Foreword:

Ever wonder what God might have to say to YOU today? Here are things to ponder, and things to receive into your heart. If you have a question, put it in the comments. I respond as much as I can.

A note for all my readers: I've been experimenting with YouTube videos for Bible teaching, and now I'm working my way through the New Testament. I encourage you to subscribe to my YouTube channel for better coverage. I'm still writing, of course, and my written posts appear here.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Which Bible? (For English Speakers)

I've been reading some articles about "which version is the best English Version" recently, and I've found some helpful information, some promotions (OUR Bible is the BEST!!!), some that "put down" certain versions, and lots of information, mostly indigestible.
So here is what I hope is an article that helps you:
First, let's consider popularity:
1. Top Selling Bibles in 2018, according to the ECPA (an organization that tracks Christian Booksellers):
http://christianbookexpo.com/bestseller/translations.php?id=1118

Note that the NIV is first (eminently readable, popular with many folk), but that the KJV and NKJV occupy two of the top slots.
I'm sad to say that one of my favorites, the NASB, has sunk to #10, probably because it's neither as well-known as the KJV nor as readable as the NIV. The ESV and NLT hold top spots, the ESV because it's used in many Reformed churches, and the NLT because it's a "commentary in a Bible"--in other words, a paraphrase, or a re-interpreted Bible.

2. Most READ Bible: https://www.statista.com/statistics/299402/preferred-bible-version-usa/

Interesting facts. The KJV is still the most read Bible in the US. Why? Probably because it has a lot going for it--for one thing, many people are wedded to it. For another, it is still unsurpassed in elegance of language and quotable verses and phrases. It's also rhythmic and powerful, and accurate (despite what some of its detractors say).  The NIV, though the top seller, is only one third as popular when you consider what's the most read Bible. For further confirmation, here is some other statistical info (variances in percentage probably reflect "who got asked"):

http://blogs.thearda.com/trend/featured/the-lord-is-their-shepherd-new-study-reveals-who-reads-the-bible-%E2%80%93-and-why/

All this leads to the question, "Which is the best Bible for ME?"
I have had significant experience teaching through a number of versions. The easiest to TEACH is a "modified KJV;" I modify it "on the fly" with my own alterations and explanations. A close second is the NASB, which I like because it's accurate. I have taught Bible classes using the NIV, the NASB, the NKJV, and the KJV.

Many years ago, when I was doing home Bible studies as a pastor, I found that many in my congregation could not understand the KJV, or even the NKJV (New King James).  The sentence structure of the NASB (New American Standard Bible) was too confusing, and the people who couldn't "get" other versions could easily understand the NIV. I had one participant who confessed he was dyslexic, and could never have understood the KJV or other versions. He needed the NIV. So that's what I used.

The point is that not everyone understands language in the same way. Some "get" the KJV, and it's actually not that difficult once you work through it a bit, but there are some folk who will never understand it, because their reading skills are just not that strong.  It's pretty pointless to argue that the "Best" version is the NASB or the KJV if the person you're discussing this with can't understand what's written. if I wanted to be really unfair about this, I could demand of all the "KJV only" folk that they read only the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. After all, I understand it, and it's the perfect Word of God, in the original languages. However, the only people who would then understand the Bible would be people like me, who have spent years studying the original languages. The Bible writers discuss this in various places:
1. Paul, writing to Timothy in 1 Tim. 3:15-17:
...from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired (God Breathed) by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work

It is almost certain that Timothy did not have or know the Scriptures in Hebrew, but rather in the Greek translation known as the "Septuagint," translated in Alexandria around 275 BC. This particular translation is not used much in translating the Bible into English, because it is far from perfect. Yet Paul essentially encouraged Timothy to use it. Why? Because it's what he knew and understood.

Another passage that specifically speaks to this issue of understanding is found in Nehemiah 8:8:
They read from the book, from the law of God, translating (NIV, explaining) to give the sense so that they understood the reading.
The people of Nehemiah's day were returnees from Babylon, Persia and other areas where they had been dispersed after the conquest of Israel and Judah. They had lost their understanding of Scripture and in some cases of the language, so Ezra translated (NIV, "explained") the text for them so that they could understand. 

All I'm saying here is that, as you plan your Bible reading, use a Bible YOU comprehend. Otherwise, you're wasting your time, because for God to reveal Himself to you, you must understand what He says. 
It's like this: Romans 10:14:
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? And here we add, "How can people understand the truths they've heard if they don't understand the language?" Paul actually says this exact thing, in regard to the gift of tongues, 1 Cor. 14:8-12: 
For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle? So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. There are, perhaps, a great many kinds of languages in the world, and no kind is without meaning. If then I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be to the one who speaks a barbarian, and the one who speaks will be a barbarian to me. So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church.
The point is that words that give no understanding also give no value to the person who hears them.
Take Paul's words to heart. Always seek understanding. Always seek to give understanding. Aside from the popular arguments about tongues (for today, not for today), it's clear that the kind of language Paul meant was understandable vs. incomprehensible.
If you love the KJV, that's great. I love it, too. If you love the NIV, that's good as well. I'm not a fan (since they sold out to the gender-neutral crowd), but if you understand it, then it's the one for you. If you like the ESV, fine. It's very good. If you read Hebrew and Greek, good for you. However, the MOST IMPORTANT thing is to understand, receive, and obey what God says to you in His Word, and to communicate that understanding to other people. If you militate for the KJV but won't obey what God says in that book, for shame! If you find the NIV the most helpful version, and you hear, receive, and obey God's voice as He speaks to you, praise God! Tell other people about Him, in language THEY understand.
What I'm saying here, in conclusion, is that your "listening ear" is the key, and helping yourself  & others understand the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is essential. The version that does that for you is the version to use.
I'll close these thoughts with a story. I was in Durango, Colorado this summer as part of a vacation. I went into this Western store, and the clerk there was almost the only other person in the store. I saw she was reading a Bible. It was an ancient hardcover, and I could tell it was the "Amplified Version" by its appearance. She told me that her friend had lent that Bible to her so she could read it. He had owned it for 45 years. It was marked and worn, and it looked as if some of the pages were falling out. It was obviously well-read, used extensively, and the woman who was now reading it was new to the faith, but she understood what she was reading, and that's what mattered. I hope that you understand, receive, and obey the Word of God. It will lead you to God, and then to heaven.
God bless you all.