Which Translation Of The Bible Is The Right One?

If there ever was a title that will make Christians read a post, this is it! Heart rates are going up, blood pressure is increasing as readers get ready to, for the first time ever, find out if their translation is the only translation that Jesus would read, that God would promote and that the Holy Spirit has truly inspired. I know some of you are tempted to skim the post so that you can save time and find the answer. Don’t do it! I put a lot of work into writing this post and I would appreciate you reading all the words. I really have no other reason to ask you to avoid skimming the post other than I hate the fact that I can work hard to create the right combinations of words only to find out no one actually reads them all!

The Bible was not originally written in English.

The way people argue over which translation is the right translation, you would think that Jesus spoke English. Some argue like it was Shakespearian English that graced the original scrolls containing the Psalms. Others consider Jesus’ “common man” communication style could only be a more modern type of English. Others aren’t sure what type of English the Bible was written in but they assume that it was the one they have memorized, after all if it is written on their heart it must be from God. Let’s face it, we were all happy when the original English version of the Bible, whatever type of English it was, was finally translated into Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew!

Ask any first year Bible college student what translation is best…

… and they will tell you, “the one closest to the original language. Hebrew for the Old Testament and Greek for the New Testament.” Many proudly carry around their word for word Bible translations but as the Bible says, “Pride comes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” or “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” or ” Pride precedes a disaster, and an arrogant attitude precedes a fall” Proverbs 16:18 NIV Proverbs 16:18 KJV Proverbs 16:18 GW. Trust me if you read a word for word translation of the Bible from the original language to English you will most likely have some sort of disaster and fall down because the brain will be overloaded trying to figure out what this disjointed mishmash of words in what appears to be no particular order actually means.

I love the King James Version of the Bible…

…when I read the Psalms. The old English style seems to match the poetic nature of this part of the Bible. I use an online version of the NET Bible when I do my daily devotions because there are notes that explain why they chose to translate a word or phrase a certain way and the alternatives that could also be correct along with historical context that could influence the way we need to view the passage. I will sometimes use paraphrase versions of the Bible like The Message for a more natural flow to parables and to some of the letters in the New Testament especially when preaching. In my blog post and the majority of my preaching I use the NIV as it is the Bible that most people own and the translation that seems to find a way to use every day English while sticking to the original meaning as much as possible. Aren’t you glad you didn’t skim though this? You just learned that I use a bunch of translations meaning you are probably upset that the title of this blog suggested that I was going to point you to the “right translation” of the Bible.

If you are truly interested in going deeper…

…you will need many translations and if you are truly committed to this adventure it wouldn’t hurt to read some commentaries as well. I have been using Bible Gateway because it allows me to compare English translations on one page. It offers commentaries and study tools and of course because it is online, I can search key words. I like that it has it all and it is easy to use. It is a great resource although I have to admit, when it comes to preaching, I use the old school soft cover leather Bible to read from. I know that makes me sound like an old man but there is something about the feel of an open Bible in the palm of your hand and the thin paper pages between your fingers when you turn the page. Of course when I use multiple translations I don’t use multiple Bibles, that would be ridiculous, I just copy and paste the verses into my sermon notes from BibleGateway.com.

And now the moment you have all been waiting for!

Which translation of the Bible is the right one?  The one that translates into a changed life that lives for God and God alone! I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11 (NIV)

38 comments

  1. This was a great post, Dave. Thanks. Spot on about translations and Bible Gateway. I often go to Biblehub.com if I want to rummage around in the basement for some Hebrew or the attic for a little Greek. My original languages are a bit rusty…sort of like the Titanic is a bit rusty. The B-hub is a useful tool for scraping a little rust.
    As always, great writing. Always under the mercy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks – it is amazing the tools we have at our fingertips – I have a partial printed set of Matthew Henry comintaries I keep because they are my wife’s great grandfather’s – I love the nestalga but I must admit they are for looks – I have so much more online – it allows someone like me with limited education to dig deeper

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  2. When I first got my NIV Bible (I guess the “N” isn’t so appropriate any more.) I read the intro, where they explained how this translation had come about. I was impressed that Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic scholars got together from English-speaking countries all over the world and from numerous denominations to come to a consensus on what each passage meant. That made me confident that this version was as close to being free of cultural or denominational bias as any version was likely to be. I have read, meditated on, memorized, and prayed this version for decades now. It’s in a leather-like zippered case, because it is literally falling apart. (When my daughter was in high school, she quipped, “If your Bible is falling apart, chances are your life isn’t.” 😉 )

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  3. Well done. Your conclusion is wonderful! And also as you say, for anyone who wishes to go deeper it is helpful to consult multiple translations. When I am especially curious about a particular word, I like to go to an Interlinear to delve into the original languages. A teacher of mine pointed out once that the writers of the “New Testament” books most likely were not originally written in Greek since most of those authors were more likely to use Aramaic or Hebrew, or at least, even if they did in fact write in Greek, they wrote in a Greek that was based on Hebrew thinking. He suggested using the Septuagint as a kind of “dictionary” for how the Greek is being used in the New Testament. For example, if you have the word ‘kosmos’ in the NT, where is ‘kosmos’ used in the Septuagint, and then what is the original Hebrew word?

    Anyway – great stuff, Dave! Thank you!

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    1. Thanks for your encouragement
      I find the words of Jesus when He talks about Peter being the rock that the church will be built on or Peter’s statement about who Jesus was, being the rock that the church was to be built on (insert your understanding here) often the I hear people try to address their point of view by talking about the Greek word rock. Originally was it a bolder or a pebble or a cliff front that Jesus was referring to? – Jesus spoke Aramaic so the word used would could have meant any of these rather than the Greek word being so specific – what we do know is that Peter laid the foundation of the church so it could have been prophetic and Jesus being the saviour is the foundation of the church so it could have been a revelation of the importance of Jesus the Christ – both are correct no matter what the word meant unless you are attempting to credit or discredit Peter as the first Pope – translation often matters more to our preconceptions rather than our desire to be changed – I am guilty of this approach sometimes although I hope it is less as I mature

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      1. Yes. Surprising (kind of) how much our own existing biases, filters, and desires can color our interpretation of scripture. I try to remember “location, location, location” – as a means of considering CONTEXT when studying or meditating on a passage. What was happening before and after the passage I am focused on? Also, it is sometimes helpful to remember that chapter and verse markings did not exist in the originals, which helps to see the flow more clearly.

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  4. “The one that translates into a changed life that lives for God and God alone! ” Yes, this is almost your last line but I did read all the above first. At one time in my life I worked in a Christian bookstore. My main areas to know were the Bibles and bible studies. I grew up with the KJV and it is my go-to bible. I use it most of the time along with NASB for study. But I too found in selling bibles your final conclusion was the best one. That being said, there are some I do not like but that is personal preference.

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    1. I have found my taste has changed over the years – I loved The Message for its everyday feel at one time but I found for the most part I am much comfortable with a formal style – I know The Message is a paraphrase so I found myself checking the more accurate to the original translations just to make sure I knew what was originally said – this may be why I am more comfortable with the more formal language although lately I have enjoyed the NET because it gives notes that allow me to compare possible translations of certain words that have more than one meaning – who knows that may change next week lol

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  5. I love Bible Gateway, but there is a flaw. I will be looking in the NIV, but my brain that remembers the words in stuck in KJV. It makes finding that elusive verse quite difficult, especially when I remember the RSV. I try to absorb new translations, loving some for the poetic nature of turning phrases, but in remembering verses, it is back to what I read as a child.

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    1. Me too! I will often use a search engine and type in what I remember – often it will come up with the verse or the verse the idea was based on like “be in the world but not of the world” is a paraphrase of Jesus’ prayer in the garden – then I transfer the book, chapter and verse to biblegateway.com so that I can look at the different versions – often I find out I have KJV in my brain but NIV in my blog

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      1. You are so very welcome. You know, I was shammed for using some other translation over KJV. The guy was obsessed with KJV. This is not the first time this happened. This is a regular phenomenon suffered by the children of God. The accusers are the KJV fans. 😃

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      2. Often they talk about other versions dropping things from the Bible that are in the KJV – turns out the KJV added them – they are not in the original manuscipts – I could go on and on but they do not listen!

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