The process by which you come to the answer can be as important as your conclusion.
[Darris McNeely] Hunted for years across Europe, one man worked tirelessly to produce an English translation of the Bible. William Tyndale’s work was smuggled across the English Channel to the waiting hands of his fellow countrymen who eagerly read the precious words of life.
In the world of the 16th century, it was a crime against the state and the church to possess and read copies of the Bible. Tyndale’s work led to condemnation by his king. For 16 years, he suffered poverty, hunger, loneliness and constant danger for the sake of his work. His heart’s desire was to produce an English translation of the Bible that the common people could read in the privacy of their home.
William Tyndale did not live to see his goal accomplished. [One night while walking to dinner down a narrow lane in the city of Antwerp, Belgium, Tyndale was captured by agents of the king and taken to a castle. He was locked away for more than a year. In October 1536 William Tyndale, condemned to death for daring to translate God’s Holy Word into the English language, was led to a place of execution, and tied to a stake as the flames of death rose around him.] Before losing consciousness, Tyndale, “with a fervent zeal and loud voice” cried: “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.”
Two years later, King Henry VIII of England ordered translations of the English Bible placed in all churches in his realm. Tyndale’s dying wish came true. His story is a compelling backdrop to the question we are often asked, “Which Bible translation should I use?” Reading the Bible can change your life. Join us on Beyond Today as we give an answer to that very question: “Which Bible Translation Should I Use?”
There are hundreds of different translations of the Holy Bible.
Let’s look at a few of them. Here is the New King James Bible. It’s a popular accessible translation.
And here is what is called the New International Version also known as the NIV. It is very popular, another modern translation. You can find this in bookstores and online.
And then, there is the New Living Translation. Now this version puts the Bible into an engaging, easy to understand modern wording. And that’s very helpful in getting to a better understanding of the idea and thoughts behind many Bible passages.
Then, of course, there is the King James Version. What is called the KJV. This translation has been around for over 400 years. The King James Bible contains much of the translation work of William Tyndale. The King James Bible is still printed every year and it still remains a popular, best-selling version. There are reasons that it remains popular in spite of all the many newer translations that have been produced. The language of this version has influenced millions of people through many generations. It’s beautiful. It’s poetic and it has stood the test of time.
So how do you understand the value of each of these translations? How would you know which is the best translation for you, for your study of the Word of God? The answer to these questions can easily be determined. The process by which you come to the answer can be though, as important as your conclusion. Let me show you why.
How can you determine which version is best for you? Well let’s understand the key features of these Bibles.
The English language has changed a lot over the four centuries since the King James Version of the Bible was first published. Many people find its odd-sounding words difficult to understand. We can be thankful, however, that many newer versions exist that are much more up-to-date in their wording. But this raises another issue: Which of these many versions is best for reading and studying the Bible? And how do they differ?
More than 60 English-language versions are available today. We can divide them into three broad types: word-for-word, meaning-to-meaning (also called thought-to-thought) and thirdly, a paraphrased. Usually a particular Bible version will explain on its introductory pages, which approach was used in its preparation.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these three types of translations. This will help us not only understand what they are but help us know how to use them to increase our understanding of the Bible.
The word-for-word versions most accurately follow the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts. The King James Version and its modern counterpart, the New King James Version, are both word-for-word translations. You can easily find them in most bookstores or on the Internet.
How trustworthy is the King James or the New King James Bible that we have today? They are extremely reliable! Since the King James Version was translated many more manuscripts have been discovered which add further support to its reliability. In the 1940s, a group of scrolls found near the Dead Sea, in Israel, affirmed the high reliability of the King James Bible.
For the New Testament we have more than 4,500 Greek manuscripts. While there are minor variations among the manuscripts there is agreement in the authority and value of the texts. This fact gives us confidence that we have accurate Bibles that deliver the whole revelation of God to mankind.
About 98 percent of the known Greek manuscripts agree with the basic text of the King James Bible. Even the variations that do exist rarely affect the basic meaning in the remaining 2 percent of those manuscripts. The text of Scripture has been preserved and transmitted over the centuries remarkably well. This amazing fact gives us confidence that we have the complete Bible and revelation from God.
The Old Testament books are equally trustworthy. Although a few textual errors are found in some of the manuscripts that are used in translating the King James Bible, comparisons with other Bible versions can easily clarify most problems.
Neil Lightfoot, an expert on textual criticism, remarked: “If any book from ancient times has descended to us without substantial loss or alteration, it is the Bible. The Bible is the best-attested book from the ancient world!” (Neil Lightfoot, How We Got the Bible, 1963, p. 120).
The accuracy of a version is obviously of utmost importance. Although the King James Version contains some mistakes, to establish sound doctrines, your first choice of versions should be a more literal edition such as the King James or the New King James Version.
What about the meaning-to-meaning versions? They can be valuable in putting the Scriptures into more understandable wording. For example, the New King James Version of Hebrews 2:17-18 describing why Jesus Christ came to live among mankind as a flesh-and-blood human being, reads this way: “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”
Now the New International Version, a meaning-to-meaning translation, has that same verse this way: “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
The New International Version explains the point more clearly for most readers today, although the New King James is a more direct translation of the original language. So, when the text is not clear, many times a modern meaning-to-meaning translation can help. The Revised English Bible, the Good News Bible and the New Living Translation are other popular meaning-to-meaning translations.
A meaning-to-meaning translation is also helpful in conveying the point of ancient figures of speech--idioms--idioms that would not make sense to us in modern language. Consider the modern American idiom “kick the bucket.” This phrase may not be around centuries from now, and someone translating it then might need to use the word “die” instead. This is a meaning-to-meaning rendering rather than a literal one. Ancient Hebrew and Greek had such expressions as well, and in such cases a meaning-to-meaning translation is very helpful.
Meaning-to-meaning versions use more up-to-date language and they are easier to understand. But remember, they are not the best choice for establishing doctrine or teaching because at times they involve more interpretation, which may differ from what the original writers intended to say.
Paraphrased Bibles, such as The Living Bible or The Message bible, also can be useful. Their goal is to make the Bible even easier to read in modern language. However, be very cautious in working with these kind of translations. Often the authors exercised considerable “poetic license” in interpreting biblical terms and passages according to their own personal religious ideas.
Paraphrased versions can be consulted to better grasp the story flow but should not be relied on exclusively to establish doctrine. Consider them inadequate sources for accurately determining the meaning of any text. I like to use this type of translation for passages in the Old Testament, like the books of Isaiah or the Kings or Chronicles in order to gain better understanding of the story and the characters.
Which version of the Bible should you buy? The King James Version, although both accurate and popular, can be difficult to understand simply because the English language has evolved considerably over the 400 years since its publication.
The meanings of some of its words have changed over time. Many readers find the archaic language distracting and difficult to follow. For example, in 1 Peter 1:15 reads: “Be ye holy in all manner of conversation.” But it’s not talking about the words you use. The New King James reads this way, “Be holy in all your conduct.” In years past, the word conversation meant what we mean by the word conduct today.
For this reason, material produced by us here on Beyond Today most often uses the New King James Version with its more modern word usage. This version is more readable and yet still faithful to the original text. The New King James also retains much of the beautiful poetic language from the original 1611 version.
It’s important to understand the historic impact of the original English of the King James Bible. It was the English of Shakespeare and it influenced many generations of people around the world. The cultural power of the English language in the last 500 years still impacts our world. The English Bible has played an important role in that history, and that is by God’s purpose and design.
Let me make a final point about the various types of Bibles.
Modern translations like those we've mentioned are helpful for comparing and clarifying the meaning. Many people find a parallel Bible, which will contain two or more versions side by side on the same pages, to be helpful. While you may consult different versions during your study, you will likely find that one version will be what you use.
Many Bible versions are now available as part of Bible software packages or for free viewing on various Internet sites. You can compare between different versions nearly instantaneously.
Let me offer a personal observation about the value of using a physical Bible as opposed to a digital version. You see, I predate the digital age. I grew up with only physical books. Today though, I straddle both the digital and physical–tactile world of media. I read the Bible from a book on my lap and at times and then I also will use a tablet and read a digital Bible. But consider buying a Bible with wide margins that allows you to add notes from your personal study over the coming years. The process of holding, and reading a Bible and even making personal notes in its margins helps in learning and internalizing the meaning of Scripture. It helps make Bible study a personal experience. Consider buying a higher-quality, leather-bound Bible. It will last years longer than a hardbound or paperback volume and it should become a lifelong companion for you.
Regardless of the Bible version you choose, the most important factor is that you actually use it. The Bible is a living book. It works into your life. It makes you a better person. It connects you to the mind of the God of Creation and the One who wants to give you eternal life.
This passage from the book of Hebrews shows what I am saying. “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12).
That’s a pretty powerful passage. It was from the New King James. Let me give you an example of how another translation puts the last phrase there: “...It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” That’s the New Living Translation. Putting these two translations together, we see the power of the Bible. Reading, studying the Word of God reveals our true self, our nature and parts of our personality that we might never understand. Such knowledge can help us understand our life, who we are and why we act as we do.
Your study of the Bible is the key to satisfying the hunger and the deep need for meaning and purpose. It has answers to the big questions gnawing at your mind right now.
In the book of James, it says, “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).
You see, we study the Bible so it can get into us and be implanted into our life, in every part of our life. The time spent with God, in a study of His Word, should be the most valuable part of every day.
Your study of the Bible will give you answers to the big questions gnawing in your life right now.
In the book of John, chapter 6, one of the apostles, Peter, answered Jesus Christ when others had left Him. Christ said, will you now leave me as well? And he said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
The words of eternal life, think about that. The Bible contains the words of the age to come. Its teaching helps us live a better life today, in preparation for that future time.
The Bible gives instruction on how God intends to give eternal life--forever. It shows us how God will bring salvation to mankind. Read its words and you will find the road to eternal life.
In 2 Timothy chapter 3, the apostle Paul is speaking to a fellow minister, Timothy. He says, “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:14-15).
Now again, I ask, what could be more important than learning the words to eternal life? There’s nothing. Nothing is more important.
The Bible is the book that contains the words of life for today and eternal life in God’s coming Kingdom. You can study the Bible for this valuable knowledge and it can make a difference in your life as no other book, no other area of study, will. They are living words.
Notice another statement, where we have been reading there in the book of Timothy. Here Paul again says to Timothy, a very profound thought. He says, about the Scriptures, about the Bible: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for…”--three things, for-- “…doctrine, for reproof, [and] for correction, [and] instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
Notice this again: doctrine, reproof and instruction.
What’s doctrine? Well, very simply, doctrine is teaching about how to worship God and what God is doing with the creation. Doctrine includes teaching about the law of God, the Kingdom of God, teaching about faith and salvation, the resurrection and eternal judgment. All these are basic teachings God explains through the Bible that are at the heart of a healthy, sound lifestyle. If you don’t have a solid doctrinal understanding, you will be swayed by false religious teachings.
Sound doctrine, true teaching, is very important! Jesus told a woman that He once met that she and her friends worshipped God in vain. He told her, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 6:24). This was a sincere woman. She and others felt they were worshipping correctly. But Jesus told her there was critical teaching she was missing. How about you? You may worship God out of sincerity but be very careful--it may not be in truth. Doctrine, true biblical teaching about God and the meaning and purpose of life, is very important to the Father and Jesus Christ.
You know, doctrinal subjects are not topics that really come to your mind or most people’s minds when they think of Bible study. Frankly, most people today want soft spiritual subjects. They want quick inspiration when it comes to Bible study. But studying the great teachings of the Bible takes time, and it takes some effort, but it’s rewarding. If you want to understand the message of the Bible, and God’s plan for humanity, you must understand what the Bible teaches on the great truths of the Word.
Now notice this verse also talks about reproof and correction. What it’s saying is the Bible shows us what’s wrong with our lives. I know that might be a little difficult at times, but let’s face it--the human race has struggled for many generations with some very big problems. By ourselves we have not found a permanent solution to war, or the suffering that it brings.
Many basic problems of human relationships still create all kinds of strife. The Bible shows us the cause of those problems and the solution that lies in a change of the human spirit and the human heart. It shows the uncomfortable truth that sin, the transgression of the law of God, is at the root of our problems. Turn from a way of life that violates God’s law and you will begin a journey toward recovery.
The third point, that that verse shows us, is this: It shows a way of righteousness. It teaches us what to do and how to do it in a right manner. This flashlight serves to illustrate this principle. You know we all have flashlights around our house. We turn them on. We use them to find our way down the stairs when the lights go out, or into the backyard looking for one of our pets, or something that’s been left outside at night. They are a source of light that shows us a way through the darkness so we don’t stumble over things and fall flat on our face.
That’s how the Bible works with our daily walk and our daily life. The Bible equips us to do good works. Books like Proverbs contain wisdom of the ages. You can spend a lifetime pouring through its pages always learning something new about how to live your life with sound judgment and understanding and guiding you the way King David recognized that God’s Word was like a lamp unto his feet. The Bible, it says as “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalms 119:105). It shines a pathway for us to follow through on, in dark and an often very hostile world.
The Bible is the living revelation from God the Creator of all life. It is His personal message to us about how to live a happy and a successful life. God has given mankind the Bible to show us how to have a relationship with Him and with His Son, Jesus Christ.
God intends this Book to change your life by the means of God writing His character and His mind upon your heart. Think about this! The God who reveals Himself in this Book wants a relationship with you. He wants to not just know you as a person, but He wants to know you as His child. He wants to have a relationship with you like humans are supposed to have within the family environment.
The Bible reveals that God wants to write upon your heart the life-changing essence of His law. God is in the business of changing hearts and minds. He is creating a fellowship of the heart by the power of His spirit and His written Word.
Here is the simple truth about God’s Holy Word: it can be understood, it is not a difficult book. God is not way off and unreachable nor is His Word of life. He never intended to be out of touch with His human creation. You can understand God’s path to salvation—to eternal life.
While the Bible was written on papyrus and animal skins in ancient languages that we do not speak today, it has been translated into virtually every known language. Today, God is writing His Word and law on the hearts of those who seek to worship Him in spirit and in truth. It is accessible to you. You can know God. You can have a relationship with Him
Therefore, the answer to the question, “which translation should I use” is the one that will make the Word of God so compelling and clear, that you are moved to yield to the power of God’s spirit and the Word dwelling in you--bringing you to change your life by that power.
As you have seen in today’s program, the Bible is a fascinating Book that speaks of God, His ways and how He wants you to live. It contains the very keys about how you can have a fulfilling and joyful life now, and eternal life in God’s coming Kingdom. What in fact, could be more important? No matter what Bible translation you choose, you need to study the Bible in-depth to truly grasp its vital message to you, directly from God!
To help you accomplish this, we have prepared a free study aid titled: How to Understand the Bible. This important publication will aid you in examining God’s Word and applying its meaning and message in your daily life.
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Also, to discover much more about the fascinating truths found in Holy Scripture, please join my fellow Beyond Today hosts and me for our live, online Bible studies at BeyondToday.tv. These online studies--usually conducted every other Wednesday night--examine a variety of absorbing biblical topics. However, if you can’t join us live, you can watch these Bible studies at your convenience--since they are all archived on our website.
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The story of our Bible is one of great sacrifice by men who felt the Word of God should be available to every person in their own language. Authorities who felt otherwise would hunt such people down and put them to death. We hold this Book in our hands and can read it today because of great sacrifice by others.
How about you? Can you make the personal sacrifice to bring the Bible into your life? Can you begin to make the Bible part of your daily routine? Can you take the step toward God and let Him work in your life? God says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
It’s time you consider letting God work with you through His Word and lighten the load of your life. We hope you will begin today.
That’s our program. For Beyond Today, I’m Darris McNeely, thanks for watching.
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