4 Tips for Buying an Accurate Bible

Updated on July 12, 2019
Doneta Wrate profile image

I have a Health Science BS from a Christian college. I have been a Christian since a teenager, studying the Bible every day.

Outline

1. Dilemma of Having Many Modern Bible Translations

2. The 3 Methods for Translating Bibles

3. 3 Ways to Test a Verse's Accuracy

4. A Key Verse to Finding the Oldest Translations

5. Video on Bible Translations and Manuscripts

6. References

The word-for-word translations are closer to the original languages and better for deep study of the Bible.
The word-for-word translations are closer to the original languages and better for deep study of the Bible. | Source

Dilemma of Having Many Modern Bible Translations

How many of you Bible students have faced this problem. You are at a group Bible study. A verse is presented to discuss and everyone looks it up. One person reads the verse. Someone with a different translation says,"My Bible doesn't say that. It says something completely different!" Having so many different Bible translations is presenting some problems. How can one verse say completely different things? Is the Bible unreliable?

The key to understanding the different meanings in the same verse is to understand the different 3 different translation methods.

2 Different Translation Methods

This is a diagram of translations ranging from word-for-word to thought-for-thought and paraphrase
This is a diagram of translations ranging from word-for-word to thought-for-thought and paraphrase | Source

The 3 Methods of Translating Bibles

The reason for the differences in the reading of the same verse is the various methods of translations. There are basicly three different methods of translations: formal, dynamic and paraphrased.

Formal Translations

The formal translation is the most accurate method of translation. A group of Hebrew and Greek scholars translate the text word for word as a team. This allows for the least room for individual interpretation slipping into the text. Such translations are listed here:

  • King James Version
  • New King James Version
  • Amplified Bible
  • Young's Literal Translation

Dynamic Translations

The dynamic translators are also Hebrew and Greek scholars who get together as a team. But instead of translating word for word they translate the thought of each phrase. They take a phrase or a verse and express it the best they can in modern language. This does allow room for individual beliefs to slip in. The main problem with a few of the dynamic translations is that many whole verses are left out. This is especially true with the New International Version which has many missing verses. Another such translation is the New Living Translation.

The dynamic versions are translated from manuscripts of the fourth and fifth century. They call these manuscripts reliable and ancient. But there are older manuscripts from the second and third centuries. These are the manuscripts the formal translations are made from.

Paraphrased Bibles

A paraphrased translation of the Bible does not require any scholarly credentials or deep knowledge of Hebrew or Greek. They are translated by one author instead of a team of scholars. The author writes the Bible passages according to what he believes it is saying. Paraphrases depict the translators own theological beliefs. Each of the authors of the three paraphrases mentioned here advise their Bible not to be used from the pulpit or as study Bibles but just for casual reading and alongside a more accurate Bible. The Living Bible is a Baptist paraphrase by Kenneth Taylor. The Message Bible is a Presbyterian paraphrase by Eugene Peterson. The Clear Word Bible is an Adventist paraphrase by Jack Blanco.

Old Testament Quote in New Testament

The New Testament has many Old Testament quotes in it.  Many, but not all, center column references will give you the reference for the Old testament verse.  Here Matthew 4:4 is quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3.
The New Testament has many Old Testament quotes in it. Many, but not all, center column references will give you the reference for the Old testament verse. Here Matthew 4:4 is quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3. | Source

3 Ways to Test a Verses Accurancy

If faced with the same verse translated differently in separate Bible versions, how can you tell which one is the most accurate? Here are three pointers to look at:

  1. Is the New Testament verse quoted from the Old Testament. Many verses in the New Testament are Old Testament quotes. Check the center column reference to find the Old Testament source of the verse. Then you can compare how the verse was translated. Often, but not always, the center column reference will have the Old Testament source. If one Bible does not have it, check another. The last time I did this, I had to check three Bibles before I found it.
  2. Get out your concordance and compare what all the Bible authors have to say on the subject. For example, if the subject of the verse is the law, see what all the authors have to say on the law.
  3. If ten texts are clear on a certain subject, don't let one verse create confusion on the subject. Follow the ten texts that agree with each other. As your understanding grows, the confusion around the one text may clear up in the future.

Translation "do His commandments"

This King James Version says "keep his commandments."  This translation is from manuscripts of the second and third centuries.
This King James Version says "keep his commandments." This translation is from manuscripts of the second and third centuries. | Source

Key Verse to Older Translations

If going to a book store to buy a new Bible, how can you tell which are the formal translations made from the older transcripts. There is a simple way. Read Revelation 22:14: Blessed are they that do the commandments of God, that they may have right to the tree of life, and enter into the gates of the city. The phrase "keep the commandments of God" is the key. The older manuscripts from the second and third centuries say "keep the commandments of God." But the dynamic translations from the fourth and fifth centuries translate this as "wash their robes." This phrase "wash their robes" can have any number of different spiritual meanings. But it is clear what "do the commandments of God" means. The translations that say "do the commandments" are the formal translations from the older manuscripts.

Translation "wash their robes"

This translation "wash their robes" is from the more recent fourth and fifth century manuscripts.
This translation "wash their robes" is from the more recent fourth and fifth century manuscripts. | Source

Video on Bible Translations

The dynamic translations are okay for casual reading or getting a big picture overview of a book. But for serious deep Bible study the formal translations from the older manuscripts are best. The word for word direct translation allows for the least amount of human opinion to slip in. Four of the formal translations are King James, New King James, Amplified and Youngs Literal Translation.

In the you tube video below Jeff Dowell gives a talk on Bible translations and manuscripts.

Bible Translations and Manuscripts

Choice of Bible Translations

Which is Your Favorite Bible Translation?

See results

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Doneta Wrate

    Comments

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      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        2 months ago from UK

        This is an interesting article. I grew up reading the Good News Bible.As a child the stick illusrations probably appealed to me and the simpler language. For the past 35 years I have used the New International Version, which is widely used in the UK.

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