Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth

I am thankful to live in a time where scholarly research for Biblical truth can be found so readily, but such conveniences do not come without accompanying challenges. Each week as a church family, we have the rare privilege of reading, sharing, and studying God’s Word together. Whether we stand or fall on our faces, I believe the reading of God’s Holy Word demands more reverence than any other piece of literature. It is living and active; it springs from the heart of God crossing the very lips of God. It is our joy to give to it our faithful adherence (Nehemiah 8:5-6). Albeit, with the proliferation of versions and translations ever-increasing in our day, it is not unusual to see people standing and holding smart phones or iPads instead of traditional bound copies of God’s Word. Admittedly, I also benefit from the readily-accessed Bible app on my own phone for quick and easy reference. However, with such diverse translations at my fingertips, I have noticed that my Bible app is the application that most often has suggested updates (which indicates that new versions are now also available). It is in this vein that I raise an important message for our church family.

If you have not already heard, the NIV 2011 Bible is basically an update to the controversial TNIV (Today’s New International Version) whose gender-neutral language is theologically problematic. As such, the TNIV was soon discontinued. However, the 2011 NIV has simply resurrected the TNIV without advertising a new name change. (Approximately 75% of the troubled TNIV text remains in the 2011 version). Please be aware that due to questions of doctrinal integrity, I do not encourage you to rely on the 2011 NIV Bible.  I am unashamedly convicted to my affirmation of the full inspiration and authority of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:15-16). It is humbling and alarming that such disintegration of God’s Word can be happening even while millions still have no access to God’s Word even once in their own language.

Without sounding too formal, here are some important notes about translations: (1) Anything other than the original Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic texts of Scripture (which comprises all the “original languages” used in penning God’s Word) is in fact, a human translation. God is the only author of perfection. (2) Any version that does not go back to the original source language in order to translate into another language, risks straying further and further from the original. (3) While the original autographs no longer exist, translations are made from ancient manuscript copies, of which there are today at least 24,000, whole or in-part, with which to compare. The first complete English translation was not produced until 1382 by the influence of John Wycliff. (4) English translations also differ in their approach to translation. Most English versions can be categorized as word-to-word translations, phrase-to-phrase, or thought-to-thought. This last option is where you find paraphrases like the Living Bible or The Message version. Certainly, a balance must be sought for a version that is readable but does not stray from literal translations in such an attempt. (5) While a different reading or a new perspective is helpful to understanding God’s Word, a student of Scripture does not want to lean on any version that alters the meaning or message of Scripture – whether overtly or subtly. (6) God’s Word was written and given to us by God for us to know Him and understand Who He is, to recognize who we are, and embrace His plan for reconciling us and the lost world to Himself.

Personally, I continue to memorize from the King James or NKJV primarily because it does not nor will it ever change. My consistent study is out of the Holman Christian Standard in that, as a Greek student, I believe it to be predominantly closest to the original languages in word-to-word translation. (The HCS is also the version I use most often in preaching). While the New American Standard Bible is academic in tone, its accurate adherence to the original texts is a comfort to me in my study as well. Another more recent version that is also enjoying favorable acceptance among conservative Biblical scholars is the English Standard Version for its accuracy and readability.

The Word of God is too precious not to take our time pondering and practicing every word of it. As I’m currently preaching through Colossians, I am reminded that His Word has all you need for all you are. It is my aim, then, to be true to every word of the text, not just the general idea of a text.

Whether you are planning to buy a new Bible for yourself, or purchase one as a gift, I recognize it is very expensive to buy Bibles just to try them out, but it is possible to sample most versions online for free using sites like www.biblegateway.com or www.blueletterbible.org

Above all: read it, study it, meditate on it, memorize it, live it, love it, and share it!

I love you for loving His Word!

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