Point first, there is no such thing as a perfect translation. (See my previous post for more on this). With this in mind we can turn to the process of translation. I have been asked why a committee of men and/or women (depending on what translation you are considering) did this work. The simple answer to this is that a committee of peers, working together, provide a natural check and balance system to the work of translation. Thus, rather than getting one person's thinking on how a particular phrase or word should be translated the committee works together to come to the best way to say what is at hand in accordance with the goals of the translation.
So why a committee? It's much like receiving a serious diagnosis from one doctor. You could accept his interpretation of the facts but you would be wise to seek a second opinion. After receiving a second opinion you could then proceed with confidence knowing that two knowledgeable, trained physicians agreed on the nature and treatment of your ailment (assuming they agreed). In extreme cases you might even seek a 3rd or 4th opinion. This in no way impairs the truth of your diagnosis, in fact, just the opposite is true. Having additional eyes look at your particular case assures you of getting a clearer and more accurate picture of what you are facing. What one man may have missed another man may notice. What one may think unimportant, another may have experience or information that highlights its importance. I trust you are able to make the leap from the medical example to the process of translation.
Rather than degrade the reliability of scripture, translation by committee enhances the reliability of the work that is done. Are there good translations? Absolutely. Are there some that are not so good? Again, absolutely (note especially the New World Translation - translated to suit one particular theological view point).
I will address the different translations which are available in my next post and discuss the difference in approach to translations.