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Q: Which version of the Bible do you use/recommend?

A: Frequently we are asked about Bible versions--which is best, which is most accurate, which do we recommend. Unfortunately, often those who ask have already made up their mind and use the Bible version issue as a kind of litmus test for doctrinal purity. That does not speak well for where this issue has taken the Church.

The Bible version issue is far more complicated than most people understand. Some have read a booklet or pamphlet from a Bible teacher who has condemned all versions except his favorite. Sometimes the logic of these booklets is faulty. Often the research is flawed. And almost always the conclusion is unchristian and often unbiblical.

Take this little quiz. The reason there are differences between the versions of the Bible is because: (a) some Bible translators were better than others; (b) some Bible translators wanted to remove the deity of Christ from the Bible; (c) some Bible translators were liberals and wanted to destroy our faith; (d) none of the above. Good for you if you said (d) none of the above.

Contrary to what I have read in some booklets, Bible translators for some of the versions were not homosexuals who wanted to remove the blood from the Bible. Most Bible translators were simply scholars who did their job accurately and quite well. So why are there differences between the versions? Because there are different "families" of manuscripts.

While the original writings of Paul, Moses, Peter, etc. do not exist today (they are called the "autographs" of Scripture), there are plenty of copies of these autographs and copies of copies. These manuscripts are grouped in "families" according to their similarities. If one Bible translator accurately translated the Greek and Hebrew from one "family" of manuscripts and another Bible translator accurately translated the Greek and Hebrew from another "family," and those families had some minor differences, there would naturally be differences in the English translation. Hence the difference between the NIV and the KJV.

The KJV was generally translated from an older family, but one in which very few manuscripts exist. The NIV was generally translated from a newer family, but one in which hundreds of manuscripts exist. This causes a controversy because we judge the validity of a translation based either on the age of the manuscripts or the number of manuscripts that attest to the validity of the choices made by the translators.

Which Bible version does Back to the Bible use? Senior Bible Teacher Woodrow Kroll says, "I grew up on the King James. I like the King James. I don't have any difficulty understanding it so I usually teach from it. I also like the New King James because it preserves the majesty of the KJV but updates the old English language.

"The NIV is very readable and sometimes I use it when I am in a church that has NIV pew Bibles. The NASB is one of the most accurate translations we have."

But as Dr. Kroll has often said, "The best Bible is the one you read. It does you no good to have the most accurate translation in the world if you don't read it." He concludes, "What I hate to see is what the Bible version controversy has done to charity in the church. We ought to know better."

Elisabeth Elliot's statement: "My father read the Bible to us children twice a day. Consequently all six of us learned--painlessly!--hundreds, perhaps thousands of scripture verses by heart. It was the King James (also called Authorized) version.

"In public schools in those days it was required by law that there be a daily reading from that version in every classroom. Now there are dozens of translations of the Bible in English, not to mention the thousands in other languages.

"In my writing and speaking I quote much Scripture, usually from the King James Version which I love. When I deviate from this to use other translations I receive letters from people who believe that only the KJV is trustworthy.

"Some believe it to be as divinely inspired as the original, forgetting that all translations are done by imperfect human beings. I believe that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and that He did indeed inspire the original writers. But as in other ancient documents the precise meaning of the biblical texts is sometimes uncertain.

"What would my critics say if I were to tell them that I spent eleven years in Ecuador working on three different unwritten Indian languages in order to translate the Bible? Would they insist that I should have translated word-for-word from the KJV? Would they refuse to support linguists unless they regarded KJV as divinely inspired?

"Anyone who speaks more than one language knows that word-for-word translation is rarely the best, often awkward, and usually impossible. The New International Version, for example, had its beginning in 1965, and was made by over a hundred scholars working directly from the best available Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts. It is easily read by English speakers today, which is not always the case with the KJV.

"Texts more ancient than those available to the translators of KJV have been found. I aim at clarity and simplicity. Therefore I find that sometimes a more contemporary translation expresses best what I am trying to illuminate. A hymn writer said, 'For the love of God is broader than the measure of man's mind, And the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.'"

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