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Can Bible Translations Be Trusted

Something surprised me during my first term at Highland’s College when we were learning about Biblical translations. Maybe you are like me and think every translation is just an updated revision of the King James Version. I don’t know; perhaps I was the only one who believed that, but I realized my assumption was wrong.

I will NOT say that I am an expert in Biblical translations, but I have learned quite a lot about how the Bible came to be and how it was translated. There is more information than you would want to read in one blog post, but you can research a little further and I will write more posts about different topics in the future.This is my attempt to give you a general understanding of how translations come about.

The original scrolls were written in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, depending on whether it was the Old or New Testament. So, translations are unavoidable. Unless you want to learn to read Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic, you will need a version of the Bible you can understand. A translation is just transferring the message from one language to another. The translators look at the text and ask if the original writer or speaker was creating the equivalent text in my language and how they would convey the same information with the same intentions.

In addition to the King James Version (KJV), we also have the New International Version (NIV), the English Standard Version (ESV), and many more translations to choose from. So what are the differences, and can “newer” Bible translations be trusted?

First, the translations are not just revised versions of the King James Translation. The New King James and a few others are, however, revised editions of their translations; but instead of being revisions, the New International Version and others go back to the original Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic scrolls to create their translations. So, each translation is new. That doesn’t mean that the information contained in each translation is different. Great care is taken, and the scholars and scribes creating the versions are taking the utmost care to keep the original intent and message.

a women with her back to the camera reading the Bible

Second, there are different approaches to translation. Some versions are word-for-word, meaning they try to convey each word from the original text to a word in the language they are creating. That isn’t always precisely possible because other languages do not always have comparable words. They get as close to the original word and meaning as possible. These translations are a little more complex to read and might not have a great flow for your daily bible reading. This is an excellent translation for your Bible study. Then, we have the thought-for-thought approach; those translations try to convey the thought from the original text, which is a little easier to read. I will write a new blog post in the future, going into this topic more in-depth. For now, know the English Standard Version (ESV) is a tremendous word-for-word translation, the New Living Translation (NLT) is a great thought-for-thought, and the New International Version (NIV) is a middle-of-the-road. I prefer the NIV for my daily reading and the ESV for my deep study. Then we have the message Bible, which I don’t think of as an actual translation; instead, I think of it as a commentary. I used it as a supplemental reading to help me if I struggled to understand something in the text.

You can trust the different translations because they come from the original language and great care is taken to be sure the information is correct. There are different ways that they translate the words so they might be easier to read, but the original message is still conveyed. I suggest reading the scripture in different versions. This gives you a rounded understanding of what you are reading. The great thing in our world today is in one single app, we can have all the versions at our fingertips.

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