What’s The Best Bible To Read?
First let me say that your bible is not the inerrant word of God (but it’s probably close). That is unless your bible is in the original language it is in no way inerrant. The fact is all translated versions including the KJV, NIV, NLT, and beyond are full of errors.
This in no way implies that the bible is bad. In fact I think it’s one book every human on planet earth needs to read. Errors or not, it is packed with truth, and thankfully even the translated versions are pretty darn accurate. So if the bible has errors which one can we trust the most for truth? I think it’s best to first address how/why errors exist. This knowledge helps us to challenge some verses that don’t seem to fit with the message of Christ and the new covenant promises.
Why do bibles contain errors? For starters, imagine how difficult it must be to translate Hebrew into English and you have your answer. In other words the problem is in our ability to accurately translate the full meaning of every word/verse and keep it in full context. With so many versions of the bible they obviously don’t all say the same thing, and when people ask me “what is the best version of the bible to read” I generally suggest they read anyone they choose, but to cross reference it with other translations. Thankfully the internet allows us to view various translations for free through websites like Biblegateway.
Let me be clear, the KJV is not better than the NIV, and the NASB is no better than the KJV and so on. There are a bunch of religious legalists that will force a version of the bible as the only acceptable copy, but the fact remains they all have a few poor translations. But again, they are all good (so please don’t misunderstand this post).
Examples of Conflicting Biblical Translations
I could go on and on with examples of conflicting words/verses in all bible translations and then we could go even further debating which one is the correct translation. So for sake of time I’ll just share a couple thoughts.
Let’s look at Romans 7:18
Romans 7:18 NASB “ For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh;
Romans 7:18 NIV “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.
What’s the big deal with the translation? Many Christians, self-included, believe that we were literally (spiritually) crucified with Christ and the new has come. Even though we still struggle with sin which attacks us through our flesh and the members of our body, we believe that our new nature is good. We believe we have a new spirit and a new heart just as God promised in Ezekiel 36:26. But if we accept the NIV version then we have to accept the idea that our nature is not new and instead we are still evil, and respectfully, Christ lives in us and He does not share space with evil. Interestingly enough the NASB, KJV, NLV and most other versions do not use the words “sinful nature” but instead they translate the meaning as “flesh”. This makes since to me because we are dead to sin and that’s why God calls us not to let “it” reign in our mortal bodies (through the flesh, not our hearts).
[Romans 6:11-13] In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.
The translation of Hebrews 12:6 is one that really freaks Christian out.
Hebrews 12:6 NLV The Lord punishes everyone He loves. He whips every son He receives.”
Hebrews 12:6 KJV For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
Hebrews 12:6 GNT Because the Lord corrects everyone he loves, and punishes everyone he accepts as a child.”
Hebrews 12:6 NIV because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
So we see all kinds of translations here. We see “discipline” and “corrects”, which are not so scary, but then we see whip, punish, and scourge which are pretty harsh. Well If KJV and the NLV are correct then I have to ask why don’t I see Christians everywhere with blood running down their backs? Let’s not water down these words…… Do you know what it means to be whipped or scourged? This is not gentle, yet many Christians don’t question this translation and simply accept the idea that God beats us with metal whips us if we struggle with sin. But if we look at the bible as a whole we have to ask does this translation conflict with God “remembers our sins no more” (Heb 10:17), “he who believes is not judged” (John 3:18), and “perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18)?
Yes, God does discipline His children, but not by beating them. He does it by counseling us, by leading us, by revealing truth to us. He does it by inquiring deeply into our hearts and minds. Discipline does not have to be a negative and scary word. You discipline your body on a diet. You discipline yourself to pray. You discipline yourself to read the bible. Discipline can be gentle.
In other words Gods discipline is not harsh punishment for past sins but rather gentle training for future living.
Let’s talk about scourging and see if you really think that’s the proper translation. A scourge is a multi-thong weapon with metal that was used to beat people to near death by digging deeply into the flesh and ripping it off of the body. Can you image God doing that to you? Try that with your own kids and you’ll be thrown in prison. No one that loves their children would do such a horrific thing, and nor does God.
So how do we explain the poor translation?
Scourge comes from the Hebrew word “biqqoret”, which means to “inquire deeply”. The most likely answer is that the book of Hebrews was written to Jews in Hebrew (obviously) and then we later translated it into Greek (and ultimately English) and we got it wrong. In fact over 150 words used in the book of Hebrews do not even appear anywhere in the epistles. So most likely the original author used the Hebrew word “biqqoret”, which can be translated in the Greek as “scourge” (mastigoo). So the translator didn’t show any bias against the older meaning of “biqqoret” (to inquire into) and such we end up with a horrific translation of God shredding our flesh to the point of near death.
Coincidentally, the Hebrew word “biqqoret” stems from the word “baqar” which means “to plow” and the writer of Hebrews goes on in verse 11 to say that God’s discipline “produces a harvest of righteous and peace for those trained by it”. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
So while some might think God is beating us with a scourge I’d say that Jesus was scourged in our place and “by His stripes we are healed”. Yes God cares about behavior, but instead of beating us He inquires deeply into us and points back to the right path.
So which bible should you read? I really don’t think it matters. They’re all great but we need to be okay questioning the translation, especially when it contradicts the bulk of the new testament scriptures.
The word of God is inerrant in its original language. That is not in question. What has been challenged today is the translation by men. So while I prefer the NASB I am not married to it, and I recommend that you read the bible that you feel works best for you. In all things seek God and if something doesn’t seem to fit then try to dig deeper into its original biblical meaning. You’re not questioning God. You’re questioning mans inability to perfectly translate Hebrew and Greek etc.
Author: Mike Cynar
Mike Cynar grew up in church and observed that countless people would go to church and then just stop. The church always referred to them as ‘fake Christians’ or ‘backsliders’ but Mike discovered the problem was deeper. The problem was the church message. The message was 90% behavior improvement and how bad you are, with a pinch of who you are in Christ, It was like every sermon was being preached to the church of Corinth. It’s in the Baptist church, Catholic, Pentecost, and most every other church. After discovering the true gospel message and how we are made right with God because of what ‘Jesus did’ (not what ‘we do’) Mike set out to free believers from behavior improvement programs and bring them back to Jesus. The Result – Jesus Without Religion was launched.