Which Version of the Bible is the Word of God?

Paul Derengowski, ThM

 

This kind of question is typically asked by the skeptic or critic of the Bible, not for information purposes whereby he might hang his hat as a basis for what he should believe, or for future reference in understanding what Christians.  It is typically asked out of hostility, while attempting to employ the tactic of dividing and conquering Christians who have placed their faith in the written Word of God.  In fact, the premise of the question is analogous to the rhetorical question that the serpent asked Eve in the Garden of Eden when he asked, “Hath God said?”  Indeed, God has said, has used numerous versions of the Bible to do so.  Nevertheless, what do we mean in entertaining the question at hand?

There is no one specific version of the Bible that contains more truth than another, so long as the translation effort has been true to the biblical languages.  We all know that the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and hence they accommodated the cultures and people who spoke those particular dialects.  Yet, upon spreading throughout the rest of the world, to people who did not speak any of those languages, it became necessary to translate the Bible into the languages of the people to whom it was targeted.  Of course, no translation between languages is going to be done with exact precision, simply due to the various nuances that exist among the languages.  But that does not mean that there is going to be such a glaring difference between a German translation of the Bible and an English one.  They are both going to be God’s Word, and if one is blessed to know both German and English, or Spanish, or Russian, or Portuguese, or one several other languages in which the Bible has been translated, then so much the better for that person, not the worse.

Once again, though, the key to knowing which version of the Bible is better than another version is to simply revert back to the original languages for a comparison.  For there are some “translations” of the Bible that are not translations at all, but are mere paraphrases of the theologies of those who have an antipathy towards what the Bible does say, and the “translators” have gone out of their way to interject their theology into the Bible.  Two classic examples of this are seen in the New World Translation published by the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society (the Jehovah’s Witnesses) and the Joseph Smith Translation (the Mormons).  Neither “translation” is an accurate and honest effort to reflect the original text, but are spurious efforts to propagate an agenda of false doctrine under the guise of their work being a translation.  Hence, only those loyal to those organizations, as well as the naïve and uninformed will consider the NWT or JST as compatible with the more legitimate translations (the KJV, NASB, NIV, NET, etc.) that most Christians use in their everyday life.

Ultimately, though, all Christians should avail themselves to study the original languages of the Bible for the simple reason that when a translational question arises, the Christian is equipped to make an educated decision on which translation is best concerning any particular word or passage.  And given that in our modern world where learning such things as Greek and Hebrew have become more accessible, as well as financially feasible, the Christian really does not have much of an excuse not to learn the biblical languages, apart from possibly just not wanting to.  And if that is the case, then when the skeptic, critic, or cultist comes along with their rhetorical question dealing with biblical authority and veracity, then it should be expected that the Christian will either become confused and vulnerable, or simply offer an apologetic reply that only serves to cause the skeptic, critic, or cultist to become that much more skeptical, critical, or cultic in their view of biblical Christianity.

Therefore, to answer the question directly, all of the versions are the Word of God, so long as they remain true to the original “Bible,” which was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.  Some versions are better translated than others, simply because the linguistic effort on the part of some has provided better tools and understanding of the biblical text that was not available years ago.  Nevertheless, being better does not imply that the former translations were promoting false doctrine whereby a person would develop an erroneous faith; better simply means clearer.  And if the skeptic or critic of the Bible remains unconvinced, then alluding to the Hebrew and Greek Bible tends to short-circuit the baited rhetoric, given that few skeptics and critics of the Bible have taken the time or effort to actually study the biblical languages, much less its historical development and influence upon humanity down through the millennia.  It is a study that all Christians should engage in, if not for personal gratification and understanding, but to clear away the straw men arguments that sometimes get in the way of delivering the “good news” of the Bible.

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