stop reading your bible!

Foreword

Since I have been on a hiatus from blogging, I’ve been thinking about what kind of information I was hoping to find and share, even if it came through another person. Something I have wanted to share with you all comes from my friend Myric. I’m letting you know now that this is a very long blog but I encourage you to find some time to read through this in its entirety. This is why…

I have met people throughout my life who argue that a particular version or translation of the Bible is correct and all others are either incorrect or satanic. When I hear those kinds of things, my mind is blow away. Are we really in a fight over which Biblical text is the best?

I admit that while I grew up, I was a NIV only person and I remained this way for years to come. I got involved with the TNIV for a short  while but went back to the NIV. I currently use the NLT and ESV translations.

I believe its important for us to know context and understand Scriptures but I don’t believe we as Christians are called to fight for one translation over another. In essence, when we get to the place where Scriptures become more important than people, we miss the call to love like Jesus, serve like Jesus, live like Jesus, give like Jesus and simply share the gospel with others. Jesus is the Word of God. Sometimes we need to stop reading our Bibles and live it.

Blessings,                     

Mike.


 

The following is from Myric Mcbain. It is originally titled, “Myric’s Awfully Good and Terribly Indispensable Guide to English Bible Versions & Translations.”


 

Why So Many Bibles?

It’s easy to become confused by the wide variety of Bibles on the market today, especially when most people have their favorite versions to which they are dedicated. But why do we have so many different versions? The answer lies in three different areas:

1. The underlying source-language texts used to translate the version;
2. The translational philosophy of the committee that produced the version;
3. Advances in scholarship and the discovery of older and more ancient texts.

Each of these areas figures critically in the question at hand, and the first two will be addressed later on. But to answer the immediate question, it relates to how different people think the Bible should look and sound. Some say that one particular Greek text should be the basis for the New Testament, while others defend a different text. Some say a Bible version should be as literal as possible, while others say that it should be so clear that a child should be able to understand everything in it without having it explained.
There are positive points and negative points with each argument made, but the result is that, when combined with exciting new discoveries in archaeology, palaeography, anthropological-graphology, and orthodox textual criticism, the production of new Bible versions has multiplied greatly in the past half-century.

And this is good and bad. The free market for publications allows better and better interpretations of the source-language texts to be published, but it also has had the effect of driving a hundred small wedges between Christians. For nearly four centuries, one Bible version was the Bible embraced by the English-speaking world, and now there are so many versions and translations that one can’t help but be confused.

But we need to remember three main points before we begin our own exploration of English Bible versions and translations:

First: The Bible is the Word of God, and however it is approached for translation, marketing, and study, must be reverent of the great blessing we have received from God. Our own personal desires and beliefs must never interfere with God’s purpose in giving us His Word, and should never taint our translational philosophy or interpretation.

Second: God communicated His Word to us on a level that is within our understanding, but still requires intense seeking, study, prayer, fellowship, and time to begin to grasp. The Bible was not given to us for light reading and superficial study, but is the Special Revelation of the Creator of the universe to those He loves. We must never allow our own philosophies and understanding to diminish God’s Word. We may speak of it in our common words, but we must never treat it as common.

Third: The Doctrine of Scriptural Infallibility & Inerrancy applies only to the original texts of the Bible, the very pages written by those to whom God breathed out His Word. We have faith in the Spirit’s guidance that the texts we have now are very close to those originals, but are, themselves, not covered under the Doctrine of Infallibility & Inerrancy. Therefore, we cannot make the claim that a translation is an exact reproduction of the original text, but we trust in God that His Word has not been corrupted, and we have good scientific and literary evidence that back that trust.

What’s the difference between a Version and a Translation?

The first major project to translate the entire Bible into English was in the 1380s. Since that time, each generation of translators has based its work on the English Bibles that came before, while carefully comparing with the Greek and Hebrew for accuracy. For example, the King James Version was only 39% newly translated material, the remaining 61% being accepted after comparing existing versions (such as the Geneva and the Tyndale Bibles) to the best original language texts available. In fact, in the introduction of the King James Bible, the translation committee said specifically that their purpose was not to make one new translation to replace several bad ones, but rather to take the best elements of many good Bibles to create the best possible English Bible they could.
So, a version is a Bible that was put together through comparing existing English editions with source-language texts, whereas a translation is made entirely by retranslating from the source languages. There are not many of those around, but their number is on the rise.
You will note as you see the titles of the Bibles listed in the review section that some are called versions and some are called translations.

Four Different Translational Philosophies:

Not all Bibles are translated the same. There are four different philosophies behind the Bible versions we use:

1. Formal Equivalence ~ this is a word-for-word translation that seeks to keep the English text and sentence structure as close to the Greek and Hebrew as possible. Accuracy and transparency to the original texts are the main strengths, but sometimes this creates a Bible that is more difficult for many people to read and comprehension takes more study.

2. Dynamic (or Functional) Equivalence ~ this is a thought-for-thought translation that seeks to present the reader with what the passages mean, rather than what they say literally. Readability and comprehension are the main strengths, but accuracy, depth, original style and language, and the authors’ intent often can be sacrificed.
There are a few Bibles under this classification that are better called Modern Speech, because they try to follow a thought-for-thought pattern, but do so using modernized speech. This makes them neither fully thought-for-thought nor fully Paraphrased.

3. Optimal Equivalence ~ this is a combination of thought-for-thought and word-for-word that seeks to present a Bible that is both clearer and more accurate than others. This philosophy shares the strengths and weaknesses of both the Formal and Dynamic Equivalence Bibles. Currently, there is only one English Bible that claims Optimal Equivalence.

4. Paraphrase ~ this seeks to present the meaning of the Bible in clear, modern language and sentence structure, without regard for accuracy to the original languages. Clarity and immediate reach to a new or seeking Christian are strengths, but accuracy in virtually non-existent, and so Paraphrases tend not to make good study or teaching Bibles.
Greek Basal Texts:

When looking deeply into a Bible, it is helpful to know from which Greek texts the translators worked. This does, indeed, make a difference to what a specific version or translation says, as the difference of one missing letter in the original languages can have major ramifications in the interpretation of a passage.

The three major schools of Greek texts are:

1. Alexandrian Family ~ this family gives us the Critical/Eclectic Text. Most modern versions favor this family (for example: Nestle-Aland, which is one of the most widely used Greek New Testaments) because the collection of Greek manuscripts in this family is not only enormous, but older than the other schools, many manuscripts dating to within a few centuries after Christ.
The Critical/Eclectic Text are so-called because multiple manuscripts from this ancient family of texts are compared and the best readings from each are compiled into a single, critical edition. Some scholars find fault with this, claiming that the Critical/Eclectic Text do not represent any single known complete text of the New Testament, but this isn’t a completely fair argument, because no English Bible version or translation can claim to represent a single unified historic text. The words of the Critical/Eclectic Text are still coming from very early, and very well represented Greek manuscripts, and, truth be told, no Bible has ever been proven to have been translated not using a Greek text assembled in this method.

2. Byzantine Family ~ this family is usually defined by the Textus Receptus, or the Received Text. It got that name because it was described in a later published edition as “the text which is now received by all…” The Textus Receptus was the underlying text for Luther’s German New Testament, Tyndale’s English New Testament, and the King James Version, and many believe it to be the best Greek text because it is a unified text, meaning that it was not made by combining other texts. But that statement isn’t true, as we have seen above.
And there is another issue here. Several, actually. For more than a century, the Textus Receptus has been viewed by a majority of serious scholars as flawed, and with good reason. The form of the TR comes from a scholar named Erasmus who quickly compiled this Greek New Testament in the early-1500s. In his work, he actually did combine five or six Greek texts – none of them dating earlier than 1000 A.D. – and none of those half-dozen manuscripts were actually a complete New Testament. This forced Erasmus to make “educated guesses” in his Greek rendition, and even retranslate parts of the New Testament from the Latin Bible (Jerome’s Vulgate) that had been in use for a thousand years by his time. This definitely did not produce a flawless Greek text, and there are minor points of contention in the Bible today because of things that were included in the TR that were not in the earliest manuscripts.
Scholarly orthodox textual criticism has also demonstrated that the Scriptures quoted by the Church Fathers (2nd and 3rd Centuries A.D.) did not resemble the TR, at all. This, combined with the evidence of much earlier manuscripts, leads to the conclusion that the Textus Receptus probably is not the superior Greek text that many have claimed it to be.
It should also be noted that the New Testament in the Textus Receptus is actually longer than the New Testament in the other families, as some books contain more verses.

3. Western Family ~ this family of texts is most associated with the Church of Rome, as these Greek texts formed the basis of the Latin Bible and the Catholic Bible. Notable Bibles in this category include the Douay-Rheims Bible (1582/1609) and the Jerusalem Bible (1966). This family of texts is not well represented in modern English Bible translations, simply because these were the texts held and used by the Church of Rome, and Protestant scholars were not given access to them.

You will notice in the listing of Bible versions and translations below that there is a listing for the Greek NT Base. The major Bible versions and translations with which we shall deal below fall into only two of the families: Alexandrian (Critical/Eclectic Text) and Byzantine (Textus Receptus).
While there are sustentative differences in these two families, I must point out that the differences between these textual families are not enough to condemn one or the other as “”corrupted” and useless. They do affect some readings, but not the message of Scripture, and very little of the doctrine. In fact, these three families of texts we discussed are closer in form and substance than many of the modern English Bible versions when compared closely.

Things to Remember:

• In choosing a Bible, it is important to know what you are looking for, as well as knowing what you are looking at. If you are looking for a highly accurate, scholarly Bible, it won’t do at all to pick up a paraphrase version. If you are looking for something to use to share the Gospel with someone who has no experience with Christianity, then it might be simpler (and less intimidating) to avoid pulling a dusty twelve-pound King James Version down from the shelf. So it’s important to know what each Bible is, what are its strengths and weaknesses, for whom it is intended, and what your purpose is for its use.
• All of the Bibles listed below have differences (some of them quite pronounced), but none of them changes the message of Salvation through Christ,
• The original texts of the Scriptures, Old and New Testament, were written in a variety of styles – some quite simple, and others quite complex – and these styles and genres must be taken into account by the reader when doing proper study and selecting a Bible version.
• The original texts of the Scriptures were often written in the common language (such as Koine Greek), but they were not written in the simplified, everyday language in use at the time. Many of the texts were written in formal, complex, even technical language, containing legal terminology and deep interpretive and literary nuance. In many cases it would be like comparing discussing a football game to writing a formal post-graduate essay.
• The depths of Scripture are limitless. Simplified versions of the Bible are excellent tools for everyday study, but more in-depth research and teaching are better done with more accurate versions.
• Remember that thousands of people have died, and are still dying, all over the world for the blessing of being able to read God’s Word. The Bible is to be viewed, studied, and enjoyed as an gift that God has mercifully bestowed on us for a purpose, and we must honor God’s calling to us to read His Word and let it guide our lives. Never take the Bible lightly, and never take it for granted. Do not deny it to others, and do not use it to contend with and divide believers over minor points. God’s giving of His Word is an act of His mercy and grace, and we should receive it and share it in that same spirit.

Major Versions & Translations:

Below is a listing of many popular Bibles currently available. Most of these are readily found in a bookstore, or are available online. Some websites allow you to preview and compare passages from different translations and versions.

Something to note is that, since the middle of the Twentieth Century, there has been a rise in versions and translations that attempt to use gender-inclusive language in the English. For some, it has been as simple as changing “brothers” in the text to “brothers and sisters”, which is a phrase actually implied in many places in the Greek by the word Adelphoi, which can mean “brothers” or “brothers and sisters”, depending on the context.
However, some versions and translations go further, and change the underlying Greek and Hebrew texts, themselves, to be gender-inclusive. The usual method is to change the singular “he” or “him” to “they” or “them”, and “man” or “men” to “person” or “people”. Please note that this method actually changes the specific underlying message and meaning of the source-language text, and therefore is classified by Biblical scholars and critics as a “literary bias toward liberal rendering of genders in the text”. Some versions and translations go even further and make much more significant changes.
We must remember that, in English, as in Greek, it is grammatically correct and non-exclusionary to use the masculine to represent a concept that is gender-neutral or includes a mixed group of males and females.

Please also note that the information below is gathered and synthesized from a wide-variety of sources produced by respected authors, scholars, and researchers, and none of the reviews and classifications is based on the opinion or work of one source or author, alone.

King James Version (KJV) ~ 1611/1769

Reading Grade Level: 11-12
Translation Type: word-for-word
Greek NT Base: Textus Receptus
Accuracy to Original Languages: Excellent
Strengths: Literarily superior, beautiful and elegant rendition of the text
Weaknesses: Often uses archaic language, unfamiliar to modern readers; basal Greek texts questionable (see the above discussion of the Textus Receptus)

New King James Version (NKJV) ~ 1982

Reading Grade Level: 7-8
Translation Type: word-for-word; updated version of King James Version
Greek NT Base: Textus Receptus
Accuracy to Original Languages: Excellent
Strengths: Accurate; Improvement on language of the KJV
Weaknesses: Updated KJV, without consideration for correcting the deficiencies in the basal Greek texts used in the KJV

King James Version for the 21st Century (KJ21) ~ 1994

Reading Grade Level: 7-8
Translation Type: word-for-word; updated version of the King James Version
Greek NT Base: Textus Receptus
Accuracy to Original Languages: Excellent
Strengths: Accurate; improved language of the KJV
Weaknesses: Updated KJV, without consideration for correcting the deficiencies in the basal Greek texts used in the KJV

American Standard Version (ASV) ~ 1901

Reading Grade Level: 11
Translation Type: word-for-word
Greek NT Base: Westcott-Hort, Textus Receptus
Accuracy to Original Languages: Excellent
Strengths: Very accurate to basal texts
Weaknesses: Poor readability and style; basal Greek texts questionable (see the above discussion of the Textus Receptus)

Revised Standard Version (RSV) ~ 1952

Reading Grade Level: 10-11
Translation Type: word-for-word; updated version of American Standard Version
Greek NT Base: Critical/Eclectic
Accuracy to Original Languages: Good
Strengths: Accurate
Weaknesses: stiff style; literary bias toward liberal renderings of genders in texts

New American Standard Bible (NASB) ~ 1971

Reading Grade Level: 11
Translation Type: word-for-word; updated version of American Standard Version
Greek NT Base: Critical/Eclectic, Nestle 23rd Edition
Accuracy to Original Languages: Excellent
Strengths: Accurate
Weaknesses: poor literary style; difficult to read at times.

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) ~ 1989

Reading Grade Level: 10-11
Translation Type: word-for-word with idiomatic freedom; updated version of Revised Standard Version
Greek NT Base: Critical/Eclectic, United Bible Society 23rd Edition
Accuracy to Original Languages: Poor
Strengths: Some accuracy
Weaknesses: liberal theological basis; literary bias toward liberal renderings of genders in texts

New International Version (NIV) ~ 1978

Reading Grade Level: 7-8
Translation Type: thought-for-thought
Greek NT Base: Critical/Eclectic
Accuracy to Original Languages: good
Strengths: Smooth, modernized style while maintaining good accuracy; the best of the non-literal Versions
Weaknesses: Gross inaccuracies obscure the original meanings; theological claims about Christ that are not true; change in key theological terms in original languages; literary bias toward liberal renderings of genders in texts

Today’s New International Version (TNIV) ~ 2005

Reading Grade Level: 7-8
Translation Type: thought-for-thought; updated version of New International Version
Greek NT Base: Critical/Eclectic
Accuracy to Original Languages: good
Strengths: Very smooth; more exegetical than the NIV
Weaknesses: Gross Inaccuracies obscure the original meanings; change in key theological terms in original languages; significantly increased literary bias toward liberal renderings of genders in texts

The Message ~ 1993/2002

Reading Grade Level: 5-10, depending on the passage
Translation Type: Paraphrase
Greek NT Base: None Given by Publisher
Accuracy to Original Languages: Does not attempt accuracy
Strengths: Readability; modern language
Weaknesses: Inaccurate; loose interpretation; significant literary bias toward liberal renderings of genders in texts

New Living Translation (NLT) ~ 1996/2004

Reading Grade Level: 6-7
Translation Type: modern speech
Greek NT Base: Critical/Eclectic, Nestle-Aland 27th Edition
Accuracy to Original Languages: Good
Strengths: Ease of reading
Weaknesses: Some inaccuracies; some inconsistencies; literary bias toward liberal renderings of genders in texts

Good News Translation (GNT) ~ 1976/1992

Reading Grade Level: 5-6
Translation Type: Paraphrase
Greek NT Base: Critical/Eclectic, United Bible Society
Accuracy to Original Languages: fair
Strengths: Ease of reading
Weaknesses: Inaccurate; literary bias toward liberal renderings of genders in texts

New Century Version (NCV) ~ 1986/1991

Reading Grade Level: 5-6
Translation Type: modern speech
Greek NT Base: Unavailable
Accuracy to Original Languages: Poor
Strengths: Ease of reading
Weaknesses: Inaccurate; significant literary bias toward liberal renderings of genders in texts

Contemporary English Version (CEV) ~ 1995

Reading Grade Level: 5-6
Translation Type: modern speech
Greek NT Base: Unavailable
Accuracy to Original Languages: Poor
Strengths: Ease of reading
Weaknesses: Inaccurate; significant literary bias toward liberal renderings of genders in texts

English Standard Version (ESV) ~ 2001

Reading Grade Level: 7-8
Translation Type: word-for-word
Greek NT Base: Critical/Eclectic, Nestle-Aland 27th Edition, United Bible Society
Accuracy to Original Languages: Excellent
Strengths: Conservative rendition of original languages; high readability; accuracy
Weaknesses: Some translational inconsistencies; sentence structure often complicated from following original languages

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) ~ 2004

Reading Grade Level: 7-8
Translation Type: both word-for-word and thought-for-thought
Greek NT Base: Critical/Eclectic, Nestle-Aland 27th Edition
Accuracy to Original Languages: Excellent
Strengths: Contemporary style
Weaknesses: Some inaccuracies; not completely literal

New English Translation (NET) ~ 2005

Reading Grade Level: 6-7
Translation Type: word-for-word
Greek NT Base: Critical/Eclectic, Nestle-Aland 27th Edition
Accuracy to Original Languages: Excellent
Strengths: Accurate; excellent text notes on word choices
Weaknesses: Occasionally artificial

Literature Consulted

The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew, Greek, & English; edited by Jay P. Green, Sr.; Hendrickson, Peabody, Massachusetts: 1986

The New Testament: 1526 (Tyndale); The British Library, London: 2002

The Geneva Bible: 1560 Edition Facsimile; Hendrickson, Peabody, Massachusetts: 2007

The Geneva Bible: 1599 Edition Facsimile; L.L. Brown, Ozark, Missouri: 2003

The Holy Bible: 1611 Edition Facsimile; Hendrickson, Peabody, Massachusetts: 2005

The Greek New Testament (4th Revised Edition); UBS, Stuttgart: 2001

Wide as the Waters: the Story of the English Bible and the Revolution it Inspired; by Benson Bobrick, Penguin Books, New York: 2002

The Book of Common Prayer: 1559 Edition: ed. John Booty, University of Virginia,
Charlottesville & London: 2005

The Reformation: A History; by Patrick Collinson, The Modern Library, New York:
2006

Essential Guide to Bible Versions; by Philip W. Comfort, Tyndale House, Wheaton, Illinois: 2000

In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How it Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture; by Alister McGrath, Anchor Books, New York: 2001

Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: an introduction to Greek Palaeography; by Bruce Metzger, Oxford University Press, New York: 1991

The Bible in Translation; by Bruce M. Metzger, Baker, Grand Rapids: 2006
A Visual History of the English Bible; by Donald L. Brake, Baker, Grand Rapids: 2006

The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation; by Leland Ryken, Crossway, Wheaton, Illinois: 2002

See Also:

“Post-Reformational English Bible Translations through the Eighteenth Century” by Myric N. McBain: 2008

 

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