If you tend to be a reader of the Bible (and I hope you are) you may have noticed something. Today it appears that there are a number of English bibles in print and they are of all types, titles and different content. Yes, I did say content - may I explain?
The content of many Bibles we find being published is not the same. Part of that reason is the fact the New Testament you are reading from may have come from two completely different sources and those sources do not always agree. Don’t panic, I love my Bible and want you to love yours too. I would like to share some insight to my claim if I may.
I remember when I purchased my very first Bible, I was 10 years old; the year was 1963. That does tend to reveal my age, I know. I only mention the time period because I remember attending church with my grandmother feeling that there was only one Bible and the one I was carrying was the one and only one. I realize that is part of the naiveté of a 10 year old boy, but that does make sense to a 10 year old doesn’t it? That Bible I purchased for $1.00 at the local drug store was the King James Bible first printed in the King’s English of the day in 1611.
If we are going to pick up a Bible and read it, we all want to read a Bible that is true to God’s voice just as if He was here speaking the syllables Himself, don’t we? I mean, if we are going to invest our very lives and futures from the revelations of a book, we should first of all believe we can rely on its authenticity. In this case the authenticity we would attribute to God.
This brings me back to the thought of the number of English Bible translations that are on the market today. According to a recent internet source, since 1881 there have been over 250 English Bible versions printed. But there is a catch to my reason for mentioning this. Not every version since that time is based on the same ancient family of manuscripts.
Not all Greek manuscripts the same
Please allow me to be technical for a moment and introduce you to two types of ancient Greek Bible manuscripts. One is called the “Byzantine Family of Texts” the other is called the “Alexandrian Family of Texts”. The New Testament passages in your Bible are based on one or the other of these two families of Koine Greek language texts. “Koine Greek” was the regional form of Greek written and spoken by the writers of the New Testament. Koine Greek had become the common language used by writers of literature in the Mediterranean region for several centuries since the time of the conquests of Alexander the Great.
My reason for bringing up these two types of ancient Greek texts here is not to specifically discuss the merit of each type of text. But just to state briefly that there has been a major shift by many Bible translators of the last 50 years to one type of ancient family text and it happens to be the Alexandrian Family of Texts.
Here in lies my concern as I write and it brings me back to my King James Bible. The Bible I purchased in 1963 was not based on the Alexandrian Family of Greek Texts - it was based on the “Byzantine Family of Texts”. Why should that be important to you or me? That is important to me because so many newer and popular English bible translations in circulation today are not based on the same ancient texts as the King James Bible was. There are noticeable differences between these newer Bibles using the Alexandrian texts and Bibles that use the Byzantine Texts.
Here are some popular versions that are based on the Alexandrian Texts. The NIV or the New International Version, The New Living Translation and the Holman Christian Standard Bible are just a few of the most popular versions that are based on the Alexandrian Family of Texts.
I make a conscious effort to use the New King James Bible because of its modern use of our English language and because it also is translated from the Byzantine family of Greek texts. I do this because these texts more accurately represent the writings of the original autographs inspired by the New Testament writers. I am not at all alone in understanding the importance of the Byzantine Texts as the most reliable to use for the New Testament.
The New King James Bible was first published in 1983 and its scholars also examined the Alexandrian Texts, but chose not to use those texts for translation of the New King James Bible because they found so many errors in the Alexandrian writings. Many other modern scholars also agree with this verification concerning the integrity of the texts used for the original King James Bible and the New King James Bible.
There are also other concerns we should all have for Bibles that are found in use today. In case you did not know, many Bibles in the marketplace are not literal translations, but rather known as “thought for thought” translations rather than “word for word” translations. There are also Bibles on the market that are specifically translated to reflect the doctrinal positions of certain denominations.
I personally read out of my New King James Bible when ever I want to be sure I am getting the most reliable “word for word” information when I study. I would also suggest that any Bible specifically written from a certain denominational perspective should be used with careful consideration when you are seeking doctrinal integrity.
I would hope this very small entrance into the field of Bible translations would help bring a sense of confidence in your Bible studies. Do consider the Bible version you are using for your studies, we want to be sure we are reading a Bible that is true to God’s voice just as if He was here speaking the syllables Himself.