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WHICH BIBLE TRANSLATION SHOULD I READ?
Which Bible version is best for me?
You got KJV, NASB and now the Message. And so today I want to talk about the three different types of Bible translations and the pros and cons of each.
No Bible Translation is Perfect
• The original Bible was written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek [which is why most theological schools teach Greek and Hebrew] meaning men had to interpret what they believed the text was saying.
• The problem is that there are close to 5 million words in the Biblical Greek language and only 1 million English words making it very difficult to always find an exact English word or phrase that reflects the true meaning of the biblical text.
1. “Word for Word” Translations – These versions are normally written at a 11-12th grade reading level.
a. This is where the translators attempted to take each word from the Greek/Hebrew (Aramaic) and translate it to English preserving the exact word order
b. One example of this type would be the King James Bible
i. Pros – The translators prided themselves on translated the Greek/Hebrew manuscripts word for word preserving the authenticity of the original manuscripts.
ii. Cons – The problem is that it was translated in 1611 in Old English words that are over 400 years old.
iii. So, not only are there words like thee, thou, whither and comest, restoreth that we no longer use but there are other words that mean something totally different today than they meant in 1611.
c. Amplified – Another one in this category is the AMP Bible which is one of my absolute favorites.
i. Pros – It adds key words and phrases in brackets to help you better understand what you are reading.
ii. Cons – The words they add are left up to the interpreter who added them.
2. “Thought for Thought” – NIV, NLT
a. This is where the translators took whole phrases and tried to capture the general idea of what the phrase was saying and then disregarding the original word order and then translated it into English.
b. Examples of these would be the New International Version and the New Living Translation
c. Pros – They are written at a 7-8th grade reading level making it very easy to understand which is great because the Bible is already hard to understand.
d. Cons – Some of the original meaning can be watered down in an attempt to make it more readable.
3. Paraphrase – The editors took whole chunks of the Bible and did not even try to attempt to translate it literally but rather they put it in very modern words that people can understand.
a. The most popular paraphrase today is the Message Bible.
b. Pros – it is the easiest Bible to read aimed to be read at a 4-5th grade reading level.
c. The obvious con here is that a paraphrase disregards the meaning of individual biblical words and they take liberties in adding more words in an attempt to make it more readable which then makes it subject to the interpretation of the translators.
So, what’s the best one to use? The one that you enjoy reading the most and the one you feel that God speaks clearest to you. I personally subscribe to the NLT because I’ve found it to be the best combination of accuracy and clarity and when I read it I actually understand what the Bible is saying. I would only use a paraphrase, such as the Message Bible, as a secondary resource only after I’ve read and studied from an actual bible translation.