Introduction: What Bible Should I Buy?

Picture of What Bible Should I Buy?

I have been a pastor since 1972. At times people have asked what Bible they should buy. They want to be certain the translation they chose is accurate. Usually they mean literal. They also want good and reliable explanatory notes for the reader.

Making such a recommendation is like telling someone what automobile is best to buy. While there are many good automobiles, so much depends on what each person needs and how the Bible will be used. In the end, a number of very personal preferences will have to be satisfied.

Note: This Instructable is limited to information about how Bible translations come to be, and choosing a Bible version (translation) for oneself. I did include some things about some passages I check as "test" passages, and things I have learned over the years about those passages; but, I do not necessarily expect others to agree with my comments on those passages. This Instructable will not seek to convince anyone about what the Christian faith is or whether it is true, whether the Bible is God's word, nor who Jesus Christ is. If you wish to discuss any of those things, please send me a private message rather than use the Comments section. 

Unless otherwise noted, all images are from Bing Images.

Step 1: Dynamic Equivalence or Literal Translation?

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Most people I meet have never studied a second language. They make the incorrect assumption that translating from one language to another is like removing one plug from an electrical outlet and inserting another. When you are finished running an electric vacuum cleaner, you unplug it from the wall and plug in a lamp in its place. That is, when you have a phrase in one language you wish to translate, you simply find the proper words in a dictionary and replace each word with another from the new language.

But, languages are different from one another in many ways. For example, in English an adjective comes before a noun. So, English speakers say, "A red ball." In many other languages, the adjective comes after the noun it describes. In those languages, "A ball red" is the correct usage. Simply replacing words can result in what sounds like nonsense.

And, each language has its own idiomatic expressions. For example, a very literal translation of Matthew 1:18 would be, "She was found having in the belly." That is the expression Matthew used to say Mary was pregnant. So, would you want that phrase rendered literally in the Bible you use; or should it be conveyed with words that express the intended meaning, even if words not in the text are required to say it? Most of us would rightly choose the accuracy of the thought over the literalness of the words.

Translators can make every effort to be as literal as possible, but often it will be necessary to use whatever words are required to preserve the accuracy of the thought, even if the words used must be changed. Once people understand what must be done to communicate something from one language in another language, they can accept a reasonable amount of dynamic equivalence in translation, even if it means literalness must be compromised a little.

On a personal note, my parents gave me my first Bible when I was ten years old. It was the King James Version (KJV). I noticed that some words and phrases were in italics. One day I learned those italicized words were not actually part of the original text, but had to be added for the sentences to make sense in English. That bothered me for quite a while. How did I know those words really belonged? A few years later I was studying Latin and German in preparation for becoming a pastor. Later I would also study Greek and Hebrew. I soon learned the difficulties of moving information from one language to another and some of the adjustments that had to be made to keep the meaning the same, even if the words had to change. My anxieties about those italicized words evaporated very quickly.

Step 2: Can We Trust Any Bible Today?

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This Norman Rockwell print was a cover for the Saturday Evening Post on March 6, 1948. It is titled "The Gossip." It reminds us of the children's game "Telephone." In that game the first person speaks a saying to someone who repeats it to another who repeats it, until what was said reaches the last person. As all who have played this game know, the last person hears something far different from what was initially spoken.

You have probably heard someone say, "The Bible has been copied, translated, and interpreted so many times that we cannot be certain it has any resemblance now to what it originally said." The assumption is that Bible translation and transmission are akin to this children's game with each new translation of the Bible being a revision of, or based on the immediate previous translation. This false notion is easily put to rest.

Step 3: There Is Gold in the Preface

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If others are like me, they can go for many years before they ever take the time to read The Preface in books they own. Reading The Preface is especially important in a Bible. Most Bible prefaces contain very similar information. The New International Version (NIV) is a widely used Bible version in our time. I will make reference to its Preface, which I have linked here from an on-line source.

The first sentence is very important and explains why the objection presented in step 2 (The Bible may not resemble what it originally said after all of these years because it was copied, etc. so often.) is without basis. That first sentence says, "The New International Version is a completely new translation of the Holy Bible made by over a hundred scholars working directly from the best available Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts." Notice, the New International Version is not a revision of a previous translation, but an entirely new translation made from the best available original language texts. This is also true of most modern versions. Most of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew. Small parts of it were written in Aramaic, which is very similar to Hebrew, but came into use in the centuries before Christ. The New Testament was originally an everyday type of Greek known as Koine, or "common" Greek.

If you were to play the children's game of "Telephone" in the same way Bible translation is done, each person in the chain would go back to the first person in the chain to double-check what he or she heard before passing it to the next person in the chain. Played that way, what the last person in the chain hears would be exactly what the first person said.

Step 4: Qumran and Textual Accuracy

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Qumran was a Jewish community near the Dead Sea. That community protected many of its scrolls with large stone jars inside caves like the one in the photo. In 1947 a shepherd boy discovered these scrolls while looking for a lost goat. Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, our oldest text of the Hebrew Old Testament came from about 1000 AD. Some of the biblical scrolls at Qumran were 1200 years older. If texts were distorted as they are copied, as many assume, 1200 years would be enough time to observe considerable changing in the text. But, that did not happen. Many* of the biblical books found at Qumran are virtually no different from the standard Hebrew text dating from much later. There is a reason for so little change. As a matter of quality control, the scribes who copied texts at Qumran counted the letters in each line after copying it. They made a mark under the middle letter. They checked to see if the mid-point mark was under the same letter in the original text from which the copy was made. If not, they knew there was a mistake, and they began again.

*Difference in texts happen for well-intended reasons. For example, some appear to have come from a different textual tradition that included some variations in readings. Sometimes the translators of the Greek Old Testament known as the Septuagint thought the Hebrew text presented God in an unfavorable light and chose wordings that softened the portrait of God, lest He seem too harsh. Such changes are hardly large or significant.

Step 5: More From the Preface

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The NIV was produced by committees of competent translators from various backgrounds so that the final product would not seem to favor the doctrinal formulations of any particular Christian denomination.

Also, the translation work was checked again and again by different committees. The Preface states, "The translation of each book was assigned to a team of scholars. Next, one of the Intermediate Editorial Committees revised the initial translation, with constant reference to the Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek. Their work then went on to one of the General Editorial committees, which checked it in detail and made another thorough version. This revision in turn was carefully reviewed by the Committee on Bible Translation, which made further changes and then released the final version for publication. In this way the entire Bible underwent three revisions, during each of which the translation was examined for its faithfulness to the original languages and for its English style." There were multiple reviews of each part of the text for both faithfulness to the original texts and for good English usage.

Although there have sometimes been gifted people who worked virtually alone to produce good Bible translations, in general I would advise shoppers to look for a Bible translation based on the best available original language texts and done by a group of people who cross check one another in order to protect the final product from each other's unconscious biases. Further, the text should be in good contemporary English so its expression flows in a clear and natural way.

I mentioned the NIV as an example in discussing the benefits of reading The Preface. That does not mean I am suggesting the NIV meets everyone's needs or is the best modern English translation. There are things I personally like about the NIV, but there are also things I do not like about it. Winston Churchill humorously said a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with. The NIV frequently ends sentences with prepositions. I was always taught that is poor English usage and I try to avoid it when I speak or write. I expect placing prepositions at the ends of sentences is a concession the editors made to what has been happening throughout contemporary society during recent decades, despite rules of proper grammar. Also on my "do not like list," sometimes the editors of the NIV made the decision to paraphrase technical words to make the meaning clear. That helps the modern reader understand concepts better, but leaves the reader without clues that two passages are related because both use the same word with a rather precise technical meaning.* Still, I have a copy of the NIV and do make use of it.

There is still more in The Preface. For example, it will tell you why you sometimes see LORD and sometimes Lord. The distinction is very important, especially at Psalm 110:1.

*In 1 John 2:1-2 the NIV translates the Greek word hilastarion as "the sin offering for the whole world." The English Standard Version uses the word 'propitiation' to translate the word. The word 'propitiation' is almost never used in contemporary English speech or writing. It refers to the forgiving character of God through an atoning sacrifice. Its contextual usage in the rest of the Bible refers to the sacrifice the high priest offered for the sins of the people on the Old Testament Day of Atonement. Certainly, "the sin offering for the whole world" is easier to grasp for the contemporary reader. The same Greek word appears in Romans 3:25 where the NIV translates it as "sacrifice of atonement." Both of these renderings present an accurate meaning, but the reader would not have sufficient clues that the same Greek word is translated in both passages.

Step 6: Just Stick With the King James Version?

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The photo shows the title page from the first edition of the King James Bible.

The King James Version was 400 years old early in May 2011. It is much loved and revered by many. Some insist it is the only Bible anyone should ever use. One interesting fact that most do not realize is this: the standard King James Version Bible you buy today is not the original 1611 version, but is a 1769 revision. The original 1611 version is still available many places, but contemporary readers would find it unnecessarily difficult to read and understand.

The King James Version is still very usable, but it has two problems for contemporary users. First, we simply have more and better original language texts available today thanks to biblical archaeology coming of age in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries and thanks to the comparative study of biblical text variants. Although the differences pertain to very small details, modern translations are actually now more accurate than the King James Version.* And second, when the biblical texts came to us, they always came in the everyday language people spoke at the time, whether Hebrew or Aramaic or Greek. The King James Version contains a number of archaic words we either no longer use in English, or their meaning has changed a bit, sometimes quite a bit. For example, consider Psalm 88:13--"But unto thee have I cried, O LORD; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee." In contemporary English we use the word "prevent" to mean we hinder something so that it cannot happen. That meaning is nonsense in this verse from Psalm 88. The original meaning of "prevent" intended in Psalm 88 fits the Latin roots of that word and what the word meant in earlier English usage, which was to come before something or someone. Compare Psalm 88:13 in the new English Standard Version: "But I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning my prayercomes before you." You can see how "prevent" came to have the meaning we give it. If we are to stop someone from doing something, we must appear before that person to present a barrier.

If you listen to a sermon or take part in a Bible study based on the King James Version, most of the time will be spent explaining what words in the King James Version text mean today. I have always preferred to use an accurate modern version of the Bible that bypasses the process of explaining changes in meaning over four centuries so that the time can be spent of applying the biblical message to contemporary life.

If you prefer the King James Version because you believe it is more accurate than modern translations, I admire your enthusiasm for accuracy and truth, but texts available today give us more accuracy than what we had available in 1611.

*It is not my intent to spark a debate with people from King James Only groups. People who insist on only the King James Version do not trust what is today generally considered the best New Testament texts (Westcott-Hort tradition), but instead prefer a slightly different text family known as the Textus Receptus ("recieved text"). Regardless of which of these two New Testament text families is chosen, basic Christian teachings are not affected by any differences.

As an example of how archaeology affects translation, a Hebrew word in the Old Testament was known by the context to be an alcoholic beverage. The translators in 1611 assumed it was wine. In 1929 at Ugarit a plow turned up a piece of broken pottery with writing on it from a language very close to Hebrew. In the written message a potentate was complaining that he had purchased some of this beverage, but it contained grain husks. Now we know that word refers to beer or ale. Grain is not used in making wine, but is used in making beers and ales. This is a small change in the translated text, but does yield more accuracy after all these centuries.

Step 7: New Revisions of Old Versions?

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There have been attempts to make the New King James Version or the Modern King James Version in order to preserve the cadence and literary qualities of the King James Version that some people love. No one should deceive himself. While these may mimic certain literary qualities found in the King James Version, they are not a King James Version. 

The same happens with German versions. Martin Luther has not been personally involved in a Luther version of the Bible since 1545, yet there is a 1984 Luther Bible. It is quite different from the versions on which Luther worked, yet it seeks to preserve some aspects of his work in terms of literary style and translation philosophy.

All of this is like the story of Abraham Lincoln's ax. A man was chopping wood when another man came by and commented, "That is a mighty fine ax!" The woodchopper said, "Thank you, sir. This ax belonged to Abraham Lincoln." The man who first commented said, "That is amazing!" The woodchopper said, "Yes, of course, the handle has been changed three times and the head twice." Calling a fundamentally new translation, no matter how good it is, The New King James Version or The Luther Bible does not make it those versions. At some point enough parts have been replaced that an ax is no longer Abraham Lincoln's ax.

Step 8: Things Not to Be Feared

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Once I was in a Christian bookstore when two ladies were examining a newly available Bible translation. They were looking at John 3:16 and concluded the new translation minimized the Christian teaching that Jesus Christ is divine. Their frame of reference was the King James Version, which gives John 3:16 this way:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Many modern translations give the verse something like this: "For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life." (Good News Bible--Today's English Version) Notice the difference is between "only begotten" and "only."

In the Greek of the New Testament, the word translated "only begotten" is spelled almost exactly the same as a very similar word translated "only" or "truly unique." The difference between the two words is the duplication of one letter in one of the words. I read an article* once which said the problem developed in the Fourth Century when Jerome was producing his Latin Vulgate Bible. Jerome rendered the text as if it used the word meaning "only begotten" when it was actually the word "only," probably because he was influenced by a theological presentation from Gregory of Nazianzus (no connection to the National Socialists [Nazis] in Germany during the Third Reich). 

John 1 uses one Greek word for "son" when referring to Jesus, and a different Greek word for "child, children" when discussing people made over to be children of God, even though Paul uses the same word "son" for both Jesus and people. John wants to show that Jesus is Son of God in a way people are not. Jerome made a conscious change for theological reasons and the modern versions are actually more accurate on John 3:16. Rather than see "only" in John 3:16 as an effort to take something important away from Jesus, see it as John's stress that Jesus is completely unique and different from people.

"Only Begotten" in The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon), 1962, Vol. K-Q.

Step 9: The Benefits of Multiple Versions

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People often want to buy one most accurate version of the Bible. But, consider that producing a Bible translation in English means it will be used by people from all sorts of local regions where speech can be quite different. Where I grew up, carbonated beverages, like Coca-Cola, were called 'pop.' In other parts of the USA they were known as 'soda.' In still others they are called 'soda pop' or a 'soft drink.' In parts of the US South, all carbonated beverages are referred to as Coca-Cola.* Or, in the area where I was raised one pushes or presses a button. But, years later I lived in East Tennessee where the common expression is to mash down on a button.

Multiple versions or translations do not indicate a defect or push a hidden agenda, but mean translators and editors are generally making a sincere effort to present the Bible in wordings that are broadly understandable to all regions of the English speaking world, and yet faithful to the meaning of the original language texts. Have and use multiple versions to get a better idea of what the original text said. The ideal would be to learn Greek and Hebrew well so you can read the Bible in its original languages, but that is not practical for most readers of the Bible. The next best thing is to access as many modern translations as possible and compare them. Slight differences in wording will provide cues to a more precise understanding of the meaning of the original text. There are on-line sites where you can read various Bible versions, like Bible Gateway. That saves the expense of buying printed volumes.

* This conversation is very much in the realm of possibility.
"Do you want a Coca-Cola?"
"What flavor?"

Step 10: Evaluating Annotations

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I like study Bibles. Not only do I get a translation I may not own, but the included notes and helps are like owning an additional commentary. The points are concise and do not require a lot of reading to find. But, study Bible notes vary in approach and quality. Rather than insist on a volume that I believe to contain absolutely correct notations, I accept that I will need to evaluate and filter what I find in the notes. Some notes provide useful historical details I have not found elsewhere. Some adopt positions I do not find to be supported well by the Bible text. I take what is good and filter out what seems to be less good. 

Perhaps you do not feel you have adequate knowledge and background to make such evaluations. Please consider this story about a man I knew. He had no experience with fine woodworking. One Christmas his wife gave him a router attachment for making spiral cuts on items like candlesticks and table legs. He began to read about cabinetmaking and to buy tools. He practiced and experimented. He and a fellow woodworker visited museums where antique furniture was on display. They were asked to leave one museum because they were taking measurements. They bought blank shaper knives and used a Dremel tool to grind molding profiles popular in the md-1800s, but long since unavailable. They copied a design for an antique mirror frame. They gave special attention to the finish so it would appear to be more than 100 years old. When they were done, they took it to a museum curator who authenticated their copy as an original. (They did not try to sell it as an antique, but reveled in their skills.)

The man I knew did not begin as an expert woodworker, but it became his hobby and he developed his skills gradually over time. I have often told that story to encourage people not to give up because they do not know the Bible well now, but to make coming to know their Bibles a gradual and continual project. Your knowledge and expertise will grow faster than you think. Just simply reading the Bible regularly is a very good way to grow in your knowledge of it.

Step 11: Things for Which I Look

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I examine the notes on several passages before buying an annotated Bible. My choice of passages and notes to check is very subjective, but is based on things I have noticed over the years. Translations and notes based on solid scholarship usually prove themselves to me on the basis of these few passages. The first is to compare notes on Genesis 11 (the confusion of languages at Babel) and Acts 2 (the bridging of languages at Pentecost). Many make no connection between these two, yet they are two sides of the same coin. Both stories have a more meaningful context when their relation to one another is considered.


Step 12: Another Passage I Check

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Sometimes issues in translation can be resolved by means of material from elsewhere in the Bible. Compare the following two renditions of Romans 9:5. One equates Christ with God and has long been a frequent proof text for Christ's divinity. The other makes the reference to God a doxology and does not speak to who Christ is. 

"...of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ. God who is over all be blessed for ever. Amen." Revised Standard Version (RSV)

"...from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen." English Standard Version (ESV)

The differences between these two renditions are based on differing opinions about where to place commas and periods, not on the basis of words in the original text. Punctuation was not always part of the original text, though. Most modern versions, even ancient versions, follow the ESV. Only a few modern versions follow the RSV. But, translation variations are not decided by majority opinion, either.

The relative clause "who is" is key. It is (h)ο wν ("the one being") in the Greek text of Romans. That same phrase is exactly the way Exodus 3:14 gives the name of God in the Greek version of the Old Testament (The Septuagint) widely in use during the First Century. Consider the reaction of the Jews in John 8:58 when Jesus used "I AM" (also a form of the divine name from Exodus). They wanted to stone him for blasphemy. Remember that Paul was trained as a Pharisee. He would not have been wont to use the divine name in close relation to Christ if he did not intend to identify Christ with God.*

*This comes from Gerhard Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament on eimi ("am"). I have the full ten volume set, not the one volume abridgment. I once read all nine text volumes cover-to-cover. It was my experience that important discussions in the full set were not always included in the one volume version. 


Step 13: The Apostles' Creed, Anyone?

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In our Lutheran churches we regularly use The Apostles' Creed in our services. It includes a phrase* by which we confess that we believe Jesus entered hell after his crucifixion and before his resurrection (not to suffer, but to show himself victorious over sin, death, and the power of the devil). In part, this is based on 1 Peter 3:18-19 (Compare Revelation 20:7 on "spirits in prison.") It is most interesting that the Greek text of that phrase in The Apostles' Creed is almost identical word-for-word to the Greek text of Ephesians 4:9 (One uses the comparative "lower" while the other uses the superlative "lowest." Otherwise they are identical.). The emphasis in that verse is that Jesus showed himself victorious over every power in all of creation before again taking his seat at the right hand of God. Some translations and notes in some study Bible imply that Ephesians 4:9 refers to Jesus coming to earth to become flesh, but Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament** indicates that common Greek usage understood the phrase "lower parts of the earth" to mean the place of the dead, not someplace here on earth. So, I always check Ephesians 4:9 to see if the allowance is given that it could refer to the descent into hell of which The Apostles' Creed speaks.

This is something with which not all Christians will agree, just as reputable Bible scholars are divided on this; but, it is something I like to check to see if translators and commentators are at least aware Ephesians 4:9 could refer to a descent into hell between the crucifixion and the resurrection.

* Some churches removed the phrase about the descent into hell from the Apostles' Creed, but it is part of the original texts of the Creed, both in the earlier Greek text and in the official Latin text. When I was about ten years old, my brothers and I visited a church of another denomination one Sunday. When they came to the Apostles' Creed we recited it from memory, including the phrase about the descent into hell. But, that church had removed that phrase from the Creed. Three girls just a little older than us were sitting directly ahead of us. I still remember the dirty look they gave us when we said, "Descended into hell," but they and the rest of the congregation had gone on to "Rose from the dead on the third day." 

** Vol. III, p. 641

(The artwork is a classical painting of the Descent into Hell from Google Images.)

Step 14: Conclusions

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When considering the merits of a new Bible translation, check The Preface. Most modern translations are sincere attempts to present the meaning of the original texts in clear and proper contemporary English. (I once told a woman in a bookstore that I had been reading the Greek New Testament cover-to-cover. She said, "Now you know what it REALLY says." I responded to her that the English versions really are quite good and accurate. There is no conspiracy to hide anything, as some commonly want to believe.)

I know every translation will include some wordings that delight me and others that dismay me. No one translation suits my preferences in all matters. But, I am prepared to filter and make allowances for those things I believe could be better. The same is true of notes in the commentary sections.  

Above all, find a Bible version you enjoy in its phrasings. Recently the English Standard Version appeared. It is generally quite accurate, but it seems to make twists and turns in its phrasings that make me stumble when I try to read it aloud in church services. It also sometimes uses words like 'propitiation' that do not speak to contemporary people. I have it in a free computer program and I do use it, but it will never be a favorite with me.

I do use the English Standard Version a great deal when preparing sermons or Bible studies. I prefer to do my public reading of the Bible from the New International Version. Because many others in our church have the NIV, I most often use it in Bible classes where I am leading the class. If I want to quote the Bible for something I am putting in print and want it to pack a certain punch with contemporary readers, I will consult several more colloquial versions. Often I take such quotes from the Good News for Modern Man--Today's English Version or even The Living Bible. This is particularly true when I want to quote the section on the works of the flesh versus the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:19-26. The phrase "Party spirit" may not always be clear to everyone, but "the feeling that only those in my little group are right" leaves no doubt about what it means.  

This Instructable is based on things I have found personally helpful over the years. They are the recommendations I make to others who ask about Bible translations and editions. You are free to disagree, but I did put some thought and experience into what I have presented. 

(The graphic is from Google Images.)


snowdrop1101 (author)2017-10-22

What about the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures? Great care has been placed to make sure that this version is accurate according to and compared to the original Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew texts and other translations such as the KJV, as well as cultural adjustments.

For instance, in the Lord's prayer at Matthew 6:11 where it reads:

" Give us today our bread for this day"

That is requesting for the daily needs of the one who prays, but in some lands, bread is considered a highly valued commodity and (If translated word for word) might be viewed as asking God for riches or the finer things in life, going against the humble attitude we are supposed to display. (1 Peter 5:6)

The translation committee thought of stuff like this, and changed it accordingly, also with great care taken.

Also the NWT includes the name Jehovah where it was in the original texts, but in the KJV, the name is only found at four locations, the most popular being Psalms 83:18.

Need I not forget to mention that if it's obtained through the publishers, it's completely FREE without question! It's quite amazing and it is the best translation I've ever read! The language and words are understandable even by today's modern 2017 language! (Interesting how much the way we talk changes in 10 years, not to mention 400)

Thank you very much for this sort of "review" of the many translations avalible to us today. I ask that you consider adding the NWT as an option because it really is a wonderful Bible to both the casual reader, as well as a dedicated worshipper.

I forgot to mention that this Bible is avalible in whole or in part in over 900 languages! The NWT Commitee is funded solely by donation, so it's an amazing work that has taken place.

Phil B (author)snowdrop11012017-10-23

The New World Translation is a Jehovah' Witness translation designed to support their doctrines. A Jehovah's Witness representative already argued what you are arguing. Its position that John 1:1 says the Word was "a god" goes against Blass, DeBrunner & Funk's Greek grammar. The sentence is still definite without the definite article because a 'be' verb is involved, which means the predicate nominative is definite without the definite article. "The Word (Jesus) was God," not "a god."

crelfe (author)2017-10-14

Good work! I’ve been using Youversion online - makes it too simple not to do comparative analysis of various versions. Some will even read it to you - those of us with vision issues this is a nice feature. Also when driving, walking, etc.

I am like you, I’m going back to Greek and Hebrew training from LONG ago. Thanks for your work my brother.

Phil B (author)crelfe2017-10-14

Thank you for your comment. I have Greek and Hebrew texts on my Kindle, as well as my iPhone. It try to work with them regularly, just so I still can. It is amazing how often a quick check of the original languages stops sincere, but misguided discussions. Also, as you can likely tell from what I wrote I was attempting to lay to rest some common misconceptions.

sonic broom (author)2017-05-24

KJ was a mason.

BigBadgers2001 (author)2017-05-06

This is a truly wonderful Instructable. I am lucky here in the UK to have an almost overwhelming selection of versions to choose from. In print I own and use, the Good News, the ESV, the AMP, the NKJV and also Three copies of the King James. In PDF format I also consult the Complete Jewish Bible in English, and I have other various versions that I have not yet used. Apps such as BLB and Esword are also in my arsenal, and are invaluable with their collection of aditional tools.

We must remember though that we are incredibly priviliged to have this access to Gods word. In many countries even today, many are persecuted for even discussing the truth, and can not openly consult the Bible. Indeed for some, possession of the scriptures would result in arrest and horrific beatings.We must thank God for the great gift he has preserved for us, and pray for those that suffer for their faith.

Grace and Peace to you. Ken <><

Phil B (author)BigBadgers20012017-05-07


Thank you for looking at this and for your comment. I am old enough to remember when versions other than the King James were almost non-existent or at least unknown. I remember my mother's excitement when the RSV appeared, then the New English Bible a few years later.

There have always been those who try to stamp out God's Word. That seems to cause people to commit it to memory and to copy it by hand for their own use or for distribution to others who will do the same. I got a complete audio Bible free of copyright at audiotreasure (dot) com and give copies to people as my own personal mission project. It is the World English Bible, an update of the 1901 Authorized Version. The files are MP3. I also did an Instructable on adding an audio book to an iPhone so the chapters and books stay in their proper order. I reworked it because new versions of iTunes seemed to change things. In the end, I used the free version of CopyTrans to load the files more easily than through iTunes and to use SmarterPlayer for playing the files in order without losing my place. I did have to experiment with the sort feature in the player before the books were in the proper order. Giving an audio Bible (2 CDs) means recipients can copy and give it in endless cycles.

Sometimes someone on the Internet tells me he has turned away from fables to follow science only. I tell him I have collected a number of stories of people who felt just as he does, but they set out to prove the Bible false and came to be believers in Jesus in the end. I get no response after that.

God's peace to you.


rlagod made it! (author)2016-05-08

I am in Mexico. Spanish is our language. However, all your comments, apply the same for the same problem in Spanish. Thank you very much.

Phil B (author)rlagod2016-12-27

Thank you for your comment. Somehow I missed it earlier.

Peterhead (author)2016-12-27

Well - I read your comments with interest! I loved the King James and found it a difficult journey towards the 'new' bibles, but I surprisingly now I don't want to go back. Instead I research the text that has 'changed' for me (often comparing with the KJV). I am disappointed that I haven't the confidence to claim any one 'new' version as MY Bible! Like you, I find that I tend to 'jump' from one version to another.

Thank you for this instructable. It was both enlightening and instructive.

Phil B (author)Peterhead2016-12-27

Thank you for your very kind comment. During the last five years I have been working at gaining more facility with the Hebrew I was required to study fifty years ago, but never really learned well enough to use. I have been doing that by means of a free app. named Blue Letter Bible on an iPad. The display is two-column, and I can choose any of several English versions to parallel the Hebrew text. Sometimes I use the King James Version. I am constantly amazed at how accurately it follows the text, even if the style of expression is sometimes very dated for modern readers. In 2011 National Geographic Magazine had a very interesting article on the world-wide influence of The King James Version over the last 400 years. I bought a print copy of the magazine in an airport. If you have not seen it, a library near you may well have it. Since retiring from regular service in a local congregation, I tend to use a German edition for most of my Bible reading because I would like to be more able with that language, too. One nice new English version is the Holman Christian Standard Bible. It comes as a free component of The Blue Letter Bible app.

Harlea Girl (author)2016-03-23

Yeah well the niv took words out of john 3:16

Phil B (author)Harlea Girl2016-03-23

There are Bible translations that sometimes leave out or alter a passage that does not fit the doctrinal stance of the translators. These are usually done by one denominational group for the purpose of supporting their unusual doctrinal positions. But, sincere and well-meaning people will also sometimes tell you words have been changed or left out by a particular translation when they have not. In step 8 I discussed fears people have about renderings of John 3:16. I encourage you to read that carefully. Also, you do not need simply to take someone's word for something. In Acts 17 the people in Berea went home and checked their Bibles to see if what Paul had preached was really in the Bible. (The Bible for those people was most likely the Greek Old Testament.) You can be like that if you use good resources available to all. I recommend you compare the version you see examining with an interlinear original language text. You can do that at bible hub (dot) com. There you will find a variety of versions, original language texts, interlinear word-for-word translations, and links to lexical resources to help you get a more complete sense of the meaning of a word as it is used in original biblical languages apart from how we might use it twenty centuries later.

Harlea Girl (author)2016-03-22

The KJV is the real bible

Phil B (author)Harlea Girl2016-03-22

I think I mentioned I did not want to start a King James only debate. I personally read the New Testament in the original Greek from which the King James was translated.

jmedeiros5 (author)2015-08-03

What do you think of a Bible which has restored all occurences of God´s name? For me it makes it more accurate than any other translation. That´s the one I use for my personal Bible study.

Phil B (author)jmedeiros52015-08-03

I assume you mean it uses "Yahweh" rather than LORD. I have used the WEB (World English Bible) based on the American Standard Version of 1901 by means of a free program named e-Sword. I always found it very accurate and good to use.

trike road poet (author)2014-07-23

Curious as to your thoughts on comparing the Geneva Bible to the KJV

Phil B (author)trike road poet2014-07-23

Thank you for the inquiry. I am really not familiar with the Geneva Bible firsthand. I have read only bits and pieces about it and can not give an informed opinion.

Vinstepula (author)2012-05-21

I like this instructable. I was kinda hesitant on reading it because I have seen many people stick to one version or another. You did a pretty good job. The message I got was to study multiple versions. While it is true the Bible has been translates multiple times and there could be more errors in it than we realize, I believe God will show us, through the spirit, what is truth. No matter how it is worded. Which is why I think it is important to pray while reading the Bible, no matter what versions.
I haven't read any other versions than KJV, but when I was a missionary teaching others, they usually used a different version. There are differences when it came to doctrine between different churches. But I wouldn't cry about it because if you are open to it, God will still lead you.

I admire that you have read the greek translation. I would love to read the Bible in greek and hebrew, only I don't know those languages.

Phil B (author)Vinstepula2012-05-22

Thank you for looking at this Instructable and for commenting. One of our teachers encouraged typing three or four different versions below each other line by line when working with a difficult passage. That was before computers. Today that would be much easier, or at least it would be easy to line up verses in parallel columns. Translations are commentaries in the sense that an expression in Hebrew may be very difficult to understand. The translator must make some choices based on what he believes the text intends. He could do that based on the context and what he believes would follow next. He could rely on the flow of a similar discussion in another part of the Old Testament. He could also do that based on how the Greek Septuagint rendered the passage. But, such translation difficulties pertain to very minor things, not to any important doctrines. (As an example, our Sunday morning Bible class just covered Judges 3:22. Does the text say Ehud's sword came out between Eglon's legs, or does it say the contents of Eglon's intestines came out around the hilt of the sword? The grammar of the Hebrew text makes it very difficult to know.) There have been people who have worked independently to learn some Greek or Hebrew. We also have good tools for people who have not studied those languages, like Strong's Numbers. I did another Instructable you might like. Click on this link. It will give you some good access to a very helpful tool for those without training in Greek and Hebrew. 

I have been grateful for the training I received in Greek and Hebrew. Both have been very helpful. I do wish I had worked harder at both, especially Hebrew, which I badly neglected over the years. But, Greek has always been more useful than Hebrew, at least to me.

God does guide our studies of His Word, and I believe blesses sincere attempts to sit under His tutelage through His Word. Often that comes in the form of expressions or mental pictures that enable communicating in clear ways that help our hearers better assimilate what we are trying to teach them.

parrster (author)2011-11-06

Thanks Phil, didn't read it all, but just wanted to commend you for a fine instructable (that which I did read at least :)
I have been very impressed by all your published content so far, keep up the good work, and God bless.

Phil B (author)parrster2011-11-07

Thank you, and God bless.

mdog93 (author)2011-07-06

have you ever read any of the street bible

Phil B (author)mdog932011-07-06

I have not. I had not heard of it, but found it at Amazon. There I saw a bit of Genesis 1. It reminds me of something I saw a number of years ago in a bookstore called "The Cottonpatch Bible." I suppose it would be categorized as a paraphrase, somewhat like Eugene Peterson's "The Message" or "The Living Bible."

mdog93 (author)Phil B2011-07-06

probably, it'd aimed at teenagers

Phil B (author)mdog932011-07-06

Do you like it and find it helpful?

mdog93 (author)Phil B2011-07-07

erm, hard to comment really. I think it is quite good, but then i do not particularly struggle to understand a standard bible, however, I know many my age or younger wouldn't understand the language used.

JohnJY (author)mdog932011-07-13

Look at the Revolution Bible for Guys in the New Living Translation, it's perfectly aimed at teens and is my favorite Bible to use.

cfullerton (author)JohnJY2011-07-15

the New Living Translation, isn't a translation at all.. it's a version... Highly inaccurate and very much a biased paraphrase. While it may be easy to read and understand, if what it says is incorrect, what good is it?

JohnJY (author)cfullerton2011-07-15

Please now, let's not get technical over this matter. Your comment is much like saying that people should not watch Veggie Tales. Veggie Tales is not accurate, but Veggie Tales is much better to connect with children then reading the rather graphic, but astounding book of Exodus. So in response. What good is Veggie Tales? Lots.

cfullerton (author)JohnJY2011-07-15

Satan likes it when you talk that way... "Let's not get technical... The Devil's in the details"... I disagree. Truth is truth. if you water it down, it's no longer truth.

While Veggie Tales, may be good stories, I refuse to watch them.. (Mostly because I can't stand singing vegetables but that's my problem) :-)

What if one of the Veggie tales characters told your kids that they don't have to listen to their parents? That they can learn everything they need from watching them (the Veggies) but they did it in a way that was very vague. Would it still be alright?

The English language has been steadily ruined over the past 100 years. Good means Bad and Bad means Good. (Gee isn't that a Bible Prophecy?) It's more important than ever to study an accurate Translation of the Bible and learn what's it REALLY Teaches.

static (author)cfullerton2011-09-25

The English language has deteriorated to the point where bad mean good, and good means bad, really? That has to be a matter of opinion. Matter of opinion is why there are multiple Bible Translation, and there may be up to 30K Christian denominations, each believing they know the truth.

cfullerton (author)static2011-09-25

My opinion? maybe but....

I would ask you to compare Dictionaries from say 50 years ago and today. Compare the words, Honor, Praise and Glory. Today they all mean the same thing. Worship. However, 50 years ago you'd understand the differences in these words. 50 years ago to get worship you'd have to combine all three terms. That is what I mean by saying the English language has deteriorated. Today's dictionaries have taken all the nuances out of the language.

To quote Pilate... "What is Truth?"

What's more important? Changing the Bible to reflect your beliefs or changing your beliefs to what the Bible actually says and teaches? Sadly, there is so much bias in many of today's popular translations. To support this comment, I recommend you read the book "Truth in Translation" by Jason BeDuhn. In his book, he compares many different translations along with how it reads in Greek and explains how Bias and inaccuracy has crept into some translations. Having a translation that is as accurate as possible is the key to finding Truth.

Disclaimer. It's not my intention to anger anyone here. only to inspire one to thought that there maybe another option to the way you see things. How do you know you have truth, if you never look at things from the other side?

Phil B (author)cfullerton2011-09-25

I am on my 13th time through the Greek New Testament, reading it cover-to-cover. Although I am far less capable in Hebrew, I have always been impressed with how good and how accurate the modern popular versions are in general. After nearly forty years as a pastor preparing sermons and Bible classes I need to dig into any variations that could affect meaning and translation. I just do not find any support for the position that modern translations are distortions. What I have presented aims to demystify issues related to translation. As I tried to stress in the beginning, my aim is not to get into what various groups try to do with their particular use of selected passages. Such things are related to hermeneutical (interpretive) principles, some of which are sound and some are not so sound.

cfullerton (author)Phil B2011-09-26

13 times is to be commended! I've only been through it once so far. I agree that for the most part just about all popular versions are 99% accurate. Bias doesn't get inserted on purpose. It enters into any translation via the translators held beliefs and background. It's difficult to not let this happen and with 99% accuracy all are to be commended. Please don't misunderstand me. For example. the NIV released a new revision earlier this year. One of the verses they updated was Habbakukk 1:12 My question above was how many will not use this revision because of that change in scripture? If you agree like I do, that there can be no contradiction in the Bible because it is "inspired of God" then this should definately change some beliefs. But will it? It depends on the condition of each person's heart as to if they will accept the change.

JohnJY (author)cfullerton2011-07-16

I understand that, but my point to make is the fact that telling a teenager that the only way he should study the Bible is to make sure his edition is true to life translations; It's not modern it wouldn't connect. Simpler language will not destroy the Bible if we use it simply for the effect of affecting the youth.

I also do not like you insulting both me or my knowledge. I was helping someone out, telling them that this version is modern, easy to read, easy to understand, a teen connecting his spiritual journey to another teen, and here comes you...

Holy good molly... I see your comments list, your spamming the nonsense out of this Instructable! Why? Oh great... a witness. Oh golly. Sir. I respect your religion. Keep talking and I will no longer. Good day.

gapostol (author)Phil B2011-07-11

What is the point of being a pastor if you "do not seek to convince anyone about what the Christian faith is or whether it is true, whether the Bible is God's word, nor who Jesus Christ is?"

Phil B (author)gapostol2011-07-12

You must understand proselytizing is not appropriate in this setting. I once did an Instructable on Learning New Testament Greek. One person commented that the title made him fear it would be an attempt to convert readers, but he was pleasantly surprised to see that it was a nice instructive guide. I did another that was a basic introduction to Christian symbols. It is an attempt to explain things we all often see in artwork and imagery, but may not recognize. I had several people accusing me in their comments of trying to promote my brand of religion, even though I tried to keep it very even handed and absent of proselytizing. If I had used this Instructable or the others I linked to promote a case for the Christian faith, I would have been widely flamed by numbers of readers, and rightly so. Chances are those Instructables would also have been removed as spam. 

drobins (author)Phil B2011-07-13

Thank you. As an agnostic, it's so much easier to listen to the pastors who teach ABOUT their religion, and let people come to the faith if it moves them, without shoving it down their throats. You seem like the type that would be able to have long, rational discussions about faith and religion without making someone uncomfortable about it, which I believe is really practicing the love you preach.

Phil B (author)drobins2011-07-13

Thank you. I have long tried to take a long, slow, rational approach. Many times over the years there have been things in all sorts of areas I needed to think about before I was ready to assent, and I did eventually change my thinking. You probably know the saying, "A man convinced against his will remains unconvinced still." I never appreciate someone trying to arm wrestle me into something I am not ready to endorse. BTW, if ever you would like to discuss some question with me, please feel free to send a private message. Thank you for looking and for commenting.

gapostol (author)Phil B2011-07-12

For there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby WE MUST BE SAVED (Acts 4:10-12). Salvation can only be found in the name of Jesus Christ. You CANNOT find salvation in the name of Allah. You CANNOT find salvation in the name of the Pope. You CANNOT find salvation in the name of Buddha. You CANNOT find salvation in the name of a religion or a denomination. You CANNOT find salvation in the name of an evangelist. You can only find salvation in the person of Jesus Christ. This is God’s plan. (now they can banned me)

kparton (author)2011-07-20

When I was very young I tried to read the Bible. The wording was very hard for me to understand, so I gave up. Old Testament books are still hard for me! I went for a time as an atheist, grew to an agnostic, then matured to a Christian. I eventually became a Mormon, which has required a greater commitment of me than I have sometimes wished. When I first began reading and studying, I found it difficult. What I found very helpful was to purchase multiple translations and read and study with all of them open. Although many of the versions aren't generally used in my church setting, or aren't "official", I find that modern language or red letters sometimes help me to better understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Phil B (author)kparton2011-09-25

Comparing versions as you do is a very good tactic and highly recommended for the person who has not had the opportunity to learn to read any of the biblical languages.

KellyCraig (author)2011-09-01

Re "Such changes are hardly large or significant," it would seem if there is an "insignificant" change in one place, it is likely there are others. It is such changes that sprout religions (e.g., Baptist, Catholic, Adventist, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.).

An example of the importance of even minor changes might be seen in the matter of celebrations, like Easter and Christmas (back to that game of telephone again), or trinity, security of the believer and other doctrine concepts.

These are not small matters. I know of a spouse who, while holding herself out as a pious Christian, was willing to divorce her husband because he would not celebrate Christmas for its pagan origins. Later, when he refused to believe Jesus prayed to himself, sat at his own right hand, handed the keys of the Kingdom back to himself and so forth, she did divorce him on her vague stances.

Phil B (author)KellyCraig2011-09-25

The changes, themselves, are not significant, but that does not keep individuals from excesses like you describe.

static (author)2011-09-25

In the end it really doesn't matter by what means you choose the Bible you will use. There will come a time when you will run into Christians that will tell you used went about it in the wrong way, and you chose to use the wrong Bible. Has always baffled, frustrated me that a book described as divinely inspire, and with out error has produced so many editions of itself, and so many Christian denominations, that sect seems a better term than denomination.

You took on a tough challenge Phil. I will not even attempt to judge how well you did in in fulfilling that challenge. Because it deals with faith, and respectfully no one alive knows the truth. Not like I'm shy about commenting. On some of your more down to Earth instructables I do know enough to comment on errors,and add additional information,and have.

Dumbhead (author)2011-07-28

Thank you for a well written and carefully researched Instructable. I found it interesting reading.

I noticed that although your page is headed by an image of the Tetragrammaton that you did not include some discussion on the frequency of the Tetragammation in the original bible texts, (more than 7000 times) and the translation options that have been presented to modern translators.

While not wanting to detract from any notes that you may wish to add, here is some information that some readers may find interesting.

The Tetragrmmaton is widely viewed as the personal name of God. It directly translates out to the letters YHVH (or YHWH) without vowel sounds, which were inserted by the reader. This required that the reader would know which vowel sounds to insert. However, over the years this knowledge has been lost, largely due to a growing more recent belief that the personal name of God is too sacred to pronounce. It is now common practice to use the substitution ‘Adonai’ (the Hebrew for 'Lord') or ‘LORD’ in many translations. Interestingly, this is possibly the only example of where the older Bible translations may be more accurate than the newer translations, since many of them, including the King James version make use of a popular rendition of the name of God. (Ps 83:18) Some modern versions of the Bible that do not use Gods name in the text explain why they chose not to in the Foreword or in the Translators notes.

While an admittedly contentious issue with many, the Bible itself in many places presents an explicit and clear Divine Mandate for stressing and publishing proper knowledge of God’s name. Here are two such instances:
Jeremiah 33:2 "YHVH Who made the earth, Who formed it and set it firm - YHVH is His Name - says this: 'Call to Me and I will answer you ...'"
Isaiah 12:4 "Give thanks to YHVH - call His Name aloud. Proclaim His deeds to the nations,declare His Name sublime. Sing of YHVH, for He has done marvelous things - let it be known to the whole world!".

Many hold that God’s personal name should be used more often in modern translations so as to conform with what may really be the more correctly interpreted instruction of Exod. 20:7 concerning the use of His Name: viz. "Do not make His Name worthless" "Lo tisah et Shem YHVH Eloheicha l'shav." By withholding the proclamation of His Name, we may well be guilty of "making His Name worthless."

Thanks again for your instructable.

KellyCraig (author)Dumbhead2011-09-01

And don't forget:

1) God's son said he would make his father's name known;

2) Some well known Bibles use "God" (upper case g) where the Teragrammaton was removed. Elsewhere, it is "god" (lower case).

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