The question, “What is the best Bible translation?” requires more than a simple answer if you are to make an educated decision for yourself. There are a whole range of English Bible translations to choose from, and more keep coming out. Which Bible translation is the best one to study, meditate on, and use for our guide in faith and practice?
Each translation claims to be better in some aspect than other translations. A few are basically literal word for word translations. But most employ some degree of paraphrasing or putting the Bible into the words of men. The New International Version calls its practice of putting things into their own words by the fancy term “dynamic equivalence”. Some translators do a significant amount of putting into the Bible their own words, beliefs, and biases. A recent very perverted paraphrased version is the “Good As New” version. Among other things it uses foul language, renames the Apostle Peter as Rocky, and promotes sexual relationships with a partner outside of marriage. It is called a Bible.
Many in the Church view the Bible as an elastic document that can be stretched and molded to varying degrees to make it “easier to understand”. Changes in new Bible translations in recent years have been made to fit changes in secular society and to fit politically correct or popular thought.
Imagine what it would be like in the United States if anyone with a PhD could make a new version of the Constitution of the United States, put it into their interpretation of layman English, paraphrase the wording, or change the meaning and the new version still be binding as the Constitution of the United States. People could change the Constitution to make it say anything they wanted it to say. Then imagine having over 100 versions of the US Constitution, each with different wording. The Constitution would be almost worthless as a foundation document. This describes what has happened to the Bible.
The Bible is the foundation document for the Church and for us as Christians. But the Bible has become hollow as a foundation document of Truth for the modern Church because there are so many wordings of what the Bible says and interpretations of what the Bible means. The multitude of English Bible translations has undermined the Bible as the foundation of the Church instead of making the Church stronger. The multitude of different wordings in the Bible has contributed to a multitude of diversity of thought, belief, and practice in the Church. Much diversity of belief is not because of the different wording directly but because of the subconscious implication that results from a variety of wordings in translations, that the Bible can be changed to fit various opinions and interpretations or that one can pick and choose the wording of the Bible that one likes best. The belief by many in the Church is “You can have your opinion, and I will have mine.”
God commands the Church a number of times in the New Testament to be of one mind and to say the same thing. But instead of being of one mind and doctrine, the Church has become divided into many different beliefs. According to several different reports, as of 2001 there were 30,000 +/– different Christian denominations. Even within the local church, it is often difficult to find more than two people who believe the same.
From God’s perspective there is only one Bible, only One Word of God which Jesus will use to judge us on Judgment Day.
God describes the Bible as pure, it is Truth, and words are not to be added to the Bible or removed from it.
Note how often God speaks about the individual words of the Bible.
Deuteronomy 4:2 “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you”
Deuteronomy 12:32 “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.”
Psalms 12:6 “The WORDS of the LORD are pure WORDS: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.”
Psalms 19:7 “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.”
Psalms 89:34 “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.”
Psalms 119:89 “Forever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven. ”
Psalms 119:140 “Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.”
Psalms. 119:152 “Concerning thy testimonies, I have known of old that thou hast founded them for ever.”
Psalms 119:160 “Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth forever.”
Proverbs 30:5,6 “Every WORD of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his WORDS, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.”
Ecclesiastes 3:14 “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.”
Isaiah 40:8 “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.”
Jeremiah 23:29,30 “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my WORDS every one from his neighbour.”
Matthew 4:4 “But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every WORD that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
Matthew 5:18,19 ” For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 24:35 “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my WORDS shall not pass away.”
Mark 13:31 “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my WORDS shall not pass away.”
Luke 16:17 “And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.”
Luke 21:33 “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my WORDS shall not pass away.”
II Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”
I Peter 1:23-25 “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”
Revelation 22:18,19 “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the WORDS of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”
The fact that most modern Bible versions are copyrighted seems to be a small point at first. However, in order to copyright someone else’s writings, a person has to make a significant amount of changes in the other person’s document, so that they can call it their own and qualify for copyright protection. The 2005 Encarta Encyclopedia says this about the requirements for a document to be copyrighted: “To qualify for copyright protection, a work must be both fixed and original. The law considers a work to be fixed if it is recorded in some permanent format. Acceptable ways of fixing a work include writing it down, storing it on a computer floppy disk, recording it on videotape, or sculpting it in marble. If a poet thinks of a new poem and recites it to an audience before writing it down, copyright does not protect the poem because it is not fixed. To be original, the work must not be copied from previously existing material and must display at least a reasonable amount of creativity.” (Microsoft® Encarta™ Encyclopedia 2005 © 1993-2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.)
Now if a new translation is copyrighted, that means it is an original document of the “translators” and displays a reasonable amount of creativity of the “translators”. Be careful in using a copyrighted Bible. You might be following an original document of men that is based on the Word of God but which has added to or removed words from the Word of God. At the same time this is not to say that a version that is not copyrighted has not tampered with the Words of God.
Another problem with a copyrighted Bible is that most of the copyrighted translations prohibit the use of their translation where the quoted verses account for more than 50% of the total work in which they are quoted. You also may not quote more than 1000 verses. That would significantly limit the Bible studies we are able to make available on this website and the resources people could copy from the website for Bible studies in their home or house church. For example, “The Commands of God in the New Testament” resource is made up almost entirely of Scripture verses and quotes over 1000 verses and could not be published on this website if it was in a copyrighted translation. Copyrighted translations also prohibit the copying of an entire Book of the Bible, such as the Gospel of John, even for free distribution! The NIV requires a $10,000 licensing fee plus a royalty of $10 for every copy that is made of the NIV! That is making merchandise of the Word of God and it is wrong!
How can we have unity of belief in the Church when Christians are using different, legally original copyrighted works by different authors and calling them all “the Bible”? The phrases “I believe the Bible” or “a Bible believing church” have become technically meaningless statements because of the wide scope of different English Bibles available and the wide range of interpretations and applications that those different versions allow.
The Church needs one foundation document to stand on that we know for certainty is Truth and is the Word of God. The Bible, and the translation we use, really is one of the most significant subjects that the Church faces today.
Greek New Testaments and missing verses
An even more important factor in choosing a translation is the Greek New Testament it was translated from. The Greek New Testaments used to translate from are not all the same! The modern Nestle-Aland and United Bible Society’s Greek New Testament which most modern translations are translated from is missing many words, phrases, and entire verses. When I discovered this, I spent many, many hours researching in the Greek New Testaments, the many fragments of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th century Greek New Testaments, and the writings of early church fathers to find out which Greek Bible was correct. What I found is that the Textus Receptus Greek New Testament is the most accurate. This is the Greek New Testament that the King James Version is translated from. The Nestle-Aland and United Bible Society’s Greek New Testament is not complete and is not trustworthy. Unfortunately this was the Greek New Testament used by most modern translations.
For an in-depth report on what I found in researching the Greek New Testament behind most modern translations and the New International Version (NIV) read The NIV Report.
What translation should you use?
If your purpose in reading the Bible is just to be religious, then any version that you like will work, but if you want to serve Jesus with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and you want to make sure you go to Heaven when you die, and you want to make sure that those you lead to Christ go to Heaven, then use a translation that is not copyrighted, can be freely copied and distributed, is translated from a complete Greek New Testament, and is faithful to the individual words of God, such as the King James Version (KJV). The KJV, while it does not have modern English, has been tested and proven for many years. The Old English used in the KJV can be quickly learned even by children and is easier to memorize than the modern translations. If you use a computer resource such as E-Sword in your Bible study, you can use the Strong’s numbers to quickly go to the Greek definitions and find the meaning for the words you don’t know. The KJV uses italics to indicate what words were added by the translators to make a complete sentence in English. I have found it beneficial in studying various passages of Scripture to know what words were added and not to put any weight on the use of that particular word. For example, when Jesus said “I am he”; “he” was added by the translators. What is significant about Jesus saying “I Am”, is that in the Old Testament God tells us that one of His names is “I Am”. Most other translations do not make any differentiation between the words added by translators and the Words of God. There may be other translations that are also accurate, but they have not been tested and proven with the same certainty as the KJV.
What about the New King James Version? It is also copyrighted and cannot be freely distributed and is based on a new Hebrew (Old Testament) Bible (I’m not sure what changes were made in the new Hebrew Bible used for translation). Our family used the NKJV when we first stopped using the NIV, but discovered its choices of words at places are even more difficult to understand than the KJV. I had enough questions about the way the NKJV translated words at places and I felt it was best to lead my family to a stable trusted translation. So we switched to the KJV and have not regretted it.