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What Bible Should You Use? Pt. I
TUESDAY, MAY 05, 2009
Posted by: Reformation Church | more..
53,550+ views | 210+ clicks
"Would you be able to send me any documentation that explains the differences between the King James Version and other popular versions of the Bible?" -- a recent e-mail

You ask a good question! The Westminster Confession of Faith (1:8) says,

"The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of Old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by His singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as in all controversies of religion, the Church is finally to appeal unto them. But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar** language of every nation unto which they come, that the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship Him in an acceptable manner, and through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope."

**"Vulgar" here means "common."

Bibles can be divided into two major kinds: 1) Those based on ancient manuscripts and 2) those based on paraphrases. Examples of (1) are the King James Version (KJV), the American Standard Version (ASV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), Revised Standard Version (RSV), New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), New International Version (NIV), English Standard Version (ESV) and some others. Examples of (2) are the Living Bible, Good News Bible, The Message, New Living Translation, and others. Every few years we get a new version of a (1) or (2) type, mostly (2)'s since paraphrases are far easier to churn out; all it takes is someone with a Bible and something to write with.

(1) Bibles are concerned, some more than others, with giving a literal translation. Paraphrases start with some (1) version of the Bible and put it into different words in a way the paraphraser thinks will get the meaning across ("dynamic equivalence" or "thought-for-thought") -- at least, what the parphraser or the committee thinks is the meaning. You can see the obvious problem here: What a paraphrased Bible says reflects the theology of the people writing it.

So the first decision someone has to make is, "do I want to use a paraphrased Bible or one based on manuscripts? Do I want to read the words God wrote or what someone thinks is the meaning?" To answer that, another question comes up, because paraphrased Bibles have, as you would expect, major differences: "If a paraphrase, which one?" The bottom line if you use a paraphrase is, whom do you trust to tell you what the Bible is saying?

Paraphrases are a new phenomenon. As I recall, the first one was the Living Bible, written by Kenneth Taylor. He composed it from the American Standard Version in the 1960s and did much of it while on a commuter train back and forth to work in Chicago.

The church through the centuries has, until the past 40 years or so, always used (1) Bibles. Of course, before the invention of printing, scribes had to hand-write a Bible, which took months, so they were very scarce and very expensive. But they, too, were based on ancient manuscripts.

Someone who believes that the very words of the Bible are there because God wanted those very words used, not the opinions of men no matter how educated and pious they may be, will not want to use a paraphrase. II Tim. 3:16 says, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God..." Literally, "Scripture" is the "inscription," the writing down, of words. "Inspiration" literally means "breathed out" (an English word that comes from the Greek same Greek word is "respiration"). So the Bible itself says that the very words are breathed out by God. "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Pet. 1:21).

Words are very important to God. Take a concordance and look up "word of God" and "word of the Lord." You will soon realize how important words are -- His revelation is called the "word" over and over again. Of course, Jesus Christ is called the "Word of God" (Jn. 1:1; Rev. 19:13).

The mistake the paraphrasers make is to believe (if they even believe this) that the teachings of Scripture are inspired by God, but the actual words are not. Yet II Tim. 3:16 says the words are inspired. And it is the words that give us the teachings.

I wouldn't want to stand before God and have to tell Him why I thought my words were better than His, so I wrote a paraphrase.

I wonder if paraphrasers have any pangs of conscience when they come to Rev. 22:18-19: "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." How can they blithely go ahead and paraphrase THAT??!!

Now let's deal with (1) Bibles, those based on manuscripts, not on somebody's idea of what the Bible means. BTW, the controversy about (1) Bible versions is really over New Testament versions. The OT is a settled issue.

Continued in "What Bible Should You Use? Pt. II":

W. J. Mencarow
Pastor, Reformation Church


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