Season: 10 Episode: 150
Listen to episode 146 in Spanish:
What version of the Bible is the most accurate and which one should you read? Why are some Bible verses missing from certain translations? Many people say the Bible can’t be trusted because it’s been changed over and over throughout the years, just like the game of telephone is played. Is that true? Shanda answers all of these questionss and talks about how to choose a Bible that is right for you.
Resources on this topic:
Cross Examined Article: Don’t Panic: A Step by Step Approach to Teaching Kids About God
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Hey guys! Welcome back to another episode of Her Faith Inspires podcast where we take cultural issues and tackle them with Biblical truth. I hope you all are enjoying your summer. I just got back from vacation, we’re going back to California to visit friends next month, and I have a great episode for you today. If you enjoy the podcast, I have a favor to ask – please leave a 5 star rating and review on your podcast app. It helps get the podcast into the earbuds of others.
Today we are going to talk about bible transitions and which one is the best one for you.
I want to lay the groundwork for why I’m even doing an episode on this topic because I really don’t care which Bible version people read. Maybe I should have more of an opinion? I don’t know, but I think as long as you’re reading the Bible, you’re doing something right. There are “better” versions out there, but better in terms of what? When I say better, I mean for studying purposes and readability, comprehension, etc. And I have several versions in my house. I have the ESB, CSV, NIV, NKJV, NLT, and I think that’s it.
What I Hope to do in this episode is shed some light on why we have different versions, the difference between versions and translations, and answer the question – can the Bible be trusted? Has it been changed over and over throughout the centuries as some claim?
A few weeks ago, I got a message from someone about Bible translations that left out certain verses.
The message contained a reel with a man and his wife going through several different versions of the Bible and they looked for the verse in Matthew 17:21 that said, “This kind doesn’t come out except by prayer and fasting.” The context of this verse is when Jesus’ disciples could not cast out a demon and they wondered why. The man brought his child to Jesus and Jesus cast out the demon.
In the reel, the man and his wife mentioned that the NIV, ESV, NLT, etc. However, this verse was in his mothers’ old Bible which is the KJV. He and his wife concluded that the devil is taking these verses out of these bible and he tells people they should check their Bibles.
Now, my response to this is that this is just silly. However, this reel is circulating on social media and it makes Christians look ignorant of how their own Bibles are put together. So, with that said, I am going to explain why some Bible translations omit certain verses and why some don’t. Does that mean these other bible translations are bad? No. And I’ll explain why.
So here is what we’re going to discuss in this episode:
- What is the difference between translations and versions and why does it matter?
- Just because we have different versions of the Bible, does that mean the Bible can’t be trusted because it’s been changed so much?
- Which Bible translation is right for you.
What is the difference between translations and versions?
To translate means you change words from one language to another. All of the English translations are exactly that – translated in English from ancient Hebrew, which is what the OT was written in, or Greek/Latin, which is what the NT was written in. We have many English translations which is a huge blessing. There are some languages where the Bible has not been translated yet. We have more than 100 complete translations into English.
The NIV is the most popular English translation.
When it comes to versions of the Bible, there are 3 different categories:
Literal (which is word for word). A word for word translation, and those who are bilingual will understand this, is sometimes challenging because to match the original language gets tricky when you can’t find a word for it in the language you’re translating it in.
Interlinear, NASB, AMP, ESV, KJV, KJVER, NKJV
Thought for thought (matches the overall meaning of the original text).
CSB, NRSV, NAB, NIV
Paraphrased (summarizes the overall messages). I never recommend paraphrased versions.
The Message and The Living Bible are personal paraphrases and far more open to error and bias.
NLT, NIRV, GNT, TLB, MSG
I do have the NLT but I don’t really read it much.
I read the ESV and CSB so I have one from each of the categories that is best to read from. So if I had to say which Bible is the least likely I’d recommend, it’s anything from the paraphrased category. And I will leave this info in the show notes so if you want to print it or look at it and take some notes, feel free to do that. I am also going to leave a grade level recommendation in the show notes too, but sometimes people get offended when you tell them their bible is a lower grade level than what they expected. I have a higher grade level and lower grade level. It doesn’t matter. It’s not about pride here, it’s about getting to know God. So keep that in mind.
Ok, so now that we’ve talked about the versions of the Bible and how the literal translations (word for word), thought for thought, and paraphrased make up the English translations, let’s talk about why some of these omit certain versions and passages of Scripture.
I once heard a story where someone said a professor asked a christian if he knew that some of the verses in the Bible are missing from the original manuscript. The Christian did not know and his faith was shaken. He did not understand how his bible was put together, why some versions omitted some verses, or why that’s relevant to the manuscript evidence we have.
There are many who don’t know the answer to this.
Just like the man and his wife who said the devil took the prayer and fasting verse out of the Bible because prayer and fasting is powerful and the devil knows it – it’s all ignorance. And ignorance is not a pass. We need to do a better job at defending these ridiculous accusations, as if they make the Bible less reliable. No. Christians just don’t know what they should know.
Here are some verses missing from some versions of the Bible:
Why are they missing? Because the newer translations wanted to accurately convey what the original manuscripts contained. The older versions – KJV and NKJV, include them. In the NIV, you will see that for John 5:3, for example, it will have John 5:3 and skip 5:4 altogether, and go directly to John 5:5. So it looks like 5:3 and then 5:5 but in the footnotes you’ll see that 5:3 is missing because it wasn’t in the original manuscript. In other words, they explain it, they don’t just leave it out. The KJV, however, does not explain that it’s not in the original manuscript, they just include it.
Now, your Bible likely contains John 7:53-8:11, the story about the woman caught in adultery.
However, the original manuscripts don’t. This very was added to the text a few centuries after John wrote it. In the NIV and other bible translations, you will see a disclaimer that this story is not in the original manuscript. That means, John did not write it into the original document.
A good Bible translation will tell you what is committed and why and what has been added and when and whether or not these things reflect the original manuscripts or not.
People in my own church used to argue that the NIV and other versions were “watered down” because they were missing some verses. They also say the KJV is the best version because it’s more true to the original language. While the NIV does omit verses, it only omits them because they are not in the original manuscript and the NIV scholars want to reflect as closely as possible what is in the original documents.
The KJV, while be a literal, word for word translation, is hard to read because no one speaks in Old English anymore, and includes some verses that are not in the original manuscripts. So if you like the NIV – good. Read it. And if you like the KJV, good. Read it. But understand why your bible says what it doesn’t and don’t knock people for the version they choose to read.
Just because we have different versions of the Bible, does that mean the Bible can’t be trusted because it’s been changed so much?
When someone says this, we first need to ask them what they mean when they say the Bible has been changed over and over again. Many times people think because there are different English translations that means the integrity of the message has been compromised. But as we just discussed, there are three different categories that each version of the Bible fits into: literal (word for word), thought for thought, and paraphrased. I really want to make this point clear so that you know there is a purpose to how the Bible is translated and why there is a difference between them.
So that’s one of the first points. Secondly, we have manuscript evidence that surpasses the amount of evidence of any other ancient historical document. For example, we have more than 8,000 original manuscripts written in Greek alone. We have more than 5,000 copies of the NT manuscripts written in the first 300 years after the events it records. All of the manuscripts were carefully and meticulously written by scribes whose sole purpose was to record the original texts by the eyewitnesses. The manuscript evidence is also early, which means it was written closely to the dates it records. We know the NT was written between 15-40 years after the events it records and the manuscript evidence supports this.
This is what Got Questions says about the old and new testament:
“Accurate copying is also an important factor in the Bible’s reliability. New Testament writings were composed within a few decades of the events they describe, far too early for legend or myth to overtake actual history. In fact, the basic framework of the gospel can be dated to a formal creed just a few years after the crucifixion of Jesus, according to Paul’s description in 1 Corinthians 15:3–8. Historians have access to a tremendous number of manuscripts, proving the New Testament was reliably and quickly copied and distributed. This gives ample confidence that what we read today correctly represents the original writing.
The Old Testament, as well, shows all evidence of being reliably transmitted.
When the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the 1940s, they were 800 years older than any other available manuscripts. Comparing earlier and later manuscripts showed a meticulous approach to transmission, once again adding to our confidence that what we have today represents the original texts.”
I am going to link all of these articles in the show notes for you so you can brush up on your knowledge of biblical reliability and textual criticism.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I had my boys memorize the creed by Voddie Bauchaum and my youngest came to me the other day and told me he used the creed to answer a question about the NT reliability. He is 13 but memorized the creed when he was 10. The creed is, “The Bible is a reliable collection of historical documents written by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. They report supernatural events in fulfillment of specific prophecies and claim their writings are divine rather than human in origin.”
This creed is a great tool to have and to teach to your kids because the Bible is not a fictional book, it’s not a fairytale, it hasn’t been copied and passed down in the same way the game of telephone has been played. It is a compilation of historical documents by eyewitnesses to the death and resurrection of Christ and the events it records.
To say otherwise is ignorant and foolish.
Now, people can dispute the claims of miracles and events, but they cannot deny that it is a historical document and they cannot deny the manuscript evidence we have for it.
The real question isn’t, “Can we trust it because it’s been changed so much” because it hasn’t changed that much, or at the very least what has been translated can be verified by the manuscript evidence we do have. The better question is, “Can it be trusted as the word of God?”
What makes the Bible the word of God?
If you say that the Bible can’t be the word of God because it was written by human beings, well so was every other book you read. And this is the claim some people who dispute the Bible being God’s word will say.
The Bible claims to be God’s word, how do we know it is? If you say that the Bible is God’s word because the Bible says it’s God’s word (which it does), you just committed a fallacy in logic called circular reasoning. So we have to do better than that. And many Christians don’t know how to defend the fact that the Bible is God’s word outside of saying something like this.
And BTW, this is one of the fallacies in logic your kids will learn if they take Train Your Brain with me through OCC, so sign them up if you haven’t yet.
Let’s start with what historians use to very the reliability of the NT as a historical document:
- Eyewitness testimony: all of the authors are eyewitnesses or close companions of eyewitnesses.
- Early testimony: the NT was written 15-40 years after the events it records. If it was hundreds of years after, the reliability could be questioned because how can we verify the events?
- Embarrassing testimony: do the eyewitnesses tell the truth about the events by sharing the embarrassing stuff or do they try and paint themselves in a positive light?
- Excruciating testimony: what price did the authors pay to get the message out? All of them suffered persecution and even death to claim that Jesus was the son of God. I don’t know of anyone who dies for a lie, let alone all of the NT authors.
- Extra-biblical testimony: the Bible isn’t the only document that mentions Jesus and the events in the Bible. We also have at least 10 extra biblical sources from non-Christian writers.
- Expected testimony: the prophecies fulfilled.
But can’t any religion claim their text is divinely inspired? Sure, they can. But every claim must be backed up with evidence. That’s why the inspired word of God is authenticated by the miracles empowered by God and sets the Bible apart. Not only that, no other religious book has as many eyewitnesses who authored it. The Book of Mormon has one – Joseph Smith, who got a revelation from an angel. No one was there to verify it, he has no expected testimony, no excruciating testimony, no miracles to verify it. The Quiran has one author.
I rarely hear people disputing these books like I hear them dispute the Bible.
The bible has more evidence of reliability and being the inspired word of God than any other religious book.
So can the Bible be trusted? I’ve never been more convinced.
Which Bible translation is right for you?
So again, I think you should have one from at least the word for word category and one from the thought for thought category. And if you have kids, I would say to take their reading level into consideration. Actually, if you know a baby Christian who wants to understand their bibles, consider their reading level too because understanding is more important than the “Which bible is inspired and anointed” debate.
So here are some reading levels for some of the translations that might help you out.
NLT 6th grade
NKJV 7th grade
NIV 7th grade
ESV 10th grade
NASB 11th grade
KJV 12th grade
How do they determine a reading level? It’s going to depend on vocabulary, complexity of sentence structure, and things like that. Again, I don’t think you should get hung up on the reading level of your Bible. What matters is do you understand it and can you grow with it. So if someone asks which bible translation is right for you, my answer is the one you will read.
As Christians, we really should understand our bibles a lot better – and by that I mean how they’re put together, the reliability of the documents, and how to communicate that to people who want to know.
And that leads me to a final point: some Christians will say that the Bible doesn’t need to be defended. To defend means to resist an attack or protect from harm or danger. So when someone attacks the idea that the Bible is the word of God and you explain why the Bible is the word of God, you are defending the Bible -and rightly so.
The point is that God doesn’t need to be defended. He can do what He wants. But we need to defend our faith. 1 Peter 3:15 is one of the main verses that tells us this: “Be prepared to give an answer for the hope that is within you.”
Jesus defended his position and gave evidence for the claim that He is the son of God. So what am I saying? Defend the faith – and that includes the defense of why the Bible is the word of God.
The best version of the Bible is the one you will read form the thought for thought or word for word categories. I don’t suggest paraphrased versions.
If you have any questions for me, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll catch you on the next one.