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How do we know which version of the bible we should use?

QUESTION: I'm not sure how to answer people that say they don't believe in the Bible because it's been through too many translations. I was recently looking something up and used the Bible Gateway website to look at different translations. Some of what I found was confusing. Even so, the words might have been different (in some cases very different), but the context was pretty much the same. So, my question is how do we know which version of the bible is the one we should use?

A: Other than Bibles that have been specifically edited for cultic groups (such as the Jehovah's Witnesses) you really can't go wrong with any of the fine English translations of the Bible.

People say what they do about Bible translations because they are misinformed. They believe that our Bibles today are translations of translations, of translations, of translations until, MANY TRANSLATIONS LATER, we finally have our modern English Bibles. But this is totally false! Bibles today have not been through a generational translation process of getting to us.

Let me explain...

If a Bible is called a "translation" that means a translating committee poured over the original language manuscripts in order to translate them into English. (A translation is different than a "paraphrase." A paraphrase does NOT involve a translating committee or even the original languages. It's just a re-wording of the English text but those are always clearly marked as such. Those include The Living Bible and The Message.)

So, for example, when the ESV was translated, the committee, which was made up of Greek and Hebrew scholars, painstakingly went over the original language texts trying to determine the best English words to use.

Same with the New International Version (NIV), and the New King James Version (NKJV), and the New American Standard Bible (NASB). (There are other great English translations too.) They ALL went back to the original languages.

Does the specific wording differ in these English translations? Sure! Does the message change? Nope!

God is always Creator,
Jesus is always God's Son,
He was always born of a virgin,
Jesus is always revealed as God in human flesh,
Jesus is always declared to be the only means of being saved,
Jesus is always coming back, and
God is always revealed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

There are NEVER any variations to the doctrines and teachings of the Bible—regardless of which version you read.

Why are there differences in wording if all these Translation Committees are using the same Greek and Hebrew manuscripts?

1. Because many times there are several English words that could realistically be used to convey the meaning of the original-language word.

2. The second reason why there are differences in wording is because many times a single English word can't accurately describe one Greek or Hebrew word. Sometimes it takes 3, or 4 or even 5 English words to accurately convey the FULL MEANING of the original words. So different committees sometimes land on different words. But the MEANING is the same. Here is an example:

Romans 12:9 (ESV)
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.

Romans 12:9 (NIV)
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

Romans 12:9 (NASB)
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.

Notices the differences in wording. Genuine, sincere and without hypocrisy are all renderings of the same Greek. They are different words, but they all mean the same thing.

So that brings me to the final answer to your question: "...how do we know which version of the bible is the one we should use?"

Use the one that reads the easiest for you and the one that connects with your heart. With the major English translations you really can't go wrong.

5 comments:

  1. I was looking at mark 15 verse 27 and saw that verse 28 was missing im confused. In most Bible's i saw that it was missing the number was there but it was blank even in the jw's bible..the only Bibles i saw that verse was on the king James version, American standard bible and Reina Valera jw are vising me i just want to find my way.

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    1. Please email me at paul@ccontario.com and I can answer your questions.

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  2. Hi Pastor Paul. Thank you so much for helping me to understand the bible more and helping me to be hungry for more of God in my life that in the end I may have a place in His kingdom. I have been reading in the KJV as I listen and read along with your videos. My question is: can you please tell me which bible version you are reading from? Thank you again. SIB

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    1. Since about 2012 I have been teaching from the ESV (English Standard Version). Some of my earlier teachings before that were taught from the NIV (1984 revision).

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  3. Thank you pastor Paul your Bible studies are really helpful!!

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