By: L. Ray Smith
I am continually asked which Bible Version is the best? My answer is: There is no best. There are good and better, but how does one know just which one is the best? I use many, and I find them all helpful at times.
Many people believe that understanding the Scriptures has to do with having a “perfect translation” of the Scriptures. I try to tell them that there is no such thing as a “perfect” translation. And even if you read Hebrew and Greek fluently, it is still no guarantee that you will understand what you are reading.
Truth be known, millions who believe that the King James, for example, is a perfect inerrant translation have not a clue as to what is involved in translating from one language to another. It may be possible to translate a few specific words almost perfectly from one language to another. But once we get into whole sentences, paragraphs, pages, and whole books (written by different people over a period of many centuries, in ancient languages), the task is almost daunting. When considering the enormity of the task, I believe most translators of most Versions have done a satisfactory job.
That is not to say there aren’t problems with all Versions. But thank God there are many copies of the Greek, and some copies of the Hebrew manuscripts which makes it possible to come pretty close to the mind of God in most areas of the Scriptures.
There are four stern warnings in the Scriptures with regards to adding to or taking away from the Word of God:
- “For I testify unto every man that hears the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall ADD unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.
And if any man shall take away from the WORDS of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book”(Rev. 22:18-19).
- “You shall not ADD unto the word which I command you, neither shall you DIMINISH ought from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you” (Deut. 4:2).
- “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: you shall not ADD thereto, nor DIMINISH from it” (Deut. 12:32).
- “Every word of God is PURE: He is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him. ADD YOU NOT unto His words, lest He reprove you, and you be found a liar” (Prov. 30:5-6).
Surely God did not sternly warn against adding to or taking away from His Word, while knowing it would never happen. Of course it has happened. But the immature absolutely refuse to believe it. They argue God is able to preserve His Word without error. And surely He is able, but that does not detract from the fact that men have indeed tampered with the interpretation of and translation of the very words of Scripture. God KNEW that men would add to and take from His Word—hence the warning.
Admittedly, by the translators themselves, a perfect translation is not possible. Surely the teachers are more honest regarding their errors and imperfect knowledge than their students who swear by every word of their imperfections.
Notice these nine remarkable statements from the Translators of The King James Version immediately following the Preface, entitled: THE TRANSLATORS To The Readers (1611 Edition—I will copy it as is, in the archaic English spelling):
“No cause therefore why the word translated should be denied to be the word, or forbidden to be currant, notwithstanding that some IMPERFECTIONS and BLEMISHES may be noted in the setting forth of it”
“For to whom euer was it imputed for a fault (by such as were wise) to goe ouer that which hee had done, as to AMEND IT where saw cause?”
“But the difference that appeareth betweene our Translations, and OUR OFTEN CORRECTING OF THEM, is the thing that wee are specially charged with; let vs see therefore whether they themselves bee without fault this way, (if it be to be counted a fault, TO CORRECT) and whether they bee fit men to throw stones at vs…they that are less sound themselues, ought not to object infirmities to others.”
“Some peraduenture would haue no varietie of sences to be set in the margine [as the King James has done from the start; albeit they have in recent times been all removed in many editions] lest the authoritie of the Scriptures for deciding of controuersies by that SHEW OF VNCERTAINTIE [not knowing for sure the proper or best way to translate this or that], should somewhat be shaken.”
“Now in such a case, doth not a margine do well to admonish the Reader to seeke further, and NOT TO CONCLUDE OR DOGMATIZE VPON THIS OR THAT PEREMPTORIALY? For as it is a fault of incredulitie, to doubt of these things that are euident: so to determine of such things as the Spirit God hath left (euen in the iudgment of the iudicious) QUESTIONALBLE, can be no lesse then PRESUMPTION.”
“Therefore as S.Augustine saith, that VARIETIE [different] of Translations is profitable for the find out of the sense of the Scriptures: so diversitie of signification and sense in the margine, where THE TEXT IS NOT SO CLEAR, must needes doe good, yea, is NECESSARY, as we are perswaded.”
“An other thing we thinke good to admonish thee of (gentle Reader) that wee haue not tyed our selues to an VNIFORMITIE OF PHRASING [that is just another way of saying they would not be tied to being CONSISTANT in their translating even though, consistency would be more accurate], or to an identitie of words, as some peraduenture would wish that we had done [I FOR ONE], because they obserue, that some learned men some where, haue beene as exact as they could that way [as though being “as EXACT as they could” is not a virtue].”
“Thus to minse the matter, wee thought to sauour more of CURIOSITIE THEN WISEDOME, and that rather it would breed scorne in the Athiest, then bring profit to the godly Reader.” (All CAPS are mine).
I can certainly agree and sympathize with almost everything said by these truthful and candid Translators of the Authorized Version, with one exception. Although they believe that “Variety is the spice of life,” I would rather suggest that “Honesty is always the best policy.” I certainly prefer a translation that is consistent and meticulously accurate over one that has great variety, and reads smoothly with a poetic and melodious rhythm.
With that said, my personal teaching, preaching, and study Bible is nonetheless, the King James Version. But the primary reason for this is that more people are more familiar with King James than any other Version. Sadly, for many unlearned students of God’s Word, to quote from any Version other than the King James, is to not be quoting Scripture at all. Not to worry, one can learn the Truths of God from ANY translation once God opens one’s mind to the things of the spirit.
ADDING TO GOD’S WORD:
Just as surely as God warned against “adding to or taking from” His word, it has happened. There is overwhelming evidence and historical proof that the following portion of I John 5:7-8 iss not part of the original Greek manuscripts.
“…in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth…”
Also there is a mountain of historical evidence that this portion of the so-called “Great Commission” found in Matt. 28:19 is also not in any Scripture found in the first few centuries of both manuscripts or translations.
“…baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost”
In fact, it is an obvious and blatant contradiction of how the Apostles actually did baptize. They NEVER baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but always in the Name of Jesus ONLY. The Scriptures do not contradict; but some Bibles do.
But these two “additions” to God’s Word pale into little or no significance compared to the ONE GIANT INEXCUSABLE, “adding to” God’s word wherein the Translators turn Greek “aions” (periods of time as short as a few years) into English “eternities.” This one gross error has turned into the most devastating botch of translating in the history of the world. Which consequently brought about the most damnable heresy in the history of the world—”Eternal Punishment.”
Early translations of the Greek Scriptures into English did not use the words “everlasting,” “evermore,” “for ever and ever” or “eternal” in their versions. Maybe the very oldest English related tongue was the Ancient Gothic Version by Wulfila, which was a language spoken about 350 AD, closely akin to the Old German and Old English spoken at that time. This version translated from the Greek, as well as later Old English versions between 680 and 995 translated from the Latin, did not use any words that meant “everlasting” or “eternal.”
Wiclif’ finished his translation in 1382. A hundred and fifty years later came Tyndale, then Coverdale (1535), Cranmer’s (1539), the Genevan (1557), Rheims (1582), and finally The King James Authorized (1611). It was in these well-known English translations that the words “forever and ever” “everlasting” and “eternal” come before us.
However, not all English Versions perverted and corrupted the words having reference to time into words that now stand for eternity, but have nothing to do with time at all. Here are a few. I use the first three quite regularly, but, I am not recommending you buy any of them.
Rotherham Emphasized Bible, 1959
Concordant Literal New Testament, 1983
The Emphatic Diaglott, 1912 edition (Greek/English Interlinear)
The Holy Bible in Modern English (Fenton), 1903)
The New Covenant, 1884
The New Testament in Modern Speech, 1910
The Restoration of Original Sacred Name Bible, 1976
The New Testament of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Anointed, 1958
The New Testament a Translation, 1938
The Companion Bible, 1990 A King James Reference Bible
See my paper “Is EVERLASTING Scriptural,” found on our home page.
TAKING FROM GOD’S WORD:
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God…” (Rom. 8:28).
Oh really? Is this verse from the King James Version even true? How many billions of times has this verse been quoted, and it isn’t even true! Things do NOT “work together for good.” That is absurd. “THINGS” can’t do anything by themselves. Just what is it that the King James has left out of this verse which has turned a grand and marvelous Spiritual Truth into a carnal-minded heresy? Why, just “GOD,” that’s all. They left GOD out of this verse. And here is how God inspired this verse:
“And we know that GOD works together all things for Good to the (ones) loving God…” (Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, By J P. Green, Sr).
‘Now we are aware that GOD is working all together for the good of those who are loving God…” (Concordant Literal New Testament).
“We know, further, that unto them who love God, GOD causes all things to work together for good…” (Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible).
Putting “God” back into this verse, puts the Truth back into this verse.
One more example: Just what is the “the book of life?” The King James (and others) makes it sound like the “book of life” is a literal book that is in the possession of the Lamb (Jesus Christ). Hence people believe that Jesus carries a literal book that has literal pages in it, on which are written literal names of the saved saints. Here is how the book of life is presented in the King James Bible:
“And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb…” (Rev. 13:8).
Why is this book called “the book of life?” Most would answer: because of the names that are WRITTEN inside who are promised LIFE. Maybe then it should have been called “the book of NAMES.” Whether we emphasize “the book of life,” or “the book of life,” both are wrong. Something is missing? What? The same thing that was missing in Rom. 8:28, only this time it is CHRIST Who is missing. Put back the missing word, and we have a WHOLE NEW SCRIPTURAL TRUTH:
From King James Version:
“…whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb…”
From the Concordant Greek Text (Page 713):
“OF-WHOM NOT HAS-been-WRITTEN THE NAME OF-him IN THE SCROLLet OF-THE LIFE OF-THE LAMBkin”
From the Emphatic Diaglott Interlinear (Page 8843):
“…of which not has been written the name in the scroll of THE life of the Lamb…”
This book is a whole lot more than the “book of life.” Rather this book is: “the book of THE LIFE OF THE LAMB!” WOW!
What a Truth we loose when we “take away” the definite article “the” from this verse of God’s Book. Why oh why would God have to write our names “IN A BOOK?” How absurd! Do we think that God has a POOR MEMORY and FORGETS things if He doesn’t WRITE THEM DOWN?
No, our names must be written in “THE LIFE OF THE LAMB” or our lives are not worth anything. Here is how Jesus Christ is our “Book of Life:”
“For the law of the Spirit of LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2).
Our lives must be written in “The BOOK of the LIFE of the LAMB.” It is “The Book of THE LIFE of THE Lamb.” The book is the LAMB’S LIFE. The Lamb IS THE BOOK—JESUS CHRIST IS THE BOOK! When we “take away” from God’s “Book” we take away FROM JESUS CHRIST. We diminish “THE LIFE of the Lamb” down to a mere physical “book”—a book of paper when translators, “take away from the words of the BOOK of this prophecy” (Rev. 22:19).
The solution to better understanding the Scriptures and the will of God is not solely a matter of a better translation or a perfect translation. The early church had NO translations—they had the original Greek signatures, and copies of these signatures in the Greek language, which was universally understood throughout much of the Roman Empire—even Egyptians spoke Greek. And yet, the first century was a time of MASS APOSTASY in the church. Here is Scriptural proof:
“For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30).
“HOLD FAST THE FORM OF SOUND WORDS, which you have heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing, which was committed unto you keep by the Holy Spirit which dwells in us. This you know, that ALL THEY WHICH ARE IN ASIA BE TURNED AWAY FROM ME…” (II Tim. 1:13-15).
So, even a perfect translation would not keep carnal men from turning from the Truth.
I have a number of translations. Not because they are all necessary to know the Truths of God, but because now I am a teacher and they are helpful in teaching.
Spend more time “praying and obeying” than looking for that perfect translation and you will make faster progress in your Spiritual walk with God.
[Email to Ray]
I read your “Which Bible is Best?” a new one, it is very good explaining. I have one question, you know modern’s Bible like NIV, NRSV, NASB, etc. Do they have translate from original Hebrew and Greek manuscript? If they did, then they did not straightforward copied from original manuscript into English like “Hell”, “eternal” are not correct translate. Just brief.
Thank you, Ray
Bibles are not translated by atheists. If they were, maybe they would be more accurate. But Bibles are mostly translated by Christians who ALREADY KNOW WHAT THEY BELIEVE. And, as they translate, THEY WILL PUT THEIR BELIEFS INTO THEIR TRANSLATION. When they see the GREEK word “aionios,” and they want to translate it into ENGLISH they will always use the LATIN word “eternus/eternal.” They can’t help it–THEY ARE DECEIVED!
The Old Anglo Saxon Bibles from 800 to 1000 AD used the English word “ece” for the Greek “aionios,” and it meant “eonian”–pertaining to the ages. Try to find the English word “ece” in even a 2600 page English Dictionary. It is gone gone gone. Make no mistake about it: The King James Bible is a LATIN BIBLE! And virtually all modern English Bibles are virtually clones of all the errors found in the King James.
God be with you,