Which Bible Translation Is The Best?
I went to a Christian high school. They provided about what you would expect from a Christian school. We had Bible class every morning. We were expected to memorize Scripture each week. We had a time of worship every Friday. They even had a Church service on the School property each Sunday for those who did not otherwise have a Church home. Overall, this was a wonderful school. I loved my instructors, and I loved my fellow students. However, as I have become older and more mature in my faith, I have come to find myself in disagreement with what the school taught on some non-essential issues. One of these issues is the best translation of the Bible.
You see, my high school was a King James Version Only high school. We were taught that every translation except the King James Version was corrupted. The NIV was especially called out on a regular basis as being compromised. When we memorized Scripture, it had to be from the King James Version. While I used other versions in my study of Scripture, the only version that I dared to take to school was a King James Version. Occasionally, I could get away with the New King James Version, but this was not something that I pushed my luck on.
The question in front of me was this: Is the King James Version the most reliable English translation? If it is, then I should use it exclusively. If it is not, then I need to know which Bible is, in fact, the best translation. I should say from the outset that I like the King James Version. I am not against using the King James Version. I sometimes read from the King James Version myself. I am not opposed to others using the King James Version. However, as I began to investigate the question for myself, I discovered that the King James Version is not necessarily the most accurate translation in many regards. It is not a bad translation by any stretch of the imagination. It just isn't as accurate in some regards as others. It should also be noted here that, in the areas where the King James Version is not the most accurate, there is no major doctrine of the Christian faith that is in question. I am not against using the King James Version. What I am against, now that I have seen the evidence, is the claim that the King James Version is the ONLY reliable English translation, or that it is the ONLY uncorrupted version of the Bible in the English language. The textual evidence simply does not support this claim.
This leads us to the main question that I want to address in this post: Which Bible translation is the best? Before I give my answer, I want us to note that, although there are different styles that are used in translation, nearly all modern translations have the same goal in mind: To help the reader understand the message that Scripture presents. This is the case whether a translation uses a "word-for-word" translation, or whether it uses a "thought-for-thought" translation. We can debate the pros and cons of each type of translation, but suffice for now to say that the purpose of these translations is the same purpose that the translators of the King James Version themselves had: To provide a Bible in a common language that people can understand.
So which Bible translation is the best? The simple answer is this: The best Bible translation is the one that you read and which strives to be faithful to the text.
As I mentioned earlier, nearly every modern translation strives to be faithful to the message of Scripture. While there are exceptions (ie, The Passion Translation), most modern translations are fine to use.
The most important thing, however, when it comes to the study of the Bible is that you actually read the Bible. If the statistics that I have read are any indication, it appears that the practice of reading Scripture on a regular basis is slowly dying. The person who doesn't read their Bible has no advantage over the person who cannot read their Bible. They both gain the same amount of instruction from their own personal reading of Scripture: Zero.
My advice: Find a Bible translation that you will read regularly. It matters less whether or not you choose the ESV, NIV, KJV, NKJV, AMP, or the NASB. The important thing is that you read it, study it, learn from it, obey it, and pass its message on to others. Discuss Scripture, and grow in the faith alongside your brothers and sisters in Christ, and be open to God using you for his glory.
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