Which Bible Version Should We Use?
NCW 73, October-December 2001
Q. Why would you tell us the modern versions of the Bible are incorrect and then NOT tell us which ones we CAN TRUST?!!! I want to buy a new Bible, a GOOD Bible, right NOW! Now I am afraid to! HELP! Tell me which one I can trust! I agree with you about this NEW FAITH thing! But now what? I am terrified of getting all this wrong! I've been studying, and studying, yet I still feel UNSATISFIED AND STARVED! WHAT NOW? We don't even have any GOOD pastors in this blink your eyes and you'll miss it one-horse town! HELP ME!
A. I greatly empathise with you! However, if you have received the new birth and have the Holy Spirit as your companion and comforter, you will be taken care of by our Lord.
Most of the confusion in Christendom has, I have discovered, stemmed from one principal misunderstanding caused in part by the Faith vs. Works split in the Body. Half the Body tells how us to be saved (by faith, and faith alone), and the other half tells us how to walk as a disciple and so remain, and grow, in that salvation (by obedience in that original faith). And so one type of translation stresses "faith" and the other "works", though all translations talk of both.
I wish I could bend down and pick out one translation for you - it would surely make my own ministry a lot simpler! We ourselves set out on a new translation until we realised that (a) the project was simply too large for us, and (b) that (for now) this was not the Lord's will. And I suspect the reason the Lord does not want what we want so much is because of the tendency of the spiritually lazy (and that's all of us) to not search things out for ourselves and so be blessed and sanctified by that search. I am sure that is why, on one level, Yah'shua (Jesus) taught that wonderful parable about the man who sold everything to buy a costly pearl.
Thanks to the Web, we now have a mine of information at our fingertips, and people are being encouraged to search far and wide, like the woman who lost a coin. Intense searching has the desirable effect of sharpening our discernment by listening ever more intently to the Voice of the Spirit through repentance from dead works and obedience to the words of life.
Not everyone is, admittedly, a scholar, and not everyone perhaps has the time to dig as deep as they might like to. It has for us, at any rate, been a very long and sometimes painful walk of discovery as we have sought to walk in the long-absent apostolic calling, which is clearly one of the factors in the Gospel equation that has been absent for far too long and which has in part been the cause of so much division and misunderstanding in the Body.
I would encourage you in one thing in your Bible translation dilemma - Yahweh our God is raising ministers around the world determined to bring the confusion to an end and who, marvellously, are discovering the same things - are being refreshed by the Lord and are refreshing others. Our major calling is to bring system to this scattered work by gathering together what is being restored and integrating it as a whole. It's still not complete but I think we are close. Then, we are convinced, the Lord will endow the ministry in such a way as to dispel all doubts in the honest-of-heart as to our calling.
Consider this: the first Christians had no New Testament and few possessed an Old, and yet they took the pagan world by storm. Though, like the Bereans, they took every opportunity to carefully check the Word they had having heard the apostolic message, they were principally powered not by the Word but by the Spirit. This I know, in our day and age of charismania, is potentially dangerous unless that spiritual endowment is there because the immature and unanointed are so easily fooled by counterfeit spirits, but in reality it is the way we are called to go. The common man may now have easy access to the Word and to an abundance of translations in order to be a "good Berean", and increasing numbers also have open a copy of Strong's Concordance with which to check words and phrases that don't agree in the different translations.
As a general guideline I would suggest this: for ease of understanding we really do need at least one modern translation because our own language is not structured in the same way as Hebrew and Greek. I myself have always used the New International Version (NIV) though of late I have turned to others in addition. Alongside such a version we do need a literal word-for-word translation like the King James Version (KJV) or the New American Standard Bible (NASB) so that we can be sure of the original syntax and correct the "freestyle" interpretation of the moderns. Finally, in my view, we need a translation that gets the original Hebrew "feel" and so I recommend that people use one of the Messianic Jewish versions like the Jewish New Testament (JNT) (there's an Old Testament translation too now, I believe). Stay clear of the paraphrases like Today's Living Bible (TLB/TEV)) or the Contemporary English Version (CEV) which are doctrinally very suspect but which undoubtedly (especially the CEV) have their place for children and semiliterate people. One very helpful version which, though clumsy to read, is the Amplified Version (AmpV) which includes multiple renderings in the text, but again, it has its own bias.
Though I personally work with a dozen or so translations plus the Hebrew Masoretic and Greek Received Texts, I usually recommend this threefold combination. For those who can cope with Jacobean English I suggest KJV-NIV-JNT - for those who find the 17th century English too archaic I suggest NASB-NIV-JNT. To be sure, some passages will "slip through the net" even with this combination but I think it catches most of the Gospel fish! In our Church we use the NIV as the main text for devotionals but issue corrections of badly rendered passages. For study we still use the NIV but with other versions alongside. Others with similar beliefs to ourselves prefer the KJV with corrections which, though great for syntax (word order) lacks in many key areas.
One of the most exciting and promising translations which has the advantage of being based on the original Hebrew/Aramaic texts and not on the later Greek translations is the Hebraic-Roots Version (HRV) that was published in 2001 (SANJ, P.O.Box 471, Hurst, TX 76053, USA - website www.nazarene.net) and which we are recommending in place of the JNT. It is the most accurate New Testament that we currently know of though it does contain a number of errors and the style is a little heavy.
So I'm sorry I cannot hand you a squeaky-clean translation over the counter! But what I can do is offer you the work we and others have done at NCCG.ORG. Increasing numbers of people are using this as a resource to their Biblical studies and are enjoying seeing the puzzle fit neatly together. That's one reason we were told by the Lord to make a CD-ROM of our site, although it's still not quite the way we want it.
This page was created on 15 June 2004
Last updated on 15 June 2004
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