Biblical Translations

posted in: Blog, My Blog | 6
Theme: Doctrine

‘Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.”          1 Corinthians 4:6

A few years ago I had a Sunday off (actually this happens more than just every few years) and decided to visit another church in the area. The preacher’s message, delivered with passion and conviction, was that we had the biblical right to ask God what He was doing and then, if we didn’t like it, to tell Him what He should be doing! His source of scriptural authority was Isaiah 45:11 which he quoted from the King James version of the Bible as, ‘Thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, “Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!

Isaiah was actually speaking a severe divine admonition to the people of Israel. He wasn’t saying “Hey guys, feel free to question my plans, and by all means tell me what to do if you don’t agree.” God was saying the exact opposite. The NIV translation makes this very clear: ‘This is what the Lord says — the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker: Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands?’
How could that preacher have got it so wrong? Well, the man came from a name-it-and-claim-it theological background that set him up for this sort of error. His basic understanding of human importance and divine impotence was reflected in his biblical interpretation. However, the use of the King James Version of the Bible didn’t help either. Its archaic phraseology and word choices made it seem like God was sanctioning what the preacher proposed. Someone living in Elizabethan times would probably not have made such a mistake, but we live in the twenty-first century, and English just isn’t the same any more.

Some people mistakenly believe that the KJV is the only authentically inspired version of the Bible but this is obviously off the wall – does every language only have one authoritative version, or is Elizabethan English the only language that God can use?  So, the lesson to be learned from the story of the misguided preacher is, ‘Use a good current version of the Bible.’ Most of the modern versions are excellent. I use the NIV extensively but I also use the New Living Version from time to time.

What version of the Bible do you use and why?


6 Responses

  1. Candice

    The NIV is great for study, but for reading and getting fresh insight, I love The Message, but Eugene Peterson.

  2. Grant

    I personally prefer the NIV, but we use the New Living Translation for family devotions. Why? Because the NLT is easier to understand when it comes to family discussions. I prefer the NIV purely out of habit. 32 years ago I was given an NIV bible and haven’t changed. I’m just used to it.

    Irrespective of the version we use, there is still the possibility that we can read into a passage what we want to understand rather than what it is actually saying.

    I generally look to scripture to explain what scripture is saying. A silly example is from a family discussion we had about Samson a few days ago, specifically about him being a Nazarite. My 10 year old pipes up, oh Jesus was also a Nazarite so Samson must have been born in Nazareth. Fortunately Numbers 6 came to my rescue when I had to explain the difference between a Nazarene and a Nazarite.

  3. Dr Christopher Peppler

    Hi Candice, yes The Message is easy to read but bear in mind that it is both a paraphrase and one man’s interpretation. In other words, its good as a secondary source, but not so good as a primary Bible for study purposes.

  4. Jess Spence

    I liked your article Chris! Just this week I was having this debate with a friend. We concluded that the NIV was the best bible to use for everyday studying. Especially for the youth as the NKJ is practically greek to them!

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