Yesterday, I spoke with a new believer concerning which translation to read (his question not mine). It is the kind of question I often get. I hope you find the discussion helpful. Having taught at a seminary, I know this will generate interesting discussion.
At the beginning, you should know this. The only perfect Bible is the original Hebrew (and Aramaic) Bible and the Greek New Testament. Any translation into any language will be imperfect. That does not mean that it won’t be helpful or faithful to the original manuscripts.
I encourage new believers to pick a readable translation. For example, two new translations which I have read and found helpful are the Holman Christian Standard Bible (I am reading through it for the second time now) and the English Standard Version. Both are faithful transmissions of the original text.
Shortly after becoming pastor at First Baptist Covington, I began preaching from the NIV (1984). I chose this translation not because it is perfect (see above) but because it is readable and understandable to modern day hearers. I want people to hear and follow the teaching of Scripture. I chose to read a translation beside the King James Version (which I love and grew up reading) because I want to see people apart from Christ know Him as Lord and Savior. In recent days, I have considered changing to one of the newer translations for the same reason. English has changed significantly even since 1984.
If you have been a believer and a Bible student for a number of years, you should read as many translations as possible. In addition, you should have a study Bible and even commentaries to help you know the Word of God.
Next week, I look forward to telling the story of William Tyndale. Tyndale died because he dared translate the Bible into the English language. Most scholars believe his translation became the impetus for about 70% of the King James Version.
We owe a huge debt of gratitude to William Tyndale. Every English speaking Christian should know his name.
Please remember this discussion is about knowing God’s Word and living it. We should give thanks that we have even one translation in our heart language. Many people still do not. Others have never had the opportunity to read God’s Word.
What a special blessing that we have to decide which translation we will use. To God be the glory.
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