Any conversation about Bible translation has the potential to bring up a lot of emotions. People who grew up in the church have likely become accustomed to a particular translation and they develop loyalties. Further clouding the issue is the way we naturally associate a favorite translation with people along the way. “Grandma loved that KJV and read it to me whenever I went to her home.” Or, “My pastor always preached out of the NASB when I was young”. To add more to the mix of emotion is any Bible memory that we may have done in childhood. I memorized more out of the NASB than any other translation, so now it just doesn’t roll off the tongue when I encounter the same passage in the ESV.
But I would like to slice through this all with 5 humble suggestions for choosing a Bible translation.
1. Choose A Translation You Will Read and Understand
These suggestions are not rocket science and as far as advice goes, this seems like a no-brainer. But in all honesty, there are many emotional attachments or even false notions that could keep someone reading a translation that they don’t really understand. But whatever translation of the Bible you will ACTUALLY study, read, and understand, is the one you should choose.
2. Do Not Assume That You Must Choose Only One
Over the years I have read the NLT, the NIV, the ESV, the NASB, the NKJV, the TNIV, and even the Message (which is more of a paraphrase than a translation). You will notice a rich variety of words When comparing translations. And as language morphs and adapts in each generation, it can be helpful to see how translators in different ages rendered the meaning of the Holy Scriptures into English.
3. Do Not Argue Over Translations
It is true that each translation has a set of benefits and drawbacks. But I have been a part of far too many discussions (debates) in which someone will overstate the good of their chosen translation. As I mentioned above, there may be many reasons we are emotionally attached to our favorite Bible version, but there is no shame in saying, “I really just like it”. It would be, unhelpful at best and harmful at worst, to imply that there is only one English translation that God can use. Unfortunately this often has taken the form of support for the King James Version as the only acceptable (or even best) translation. The KJV has some beauty in the way it is worded so long as the reader has at least a 12th grade reading level. But the KJV has some serious drawbacks in terms of textual sources and antiquated language. I mention the KJV specifically here, because I have never encountered anyone who prefers other translations who believe that their translation is the only one acceptable to God.
4. Educate Yourself on Bible Translation
I have many resources available for anyone who would be interested in learning more about various translations (some are in the picture header of this blog). Understanding the way that we have arrived at these various translations will help clarify why they are different. It also will help to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Further, understanding manuscript evidence and textual criticism (even at a cursory level) will help you gain a level! Just kidding, it will make you more knowledgeable about the Bible and increase your trust in its accuracy.
5. It IS NOT a Big Deal
The Word of God IS A HUGE DEAL. And reading it to understand it is a big deal. But most of the modern translations are going to be okay for you. Grab one! Dive in.
Maybe even try a different one than you’ve used before and spend some time getting lost in its pages. And to get “lost” in the pages of Scripture is to really be ‘found’!