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3rd Compass -> Group News and Articles -> Choosing a Bible

Choosing a Bible (Article) 3/1/2010 5:08 PM
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Minister Ty Alexander
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There is a confusing array of Bibles in use today. Many of them are good translations of Scripture from the original languages, but others were not reliably translated. In fact, some Bibles contradict Scripture and should be avoided altogether. This article focuses on identifying those "problem" Bibles and directing you to ones that more closely align with the intended purpose of God's Word.

The first thing we must understand is that there are different kinds of Bibles that can be categorized by Version and Translation.

A Version of the Bible is an edition from a particular sect of Christianity. Examples include the Holy Bible (nondenominational) and Catholic Bible (versions used by Christians), the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (the Jewish version is basically the Old Testament), the New World Translation or Mormon Bible (the Jehovah's Witness Mormon version used by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), and the Qur'an or Koran (the version for Islam and Muslims).

Versions should not be confused with Translations, which are versions translated into different languages or using different modes of translation. "Version" is often used in the context of a translation by many publishers, such as the New International Version and King James Version of the Bible are actually different translations and not really different versions by the definition used here.

We can use the main category of Version to quickly narrow our selection of Bibles so that we have Scripture that was evaluated to be authentic (see Errors of Truth1). This authenticated Scripture consists of the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments considered as the rule and standard by the early Christian church. The Apocrypha, which is included in most Catholic Bibles, should also be considered authenticated Scripture because of guidance given by God.

However, Bibles that contradict, add to, change, or omit parts of this standard must be avoided. Bibles that should not be used include the New World Translation, Mormon Bible, and Qur'an or Koran because they contain modified and/or added scripture that contradicts Scripture that was authenticated.

Versions of the Bible that contain the correct foundation of valid Scripture are largely those of the Protestant Reformation, like the New American Standard Bible (NASB), New International Version (NIV), and King James Version (KJV). Many Catholic Bibles, which include the Apocrypha, also contain the correct foundation. These Bibles include the 39 books of the Old Testament, the 27 books of the New Testament, and may include the Apocrypha.

There are many translations of this version, like the NASB, NIV, and KJV, but what I suggest for proper study of God's Word is to use at least two translations because no one translation can fully convey the nuances of Scripture from the original Biblical languages. Some translations may also use overly "liberal" translation to bolster certain church doctrine. This is obviously not true and faithful translation and is difficult for the layman to identify, so this is another good reason to use more than one Bible for study.

To start, choose a modern English version like the NASB or NIV for your daily Bible reading because they are the easiest to read and understand. I often use both of those translations. Your modern Bible should then be supplemented with the 400 year old KJV, which has been a standard for centuries and is the only English translation I know of that is exactly as God wanted it, even though it may contain translational error. It is considered by experts today to be a very accurate translation of authenticated Scripture. It preserves both the literal meaning and intended meaning of Scripture in a way that many modern translations have not matched. The KJV also has a closeness with Scripture to the original languages that was lost in more modern translations because today's scholars have a different view of the languages originally used in Scripture. Because of this distance in cultural time, many modern translations incorrectly interpret things that were correctly interpreted in the King James Version.

The main problem with the KJV is that it uses archaic Old English, which can be very confusing to read and understand. However, its faithfulness to Scripture from the original Biblical languages is often used as a double-check for modern Bibles.

Other good modern English Bibles are the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) and New English Bible (NEB). A good Spanish language translation is the Traduccion en lenguaje actual.

Questionable English translations include the English Standard Version (ESV), New King James Version (NKJV) and The Voice (Voice). A questionable Spanish translation is the Nueva Version Internacional. These Bibles have more serious problems with correctly translating God's meaning in His Original Words or skew its meaning too much. If you use them, they should not be your main reference. Instead, use the other Bibles suggested above for your primary study.

Other bad translations that have gained popularity are The Message (MSG), New Living Translation (NLT), and New Life Version (NLV). They are very easy to read, but they should not be used because they use excessively liberal paraphrasing, which means they reword Scripture to try and make it easy to understand. However, this rewording often misinterprets God's original words. Understanding Scripture correctly requires a reliable translation that keeps as much error out of the result as possible, so translations like The Message, New Living Translation, and New Life Version should not be used for serious study. At most, they should be used for young children (pre-teen) because they are easy to read, but if they are used for that the children should be taught the translations are not God's actual Words and they should be given better Bibles when they've matured.

If you can only afford one Bible, I would recommend a Reference Bible because the academic notes included with them are valuable for understanding Scripture better. Most of us have not studied the historical and cultural context of Biblical times, so the extra meaning in these details can give understanding that helps ward off errors of interpretation. In addition, to further avoid errors of interpretation, we also need to reference the original language manuscripts and dictionaries, such as Strong's Concordance, because there can be meaning in the original languages that was lost in translation.

Whichever good translations of the Bible you choose, remember that understanding God's Word correctly requires wisdom. Keep context in place and view Scripture in its entirety. God's Word is not meant to be understood with only a few verses or interpreted any number of ways. The meaning God intended in His Words is the only meaning we need to understand. However, it has been assumed this meaning comes automatically, simply by reading Scripture. This is not true and requires further learning about how to rightly divide God's guidance (see Marching From Behind The Veil2). His guidance cannot work to your fullest benefit with Bibles that are deficit in some way, so make it a priority to use Bibles that are recommended above.


1 "Errors of Truth." The Church South of Saint Paul - 3rd Compass.
2 Marching From Behind The Veil. The Church South of Saint Paul - 3rd Compass.

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