Christianity as a whole remains divided on many issues, but one aspect of the religion remains solid, the Bible is the Word of God. Thankfully, most all Christians respect the Bible, which means Christians can come together on common ground and study this great book of inspiration! Through the years, different versions and translations have been introduced into the Christendom, some have not honored the original writings of God but favored the traditions and bias of the translators. Not all translations are equal. Some versions hold to the Greek manuscripts better than others, while other translations relate better to the modern readers. With so many translations on the market in the 21st century, many Christians cannot decide which to trust.
I had someone call and ask about translations and which ones were considered to be the most reliable translations. She asked about the versions I use and why. I explained that I use the King James Version, the New King James, and the American Standard Version (1901). While the old and the newer versions have their strengths and weaknesses (as do all translations), these versions have a good reputation in the church and have led many to the truth. They are trusted.
Most honest biblical scholars will tell those that seek the truth that any translation will have a few errors, and that no translation is perfect. The original autographs (the writings of the inspired authors) were inerrant and infallible, but translators without the aid of inspiration will make occasional mistakes. Atheists target translation errors and use them as arsenal against the existence of God and the inspiration of the Bible, but when one examines the translation errors, one will find that the variances are such that rarely affect the doctrine. Most versions of the Bible from honest and educated translators will provide the information needed to readers seeking to be saved and live godly (2 Peter 1:3). Christians must also keep in mind that God providentially watches over His Word, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). God promised that His Words would always endure and that it would never fade due to man’s ignorance or ineptitude (1 Peter 1:25). All Christians can rest assured that as long as the earth endures, God’s Word will be a part of the world in at least one translation, so that man will always have an escape from the temptations of this “untoward generation” (Acts 2:40, 1 Cor. 10:13, 1 Tim. 3:16-17).
God provided mankind with the authority to use and make copies and translations. Luke 4:16-21, Christ read from a translation, the LLX or the Septuagint, which was used throughout all the Greek empire. The Septuagint was a Greek translation of the ancient, Hebrew scrolls. The original scrolls of the Hebrew text were in the temple of Jerusalem, kept by the High Priest. The scroll Christ read in Nazareth had to be a translation and a copy from the Hebrew texts. Nevertheless, Christ called them “scripture” (Luke 4:21). Paul divinely commanded the church in Thessalonica to make copies and send them out to all the brethren in other churches (1 Thess. 5:27). Colossians 4:16: “And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.” The Christians were to make copies and disperse them throughout the church in other parts of the world. Christians have every right to make copies and translations with respect to the message of God because those who add or take away from God’s Word will be condemned (Deut. 4:2; Rev. 22:18,19).
God gave Christians the responsibility of copying and dispersing His Word. As such, the responsibility falls on Christians to be aware of the accuracy of the translation from which they read and study. How can Bible readers know that the version from which they read the will of God is reliable? Of course, not all Christians know Greek and have access to the original manuscripts, but there exist other tools that Christians can use to know a versions reliability. Consider these guidelines that biblical readers should use.
Is the reading harmonious as a whole? The Word of God is described as “perfect” (James 1:25), and it is able to make the reader “perfect/complete” (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Col. 2:10). The Bible cannot make someone perfect, and it cannot be perfect if the majority of the wording has been corrupted (Rev. 22:18-19; Deut. 4:2). If there is a contradiction in scripture, then certain examinations should be explored. One must examine the reader and the verse. Even smart people can interpret and read a verse incorrectly? Ask another person if the verses seem off or if the interpretation changes. If the verse is read properly and translated properly then there should be no contradiction (Ps. 19:7). Consult other translations to see whether the wording is the same and if the understanding from the reading changes. Read other passage of scripture on the same subject and notice which side of the contradiction is supported from other passages of scripture. From this analysis, one may determine that one passage contradicts several other passages and has probably been misinterpreted. Other versions of the Bible would likely have a different wording if it is a translation error.
Who translated the version? Consider if the Bible was translated by one person or a group under a single bias or prejudice. Also consider the education and environment under which the translator wrote, all of which contribute to the writing. Readers should never forget that while the Bible is perfect, translators/people are not (Rom. 3:23, 1 John 1:8-10).
Does the version have a good reputation in the church? While this qualification may seem slanted to human error, the likelihood of the whole body of Christ being deceived is slim. Many Bible scholars teach in the church who would balk at bad translations, and therefore, campaign against that version. With so many biblically sound and educated Christians all reading the same version, the majority should know a bad translation when they read it.
Ultimately, if the version contradicts itself in many places, used only by one denomination and has a bad reputation in the church as a whole, STAY AWAY FROM IT!