Question: What version or translation of the Bible is best?
It’s true there are lots and lots of versions or translations of the Bible out there. I don’t know that anyone of them is “best” so I always encourage those interested in studying the Bible to buy a few different translations and use them all. However, there are perhaps a few things that could be mentioned.
First, you want to look for a translation that is just that, a translation. Some Bibles are paraphrases, that is, they take an existing, let’s say English Bible and then just update the language in it. You can learn about the kind of translation by reading usually in the front of the Bible, about its history.
Second, you need to recognize that translation is difficult. To go from one language to another always presents interesting and unique problems. What is one word in one language may take quite a few words to explain in another. Or sometimes a word is picked to translate with and that word has greater implication or less than what the original says. That’s why having a number of translations is always best.
The Bible you have bought should be a translation that has worked its hardest to accurately render both the Hebrew of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New Testament. I look for Bibles that are usually translated by committees rather than just one person. When one person is translating it is very tempting to slant the passage to what you want to believe instead of letting the passage speak for itself.
Of course, this brings up a secondary issue in my mind. In our circles our pastors are trained in the Hebrew and Greek. By that I mean that we have been taught to read and translate the original languages for ourselves. To this day our Pastoral study time still includes “exegesis” that is a thorough working and understanding of the original text. We do this so that each and every one of our pastors is a “theologian,” a man trained to work through Scripture in the original and grasp the teachings of God from that. There is an inherent weakness in a ministry where the pastor must rely on what someone else says the text means rather than being able to grasp the text himself. Pastoral training in the original languages I believe is a must! We can compensate a bit for this lack of training if one uses a variety of translations, but then the weakness is that we may favor the least accurate translation because it agrees with what we think. It’s just a good reminder to treat the Biblical text with respect and honor and let it speak for itself. That’s where a knowledge of the original languages comes in.
An exciting thing going on found without the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Watch for their new translation which will be called “Evangelical Heritage Bible.” The men have worked faithfully to render accurate Hebrew and Greek. I believe it will be one of the best translations out there.