Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Ever have the question of which bible should I pick? There are so many to choose from. I have to admit, it can get confusing and I have spent many a moon researching this dilemma. The bible is translated to over 690 languages and sells over 100 million copies each year, I found there are well over 100 different versions. Such as the King James, The American Standard, and the New International just to name a few. 

People often use the terms translation and version interchangeably, which is not correct. Translations have to do with languages, versions have to do with classification. We can have an English Bible version with many different translations. The Bible was written centuries ago using manuscripts that were in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. There are a number of manuscripts available. There are more than 5,800 New Testament Manuscripts in Greek, 10,000 Old Testament manuscripts in Hebrew, and more than 19,000 copies of manuscripts in Coptic, Latin Aramaic, and Syriac languages. All current Bibles today were translated from one or all three of these original languages. the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and some Aramaic, while the New Testament was written mostly in Greek with some portions written in Hebrew Aramaic and Latin.

We also have many versions and translations due to church doctrines and Changes in Language. A good example would be the King James Version which was authored many centuries ago. Our use of wording has changed drastically since that era. As time moves forward, words change in meaning for example in the King James version the word suffer meant ‘permit’ or ‘allow’. Today most would not know this because the word ‘suffer’ has a different meaning. Therefore when we read in the King James Bible the word suffer is usually not translated correctly and the verse gives us the wrong idea as to what is being spoken. This can lead to many misconceptions and wrong conclusions.


Exodus 12:23

King James Version (KJV word for word)

Manuscript: Masoretic TextTextus Receptus, Tyndale 1526 NT, some Erasmus manuscripts, and Bezae 1598 TR.

23 For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.

New International Version (NIV thought for thought)

Manuscript: Masoretic Text, Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament (based on Westcott-Hort, Weiss, and Tischendorf, 1862).

23 When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.

New Standard Revised Version (NSRV word for word)

Manuscript: Masoretic Text, Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament.

23 For the Lord will pass through to strike down the Egyptians; when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over that door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you down.

Complete Jewish Bible (CJB  thought for thought )

Manuscript: Paraphrase of the Jewish Publication Society of America Version (Old Testament), and from Greek (New Testament) text.

23 For Adonai will pass through to kill the Egyptians; but when he sees the blood on the top and on the two sides, Adonai will pass over the door and will not allow the Slaughterer to enter your houses and kill you.

The last reason why we can have many different bible versions is the unearthing of New discoveries. Archeologists and historians are constantly making new discoveries of manuscripts, ancient writings, and artifacts that call for an updated bible version.

So how does all this bible version stuff work?

Bible versions are divided into three classifications 

word-for-word or literal

thought-for-thought or dynamic

paraphrased also known as a free translation

You can sometimes look at the Bible version introductory pages, and it will explain which approach was used in translating it. 

Let’s look at the different classifications that determine the translation for the different versions.

The word-for-word or literal versions: tries to keep the exact phrases and words of the original text. It stays very loyal to the original manuscript, but it can be hard to read and understand. It does not seek historical facts or customs. Examples are the Young Literal Version, The Holy Bible in Modern English, the New American Standard Bible ( NASB), and King James Version ( KJV)

The thought for thought or dynamic versions: They can be valuable in putting the Scriptures into more understandable wording. it seeks to maintain a historical distance concerning facts and history. This Translation updates the grammar and writing style. Good examples are Revised English Bibles ( REB) and the New International Version ( NIV). a verse example is in 2 Timothy 2:15. In the KJV, the verse says, “Study to show thyself approved.” In the New International Version, this verse has changed to read: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved.”

Paraphrased Bibles or free translation: This Translates all the ideas from the original manuscript, but the original language or words are not the concern. It attempts to remove the historical aspects. It is easy to read but is not precise. Examples are The Message Bible, The Amplified Bible, Contemporary English Version, Philips Bible, and The Living Bible ( TLB)

Decision Time?

So with all this said a person who is trying to find a better understanding of the bible should think about having a few different versions to be able to compare and understand the translations more accurately.  I use the KJV and the NRSV for the literal,  the CJB, and NIV for the thought for thought. These bible versions for myself have given me a more complex perspective of what the manuscripts are actually trying to teach us from an ancient cultural standpoint. Culture and traditions have drastically changed over time so it helps to understand the audience so we can be more in tune with the mindset of those times.  Also, even though the new testament was written primarily in greek the writers were mostly Jewish with a Jewish mindset. We should keep in mind to approach the bible from the customs and traditions of the writer’s mindset and era, not our 21st-century mindset. 

So in conclusion no matter what Bible version you choose the most important thing is to read it. I hope this article will help you to make a better decision on choosing your bible. Below is a wiki link that shows various charts of the different bibles. I like the complete bible chart for the many different bible versions to choose from.


Feature image courtesy of Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Categories: Bible Talk


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