2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable…”
What the Bible says about itself
The Bible claims both to offer salvation and to be the inspired word of God;
“…you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:15-17)
The Bible claims that only those who are saved can even understand the Bible;
The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for,‘Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:14-16)
The Bible is complete unto itself and should not be added to or taken away from.
“Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.” (Deuteronomy 4:2)
“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.” (Revelation 22:18-19)
The Bible, then, is the inspired perfect word of a perfect God, which can save and can only be understood if one is saved. Finally, the bible is complete unto itself, and both the Old and New Testaments contain warnings against adding to or removing from the Bible.
Since we can assume what the Bible says is true, what version of the Bible should you read?
Using a good translation
The original Bible was written in three languages: Hebrew was used for the Old Testament. About half of Daniel, two passages in Ezra, and one statement from Christ while on the cross were penned in Aramaic (a sister language to Hebrew.) Finally, Koine Greek was used for all of the New Testament. This is not the same as the language spoken in Greece today.
Unlike our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, to which we still today have the original, no one has an original copy of the Old or New Testament. As time passes, we can discover earlier and earlier copies of the original biblical documents which were written by scribes.
Consequently, modern translators continue to strive to translate from the best available manuscripts of the original language into what is known as the “receptor language,” or, for us, modern English.
Although several difficulties are present in translating, God is actively working to preserve His word, and the differences in most modern translations are minimal. Many of these disparities are anything from mistakes of a few letters of a particular word to harmless editorializing by copyists.
Although an argument can be made for some scribes adding their theological point of view in some manuscripts, most errors were truly human errors of transcribing and were not meant to be nefarious.
The many versions of the Bible have evolved due to the following:
- The availability of more historic manuscripts – in other words, manuscripts closer to the time of authorship.
- As discussed previously, “The Majority Texts were the six Greek New Testament manuscripts that were used by Erasmus (along with the 1560 Geneva Bible) to develop the KJV of the Bible in 1611. The Critical Texts combine the Majority Texts, along with many newly discovered manuscripts, some going back to the 2nd century, and were used to develop newer versions of the Bible – ESV, NIV, NASB, etc. Although the distinctions between the two are slight, this is a serious issue for many who cling to the KJV and view any other version as flawed.”
- A better understanding of the available manuscripts – that is, what differences are human error or editorializing by scribes and which passages are closest to the original intent.
- Efforts to develop literal, dynamic, or free translations.
- Literal translations include translations such as the KJV, NKJV, and NASB. These try to keep as close as possible to the “form” of the original language as can conveniently be put in understandable English. Although the effort may be meritorious, the ability to easily understand what is being stated will often suffer.
- Dynamic functional translations, which include translations such as the NIV and ESV, attempt to convey the message and meaning of the writer at the cost of literal wording. The benefit is that the text is often more easily understood.
- Free translations, such as The Amplified and The Message, attempt to translate the ideas and expound on thoughts that, unfortunately, may or may not be in the original text.
Although no Bible translation is perfect, the following may help with determining what version to read personally.
- The King James Version certainly has the most poetic rendering of the word of God. Unfortunately, the Elizabethan English may be difficult for most of us to understand.
- For example, Matthew 7:5 in the KJV states, “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
- The New King James attempts to correct some of the old English but loses the poetic flow of the KJV.
- For example, the same Matthew 7:5 in the NKJ would read as follows: “Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
- The New American Standard Bible is often used by seminaries as one of the most accurate renditions. Although its attempt at a literal interpretation may sometimes sound stilted, it remains a popular version.
- Again, the Matthew 7:5 verse in NASB would be rendered as follows: “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye!”
- Another popular version that retains the literal words but is somewhat less stiff is the English Standard Version.
- The ESV will render Matthew 7:5 the same as the NASB.
- Yet another popular version that attempts to clarify an understanding of the Bible is the New International Version.
- With only minor changes, the NIV would render Matthew 7:5 as follows: “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
- It is not a good idea to use any of the free translations as your primary study Bible. Although they may provide other nuances to understanding various words, the same information can be gleaned by reviewing different Bible versions and other Bible study resources, often with more accurate results.
- Finally, there is nothing wrong with using more than one version of the Bible.
You can use a free resource, such as Bible Hub’s parallel Bibles, to review how different translations render specific verses. Here, for example, is the link to Psalms 33:13, which will give you another example of diverse renderings.
2 Timothy 2:15 states, “ Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and correctly handles the word of truth.”
The implication of this verse is straightforward, God’s word can be understood with a little effort.
There is all kinds of discussion concerning which Bible version to use. We sometimes forget that the printing press wasn’t even invented until 1440, and prior to that, hand-written copies of even portions of the Bible were rarely available. We now have a completely different problem; instead of no Bibles, we have too many. The truth is that although there are some bad versions that should be avoided, such as The Passion Translation, and the LGBT’s Queen James Version, God is actively involved in eternalizing the truth of the Bible – John 17:17 “Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.”
As practical advice, choose a version that works for you and commit to reading and studying the Bible.