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Does it Matter Which Version of the Bible You Use?

Good question!  The short answer is that it depends on what your needs are, why you want a Bible and what you plan on doing with it.

Please note, I am not an expert on Bible translations.  I do have some knowledge, and I did some research as I worked on this post, but there are things I don’t know, and things I left out for the sake of length and clarity.  At the end of this post are the websites I used in my research, as well as some additional resources.
Also, if you are wondering what happened to the Daily Bible Verse post for Friday, January 13…while I was writing about that verse, I started looking into the differences in how it was translated in different versions…five  hours later, I realized that it was now January 14 and that I had written about Bible translations instead.  So, on Sunday, I will post two Daily Bible Verse posts.

I use the New King James Version (NKJV) for this blog; the calendar that I’m using to select the daily verses uses the New International Version (NIV).  The NKJV falls under the “word-for-word” category of Biblical translation; it’s not a perfect word-for-word translation-it doesn’t always translate the precise meaning of the original language word- but it does provide an English word for each Hebrew/Greek word, at least as far as I can tell.  The NIV is a “dynamic equivalent” translation: it may not provide an English word for each word in the original text, but it will give you a sense of the meaning of the text. Verses may be summarized, or combined, or even left out if they’re considered redundant.

Why is this relevant?  Because how you translate the Bible can alter the text, sometimes quite dramatically.

Let me show you what I mean.  Here are three different versions of 2 Corinthians 8:13, the Bible text of the day:

NKJV:  For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened;

KJ21 (21st Century King James Version; a word-for-word translation, like the NKJV, but I find it to be closer to the original language text than the NKJV): For I do not mean that other men should be eased and ye burdened,

NIV: Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.

See the differences?  The NKJV and KJ21 are almost identical (and closer to the Greek text); the NIV adds a whole new clause.  However, it’s not a random clause added by the translators; verse 14 in the NKJV reads: “but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality.” The translators of the NIV took part of verse 14 and put it with verse 13, possibly so that verse 13 would contain a complete sentence instead of a fragment.

However, despite the differences in the three texts, the meaning of the text remains unchanged.  That’s not always the case, as the following example shows.

One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 31; I first read it in the NKJV, and was a bit confused when I got to verse 21:

Blessed be the Lord,
For He has shown me His marvelous kindness in a strong city!”

In this Psalm, David is talking about his troubles, how his enemies are causing him grief; he is asking the Lord for help, and praising Him for coming to his rescue.  As I first read this text, I wondered to myself why David would have felt the need for the Lord’s kindness-we always need the Lord’s kindness, we depend upon His love and mercy for literally everything, but in this particular instance?  If David’s in a “strong city”, then isn’t he safe?  Why is he calling on the Lord for help?

So I decided to look at the original text, as presented by the MySword Bible app (which is awesome and definitely worth downloading, it’s got a lot of good resources).  On this app, the KJV version includes links to the words in the text’s original language.  My understanding of Hebrew is not very strong, and was even weaker when I first read this Psalm, but with MySword you don’t have to know Hebrew or Greek.  It’s helpful if you do, but it’s not necessary.

The Hebrew word that the NKJV translates as “strong” is מָצוֹר (pronounced “maw-tsore”), which is a noun, though in this verse it seems like it’s being used as an adjective.  One of its meanings is “stronghold”, which would seem to support the NKJV’s translation of it as the adjective “strong.”  However, its primary meaning seems to be “siege” (based on the Hebrew text references in my Accordance Bible software, which is phenomenal but expensive; MySword also includes words/phrases like “siege-enclosure” and “rampart”), which would mean that the most accurately corresponding adjective is “besieged”, and not “strong”.  I’m sure an argument can be made for translating the word as “strong”, but to me, given the context, “besieged” makes a lot more sense.

Interestingly, the NIV provides a more accurate translation of the meaning of this particular word:

Praise be to the Lord,
    for he showed me the wonders of his love
    when I was in a city under siege.

Translating the Bible is not an easy task, and requires a very knowledgeable and dedicated scholar in order to do a proper job of it.  Each translator will bring their own insights, their own knowledge and understanding, into their work;  just as no two translators will be exactly alike, with exactly the same knowledge and understanding of the text, no two translations will be exactly the same either.

Back to my original question: does it matter which version of the Bible you use?

It depends.

If all you want is to read the Bible in English and understand the meaning of the text, the answer is probably no.  Any English translation can do that, though as we’ve seen, there is variation in how accurately each translation conveys that meaning.  Dynamic equivalent translations can be easier to understand, as the language and writing style are more modern.  For daily devotions, or casual study, dynamic equivalent translations are just fine.

However, word-for-word translations are the closest to the original text, and will more accurately convey its meaning.  They’re also best for scholarly pursuits; some of my professors require us to use word-for-word translations for assignments.  If accuracy is important, or you’re interested in studying the text in-depth, I would recommend a word-for-word translation.

 

Sources:

http://www.swapmeetdave.com/Bible/BibleType.htm
This page also includes information on different types of Bibles, such as Study Bibles (which include extra resources, like maps and commentary) and Chronological Bibles (the material is organized more like a story, with texts arranged in the order their events took place).

https://www.ucg.org/vertical-thought/types-of-bible-translations
The United Church of God (which I am not affiliated with in any way, shape, or form) has their own take on the matter, which was interesting as well as a quick read, and includes this helpful chart for a more visual explanation.

 

Additional Resources:

MySword website: http://www.mysword.info/
Android users only; if you have an Apple device, you’ll want to download a different program, called e-Sword.

Accordance Bible Software: https://www.accordancebible.com/
It’s got a lot of different resources.  A lot.  I particularly enjoy going through the Greek and Hebrew texts; if you hover the cursor over a word, it provides an English translation, and if you’re reading an English version, it’ll provide the word in the original language.  It also has the Bible in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, German, and Romanian, as well as dictionaries, commentaries, devotionals, lexicons…there are other Bible software programs out there, though I don’t have enough experience with any of them to be able to provide you with any commentary about them.  Accordance meets my spiritual as well as academic needs, and though it’s expensive, I think it’s well worth the money I paid for it.

Logos Bible Software: https://www.logos.com/
I have never personally used Logos; it has a lot of excellent resources, including some that Accordance doesn’t have and that would be really useful for my studies, but at the Bible software info session, I was told that Logos works best when you keep your technology up-to-date, which I tend not to do.  Like I said, I’ve never used it, so I can’t comment on it from personal experience.

I also recommend BibleGateway; I have their app on my phone as well as the MySword one.  The website has some good resources; it’s easily searchable, whether you’re looking for a word or phrase or specific text, and I like being able to pull up multiple translations and view them side-by-side.  The app is more limited, but still useful; I tend to use it for my morning devotionals as well as for reading the Bible on the go.

 

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Thursday, January 12

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”  Colossians 1:15

It may come as a surprise to you, but there was a time when Christians believed that Jesus was not God, or was more human than God.  Some believed He was not the Son of God as we know Him to be, but a man whom God had given power to; not divine in and of himself, but through God’s doing.  Paul may or may not have been trying to counteract those kinds of belief when writing this, but it may have been a consideration.

In verses 13 and 14, Paul says “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”  Establishing Jesus as the Son of God, of divine origin and with divine power, is certainly crucial to explaining how, exactly, we have redemption through Him.  However, to me, the main goal of verses 15 through 18 isn’t to convince us of Christ’s divinity; they also provide an explanation of how we are redeemed through Jesus.

Here is the text of those four verses: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.  All things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.  And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.”

Jesus’s status as the firstborn over all creation is because it is through Him that all things were created.  All things exist because of Him, and in Him.  He sustains us; he’s in charge of us, of our existence.  That doesn’t mean that we don’t make our own choices about our lives, but the fact that we have lives to make choices about is because of Jesus.

Christ is also in charge of the church; His life, death, and resurrection are its foundation, and His Spirit brings us into the fold and leads us forward on the path to Heaven.  He was the first to be resurrected as well.  He is first in all things.

Because He is first, because He is the source of creation as well as the church, He was able to choose to lay His life down for us, to give us power over sin and death through His blood.  When we accept His sacrifice on our behalf, we accept that power, we are forgiven and redeemed.  The Holy Spirit may guide us on the path to Heaven, but Jesus is the path to Heaven: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me'” (John 14:6).

Wednesday, January 11

“God is my strength and power, And He makes my way perfect.”  2 Samuel 22:33

When you’re skilled at something, when things go your way, it’s easy to get caught up in your success.  We feel proud of our accomplishments; we see them at the result of study, hard work, practice, or our own natural talent.  When something good happens, we see it either as luck, or as the result of something we ourselves did.  We pat ourselves on the back, and generally so do other people.

I don’t mean to imply that there’s something wrong with being happy in these circumstances, but I do think we need to acknowledge God’s role in our lives and in the lives of others.  As James 1:17 says: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

David was known as a mighty warrior, a strong king, a talented musician and poet, and yet he never took credit for these things, at least as far as I know.  He always gave the credit and the glory to God.  He wasn’t a strong and mighty warrior; God was.  Things didn’t go his way because he was lucky, or made clever decisions; God was with him and made things go his way.  It was about God, not about him.

God gives people wonderful, amazing gifts.  Sometimes they take the form of certain skills, or talents in certain areas.  Other times His blessings take on a more tangible or material form.  These gifts should be acknowledged, and God’s blessings should be celebrated.  But we should first and foremost give praise and thanks to God; if it weren’t for Him, for His lovingkindness, we wouldn’t have these blessings in the first place.

Tuesday, January 10

“You enlarged my path under me; So my feet did not slip.” 2 Samuel 22:37

This verse is part of a larger piece: a song that King David sang after the Lord had delivered him from his enemies.  In this song, David praises God for saving him, recounting how he cried out to God and God came to his rescue. The scheming of his enemies ultimately came to nothing, because the Lord was with him.

This is a recurring theme in the psalms of David: David is beset by enemies, abandoned by his friends, endures tragedy and hardship, and yet no matter the circumstances, he praises God.  And God always comes to his rescue, always delivers him from the hand of his enemies.

David clings to God.  He chooses to have faith, to trust in God no matter what circumstances he finds himself in.  Making that choice does not make all of his problems disappear; David does not suddenly find himself with an easy life where everything always goes his way.  David may be celebrating peace and rest from his enemies in this song, but this will not be the last time the Lord delivers him.  He will find himself in dire circumstances again, and will again have to decide between trusting God, holding fast to his faith, and letting go of God and trying to make his own way.

The Bible never promises us an easy life; in several places, it actually does the opposite.  Yes, God will bless us and give us many gifts, but we will also have many troubles.  However, if we trust in God, if we place our faith in Him, He will see us through.

Even in the midst of the storm, God is there to guide us.  We may not be able to feel it, we may look at the rain, the thunder and the lightning, and find it hard to believe.  But we can be sure of it just the same; God has promised us that He will never leave us, and His promises are sure.  With this in mind, as the rain pours down, the lightning flashes, and the thunder sounds, we too can praise the Lord.

Monday, January 9

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” 1 Peter 1:3

Through the love and mercy of Jesus Christ, those who believe in Him are born again, and through His resurrection we have the hope of being resurrected ourselves, and living forever with Him in Heaven.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

But this gift is not something that we can earn for ourselves; God gives it to us freely.  We are all sinners, and nothing we do or say will ever change that; we will never deserve forgiveness or salvation.  Sin is as much a part of us as our blood and bones; it is in our blood, passed down from generation to generation by Adam and Eve after they fell.  And, as the verse from Romans says, the consequences of our sin is death.

But our Lord Jesus Christ, in His infinite love and mercy, took the penalty of sin from our shoulders and bore it Himself on the cross.  He has paid our debt.  If we accept His sacrifice, if we place our faith in Him, God gives us the gift of everlasting life.  Our sins are washed away; we become whiter than snow.  As Jesus died and rose again, so do we die to sin and rise again to a new life in Christ; we will also rise again physically at the Second Coming of Christ (assuming that we die before the Second Coming takes place), and live with Him for all eternity.

This is the “living hope” that Peter speaks of, the hope that we must fix our eyes on and be ever pressing toward, despite the trials and temptations that will come our way.  “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Saturday, January 7/Sunday, January 8

“‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.'” Matthew 24:35

At the beginning of this chapter, the disciples have come to Jesus on the Mount of Olives and asked Him to tell them about the signs of His second coming and of the “end of the age.”  Jesus tells them about false Christs, war, famine, sicknesses, earthquakes, persecution, and the gospel being preached throughout the world.

Doesn’t that sound like a description of our time?

Today’s quote comes right after this description.  Jesus tells His disciples that these occurrences are signs that the end/the Second Coming  is near; in fact, they are “at the door”, which I take to mean “occuring very soon.”  He then assures the disciples of the truthfulness of what He has just said, and that these things will indeed take place.

Whether the verses in this passage refer solely to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., or are a reference to the Second Coming, is a matter of debate, and one I won’t pretend to have the knowledge and understanding to go into myself.  Either way, we know there will be a Second Coming; there are many references to it in the New Testament.  We do not know when it will be; verse 36 says that only the Father knows.

The times we live in fit the description of the end times.  The Second Coming may not be tomorrow, next week, this year, or this decade.  It may not even be in our lifetime.  But it will happen some day, and we need to be ready; if it does come during our lifetime, we do not want to be caught unaware and unprepared.

I’m not just talking about stocking up on cans of food and bottles of water-some people do that, and I’m not saying whether it’s a good or bad thing to do, just that it’s not the kind of preparation I’m talking about here.  We need to ready our hearts and our minds to receive Jesus; we need to invite Him into our lives.  We need to study His Word, both so that we may come to know Him, and so that we may recognize the signs and prepare ourselves for what will come.  The end times will not be easy to endure, but if we do endure, we will meet Jesus and be gathered to Him at the end of them.

Friday, January 6

“And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”  John 3:19

I know that when I’ve done something wrong, or something that someone else might think is wrong, I prefer to hide it, to ignore it, to cover it up and pretend like it never happened.  I like to think well of myself, to present a picture of myself to the world of someone who is kind, thoughtful, good in all the ways a person can be good.  I like to view myself in that light at least as much as I like others to view me in that way.

I think it must be a part of our human nature, perhaps even hardwired into our DNA: did not Adam and Eve cover themselves and hide after eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?  And when God spoke to them, did they not both try to shift the blame onto someone else-Adam to Eve, and Eve to the serpent?  And so it is, even to this day: the same behaviors we see in our most distant ancestors can also be seen in us.

But, as I have noted in a previous post, you recover faster from an illness when you acknowledge it and treat it than when you try to pretend you don’t have it.  However you define that illness, whatever shape it takes in your eyes, I believe the treatment to be the same: acknowledge it, to yourself if no one else.  Treat it.  Don’t ignore it and let it fester and grow worse.  Confess to God, if not to other people; place it in His hands, and let Him work in you to bring about change and restore you to His image.

And, while God can and will work directly with you, and speak directly to you, He can and does use other people to do His work.  There is no shame, there is nothing wrong, in asking others for help.  Whether it is a licensed professional, a support group, a phone line, friends and family, or even the comment section of this blog, there is someone out there who cares and will do their best to help you.  You don’t have to deal with things without any human support-and you will always have God’s love and help, no matter what.