Which Bible Translation is Best?

From the January 2006 Trumpet Print Edition

Why so many different translations? Because scholars simply cannot fully agree with the work of other scholars. With so many versions available, which one is right for you?

First, it must be pointed out that no Bible translation is inspired. They were all put together by men.

The only perfect translation of Scripture is what God Himself actually revealed to the apostles and prophets.

As most Bible students know, the Old Testament was preserved primarily in Hebrew while the New Testament was preserved in Greek. But most people don’t know how to speak Hebrew and Greek. So how can we know God preserved His inspired words precisely the way He revealed them thousands of years ago? How can we know which original texts are most accurate? There are, after all, thousands of “original” texts from which we get our translations. We must go to God for the answer.

“What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God” (Romans 3:1-2). God used the Jews to preserve the Old Testament. That is why it was originally inspired in Hebrew. Likewise, He used the Greeks to preserve the original writings of the New Testament. In preserving these original writings, God saw to it that the Jews and Greeks rejected the spurious manuscripts that have surfaced down through the centuries.

Based on a thorough study of today’s Bible translations and how closely they adhere to the early Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, Herbert W. Armstrong recommended the King James Version, translated in 1611. That is not to say the King James is a perfect translation. It is, however, approximately 99 percent accurate. The small percentage of error in this translation is primarily due to the lack of understanding of the original meaning of certain Hebrew and Greek words by the translators. Nevertheless, the King James translation comes from accurate Hebrew and Greek texts (the Masorah and the Majority Text), unlike many modern translations.

Mr. Armstrong recommended that other translations be used only to complement the King James. The King James Version was written almost 400 years ago. Over that span of time, the English language has changed somewhat. Some of the awkward and archaic phrases in the King James can be cleared up by checking a few modern translations. Mr. Armstrong often used the Revised Standard Version and Moffatt translation. But it is the King James Version that should be the standard by which these new translations are judged for accuracy.

Be especially careful with the New International Version and the New American Standard Version. In addition to those two translations, any Bible version with a “new” in its title is guaranteed to be a less accurate translation than the King James Version. The New King James Version is not nearly as full of errors as many other “new” translations. But it still is not nearly as good as the old King James Version.

Be very careful about which Bible you use for your primary study. The changes in the new translations can distort your understanding in many areas without you even realizing it. Used improperly, we can be deceitfully led in the wrong direction. If we use different translations properly, we can enhance and invigorate our Bible study!