II. How To Understand The Bible: Translation

“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” -Joshua 1:8

The Bibles that we use today are the result of thousands of years of toil and bloodshed. Many Christians have given their lives so that we can have an accurate translation of the Bible on our bookshelf. Today, Christians are still giving their lives to translate the Bible in other languages. For example, there were four Bible translators who were martyred this year (2016) in the Middle East where conversion to Christianity is punishable by execution. We should cherish the fact that we have God’s Word within our reach every day of our lives!

But how do you select a good translation of the Bible in English? If you look online or go to a Christian bookstore, you will find that there are a hundred or more different translations of the Bible in English. The reason for this is because each translation serves a different function. There are three purposes for translations of the Bible; 1) Bible study (Formal/literal translations); 2) Casual reading (functional equivalence translations); 3) Paraphrase or commentary (free translation). Literal translations are word for word. They are great for study, but may be clunky for reading. Functional equivalence translations are thought for thought. They are wonderful for reading, but may be difficult for word study. Free translations are the most readable and easily understood. However, they cannot be used for word study and one doesn’t know when the translator is translating or giving a commentary. Here at Immanuel, we use the English Standard Version (ESV), which is a word for word translation and is excellent for Bible study. It follows the lineage of the King James Version, but uses the oldest manuscripts (most accurate) that have recently been discovered.

The key to finding the best Bible translation is to decide the purpose that you will use it. As a pastor, I enjoy a literal translation because I need to study God’s Word for sermons, Bible studies, and devotions. But you may want a Bible for easy reading and understanding, so a free translation might work the best. Check out the chart below and decide which translation is best for you.

My Recommendations:

The new Lutheran Study Bible for its theological notes is a wonderful choice. The Life Application Study Bible is excellent for its practical application notes. As always, the Halley's Bible Handbook is great for historical and background information as well. With these, you will be well on your way to understanding the Bible for yourself.

God Bless,

Pastor Joel