question then arises over which Greek text the translator will work from. This question can be answered correctly from a theologically sound worldview.
If the words of scripture have been preserved, the translator merely needs to collect good present hand copies of each portion of scripture and use this compilation to translate from. This is the theological basis for the received text from whence Luther's German Bible and the Geneva and King James English translations come from.
If God didn't breath each word of the Bible or preserve them, then it is just like any other old work. We can never be sure it's just like the original and it must be revised according to the oldest documents we can find, even if these are evidently sloppy copies. This is the heretical basis for Westcott and Hort's Greek text. Modern translations are often made from this critical text, so even if the translator does excellent work his version will have numerous flaws because of using a bad copy of the original.
A second way in which sound theology can guide a translator and those choosing a translation is by determining the method of translation which should be used. Since God inspired the words of the Holy Writ the translator must translate word for word. Of course some grammar must also be translated or we get an incomplete translation with words in our common tongue but grammar in Greek or Hebrew.
Unfortunately many modern translations, like the New International Version, do not translate word for word. Dynamic equivalency or paraphrase methods make sense if you wrongly believe that God didn't give and preserve each word. But when we choose a version in our common tongue in light of good doctrine we must look for a word for word translation of the preserved text.