Is that the right translation?

I spoke with a colleague today that had a French exam yesterday. He felt confident that he passed, but still hasn’t received his grade yet. When he asked me if I spoke French, I told him the long story: I took a semester of French and a year of Spanish in high school. In college, I studied Spanish again. However, I soon found myself traveling the world with the military; and in Egypt I tried to learn Arabic; in Korea, I picked up some Hangul. Soon after, I found myself in Seminary studying Hebrew and Greek. Needless to say, I’m glad (and lucky) I can still speak English.

All that to say, which Bible is right? I mean after all, there are soooooo many translations out there!

So which Bible is truly the right one? Well, first let’s go to the history of how the Bible was created. Remember, that “all Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). Following 1500 years, and 40 authors, in 382 AD a church council (of sorts) was formed to pull together all the relevant documents of text that we now call the “Bible.”

But let’s not forget, as someone recently pointed out to me, that even BEFORE experts pulled together all the books of the Bible, they were still Scripture. We know that Jesus read from Scripture in Luke 4:16 – “He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and He stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to Him.” He read, and all present were marveled at His words. Then in response He spoke again: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21 ESV).

We also need to remember that these scrolls/letters were originally written in different languages: Hebrew (Old Testament), some Aramaic (Daniel, Ezra, …), and Greek (New Testament). Throughout the ages, these original texts (scrolls) were translated into a myriad of languages individually. During the Protestant Reformation (1517), Martin Luther (a Catholic priest and monk) had the Bible translated into German, and the invention of the printing press allowed the Bible to be further distributed to the lay church in mass production. In 1546, the Roman Catholic Church declared the Latin version (Latin Vulgate Bible) as the official and authentic Bible. Then in 1611 King James had the Bible translated into English.

The Bible specifically states for no one to add or take away from the Words of the Bible (Deuteronomy 4:2, Proverbs 30:6, Revelation 22:18-19). That being said, many experts have spent years translating and updating a variety of translations to include the most popular recent releases such as the NLT (1996), ESV (2001), HCSB (2004), TNIV (2005), and the Message (2002).

So, which one is right? While I don’t support any particular translation, I will say that each version has its pros and cons. What I think is most important is that we take time to study a Christian Bible, no matter what translation you use. The only recommendation I would suggest is to stray from “paraphrased translations” such as the Living Bible or the Message, as they do not translate direct words or language, although they are sometimes more readable.


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