And Jesus answering, saith unto them, “Have faith in God.” Mark 11:22 KJV 1611
How do we know what Jesus said?
The Bible was first written in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic.
What if it had never been translated into English?
When you first heard what Jesus did to save you, you could read or listen to all kinds of things about him: his Parable of Talents, his Sermon on the Mount, healing the blind and the sick, walking on water, even raising Lazarus from the dead.
You could read or listen to the things Jesus said: “Blessed are the pure in heart. Love your enemies. All authority has been given to me. I am with you to the end of the age.”
Think how Jesus’ words have encouraged you, challenged you, changed you.
How? Because you had them in English.
Today, the Bible has more than 400+ English versions.
I read recently that the Doondo people in the Republic of the Congo don’t have even one translation of the Good News.
They can’t read in their language the things that Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself. If a person has a hundred sheep, and one wanders off, will they not leave the 99 to look for the one? Come to me, and I will give you rest.”
But, just because we have over 400+ translations of the Bible, how do we know that the translations are accurate?
Many of my generation began our reading of the Bible on the King James Version (KJV) found in their church pews or Sunday school classes.
I personally have always been fascinated by the 1611 KJV or the original commanded by King James I of England. I love its archaic spelling of some of the prophets, such as Jeremiah (Ieremiah). It is a challenge to simply, at times, figure out the words.
Newer printings had the “sayings or words of Jesus” highlighted in red letters, which made studying easier for many.
In my home church in the early 1960s, they updated the pew Bibles to the new Revised Standard Version (RSV), which was proclaimed to be more precisely translated.
In my freshman year of college, I was introduced to the Good News for Modern Man (GNB) translation and for many years it was my go to Bible for youth groups and summer camps.
It was simple and easy to understand, but many “true” Bible scholars did not like it. They called it a “shotgun” approach to translation while others had a more precise “rifle” approach. The GNB painted with a wide brush, while the Oxford Annotated used color pencils in its approach to Biblical translations.
When I went to seminary, I was required to take the obligatory Hebrew Testament language and Greek New Testament language courses. I was not a Bible scholar, and I was able to pass the courses.
The one thing I remember from my Hebrew language course was the Jewish professor. Age has caused me to forget his name, but I remember that when he was diagraming a word for us to translate, he could write on the black board and translate all the various variants of the word as he was speaking.
But, of course, he had been using the language for many years.
I also remember that he said that when a person is finding a Bible to study or read, they should find one that they are comfortable with the translation.
He also noted that unless one has devoted their life to studying the ancient languages of the Hebrew texts and New Testament texts, one was dependent on trusting the accurate translation of the languages by the Bible translators and publishers.
When I do serious study, I have always liked the New Oxford Annotated Bible. Mine dates back to the 1970s and was given to me by a mentor. I read recently that they have a new version that came out in 2018.
There is even a “new” King James Version, a “new” New International Version, and the list goes on and on.
But again, the key for anyone desiring to study God’s Word is to find a translation that they can understand.
If you purchase a Bible to delve deeper into the good news, and then never pick it up because it is too hard to understand, it becomes only a dust collector.
One of the great things about the internet is that nowadays one can go to their computer or tablet and download those 400+ translations to take with them and study at their convenience. And, if one doesn’t like one translation, one can simply delete it.
Also, with the advancement of smartphones, one can download their favorite version of the Bible and have it handy with them at all time.
My favorite site is found at: https://e-sword.net/downloads.html. It is a free site with many Bible translations and pay-for-use study aids.
Another good place to find Bibles and study tools is: https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-versions/.
But again, the key to knowing what Jesus said is simply to find a Bible that you feel comfortable reading and pick it up daily, whether it be a hard copy or smartphone or tablet version, then allowing God’s Holy Spirit to help you discern the Word for you and to guide you to the truth contained within it.
Remember, “Every word of God will be put to the test and proven true; He is a defense for those who trust in Him. Take care. Add nothing to what He has said; for if you do, He will correct you and expose you as a liar.” Proverbs 30:5-6
Or as the Good News translation says, “Your word is a lamp to guide me and a light for my path.”
May it be so.
Rev. Frank Chlastak began work as senior minister of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Poplar Bluff on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015. He is a graduate of Northeast Louisiana University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and has served congregations of the Christian Church in Louisiana, Arkansas, Virginia, Oklahoma and Missouri.