Q: What is the best translation of the Bible?
Answer: The answer depends on the reader’s intentions.
Translations can be described as being word-to-word or thought-to-thought.
The New American Standard Bible which has word-to-word accuracy tends to be more difficult to read. The thought-to-thought approach is easier to understand.
The New International Version is a combination of both approaches and very popular.
Both versions of the King James Bible include poetic language and remain favorites.
The main point is to read and study the Bible of choice and discuss ideas with ministers and study-group members.
When reading to a congregation, I prefer the King James Bible for the beauty of the language; when studying, I use a literal translation. I have to admit that over the years I have almost worn out my Jerusalem Bible.
The Bible can be found in 438 languages. Presently, there are 350 different versions of the Bible.
In the U.S., 20 million Bibles are sold each year. In 2018, the Gideon’s International association distributed 59.46 million Bibles worldwide.
A large percentage of people in America report that they read the Bible each day.
For more biblical statistics, go to the website of Brandon Gaille at https://brandongaille.com and search for “Bible.”
While on the topic of biblical translations, I decided to review some of the history of the Bible.
Hebrew, Aramaic and Koine Greek were the original biblical languages. The first known translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek is called the Septuagint. The oldest surviving copy of the complete Bible, the Codex Vaticanus, is from the Greek text and is housed in the Vatican library. It was written on parchment paper in the fourth century.
Later in the fourth century, Pope Damasus I, asked St. Jerome to revise the earlier works. Jerome’s Vulgate was used in the liturgy of the church for many years.
The word vulgate means “common.” based on the fact that Jerome used the colloquial language of the Romans.
The Latin Bible caused a problem for European Christians who wanted the people to have access to the Bible in their own languages.
In the 12th and 13th centuries, demands for different translations came from non-Catholic groups.
In the 16th century, Martin Luther, a German priest and theologian recognized the increasing demand from Protestant Christians to read God’s words in their own language. The Geneva Bible, an English translation published in 1560 widely used by Protestants, was the first Bible to use chapters and numbered verses, and the King James Bible, also an English translation, was completed by men appointed by James I in 1611.
As we hold any Bible in our hands, we should realize that the translations have required many scholars working for years. We need to remember the cost of many who devoted their lives to the Christian story and translations of the Bible.
In scripture, we read about Jesus’ cruel crucifixion and the horrific deaths of some disciples as they spread the words of Jesus. Later, the struggles among church leaders and theologians included accusations of heresy and death. I have space to comment on only two men of the many whose beliefs and works are important to the history of the Bible.
John Wycliffe challenged the Catholic Church because he believed that scripture was the way to understand God. Reliance on the Bible instead of popes and the church made him an enemy. His contribution was his Wycliffe Bible, a translation from the Latin Vulgate into Middle English. He was charged with heresy; but, in 1384, he died before he could be punished.
William Tyndale was a priest and scholar who work on an English translation of the New Testament. He wanted to spread the messages of Christ and to clarify the idea of justification by faith. His translation was important to later translators. He was accused of heresy, strangled to death and then burned in 1536. Readers can find more information in Christianity Today, Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Catholic Encyclopedia.
Thoughts of those who made sacrifices for Bible and Christianity should fill Christians with gratefulness.
When I hold the Bible given to me by my father before I entered Duke Divinity School, I cherish the memory of my parents and the line my father wrote inside, “Feed my sheep, your fellowman.”
Scripture should not be used to judge or condemn others. God is the judge. We are pilgrims on a journey; faith, grace and scripture will lead us to the Holy Truth.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” — John 1:1