What is the Best English Bible Translation?

It’s a fact.  There are many, many different translations of the Bible.  Though we may be able to understand why that is the case (for a discussion of that CLICK HERE), we’re still left with trying to figure out which of these is the best one.

As you might imagine, there are several factors that go into making that judgment.  Also–and again as you might imagine–there is no shortage of opinions to be offered on this matter.  It’s the same thing that happens when you start asking around about which car maker is the best.  Not everyone thinks the same thing and not everyone’s ideas are based on the same line of thought. Is it because of what mom and dad drove?  Because of which one is prettiest?  Because of what’s most popular? Because of a recommendation from a reliable source? Because of technical details like horsepower, torque, fuel efficiency, and so on?

The situation is really no different when it comes to deciding which version of the Bible is best. There are lots of reasons why people use the Bible translation they do.  One has been around for so long and used by so many people, especially in previous generations; the King James Version.  Or there is it’s update and revision; the New King James Version. Then, there is the one that is the most popular (the best selling) in more recent years; the New International Version.  There’s the one many label as the most literal; the American Standard Version.  There’s the one touted in scholarly and academic circles, the Revised Standard Version, and it’s revision, the New Revised Standard Version.

And that’s just touching the hem of the garment.  If you go to an online Bible study website that offers a variety to English translations from which to study you find a host of choices.  For instance, one site that I sometimes use offers ten different English translations from which read and study.  The Bible study software installed on my computer offers 14 English translations.

The choices are many.

In this little series of posts, we’re going to look at three specific considerations in thinking about which version is best.  These are:

• what is the starting point from which the translation is made?–many people don’t even think about this important element (to see this post, CLICK HERE),

• the translation philosophy and approach–that is, who did the translating and the balance struck between accuracy and readability (to see this post, CLICK HERE),

• and who the reader is–what is their ability level in reading and comprehension? (to see this post, CLICK HERE)

Now, that just may be more than you want to read through.  So, I’ll go ahead and tell you my choices.  Just know that the explanations for my recommendations are found in the following posts.  I do recommend that you read the reasons why, but if you just can’t wait here they are (yes, “they”–I have two with which I am about as equally impressed)– the English Standard Version (ESV) and the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

You’ll recognize that it’s not the old, standard King James Version.  Neither is it the very popular New International Version, nor the “most literal” American Standard Version.  But there are reasons for these choices.  To learn why, you’ll have to read on.

The next post in this series discusses the basis from which a translation is made–something most people never think about or consider (CLICK HERE).

Have any thoughts or comments?  Please go to the bottom of this page and share those now!

God bless,

A Foolproof Test for Every Bible Teacher

How can I know for sure?  How can I be certain what someone is telling me about God, faith, Jesus, and the Bible is really true?  Or can I?

The answer is “Yes, you can be sure”.

The Bible really is about certainty.  It speaks in terms of “knowing”.  The little letter of 1 John (only 5 chapters long) talks about our knowing some 29 times, and even knowing that we know (1 John 2:3).  That is certainty.

No, this isn’t some kind of cocky, high-minded arrogance here.  That type of thing can be more than off-putting.  It’s just that God has made sure that His word and His will are very accessible.  Here is how the Bible says it:

For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. (Deut. 30:11-14; ESV)

You may be wondering, if that’s the case, then why isn’t there a more uniform understanding of the Bible in the world?  That’s a fair question, and one we’ll tackle on another occasion.  But for now, how is it that I can know?

The Test

How about an example from the Bible of a foolproof acid test for knowing?  It was used on the apostle Paul, of all people, and the ones who did so were highly commended for it.

These people (from Berea) heard Paul saying some things that were different than what they had previously thought and believed (namely that Jesus of Nazareth was in reality God’s Messiah – it was the same message he had delivered where ever he went – see Acts 17:2-3).

What did they do?  Well, they didn’t immediately reject what he said because it was something different.  Neither did they just blindly accept it because it was Paul who said it.  Instead, “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

Did you catch that? They examined the Scriptures themselves and tested Paul’s message against what Scripture said to see whether or not it was true.  Simply put, the foolproof, acid test is Scripture itself.

The Challenge

This may seem to be a bit of a catch-22: we want to get good help in understanding the Bible and yet the test for whether or not we can rely on that help is the Bible that we’re trying to get help to understand.

So, how does that work?

We have to realize this is going to be an ongoing process for us.  One of the demands for “accurately handling the word of truth” is that we “be diligent” (2 Tim. 2:15).  As an old professor of mine would say, the Bible is its own best interpreter.  If we do come to a wrong conclusion about the meaning of a given passage, yet we remain consistent and sincere in our study of the word (“be diligent”), then it will eventually correct us itself.  That is, later we’ll come to an understanding of another passage and realize that if this is true, then what I had concluded about that previous text can’t be true, and so I adjust my understanding.

Continuous growth in our understanding and comprehension of the Bible is a must.  Encouragements to grow in knowledge are frequent (2 Peter 1:2-3, 5-5; 3:18; etc.) and the problems of failing to do so are serious (Heb. 5:12).

The Result

When that growth does happen we are no longer at the mercy of wrong teaching (Eph. 4:14) and are able to carry out the frequent exhortations to:

“test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1)

“approve what is excellent” (Php. 1:10)

“test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21)

and “discern what is pleasing to the Lord” (Eph. 5:10).

So, absolutely there is a foolproof way to tell if someone is a reliable guide to assist in helping us better understand the Bible.  Just know that time and effort are part of this equation, but the outcomes are unquestionably worth it.

And remember, the point is not that this teacher is right or that one is right.  It’s that the Bible is right…always; end of story.

And, end of post.

God bless,

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