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What Version to Choose

By Alleinx, 20 October 2016 · 1,867 views

Scripture Word Study
The reading of the Scriptures gives us knowledge about God, and this knowledge, in its turn, leads to a better life. What is written in the introduction to the proverbs of Solomon (Pro 1:2-6) can be applied to all the Scriptures, which are to be used by the believers for their spiritual growth.

“For attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young-- let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance-- for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.” (Pro 1:2-6)


The spiritual circumcision that means the effective rejection of sin is the turning-point in the believer’s life, and the Scriptures play an important role in it.

In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ. (Col 2:11)


God as the High Priest administers the spiritual circumcision the apostle Paul wrote about. Christ is the Doer of it, and the Scriptures are the knife.

For Christians the Bible is the handbook of life. It is the basis of all their knowledge, wisdom, education, morality, ethics, politics. To those who take the Word of God with reverence every word of the Scriptures matters. The Bible is to be read and re-read daily, some of its verses are to be memorized. Given all that, in what language you read it and what version you read also matter.

Let me draw a comparison. You want a good knife in order to use it in your household. But it is not a simple tool you want, but exactly the same as the craftsman whom you know also has. You can have a replica of it but of a different material. You can have it made of wood, plastic, or paper. But will it cut? No, it will not. In prehistoric times flint knives were used, today stainless steel may be the best material for that.

Well, you got a knife of stainless steel. But it is blunt. It does not cut well, and you have to apply much force when using it. It is the same with any translation of the Scriptures that is not accurate enough. It can be read, but it is a question whether the reading of it can be very useful.

Contrary to what some people probably think or believe, the original language of the Scriptures was not English. It was Hebrew that was spoken in the Biblical times when the Lord, whose name is Jehovah, conversed with His people, teaching them wisdom, knowledge, understanding, humility, faith and righteousness.

“For Jehovah gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Pro 2:6) "Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his.” (Dan 2:20)


Because of His love for His chosen nation, God gave them the Scriptures, spiritually inspired and which express God’s wisdom in a written form.

The truth that must be remembered is that Biblical Hebrew is a sacred language and the knowledge of it is important, if not to say vital, for every believer. Maybe, the time will come when the language of the Scriptures will be studied widely in schools all over the world or will even replace the so-called classical languages that are Ancient Greek and Latin.

To read the Bible in Hebrew is a great thing to do. It means to read the Scriptures as they were read centuries ago and as they were read by Jesus Christ when He taught the disciples and ministered. Is not it wonderful? It is more than wonderful because it makes us closer to our God than ever before. What is needed for that? It is easier than you think and you can do so even without the knowledge of Hebrew grammar. Basically, you need two things that are a transliteration of the original text and an interlinear Hebrew-English translation (available as e-Sword downloads).

The problem, however, is that it is easy to find an Hebrew-English interlinear translation of the OT but not of the NT because it does not exist. What we have today is a fully vocalized version including the OT and the NT (Salkinson-Ginsburg). That is the complete Bible (an e-Sword module) although without the Apocrypha.

Biblical Hebrew is a sacred and old language, one of the oldest in the world. Any translation of the Scriptures makes them sound differently and changes their meaning in some or other degree. A good translation must correspond to the original text as far as possible. Therefore, it is wise to take that version of the Bible which is closest to the original text.

In order to find out what version is the best, I considered many of them. My conclusion is that the NIV (The New International Version) is the most readable one, and the LITV (The Literal Translation of the Holy Bible) is the most literal one. The KJV is also good. Although the NIV, the LITV and the KJV are more accurate than many other versions published by now, they have lots of inaccuracies.

Any translation has its flaws. The most common of them is the presence of additional words added by the translators for emphasis or for other reasons. Often the order of words or coordination between them is changed. Some words are at variance with the original or simply are omitted because they did not fit in the translator's linguistic formula. Every such change may seem small and insignificant, but because there are many of them, the entire text can differ significantly from the original.

The authorized edition of the KJV (1769), which has become classical, is still popular and worth having. The use of the pronouns thou, thy, thee gives it a small advantage over those versions in which the 2 p. s. and 2 p. p. can be inferred only from the context. However, in some cases the KJV is less accurate than the NIV, the LITV and some others, and the same can be said about its modernized clones.

By comparing different versions of the Bible with the original, we can see the difference. Let us consider the verse Isa 45:8, for example.

HWSG

(Isa 45:8) הַרְעִיפוּ שָׁמַיִם מִמַּעַל וּשְׁחָקִים יִזְּלוּ-צֶדֶק תִּפְתַּח-אֶרֶץ וְיִפְרוּ-יֶשַׁע וּצְדָקָה תַצְמִיחַ יַחַד אֲנִי יְהוָה בְּרָאתִיו: ס


KJV (1769)

Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the LORD have created it. (Isa 45:8)


NIV

You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness grow with it; I, the LORD, have created it. (Isa 45:8)


LITV

Drop down from above, O heavens; and let the clouds pour down righteousness. Let the earth open and let salvation bear fruit; and let righteousness spring up together. I, Jehovah have created it. (Isa 45:8)

The verse Isa 45:8 begins with the phrase הַרְעִיפוּ שָׁמַיִם מִמַּעַל in which the noun שָׁמַיִם is preceded by the verb הַרְעִיפוּ
related to it. This is typical of Hebrew. In this particular case only the KJV preserves the same word order as in the original, whereas the NIV and the LITV have it slightly changed. Perhaps this is not a big difference.

The KJV renders וּשְׁחָקִים as "skies", which is not quite correct, and the NIV and the LITV render this word according to its exact meaning as "clouds".

Then there is something more interesting. The phrase וְיִפְרוּ-יֶשַׁע literally means "let them bring forth salvation", where the pronoun them refers to the heavens (שָׁמַיִם), the clouds (שְׁחָקִים) and the earth (אֶרֶץ). This phrase, expressing a volition, speaks of God’s salvation as coming from the world since the skies and the earth are its parts. This may be perplexing to those who have little knowledge of the Scriptures.

As Christians we are accustomed to believe that God’s salvation comes from God only. In addition, it is effective and productive. It produces the fruits of a spiritual life, such as our good deeds and achievements. God’s salvation always exists, actually, it is always available and operates in the souls of human beings.

However, in the Scriptures it all is not so simple as is often described in theological books. The skies, the earth and everything in them serve as intermediary agents of God’s power. Let us remember that Jesus Christ, the Savior, did not come from nowhere. The Savior did not fall from the skies, but was born in a human form, grew up, lived on earth, walked, breathed, ate food, drank, like humans do. The surrounding world and the atmosphere of that time played an important role in Jesus’ saving ministry and provided a setting for the Gospel story. The skies and the earth, the entire setting took part in the fulfillment of God’s salvation.


The KJV gives the correct rendition of the phrase וְיִפְרוּ-יֶשַׁע as "let them bring forth salvation". It both lexically and grammatically agrees with the original.

The NIV has it simply "let salvation spring up", which does not accord well with the original and is a simplification of the original phrase. It evokes a comparison with something that comes from the earth, for example, a plant.

The LITV has it "let salvation bear fruit", which is not correct because of its grammar. It seems the translators here perceived wrongly the grammar of the phrase וְיִפְרוּ-יֶשַׁע. The verb וְיִפְרוּ is masculine plural, but the noun יֶשַׁע (salvation) is masculine singular and, therefore, can only be related to the verb as its object, not as its subject.

The verse Isa 45:8 also has the name of God יְהוָה . God is the Almighty One and the Creator, but He is not anonymous. As a supernatural living being, God not only has personhood, but also has His unique personal name. The way it is usually translated into English is "the Lord" or "the LORD", and it is a title that expresses the idea of God’s might and patronage over humankind. However, the word יְהוָה is not a title, but is a name, like Peter or Paul, for example. According to grammar, names normally are not translated and can only be transliterated. The English equivalent of יְהוָה is "Yahweh" or "Jehovah". The LITV has the name "Jehovah", and it is more accurate than "the Lord" or "the LORD".

The example above illustrates how to compare different versions of the Bible in order to find out what of them is the best. However, it is difficult to give the final verdict because in some cases the KJV can appear the most accurate one, but in other cases it can be the LITV or some other version.

The Scriptures play an important role in the spiritual circumcision the apostle Paul wrote about. They are the knife for it, and God administers it. However, any version of the Bible that is not accurate enough can be compared to a blunt knife. The making of the knife and its steel may be good, but it does not cut well. If sharper knives are available, let us take them.

No translation can be better than its source. The best decision is to take several versions at once that are closest to the original and to use them side by side with it. And may Jehovah bless you.




I edited this post, corrected some errors and added some thoughts. Sorry, I did not notice at first that the verb וְיִפְרוּ is masculine plural, but יֶשַׁע (salvation) is masculine singular. But the phrase וְיִפְרוּ-יֶשַׁע appears even more interesting.

Another source of inspirational learning is the Greek Septuagint. Although it does not compare to the original Hebrew, it gives us great insight into the theology of Scripture.

 

As the LXX is the oldest Greek translation of Hebrew Scripture, and as it was compiled at the time when two major languages converged, it seamlessly bridges the gap between the Old Testament and New. This Greek writing helps us tremendously as the Greek language is still current today. Plus… it is, not only, fairly well understood, but helps to reinforce Old Testament Hebrew Scripture. In essence, the same Greek words used in the New Testament, are also found in the Old Testament when implementing the LXX.

 

But with having two versions (Hebrew & Greek), there has been much debate as to which translation is correct. And as we place them side by side, it’s easy to see that they sometimes seem to contradict. But where the two appear to disagree, we must remember that the people translating Hebrew to Greek understood these languages much better than us, and their intent was not to lose God’s Truths, but rather, preserve them. With that, we must attempt to understand what is written in both, so as not to be misled.

 

Straight to the point, we must always realize that God’s Word is based on faith… and faith is a concept. Thus, if we read closely, using the Hebrew and Greek translations in harmony, we will achieve a much greater recognition concerning the concept of faith being implied.

The only major problem with the Septuagint has been, that many of its Greek words had never been translated. Hence, the majority of mankind was left in the dark as to their English counterpart. But led by the hand of God, we have an individual that did just that.

 

Charles Van der Pool spent 30 years of his life translating the NT Greek words into their Old Testament LXX equivalents. With the interpretation he’s given within his Apostolic Bible Polyglot (ABP+), we now gain NT understanding within the OT. And with having these words tied to Greek Strong’s numbering system, I believe that Van der Pool’s translation is one of greatest means of research and verifying Scripture ever. Used alongside the original Hebrew, we receive another testimony of God, as it opens up God’s Word to another dimension of Truth.

 

Having two validated OT sources of Scripture, and living in modern times, there can be no doubt… God has furnished 21st century man with some of the greatest resources of knowledge as never before in history. And for that, we should truly thankful.

 

Blessings… and thanks for the great article…!!

November 2017

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