Bible Versions

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, August 3, 2018 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

This is my last post in my short series about the validity of the Bible, which started here. As I wrote my first couple posts on how we got the Bible and the objections skeptics try to make about it, addressing which Bible versions is best to use came up. There are many different versions of the Bible and some seem to conflict with each other. Which one is right? There are some who stand firmly and suggest only one version is correct, but is this so?

The first translation of any form of the Bible was in the 200s BC when the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek, known as the Septuagint. It is clear God authorized the idea of translation because it was what the apostles quoted the most in their writings for the New Testament, rather than switching languages to the original Hebrew.

The Bible was meant to be read and understood by the common people. It was also meant to be read aloud to the common people in such a language that they could understand. That said, it is also meant to be honored and revered. The men and women who had mere portions of Scripture treasured it and protected it with their lives. Men like John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, and others gave everything they had to see the Bible translated into the common language.

Once the printing press came out, the first book ever printed on it was the “Gutenberg Bible.” With the advent of the printing press, producing Bibles in mass quantity shot through the roof and it made the Bible accessible to everyone once it got out. With all this, the Bible has been translated into hundreds of languages entirely and thousands of languages in parts. But for us here, which version is correct? Which translation got it right?

There are two ways to translate something: literally and figuratively. In a literal translation, the translators seek to do what they can to get the word-for-word translation down. It can get tricky due to differences in sentence structure. Examples of the literal translations include the NASB, KJV, NKJV, ESV, and RSV. The figurative translation is not a direct word-for-word translation but rather thought-for-thought. It takes idioms into consideration that do not necessarily transfer over in word-for-word. Examples of this are the NIV, CEV, and NLT. Some of these actually use a mix of both, using both literal and figurative approaches. You can see more of how they are broken down here.

I consider there to be a third “version” type out there which is the paraphrase. These are usually done by a single person and it is their ideas and thoughts about that particular passage. On the spectrum of word-for-word to thought-for-thought, these are on the far end of the thought-for-thought side. However, I personally cannot in honesty call these a “version” but rather a commentary. So I disagree with putting these onto this spectrum. Nothing wrong with a commentary, but it’s not a “translation.” The most well-known paraphrase is Eugene Peterson’s “The Message.”

So which one got it right? We need to understand that NO SINGLE TRANSLATION is absolutely perfect, if you are going to talk about complete accuracy to the originals; nor is any single translation the “God-ordained” English version. Now, before any skeptic reads this and jumps to the conclusion that the Bible is not trustworthy, they need to apply the same standard to any other document they read before they speak. If they did, they’d have to throw out every document they’ve ever read that wasn’t originally written in modern English. So, I am going to settle the debate and I’ll quote my own pastor on it. He says the best version of the Bible is “whichever one you will read.”

That said, I must warn you that not every “version” is legitimate. There are two types of “Bibles” I recommend to avoid. The first is any version put out by an established cult or heretic or false teacher. Books like the Book of Mormon are NOT the Bible. Neither is the “New World Translation” of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, because that erases the references to the deity of Christ. The other false versions are those which have been written to cater to political correctness. I have actually heard there is a “Queer Bible.” I’m not going to link that because I feel no need to give it my attention. These are not translations but perversions to support false teachings, so we must be watchful of which versions we are reading.

Now, some versions may sound VERY different from the one you are used to hearing. Many of us should know the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders in Matthew 7. The wise man builds his house on a rock but the foolish man builds on the sand. Let me give you a translation that sounds completely backwards. 

“A wise man builds his house in the sand, so when the winds and rains come it will stand.” How is that a legitimate translation? I got it backwards. Or did I? You see, this is very likely how Bruce Olson would have translated this passage to the Motilone Tribe of Columbia where they build their houses in sand by burying thick bamboo poles into it. If it was rock, the poles would have nothing to grab. In Bruchko, Bruce Olson describes a debate he had with “Bobby,” his first convert, about how to translate this very passage, but never went into what he actually wrote. When considering a version, it helps to know who the initial intended audience is. This would be an idea-for-idea translation that initially sounds contradictory, but if you understood the audience it makes absolute sense.

When I write, my personal preference is to cite in NKJV, however I read NKJV and NIV and other versions as well. Another version of interest may be the Amplified Bible. That one takes many of the different ways words can be translated and puts them together so you can get a clearer understand of what the message is. I will never stand here and tell anyone that only one version is the one God authorized for English. There is absolutely NO evidence for any such claim. Read a legitimate version that you can understand. God can speak through you by the NIV, HCSB, ESV, etc. as he can through KJV or NKJV. But a Bible unopened is a Bible unread. Get in the Bible, find a translation you can understand, and get to know its Author.

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