The Bible can be hard to understand. Luckily, we live in an age with so many resources to better help us understand what the Bible has to say. With so many options for Bibles, how do we know which one to choose? Over the next few weeks, I will go over different types of Bibles to help you choose the right one for you. Trust me, picking the right one for you can make the difference!
Bibles come in many versions or translations. The purpose of different translations is not to change the meaning or context of what was written by the original authors. The original texts were written over centuries and inspired by God.
Languages evolve over time and differ from country to country. Look at English for example. If you are in Great Britain and order chips with your sandwich, you will get french fries (you will have to ask for crisps instead). If someone asks you to play draughts in Great Britain, would you know they are asking you to play checkers? We don't speak the exact same English words in different countries let alone in different centuries.
The last I checked, most of us do not speak Hebrew or Greek. If the Bible didn't have different translations, the amount of people who would be able to read it in its original written form would be very limited. If we didn't have different translations into different languages and for different dialects, how would we spread God's word to all people as Jesus commanded?
Different translations have different purposes. Three types of translations include: word-for-word, thought-for-thought, and paraphrase.
The paraphrase versions focus on more of the poetry and heart of what was said as a whole. Sometimes the feel or idea as a whole can not be fully understood when breaking down word-for-word. For example, if we look at Mark 16:15 again in the Passion Translation (TPT) it reads, "And He said to them, "As you go into all the world, preach openly the wonderful news of the gospel to the entire human race!" The meaning may be made more clear to understand when not written word-for-word. It doesn't take much extra studying or digging to understand what the verse is telling us through The Passion Translation. Paraphrase versions typically are not used as the main form for studying and learning scripture as they are more of a commentary to use in addition to the other two forms.
We also need the precision of word-for-word to get to the very specific meaning of certain words or phrases. Word-for-word is commonly known as the "literal" translation. Word-for-word takes as close to the original word and grammar as possible into the translating language. However, not every word has a one word equivalent in other languages. Sometimes to be accurate to the meaning, a phrase is necessary to convey what is being said. Word-for-word may be harder to understand for a beginning Bible reader. Word-for-word translations can seem out of order in our current English dialect. If you are looking for the closest translation to the original text, word-for-word translations should be your pick.
Thought-for-thought would be a combination of the two. You get the heart and beauty of the word along with effort to be as close to literal as possible with still being able to understand what is written. Thought-for-thought takes into consideration the intended meaning of the original writer. Thought for thought is a good translation for easier understanding while still being accurate to the original text.
So which one is right for you? Well, that is up to you. I would suggest trying different versions to decide which you feel is the right reading for you. I typically use the NIV, CSB, KJV, ESV, TPT, and MSG. These are not necessarily better, just what I have grown to understand and connect with. I love going between translations to grasp a deeper understanding of what I am reading. Often, I take away more or something new will jump out of the text for me when I read the same verses in multiple translations. Here is a chart with different translations and which category they would fall into.
God's Word is the most translated book of all time. This does not take away from the authenticity or accuracy of translations over time. Most translations aren't a total change. They are simply revised and improved on accuracy as we learn more about the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic text. Because the Bible has been translated so many times, it's accuracy is actually more credible. For example, if thousands of people have translated the Bible and one person doesn't like a portion and decides to leave it out or change it's meaning, they would not be able to get away with it. There are simply too many other translations to reference to know that specific one is inaccurate. It would be easy to see the discrepancy. Many versions were translated by groups of Bible scholars and experts working together. Therefore, these versions are not just the understanding of one person, but the diligent work of many minds together for accurate translating.
We are fortunate today to have the different options to study and help us understand. My best advice is find which translation is understandable to you. Stick with a word-for-word or thought-for-thought translation for studying purposes. I find going between translations can be extremely helpful, so don't stick to just one! Bible Gateway is a great app to use to go between different translations with the click of a button. https://www.biblegateway.com/
God inspired the words that were written by the authors of the Bible. The Word of God is not just meant to be interesting stories of history, but transformative text that holds the power to change your life. Finding the right Bible just may make all the difference for you.