Why Bible Versions Matter
All Christians read the Bible daily or they are supposed to read for growing in their spiritual life. There are many languages in which we do not have a full Bible. There are many in which we only have one version. In English we have many versions. I have 3 or 4 with me and can access more than twenty five online. Bible Gateway has about 25 versions as I am writing. Many times we wonder which one is the best. There are professors of theology who prefer one over another. Some of them even hate other versions. My first Hermeneutics class is next week. So just thought doing some research about it.
My first Bible in English was a NKJV given by my parents. At that time it was kind of luxury for me. Later one person from my church gave me a NIV Bible because he was not using it and gave it as a gift to me which I still have. At that time I knew that there are some study Bibles available but I could not afford one. So I borrowed one NKJV Study Bible from a family which I used to study. Later they asked me for it because I kept it with me for a long time. I badly wanted to buy one but was not able to.
Later I purchased many Bibles and few as gift from people. I have NIV study Bible, NIV Life Application Bible, NLT Life Application and ESV Study Bible. I also have a Malayalam and Hindi Bible. I use it all at times for study and sermon preparation. Nowadays I use ESV more for personal study. I am very comfortable with NIV since I am reading it for many years now. I also use other versions which are available online sometimes.
Now the question is- does it matter? Initially I was of the opinion that you should read what you feel most comfortable. In my case it is NLT since its very easy. Now is that the correct way to decide? Now I would say NO. I want to bring to you attention one of the most famous verse. Its John 3:16. Let us see it from few Versions.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIV)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (KJV)
For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (NLT)
For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. (Amplified Bible)
For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. (HCSB)
For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (NET Bible)
All bold effect is my addition to bring clarity.
Do you see any difference? For serious students of the word of God there is difference. Is it "God So much loved the world" or "God loved the world in this way" or "this is the way God loved the world" ? Where is the focus? What was the reason for sending the son? Was it his "love for the world" or is it that sending his son demonstrated his love for the world? Who is the focus? Son coming or God's love? I know that both are important but I just wanted to show you an example of how this can change focus and meaning at times. Sometimes it can promote misreading of important facts.
People who use another language do not have much option but those who use English have many options. There are many custom made bible's available in the market. We even have a PG13 Bible. You should be very careful when you buy new Bibles coming out in market. I will be writing another article about problems with NIV 2011 version later. When you want to buy a Bible for your children do not go with the easiest and most fancy one available. Go with the one which does not distort the message.
We can see many examples like this. So you may ask me which one is best. I don't know since I am not a scholar yet to advice you on that. I will definitely recommend that you use more than one version for your study. When it comes to important passages, make sure you read it from different versions. Again this is for serious students of word of God. This is not to say that there is contradictions between Bibles but language and style can make a difference.
If you have some suggestions then let me know. I will be more than happy to research on it. Any way remember - EASY IS NOT ALWAYS THE BEST.
God Bless You Bible Study!