Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

In some circles, the quickest way to begin an argument is to bring up the topic of “Bible translations.” While this article won’t reveal the best version that everyone should use, it will provide a guide to help one select their preferred version. There’s no way to write about this particular subject without a degree of personal bias, but the principles are very much Biblical. 

How Many Translations Are There Anyway? 

Since William Tyndale’s New Testament of 1526, there have been innumerable versions produced with some estimates ranging anywhere from 450 to over 900 additional English translations. Updated versions as well as brand new versions seem to be produced on an annual basis so we can expect that diversity and growth to continue for years to come. 

How Can I Find The Most Accurate Translation? 

Though this question may seem to be a complicated one, it’s not so difficult to answer. To begin, here’s a sample of a couple of odd newer versions that have been produced.

The LOLCat Bible (Published 2007) 

“In teh beginnin Ceiling Cat maded teh skiez an da Erfs n stuffs” (Gen. 1:1).

The Cotton Patch Gospel (Published 1984) 

“This guy John was dressed in blue jeans and a leather jacket, and he was living on corn bread and collard greens. Folks were coming to him from Atlanta and all over north Georgia and the backwater of the Chattahoochee. And as they owned up to their crooked ways he dipped them in the Chattahoochee” (Matt. 3.4). 

Anyone who is even somewhat religious can see how unreliable and ridiculous these translations are. In fact, if read aloud in most Bible classes or quoted in a sermon— there would likely be confusion and maybe some conflict. That’s understandable. Let’s consider a simple formula to help us funnel our focus to find a Bible that’s worth a serious study. 

What’s A Good Bible?

One you can easily understand. The Bible, particularly the New Testament, was mainly written in Koine Greek. The word “Koine,” meaning “common” is also the root word of “Koinonia,” which means “fellowship” (ancientlanguage.com). Simply put, Koine Greek was the language of the people— or the common tongue. Today, just like old Latin– the language is dead. God’s foresight ensured that His universal life message to mankind would be everlasting and unchanging in two ways. 

  1. The use of Koine would be easily understood by common people in the ancient world 
  2. and with the death of this branch of the Greek language in the mid 6th Century, God’s word would not evolve like all living languages do today. 

This is a major help for Christians and people seeking His Truth today. We know that God wants us to plainly understand His message and Bible scholars can still translate with confidence and certainty. Your Bible should be one that clearly communicates His original meaning and for many that means the version that speaks clearly in a modern tongue. William Tyndale translated the first English version by using the vocabulary that was widely understood by people in the 1500s. As time passed the King James and the American Standard Version were revised (updated/altered) editions that changed with the era. 

For example, the King James (KJV) made use of the word “betwixt” (Phil. 1.23) while the New International (NIV) communicates this word with a phrase “torn between the two” in the same passage. While there are some who have grown up reading the KJV and are familiar with Old English terms, a great many will appreciate the clear interpretation used in the NIV. 

Which Is Right For Me? 

The answer will change somewhat on an individual basis. However, most modern translations that are true to the original message and express that message in an understandable way will be the most profitable. There are some who believe it’s best to use multiple versions for maximum clarity but there are also other  resources that are readily available and can aid in putting the dedicated Christian at ease. 

Tools for Truth Seeking 

  1. LOGOs Bible Software is an excellent but potentially expensive computer program that can translate English words into the original language with a simple click of a button. The user will also be able to see various uses of any particular word across the entire biblical text. This program has a free version with more limited capabilities, but it has enough power to get the job done. 
  2. BlueLetterBible can be accessed online and can do much of what LOGOs is able to do without taking up space on your phone or laptop. 

Programs and tools like these are two of the author’s personal favorites, but there is an abundance of help currently available to anyone looking to take their personal study of His Word to the next level. 

What Version(s) Can I Trust? 

There’s no such thing as a perfect translation, but good and even great translations are likely to be in your collection already. Some of which are: 

New International (NIV) – Reading Level; 7th Grade 

New King James (NKJV) – Reading Level; 9th Grade

English Standard (ESV) – Reading Level; 8th-10th Grade 

New American Standard (NASB) – Reading Level; 11th Grade 

Excellent Casual Reading Versions 

Easy To Read (ERV) – Designed for the deaf and those with learning disabilities 

New Living (NLT) – Reading Level; Middle School 

Dale Pollard

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