(And why I hate the question)
Recently, a friend of mine asked me which version of the Bible I read. It’s a simple enough question and my friend had no ill intentions or hidden agenda when she asked it, but I have heard this question many times before and quite frequently the conversation that follows puts one or both parties on the defensive. There have been many impassioned discussions that have taken place and I have seen believers who should be building each other up, quickly begin tearing each other down over the subject.
The choosing of one version over another is a dividing line. It creates an “us” and “them”.
If you read the English language, you are blessed with many different versions of the Bible to choose from. A quick count of just the English translations available on Biblegateway.com reveals over twenty-five of them. This is a tremendous blessing that many of us take for granted. Often in my studies I will read the same verse in six or seven different versions. When I do this, I usually come away with a greater, more well-rounded understanding of the verse than if I had read it in my favorite version only.
But there are pitfalls to having so many versions available. It is my belief that the enemy of our souls has found a way to pervert a blessing into a way to weaken the body. Satan’s plan is to steal, to kill, and to destroy (John 10:10). He has learned that if he can cause division in the body of Christ, he can keep us from operating in the power of the Holy Spirit. Beyond that, if he can get us to believe that our version is better than someone else’s version; he can encourage us to lift ourselves up over our brothers and sisters. Further, Satan can instill doubt in the Word of God. After all, if my version is better than your version, that means there is some inherent flaw in your translation. By reason, I should come to doubt that your version is even inspired of God. Then, I am faced with asking myself how I know for sure that my chosen version does not also contain some hidden flaw. Can we really trust the Bible at all?
Do not be deceived, the devil is trying to steal the Word from us, he is attempting to kill our faith, he is working to destroy the body!
That is not to say that there aren’t differences in translations; real differences that should be carefully considered when choosing a version to read from. We are talking about the Word of God so it should not be taken lightly. However, these considerations should not come at the expense of the unity of the body. Remember, the Word of God is a living Word; if you approach it prayerfully, God can speak to you through it regardless of minor translation differences.
Yes, there are books out there that are called “scripture” from cults and sects that are far from inspired. They may call themselves Christian, but in fact believe a number of unbiblical things. Let me be perfectly clear that I am not referring to any of these. There have also been Bibles printed that contained outright errors and fallacies. I am not referring to those either, but the Bible, no matter what translation you read teaches that Jesus is God incarnate. He alone was born for the purpose of becoming the ultimate sacrifice. He died to save us from our sins. He rose again on the third day and through Him we have the hope of eternal life. Christians everywhere are agreed on this no matter what translation they read. If they don’t believe this, they are not really Christian, regardless of what they call themselves.
Personally, I have versions of the bible that I prefer and versions that are not my favorite. I believe that I have solid, well researched reasons for these preferences. But those who are partial to the versions I don’t prefer also have reasons for their choices. But here’s the point: if you were to give me my least favorite translation of the Bible, I could still teach someone who Jesus is and why He came. I could still show someone the plan of salvation. I could still experience the spirit of God speaking to me through those words. His Words.
The reason we have so many arguments about what version to read is simply because we have so many versions to choose from. Consider the fact that most languages have only one translation of the Bible, two if they are very fortunate; and many languages only have a small portion of the Bible translated at all. Should we doubt that God can save those people since they are not reading your preferred version?
Satan will use whatever tool he can to divide us. Do not let the sacred Word of God be twisted this way. The Word is our offensive weapon, to be used to defeat Satan. Rather than squabble over it, let us be united in it! The Word of God is able to transcend time, language, and culture. We can have intelligent, sensitive, God honoring discussions about word choices and translations without displaying poor attitudes and judgment toward one another. God gave us His Word to teach, guide and edify us. Let’s put aside petty disagreements and use it to build each other up.