An ISOM online student recently asked “which version of the Bible should I use?” I recognized this was an excellent question, and one that is probably asked often by students of the Bible. Here is the response I gave her:
There are many versions used throughout the ISOM. We never put any restriction on the teachers. The ones that many people like and prefer are the New King James Bible, the New Living Translation (one of my personal favorites) and Joyce Meyer loves the Amplified Bible. Some use NIV and American Standard and some a mixture of different versions.
Each student can add their own research and look into whatever version best speaks to them but we do suggest that people look at multiple translations and sometimes at the original words to get the most accurate understanding of a passage.
Over 30 years ago I attended a church that was King James only so I understand that mindset. Later at university God rebuked me for that position with the following prophetic word. He said “Woe unto you my children because you look at the letter of My Word and NOT the love that is in it.” I repented on the spot and have never held that dogmatic stand since then.”
When Brad saw my response to Dorothy, he asked me to enlarge in this topic for a blog. This is a very valid question from Dorothy because I am NOT endorsing ALL translations and ALL versions of the Bible.”
I am saying that where there is ambiguity or major differences between translations, that we NEED to search deeper for the meaning. Here are TWO major questions to answer when looking for TRUE meaning:
1. What was the source of the original Hebrew and Greek texts for the translation?
Here I want to draw on a very helpful article and I have included the URL where I found it below. I will draw out just the section dealing with original texts that I feel is relevant:
Three important issues must be understood and addressed when discussing the translation of the Bible from one language to another: first, the reliability of the document being translated; second, the knowledge and skill of the translators and third, the philosophy of translation (formal or dynamic equivalence). On all counts, the King James Bible still stands supreme. In 1881, influenced by and sympathetic to the Darwinian theory of evolution, two men, Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton J. A. Hort brought forth a different version of the Greek New Testament — one which differed from the Textus Receptus (the underlying Greek text of the KJV) in over 5,700 places.
This Westcott-Hort Greek Text was later to become the basis for the English Revised Version and the American Standard Version. It gave great weight to two corrupted manuscripts—the Vaticanus (Codex B) which was found in the Vatican Library in 1481 and was known to the KJV translators but was not used by them, and the Sinaiticus (Codex Aleph) which was found in a monastery wastebasket at the foot of Mt. Sinai in 1844. The Vaticanus and Sinaiticus appear to have been copied from the same source in the 4th Century and held great weight with Westcott and Hort due to their antiquity. Tischendorf, who discovered the Sinaiticus manuscript, noted at least 12,000 changes that had been made on this manuscript by other than the original copyist. It is difficult to understand why such documents as these could lead one to ignore the simple fact that the Greek text underlying the King James Version, the Textus Receptus, agreed with 90-95% of all known Scripture-related manuscripts, numbering over five thousand.
What is important to note here is that the source Hebrew and Greek documents are the reason there is such a strong belief in many Christian circles that the King James version is a more accurate version. There is a lot of scholarship showing that the Textus Receptus manuscripts used for the original King James Version are very likely more sound and more accurate than The Vaticanus and Sinaiticus manuscripts used for a lot of the more modern translations. This is also the reason why I use the New King James version, which used those same source documents, as my primary source of Scripture accuracy. I have found also that the New Living Translation (NLT) often does an excellent job of clarifying the New King James translation and is even more readable. These two versions are my personal primary sources of Bible reading and study. I then use a Strong’s Concordance whenever I want to delve into the original Greek and Hebrew words. The Strong’s is an excellent tool to help get to the root meanings in Bible verses.
2. Was there a doctrinal agenda with the original translators?
Remember that the Scripture EVERY Bible translator should fear is this one from the Book of Revelation:
“ For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (22:18-19)
Nobody should be adding or taking away from the original text of what God gave us in the Scriptures. My wife was speaking with her uncle Jim many years ago and they were talking about salvation. She wanted to refer to John 3:16 and he pulled out his Masonic Bible. The famous salvation verse was completely missing from his Masonic Bible.
There are versions of the Bible that simply leave out sections and verses or change major verses to reflect their agenda. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have a version called the New World Translation and their doctrinal positions are VERY different from traditional Christianity. Here are four heresies taught in their version of the Bible:
(1) that God is not a Trinity, (2) that Jesus Christ did not physically rise from the dead, (3) that there will be no literal and physical Second Coming of Christ, and (4) that there will be no place of eternal torment for the wicked.
The Masonic Bible and New World Translations are just TWO examples of dangerous translations of the Scriptures and there are many others. The people who created these versions had a doctrinal agenda and they skewed the translations to fit their agenda. This is especially true when ANY translation tries to mess with the foundational doctrines of the Trinity and the deity of Jesus Christ, then one needs to stay far away from them. Jesus was fully God and fully man and He is the second person of the godhead, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. ALL cults will try and deviate from the foundational truth that Jesus is GOD. That is why we teach this doctrine UP FRONT in the ISOM.
As a help to my Bible reading and study, I love to use the Bible App YouVersion created by a guy called Bobby Gruenewald. It is a fantastic tool that has great Bible reading programs. I personally have a group of more than a dozen people reading THE ONE YEAR BIBLE plan put together by Tyndale House Publishers. It is based on the New Living Translation but you can touch the listed version and it will offer you over 60 other English versions to choose from. It also gives you access to all kinds of International languages and versions and to many great study tools.
So in conclusion, while we don’t fight over versions, we ARE careful with versions that come with a doctrinal agenda OR with versions that draw on questionable Hebrew and Greek original sources. Whenever you have questions, pull out a Strong’s Concordance and look at the original Greek and Hebrew words. Check out different versions and the Amplified to get an enlarged sense of the meaning and, if you still have questions, ask a mature believer for their insight and understanding. I hope this short blog helps you in your study of God’s Word.
Dr. Berin Gilfillan – ISOM Founder