The first time I was asked about my preferred version of the Bible, I said I preferred the KJV – the King James Version. I was in high school and had only recently been introduced to the Amplified and the New American Standard versions.
But in the past 56 years (my entire married life) I have studied out of numerous versions. When someone recently asked me the question of my preferred version, I told him, “I prefer the NCV – New Century Version. However, the KJV is the one I take with me wherever I go simply because I grew up with it and my Bible memorization came from the KJV.”
Some time ago a man told me that I was wrong for not sticking with the KJ because, he claimed, it was the only accurate Bible in the world. I tried to discuss the topic with him, but he wouldn’t consider my point of view. I finally said, “In that case, you have just presented one of the greatest miracles in the history of the world.”
Asking what it was, I responded, “If the King James Bible, published in 1611 AD (or CE), is the only real Bible, the Christian church existed for almost 1,600 years without a Bible and the Jewish Church existed for about 3,500 years without a Bible. Isn’t that amazing?”
He hadn’t thought about that. Many others haven’t thought about it, either. But neither had he thought about the fact that the KJV is only English. If the KJV were the only real Bible, no other language group in the world would have a true Bible.
With that said, people should not spend so much time creating more English versions. Instead, they should invest money to translate Bibles for the ethnic groups who have no Bible in their language.
I remember being in Bible studies when the leader asked, “How do you interpret this Scripture?” Since those studies didn’t involve linguistic experts, the question didn’t make any sense to me. The leader should have asked, “How do you apply this verse?” or “What does this verse convey to you?” or “What is the Lord saying to you through this verse?”
Two major problems most people have of interpreting Scriptures are: 1) many people, if not most, do not understand the history and culture of the Biblical era, and 2) most people do not understand many of the idioms and idiomatic phrases the original authors used.
There are books to help us with culture and history, but idioms and idiomatic phrases trip us up. (That’s an idiomatic phrase and might be difficult for someone to understand and translate properly 500 years from now.)
A current example of translating idiomatic phrases is the following. Mark 14:38, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” was translated into Russian by an American, then retranslated into English by a Russian. The result was “The Vodka is strong, but the meat is rotting.” Both non-Christian translators tried to be literally correct, but they missed the intent.
Some of the problems generated today are by many church leaders and Bible scholars who normally filter the Bible text through their own cultural background. But the only proper way of understanding Scripture is through the context of the original writers who wrote the Bible.
Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg (professor of Jewish Studies for Christians in Tel Aviv, Israel) said in his book, The Jewish Gospel of John: Discovering Jesus, King of All Israel, “The proper context for interpreting the Bible is the context of the biblical writers – the context that produced the Bible. Every other context is alien to the biblical writers and, therefore, to the Bible. Yet there is a pervasive tendency in the believing Church to filter the Bible through creeds, confessions, and denominational preferences.”
That’s why we need Bible scholars, pastors, and teachers who have studied the culture and language of the Bible times to help us.
No matter how we cut it (idiomatically speaking), it is dynamically important that we read the Bible. Study it. Apply the truths and morals to your life. Honor the Lord Jesus Christ by the way you live. Studying the Bible will help you do that.