Bibles, Study Bibles, Bible Versions: Establishing Devotional Habit

Bibles, Study Bibles, Bible Versions (Translations) – Part 4 of Devotional Habit: Under Construction (Series)

The English language has many Bibles, various Study Bibles, and multiple Bible Versions (or Translations). The writings in the Bible were written in an original language – not English. Throughout the ages they have been copied, translated, and passed on through the providence of God. A quick run down of the different types of English translations:

Literal Translation

The literal translation is focused on keeping specific word and sentence structures in the order of the original language. This keeps the historical distance between us readers and the original writings at a maximum.

Recommended Translations: NASB (New American Standard Bible) or HCSB (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Paraphrased or Free Translation

The paraphrased or free translation is focused on primarily communicating the original thoughts presented through the original language and historical context. It’s goal is to eliminate the distance of time separating us from the writings. The exact translation of words and grammar structure is not the highest concern.

For example, should a device which is carried to emit light in order for one to see in the dark be translated “lamp,” “flashlight,” or “torch?” The idea is the same, but the wording is stated differently in order to communicate a message passing time restraints. A flashlight is today’s time. A lamp carrying a candle is distant but relate-able. A torchwith a ball of fire at the end of a stick is most removed from our time.

Recommended Translations: MSG (The Message), TLB (The Living Bible), or NEB (New English Bible)

Working or Dynamic Equivalent Translation

The working or dynamic equivalent translation could be seen as a mixture of the two previous translations. In my opinion, this is the best translation to use for your primary readings. I call it the working translation because the text works to get you the best understanding of the Scriptures.

The goal of this translation is to stay as close as possible to the original sentence structures and wording while still maintaining the thought quality presented in the original language. This means the text stays as close to word for word as possible while keeping integrity in thought presented. It keeps a happy medium between updating the words for today’s time while keeping the history of the Bible separate from us.

Recommended Translations: TNIV (Today’s New International Version), NIV (  New International Version), or NLT (New Living Translation)

Special Note on KJV (King James Version)

The KJV (King James Version) was for a long time the most widely spread and read biblical text. Translated in 1611, the KJV beautifully captures the Old English language. Since 1611, many more manuscripts have been found. Many of these manuscripts date earlier than the texts used to translate the KJV Bible back in 1611. The manuscripts used for translation in 1611 contain errors from a thousand years of hand written copying. Few of these errors make any difference in major Christian teaching, but they do change the reading of specific passages. The KJV contains a dead language, no longer employed today.

The NKJV (New King James Version) is an update of the old dead language translation. Problem is the NKJV patched up the English language barrier, but still contains the textual errors from outdated manuscripts. The newfound manuscripts used for translation in the more recent Bible versions date closer to the original writings. The less time between the original writing and the copies we have discovered, the less chance for variations and copyist error.

Bottom Line: God does not speak King James. I do not recommend King James for any other usage besides the beauty of an antique language. God speaks God. He speaks all languages; Those we know and those we have never heard nor could ever understand. Until we receive unlimited understanding it is best to stick with a translation we can relate with.

Quick Tips on Devotional Bible Reading:
  1. Read solely the Bible text.

    There is a time for a clean text without personal annotations or study helps. This is helpful in multiple ways: (1) Reading Quickly (2) Engaging in one’s own critical thinking (3) In prayerful listening for the voice of the Holy Spirit

  2. Systematically read a study bible until you have gleaned all that it has to offer.

    I’ve read a passage which stated “interpreting the Bible has always been a community effort.” There are a wealth of study bibles out there. Each packed with helpful information and useful insights from scholars among various study methodology and doctrinal perspectives.

  3. Read familiar passages in different translations.

    Differing translations can put new words into your brain. This can give you a fresh sight on a passage of scripture. This practice will help keep you alert and stimulate further study. Be sure to use translations that will differ in reading. I recommend using one of each translation style: a literal, free, and dynamic equivalent translation. My personal favorites are the HCSB, TNIV, and MSG.