I use the King James Version (KJV) on this site for two reasons: It is in the public domain so I am able to copy and paste large sections into posts and pages and frankly, I like the language. I think the 17th century English is very poetic and beautiful in its way. It does raise a problem, however.
The language used in England in 1611, when the King James Version, or “Authorized” version, was first published, is quite different from today’s English. Some of the words are not used at all in today’s world and the meanings of other words have changed.
But, thankfully, there are many options open to us when it comes to choosing a translation we can actually use. In my discussion on Psalm 10 (which is completed, but waiting to be reviewed before publishing) I introduce a couple verses from the New International Version (NIV) to help clarify what was difficult to understand in the King James. And it does help.
It stands to reason that whatever version is chosen, it should be in your own language and dialect. God has a plan for each of us as well as for the world, and he wants to communicate that plan to us. If you struggle to read a Bible written in another language that extremely important message is lost. This goes for dialects, too. Seventeenth-century English is a dialect that is far removed from 21st century English. While it may sound beautiful, it may not be appropriate for you.
For Bible study, choose one of the “standard” versions and use it as a basis for your study. It has less peculiarities to a certain language or style of speaking (i.e. less idiomatic). The standard version is non-paraphrasing – it won’t substitute an easier to understand phrase for one that is difficult to understand – it is closer to the original text than one that is paraphrased. This is the primary text you should read for your study.
Once you feel you have a grip on what the scriptures are saying, you may want to consult another version that gives a more paraphrased rendering. This can help to further your understanding and will lead to greater clarity of the passage you are studying.
Here is a list of Bible versions. At the beginning are the standard versions and as you read through the list the versions become more paraphrasing. There are headings which will help guide you.
- New King James American Standard
- New American Standard
- Revised Standard
- New Revised Standard
- King James
Very close to the standard version
- New International Version
In the middle are the Dynamic Equivalence Translations which lean toward the more paraphrasing versions:
- Jerusalem Bible
- New Jerusalem Bible
- New American Bible
Those that are easier to read and with more paraphrasing:
- New English Bible
- Revised English Bible
Finally, the paraphrasing translations:
- Today’s English Version (also known as the Good News Bible)
- Living Bible
- The Message
So why would one want to study the Bible? What difference does it make which version is used?
As stated above, it is important to know the plan God has for each of us and for the world as well. The scriptures can help us discover that plan. Through the scriptures we are able to discover that plan and hopefully understand what is going on in the world around us, so it is important to find a Bible that we can read, understand, and feel comfortable with. God wants to communicate with us and the most productive way for us to open our ears, eyes, mind and heart to Him is through the reading of the scriptures He gave us.
Secondly, we want to use the power of God’s word in our lives, whether actively spreading the Good News through evangelism or living by example to non-Christians around us or to just stay prepared for the everyday circumstances that life throws our way each and every day.
Finally, throughout the ages, the church and all the saints have used a translation that they have found to be true and unchanging. It is important to use a standard version when undergoing serious study so that we can remain true to that tradition and be better able to understand the writings of the church fathers.