Which Translation Should I Read?

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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4 Comments


  1. Brenda Collins
    Feb 07, 2013

    What a great message! I stumbled into a “We’re KJV ONLY” Baptist church one time — these fine folks taught that if you were reading any other translation blah blah blah, and they especially despised the NIV!

    The way I sum this up in my mind is, “The KJV SOUNDS beautiful but I need to read words that I can use and apply to my heart and my life, I find that in the NIV. Now, they say that the NIV is written for 5th grade understanding, I would agree with that as, admittadly, I am NOT smarter than most 5th graders! But you see folks, I live in a world where people have trouble doubling recipes! So, would you really give that person ‘beautiful sounding’ scripture to read? Of course not! You give them what they can eat and digest! It is upon hungering and digesting his word that we see changed lives, praise God!

    And MY favorite verse of scripture? Romans 12:2 “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” — I do like to memorize in the KJV!


  2. Ed Matthew
    Feb 07, 2013

    Once again, Thank you Dr. Bailey. The heart of the issue is fellowship with God. How can we know Him if we are unable to speak His Language. As each of us grow from childhood to adulthood we learn language is a process driven by perceived need. Adulthood is a journey that continues to be defined and refined. Indeed, it is my observation that most males have an immature part, a boyish part, Pan Syndrome. A part that refuses to grow into adulthood. This part of a man can be embraced for God’s Good. With God’s Wonderment a man will attempt things a “rational” adult would never even think to do.

    My oldest son went door to door selling Bibles and Educational materials in Tennessee & Virginia years ago and gave me a King James Version, The New Open Bibles Study Edition in large print for my Birthday. I treasure that Bible and keep it as a companion to my King James Hebrew Greek Key Study Bible compiled by Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D. and recommended in 1988 by Dr. Don Wilton, NOBTS. Several years ago my youngest son gave me a Holman Christian Standard Bible (TruthQuest, Share Jesus Without Fear Student Evangelism Edition). I have found it a very valuable insightful if not thought provoking translation. As President of the New Orleans Gideon South Camp for two terms in the early 1980’s I found the value of the NIV and the MEV in evangelism. Encouraged by a NOBTS professor of New Testament Greek I have become a supporter of the American Bible Society. The Gideons and the American Bible Society have getting God’s Word in the language of a native people in common. I encourage supporting both of these Ministries.

    As one who appreciates the Scientific Method and a student of Geology, B.S.E., I appreciate your Relationship emphasis on God’s Sovereignty and His Consistency as our human vantage is from a moving changing platform.

    I edited my yesterday’s contribution a bit and again offer the meat of it as both a prayer petition and appreciation for your leadership.

    What really matters:

    #1 has always been: Relationship with God through His Provision in Christ Jesus. That is the “Anointed One” “The One Who Saves.” Let it be we who are saved to show, “works meet for repentance.”

    #2 is the position of Blessing we have with our family and recognizing God’s Provision through Us. Making ourselves accountable. This indeed has gender applications but Scripture shows us in context that there is no “greater” role between the genders but “Great Roles” in Christ, Who demonstrated (The Passion), “in the image of God Created He Him, male and female created He them.” God has a Providence in each heart and it is not up to me to say what God will and will not do through another, based on gender.

    #3 is we are to be Light. This for me is the most difficult. To bring Light by pointing out shadows is a risky business. It is one area that achieving success is totally dependent on two factors, internal and external. First, I am dependent on God for even the internal factors and am blinded to what is or is not success this side of eternity except for the Still Small Voice’s “ring of Truth” encouragement; to don each day, myself, with the “Whole Armor of God.” And, after doing all that I understand is required of me, “to Stand.” Second, is to be dependent on the Holy Spirit to effect change with “my person” offered only as His tool to fulfill His Word made flesh, to not be “Lo Debar.” Sorry I can’t write it here in Hebrew.

    What a wonderment it is to consider how much God is dependent on our will to accomplish His Plan. I am awed to witness a leader who allows his blog space to be available for others to share their thoughts, struggles and pleas.

    Blessings.


  3. Robert Lyster
    Feb 07, 2013

    I love the King James version of the Bible — I grew up reading a Scofield version and read all its comments as I went through it. All of the scripture I memorized is from the KJV. When I got to Baylor, 1967, I was told that the American Standard was closest to being accurate so I got a copy and read it several times. Since then, I have acquired the NIV, Thompson Chain Reference, and s New American Version, plus several more readable translations and I am currently reading the NASV. However, this year I am listening to the Bible which is the NIV. Each time I read a new Bible, I take a yellow marker and mark it as I go through it. I read through it twice in that manner. It is intresting to see what speaks to me during the various times in my life when I go back and compare variout Bibles. I am so glad we have God’s word available and can say that all of them provide us with enough information to get saved.


  4. Ann
    Feb 07, 2013

    I like to have a couple of translations to compare during my times of study. My favorite “go-to” versions are the NKJV and the original NIV. In addition to my study and prayer times, I enjoy connecting to Bible Gateway on the internet, and just listening to chapter after chapter as I tend to mindless tasks such as unloading the dishwasher or folding clothes. This is a great form form of multi-tasking!

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I am the senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Covington, Louisiana, a position that I have held since 1989.

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“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. — John 10:14-15 (NIV)