When Jason and I first got married, he bought me a new Bible so that I could have one with married name imprinted on the front. It was a simple, leather-bound NIV Bible, with center column cross-references and a concordance.
It was the first really adult Bible I’d ever owned.
That Bible has served me well for almost a decade (we’ll celebrate ten years of marriage in April!), but it’s starting to fall apart, so I’m planning to get a new one soon.
I popped on over to my local Christian bookstore to take a look at what I might want, and boy, are there a lot of Bibles out there. It can be a little overwhelming. If you’ve been Bible shopping lately, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
There are literally dozens of different English translations of the Bible you can buy. It’s a lot to choose from, even if you know the merits of the different translations. If you don’t, I’m sure it’s even harder. And on top of that, I know many of you are not just choosing a Bible version for you own study, but trying to decide what version of the Bible you’ll read to your family, or what to buy for your kiddos to read on their own.
So I thought we’d take a few weeks here on the blog and talk all about Bible translations – why there are so many different versions, the controversies surrounding them, and what factors you might want to consider as you choose a version for your own family.
But before we start digging into the nitty-gritty of different translations, I want to pull back and remind us all of a few important things:
There is no perfect English translation of the Bible
The only perfect Bible books were the original writings themselves. We are working with translations of copies. So no English Bible is perfect. However, the manuscript copies of the Greek and Hebrew texts have been very reliably preserved for us, and the scholarship behind many English translations is careful and well-done. So while there’s no one right choice in which Bible to read, there are many excellent choices before us, which I think is a good problem to have.
Reading the Bible in our language is an immense privilege
Less than 500 years ago, you had to know Latin to be able to study the Bible. William Tyndale was executed for (among other things) his belief that the Bible should be in the common language of the people. I’m so thankful that I don’t have to study a foreign language to allow God’s Word to speak to me.
Reading any version of the Bible is better than not reading the Bible at all
The writer of Hebrews tells us that God’s word is “living and active.” God can speak to us through his Word, despite our imperfect understanding. I think carefully approaching different translations of the Bible can be helpful when our ultimate goal is know God better and become more obedient to His word. But it’s better to be in the Word of God, even if it’s a translation we don’t like as well, than to not be reading the Bible at all.
Next we’ll talk about the different manuscripts thye use to translate the Bible, but in the meantime, get into God’s word! It doesn’t matter what version you’re reading. Just read it!