As Donald Trump was speaking at a large Christian University, he decided to quote a passage from the Bible. For a man like him, this of course would be a huge risk, but he did it anyway. As he started to read it, he said, “In two Corinthians…” and then went on to mention the rest of the passage. Christians all over the country made fun of him. I remember thinking how silly it was for folks to be making such a big deal about it, since I know European believers who pronounce it that way.
There are many other reasons to believe, or not believe whether Trump is a Christian – and whether he is ignorant of the Bible. But my point is, it is a cultural thing to pronounce a passage the way we do, or the way we set up our church sanctuaries, and so on. There are also a lot of cultural attachments which are often placed on the Bible. But, because they are cultural, we don’t see them as wrong or misplaced. Preferences such as which Bible we think is best, are not always due to an understanding of the various translations available – instead, more often it is due to church culture. There are the King James Only folks, there are the NASB folks, etc. Saying one translation is better than another, is not actually a rigidly valid statement.
Understanding Bible Translations and Translating
Every Bible being translated or created as a paraphrase, such as The Message, is created with a purpose in mind. What grade level will the audience be? What people group language are we working with? These are the questions translation teams are asking themselves, and for each audience, it is “how can we best convey the message of the Bible in that language?” Among many people groups, such as the Montilones in the mid-1900s, there were some words which did not exist such as “trust”, since they were head-hunters and cannibals before a Christian missionary brought the message of Jesus Christ to them. So there is no “word for word translation” possible in a case like this, and they have to find alternate ways of telling the message. This was the original motivation behind Wycliffe Bible Translation missionary efforts, a desire to put the Bible in the language of all people groups.
Many of the newer translations of the Bible are created with a lower grade level reading requirement, because Americans are not scoring high in their read skills. Many of the modern translations then are created for sixth grade reading level, or below – the level of most newspapers nationally.
So when someone asks, “Which Bible is the best?” Well, it all depends. Who is going to be reading it? Some translations of the Bible are translated better than others based upon “word for word translation” of the original languages. But if someone cannot read it, it is not a good translation for them. A good friend of mine once said, “The best Bible someone can own is the one they are going to read.” I think this is a true statement. If you are struggling with reading your Bible, get a modern translation you can read, and start there. As your skills get better and you want to do some serious studying in your Bible, I recommend getting something like the New American Standard Bible (1995 update) because it is a one of the best “word for word” translated Bibles on the market.
Beyond all of this, just start reading, and trust God will speak to you through His word.