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The Best Bible
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The Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek with a few passages in Aramaic as well. Most people nowadays don’t read ancient Hebrew or Greek so we rely on translations. But that brings us to the question: Which translation is the best? That’s easy. The best translation is whichever one you actually read and understand. Usually, the best translation for you will be one that uses language similar to the language that you speak at home. If you spend your days reading Shakespeare or ancient literature, you may want to read the King James Version. (In English, many of the different translations are called “Versions.”) The King James Version is the classic English translation. However, for most people, its literary beauty is not very helpful because it is so difficult to understand.

When you are doing detailed Bible study in which you're carefully weighing every word, you will probably want a translation that is more reserved. While there is no such thing as a word-for-word translation, some are closer than others. A few well-known translations in this category are the New International Version (NIV), New American Standard (NASB), Amplified Bible, or New Revised Standard Version (NRSV.)

Many of my friends greatly enjoy Bible translations that place greater emphasis on putting the meaning into contemporary, easy-to-understand language. These freer translations make for easy reading and ready understanding. They can help Bible reading really come alive. A couple of well-known paraphrases are The Clear Word by Jack Blanco and The Message, by Eugene Peterson. Somewhere between the so-called “conservative” translations and the paraphrases are dynamic translations like The New Living Bible, The New Century Version and The Good News Bible or Today's English Version (TEV).

There are a number of translations for special purposes: English Bibles designed for people who's native language isn't English, English Bibles for people with limited reading ability. There's a translation especially for the deaf. There are books which combine two or more translations. There’s even one publication that surveys 26 different translations and gives all the differences between them. You can't read every translation, but get to know several. You never know what unexpected insight you'll discover by reading a different translation.

Finding the Best One

So which translation is the best? One that you will read. One that will help you get the words out of the book and into your head.

Sometimes the debates about which translation is the best reminds me of arguments between automobile aficionados. What's the perfect car? A BMW? A Corvette? A Miata? A Jeep? A jacked-up, 4X4 Ford pickup? If you are sitting around talking at an afternoon barbecue, the differences between these cars can fuel everlasting debates. But if you were stranded beside the highway out in the desert, you'd climb into any vehicle that stopped long enough for you to get the door open. So with Bible versions. There are real differences between them. Different versions excel in different ways, but any one of them will get you through the desert of this world into the paradise of God's kingdom.

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By John McLarty. Copyright © 2006 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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