Overview of Bible Study

Bible Versions


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So many versions, how do we choose?How do We Choose?

There are so many versions, which is right? Although there are still those who will insist on the King James Version, also known as the KJV, an important trend during the 20th and 21st centuries has been an abandonment of this longstanding tradition in favor of the KJV.

Among Catholic translations, an important change is in the use of the original languages rather than the Vulgate as a basis for translation.

With the discovery of older and better manuscripts, giving the translator a more accurate basis for translation, the Bibles of today may be closer to the original intent of the author than were those of a hundred years ago.

Earlier translations such as the KJV didn't have the advantages of these newer discoveries. The KJV was dependent upon a translation from the Middle Ages which had been corrupted as they were copied and recopied by hand through the ages. With access to manuscripts that are, in some cases, less than a century removed from the original, modern translators are able to produce translations that are truer to what the apostles and other authors of the Bible intended.

Another reason for the revisions of the English language translations of the Bible is that our language is in constant flux. Words become obsolete as others come into common use. Others change their meaning over time.

Nevertheless, older translations and revisions of the Bible remain in use today. Not a few Christians and Christian churches insist upon the use of the King James Version exclusively, while other versions have their own supporters.

However, I think that it is accurate to say that most of us use the version that is easiest for us to read and to understand, and that this will differ from one person to another.

For general purposes, I use the New American Standard Bible (NASB), but am equally comfortable with the New International Version (NIV). For more indepth Bible study, I often use Young's Literal Translation of the Holy Bible. Having grown up with the King James Version, I might turn to it for its more poetic handling of the Psalms and other Scripture.

Bible Translations

Often, we hear people talk about a translation as if it were the original Bible, and about manuscripts as if they were the original writings, yet there is a significant difference between the manuscripts of the Bible, written in Hebrew and Greek, and translations of the Bible.

The "originals" are the actual writings of the authors of the books of the Bible. None of these exist today.

When someone refers to a "manuscript," they are usually referring to Hebrew and Greek copies, of which there are thousands in existence.

There are also manuscripts of ancient translations of the Bible in languages such as Latin, Syriac, and Coptic, but these belong to a separate category called "ancient versions."

A translation is produced when the Hebrew and Greek text is translated into any number of other languages, including the English translation that you have on your shelf, or at your bedside.

Defining Translations

There are two basic theories of Bible translation

  1. Formal equivalence, also known as a literal translation, where the translator tries to render the exact words of the original language.
  2. Dynamic (or functional) equivalence, where the translator attempts to render the natural equivalent of the source language.

Another way of looking at the differences in these theories of translations is to consider the first to be a word-for-word translation, while the latter is a thought-for-thought translation.






Overview of Bible Study