How important is it to know the Bible’s original languages? Is it good enough to just rely on your favourite translation? I think it is indeed a good idea to gain some knowledge of Hebrew and Greek. However, translations are good if you do not rely on just one.
Why do I say this? Because translators do more than just translate from the original languages to the contemporary language. Translators interpret the text and that interpretation is usually based on their personal theological positions. Let me give you an example. We will look at Romans 16:7 and the relationship between the companion of Adronicus and the apostles.
“Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.” (Romans 16:7 NIV)
The NIV sees this verse as being about a male named Junias who was an apostle. The problem is that this name is not really for a male. But since the NIV translators know a female cannot be an apostle, they translate the name as a male.
“Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.” (Romans 16:7 ESV)
The ESV translators know that the name is more properly translated as the female name Junia. However, like the NIV translators, they know that females cannot be apostles and so they translate the second part of the verse as “known to” instead of “among.”
“Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.” (Romans 16:7 NRSV)
The NRSV translators make Junia as a female (like the ESV) and make this person an apostle (like the NIV).
My point is not to make a statement about women in ministry (although in this case I take the NRSV as most accurate). My point is that each of these translators is coming at this verse with a theological position and are interpreting it accordingly. If you are coming at the passage already knowing that a woman cannot be an apostle, you have to translate either as the NIV or ESV. If you are open to a female apostle, then the NRSV translation becomes a possibility.
This is only one example of many times when translators are also making interpretations. The best thing to do is to compare a number of good translations and if possible, go back to the Greek or Hebrew.