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Bible Versions: What is the Best Bible Translation? by David Malcolm Bennett

Pneuma Review Spring 2013
So which is the best Bible translation? Well, we may never know in this life, though we will all have our preferences. But we are fortunate in having some very good ones. Make sure you regularly read at least one of them and encourage others to do so.

 

My Journey with the Bible

Like most of my generation (I was born in 1942), I was brought up on the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. Its language, I thought, was old fashioned and at times difficult to understand. However, it was dealing with ancient times, so this did not seem inappropriate.

I began to take the Bible seriously in my late-teens and the archaic language became more of a problem. I was not yet a Christian, but I had a very strong suspicion that the Bible was, indeed, the word of God, and I desperately wanted to understand it. However, much of it I found impossible to understand. The Gospels I could generally grasp, and some of the historical parts of the Old Testament, but the OT prophets and the New Testament letters were for the most part a mystery to me. While this was, no doubt, because I lacked at that time the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the main reason was that I just did not understand King James English.

Early in 1961 I went to work for a Christian publisher in London that also ran a small Christian bookshop. That March the New Testament of the New English Bible (NEB) was published and we sold more than a thousand copies in a day. The NEB was the first completely new English translation by a committee since the KJV1 and it was not without its flaws. Yet it was in good, modern English.

I bought one of the thousand and began to read it from the beginning of Matthew. It proved a blessing to me in that I understood the language, but at another level I still did not understand its message. It was when I launched out into Paul’s Letter to the Romans that things changed (I was converted at about this time, but the precise order of events I cannot remember). Suddenly, in that most difficult of books, the words seemed to leap from that page and I understood very well what they meant about sin, salvation and the Lord of that salvation. Suddenly, I found the Bible exciting and challenging.

It is, perhaps, ironic that as time progressed I became dissatisfied with the NEB. I became aware that it showed signs of liberal bias in its translation, which was a bit disturbing. Perhaps the most unfortunate example of this was in 2 Tim. 3:16, the first part of which read, “Every inspired scripture has its use for teaching the truth …” Thus this translation implied that some scriptures were not inspired, or at least might not be. The Revised Standard Version (RSV) by contrast, says, “All scripture is inspired by God”, which, all other translations I have consulted, though the precise wording may vary, make the same point: all Scripture is God-inspired, not just some of it.

“It was a mystery to me, I just did not understand King James English.”

I then went over to the RSV, which has also been the subject of charges of liberal influence. However, generally I found it acceptable. The RSV, though, has a none-too-successful compromise on the use of ancient pronouns (thee, thou, thy), as, in fact, does the NEB. For the most part it uses the modern forms (you, your and yours), but when someone is addressing God the old forms are suddenly introduced. A good example of this is Matt.6:8-9, which in the introduction to the Lord’s Prayer says, “before you ask” God (this was “before ye ask” in the KJV), but the prayer itself begins “Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name”, which is almost the same as the KJV.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Pneuma Review, Spring 2013

About the Author: David Malcolm Bennett, Ph.D., is an Anglo-Australian Christian researcher and writer with over 15 books in print. They include The Altar Call: Its Origins and Present Usage, The Sinner’s Prayer: Its Origins and Dangers (companion website: SinnersPrayerBook.com), The Origins of Left Behind Eschatology, Edward Irving Reconsidered: The Man, His Controversies, and the Pentecostal Movement, and The General: William Booth. He is also the transcriber, editor and publisher of The Letters of William and Catherine Booth and The Diary and Reminiscences of Catherine Booth.

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