FAQ:
All These Bible Translations Confuse Me!

Question:

There are so many different versions of the Bible my head is swimming as to which one to use.

raise of the sunPhoto by Ashley Hartle, used with permission

Answer:

Have you been to my web page on Bible translations? That can help you decide on a translation.

However, even better, let me suggest that it's important not to worry too much about it.

God speaks in many ways and through many means. In these last days, he speaks to us primarily through his Son. That's what Hebrews chapter one says.

God is not concerned about exact words. There are stories in Matthew that are also told in Mark and Luke. None of those stories is word for word the same in all three Gospels. Clearly, it's not the exact wording that matters. It's the story, the lesson.

In fact, if you don't speak Greek, there's no way to give you the exact wording. I don't know if you've ever tried to translate from a foreign language, but I have. You CANNOT use exact wording. For example, if I translate for you the German words "Make the door to," you won't know what I'm talking about. I have to translate it "Close the door."

The longer the sentence, the more possible correct wordings there are. In English, we have a certain required word order. The subject is first, then the verb, then the rest of the sentence. In Greek, that's not required. If the verb is most important, you can start with the verb. If the direct object is most important to the speaker or writer, you can start the sentence with the direct object.

You can't do that with English, so when you translate to English you have to change the sentence order to the required English order. Then you have to figure out how to emphasize the part that began the sentence in Greek. There's often several ways to word the sentence to properly translate it.

As a result, there are a lot of very good Bibles. You can read almost any one that is not a paraphrase. NASB, NKJV, NIV, HCSB; they all work well. Leaf through them and pick the one you want.

When you read the Bible and find something that's important to you or that you wonder about, compare several translations. You can get a good understanding that way. If you're still confused, consult a commentary or look up the verse on the internet.

Above all, don't listen to those who tell you God is concerned about exact wording. Take a look sometime at the places where the New Testament quotes the Old Testament. Compare the New Testament quote with the Old Testament quote. They almost never match word for word, and often the quotes are very different.

God doesn't care about exact wording. Think about this. What words saved Zaccheus when he climbed in a tree to look at Jesus (see Luke 19)? Jesus looked up and said, "Zaccheus, hurry up and come down, for today I must dine at your house."

Jesus wasn't quoting Scripture, but his words saved Zaccheus. Jesus himself is the Word of God, and he is the primary way God speaks to the world. If Jesus lives through you, he will have words for you to say that will change people's lives, and they will not always be Scripture quotes.

So don't fret over the best translation of the Scripture. Enjoy the various translations instead. Christians should read the Scriptures over and over. All those translations allow us to read the Scriptures in a new translation each time we read it. What a blessing we have!

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