A Brief Look at Different Bible Translations

During online Bible study, one of our participants was frustrated with a discrepancy in Bible translations and asked a great question: Why aren’t all Bible translations “accurate?” She was confused why Habakkuk had a different date in her NIV translation than the one mentioned in her Bible study workbook using the HCBS version. We had a wonderful online discussion via Facebook and I decided to share it here as well.

First, the Bible is written by the Divine Author.

It was originally written in languages that we would not understand today. For this reason it needs to be translated and has been translated into 150+ versions. One of the first translations was the King James Version in the 1500-1600 time range. Many years AFTER this was written, the Dead Sea Scrolls, containing ORIGINAL manuscripts of scripture were discovered in 1940-1950 time frame.

Now the Bible translators have NEW and verified documents and they discovered the original Bibles were missing some of the scriptures originally written OR they had actually translated and added verses that were NOT in the original manuscripts.

Okay…so we now have 150+ Bible translations, some written before Dead Sea Scrolls and some written after. To see all the translations visit Bible Gateway.

Second…we have legends and other historical documents that have been discovered through historical research.

So when the Bible was originally translated, these legends were believed true and then later discovered the time frames might be wrong or the stories might be a legend and not a fact. One example is Simon the Magician (I just wrote a long research paper on him) and there were legends that he claimed to bury himself alive in the ground and waited three days to see if he resurrected. Seriously! This legend says he died, yet other legends said he died another way. It was not mentioned in the Book of Acts because 1) Luke kept to his original message and didn’t want the focus on Simon and 2) it was legend and not verified by any supporting documents.

Third… there is difficulty in Bible translators verifying dates.

I highly recommend Acts (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) by Darrell Brock, or one of his other commentaries because the author actually will tell you ALL THE DIFFERENT DATES. So he says “document xxx says 600-400BC” and then “document yyy says 650-550bBC” and he presents all the different verified data, then he explains why Bible scholars have concluded a specific date. It’s actually fascinating to read…I highly recommend reading ONE of his books.

Why are Bible dates important?

It’s valuable to the historical context: who was the king or leader at the time, what was the moral and social environment at the time. Especially with the Greek gods…A date range is often more preferred than an exact date where there are no historical documents to date the time.

In our workbook Read the Bible For Life, on page 81 George Guthrie puts Habakkuk on the timeline with “610?” and his question mark indicates there is some confusion on the exact date for this prophet. I have the John MacArthur Bible Commentary and he lists Habakkuk as 620-605BC. I have the Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary and he lists Habakkuk as four different dates. He writes “Some suggest the time of Jehoikim (609-597BC), others maintain Josiah’s time (621 BC), and still others in the time of Manasseh (686-643BC).” I’m going to stop there…because while I don’t know the exact date of this prophet what I do know is that there is confusion with Bible scholars over his exact date.

What are the differences in Bible versions?

KJV and NKJV, NASB, ESV are word-for-word transaltions. NIV, HCSB, NET, NLT are thought-for-thought translations. AMP and Message are paraphrased Bibles, Message is translated by one author rather than a team of scholars. The word-for-word is closer to the original source language. The thought-for-thought is easier for understanding and therefore recommended for new Bible study students. For this reason, there will be variances in Bible translations. Choose the translation that you understand and use the Life Application Study Bible if you are new to Bible study, as you will find help applying what you learn.

What are the warnings of Bible inaccuracy?

Not all Bibles are accurate. Some have added books. Some have removed text. Some have suggested God is a Mother and Jesus is not the Messiah. Some are dangerous and false teachings.

How to Select a Bible That is Right For You

We often get asked about differences in Bible translations. Here are some helpful things to remember about different Bible versions.

  1. Pick the same Bible translation your pastor is using at church. Much of your denomination doctrine will be based on that version.
  2. Pick a study Bible. Beginners will find “Life Application Study Bible” easy to understand. Or the “New Spirit Filled Life Bible” which is a comparison of differences in doctrine and emphasis on Holy Spirit in Scriptures.
  3. Pick a commentary from your favorite theologian. Examples would be Tony Evans, Charles Stanley, Matthew Henry, John MacArthur, David Jeremiah, Warren Wiersbe, Moody, Holman, NKJV Commentary, NIV Commentary, Dallas Seminary, etc.
  4. Advanced Study: Some Bible teachers use Keyword Study Bible with Hebrew and Greek references. Many Bible scholars use the Thompson Chain Bible.
  5. You might use more than one Bible. For study, I use the Tony Evans Bible, Charles Spurgeon Bible, Keyword Study Bible, New Spirit Filled Bible. For journaling I use the Illuminated Faith Bible.