Why are there so many versions of the Bible in English?


The Bible has been translated into many languages from the biblical languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. As of November 2014 the full Bible has been translated into 531 languages, and 2,883 languages have at least some portion of the Bibleso many Bibles

For many people this huge variety is totally confusing and they just don’t know which Bible to choose. How did we get into this situation anyway?

At the heart of the problem are two views as to what a translation should be. On one side are those who feel a translation should stick just as closely as possible to every word of the original Hebrew and Greek. They want the translation to be a literal transfer, word for word, of the original words into English. They feel this will provide the greatest accuracy possible and, after all, this is the aim, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, that approach encounters real problems. Some words simply don’t have an exact equivalent in English. The word order and the entire sentence structure just don’t match from one language to another. So these word-for-word translations are wooden and unnatural. They may be used for close study, but they often fail in terms of comprehension and readability. On the other side are those who feel a translation should transfer the message, that is, the exact thought and emotion of the original text. To do this, it should use as many words as are necessary to reproduce the idea precisely in English. You don’t really obtain accuracy, they contend, by a word-for-word translation, but you do when you convey the concept, the message, of the original, so that the reader understands it. In the end, they say, a thought-for-thought translation is actually more accurate as well as more understandable. They invite us to compare Job 36:33 in a literal translation (the venerable King James Version) and a thought-for-thought translation (the New International Version):

King James Version New International Version
The noise thereof showeth concerning it, the cattle also concerning the vapor. His thunder announces the coming storm; even the cattle make known its approach.

Of course, since the KJV dates from 1611, it contains some archaic language, but the message of the KJV in this verse is also very difficult to decipher. In the NIV in this case the thought comes through with more clarity.

Translations also differ as to the reading level of the reader. They vary from a third grade to a twelfth grade reading level. The lower reading level translations have shorter sentences, draw from a smaller English word pool, and avoid all uncommon words. Some employ a vocabulary limited to 1000 words.

Let’s review several of the best-known translations. We cited two translations in the passage just quoted, and they are the two most widely used of all English translations:

  • The King James Version is loved for the majesty of its language and for the way God has used it in ministering to millions down through the centuries. Some Christians feel that no other translation can possibly replace it.
  • The New International Version is today the most widely distributed and utilized translation in the world. It is a thought-for-thought translation, but employs a moderately traditional tone that makes it appropriate for both public worship and personal reading.
  • A recent translation that is gaining widespread acceptance and uses contemporary terminology is the New Living Translation.
  • Another widely used translation is the New American Standard Bible, which is a more literal rendition.
  • The New Revised Standard Version, is a contemporary thought-for-thought translation.

So which is the best translation?

As you can see, there are many audiences and many different kinds of readers. You should decide what kind of reader you are and estimate your reading level. Are you seeking a literal translation or one that provides a thought-for-thought presentation? Do you prefer the historic dignity of theKing James Version, the New International Version, or the very readable and contemporary New Living Translation? Consult a knowledgeable Christian and then immerse yourself in God’s Word!

Each translation has the power to transform your life. Though the cadence and the terminology may differ, the voice of God can speak to you through each one. Then the question remains: how will you respond to God’s voice as He speaks to you from the pages of this life-changing book?

For a list of translations:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_Bible_translations.

Food for thought: Could the American Bible Publishing company’s have a vested interest in stirring the confusion of “which Bible should I choose?” How about a little American Capitalism at work :”You can have any color car you want, as long as it is black.” Henry Ford.

What Authority Rules your Life, is it The Word of God?

89. Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven. 90. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; You established the earth, and it abides. 91. They continue this day according to Your ordinances, for all are Your servants. Psalm 119:89-91 NKJV.submit-to-gods-word

This text declares the all-encompassing, absolutely authoritative Word of God as unchangingly secured in heaven, let us take note of:

  • God’s rule by His Word is changeless and eternal.

In the cycle of life, times and seasons change, though social customs, human opinions, and philosophical viewpoints wax and wane they have no effect on the constancy or authority of God’s Word.

  • Verses 90, 91 show us that God is faithful in applying the power, promise, and blessing of His Word, and also its requirements of justice and judgment. Just as He spoke and the Earth was created and is sustained, so He has spoken regarding His laws for living.

Contrary to today’s relativism, which scream’s a view that ethical truths and moral behavior depend on the individuals and groups holding them. The relativism of human thought does not affect His authority or standards.

  • Creation continues to respond by abiding in his Word (responding as His servant verse 90), man is far too often a study in contrast to this submission to the Creator’s authority. Although, not so for those who have been in rebellion in the past, and forsaken that lifestyle and coming to Christ, these folks receive a practical reinstatement of God’s Word as the governing principle for all of their life.

In John 8:47, Jesus declares “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.”  Paul also states that to respond otherwise is to compromise the level of life to which we have been called. Paul points this out in 1 Cor. 2:13-16 as “spiritual” people we are to refuse the “natural” inclinations of fallen men.

 As we hear and yield to the authority of God’s Word, we are living proof that we are no longer dominated by the world’s spirit of error. In 1 John 4:6 the Word of God tells us, We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit error.

There is a fundamental difference, a distinction between the people of the world and the people of God in their respective attitudes toward who Jesus Christ is. Only by the illumination of the Holy Spirit, who is greater than Satan (the spirit of error), will true believers overcome deceiving teachers and false doctrines of man.

Tomorrow: Your Soul’s Nourishment and God’s Word.