“Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher).”
John 20:16 AMP
The English translations of the Bible have evolved so much since it’s Hebrew (Old Testament; with some portions of Daniel and Ezra in Aramaic) and Greek (New Testament) origin. It’s important to capture the context of the literal words from it’s traditional to modern translations to avoid confusion. The holistic method that I use to achieve this is to study the Bible using three different translations from the following categories:
(1) Literal (word-for-word or form equivalence): RSV or KJV
(2) Meaning-to-meaning (closet natural equivalence): ESV or NIV
(3) Free-flowing (thought-for-thought or function equivalence): AMP or MSG
The Aim is to Avoid Confusion
“for God [who is the source of their prophesying] is not a God of confusion and disorder but of peace and order. As [is the practice] in all the churches of the saints (God’s people),”
1 Corinthians 14:33 AMP
As a Christian, I am only called to plant a seed in others. The Holy Spirit does the rest. The translations that I have provided are the ones that I am comfortable with based on my own research and knowledge of the Bible. These translations are within the top best selling. They are tried and tested. You should be comfortable with your bible study method as well. My church uses the NIV translation during service so I am familiar with it and more comfortable using it on my own.
The aim is to avoid leaving room for confusion, but this cannot always be avoided. Whenever I am confused or stuck I pray and ask God for clarity and guidance on a particular topic, chapter or verse. Prayer and meditation on the things that you have learnt is also a great way to wrap up a good Bible study.
Iron Sharpens Iron
God does not help us in a bubble so we cannot always rely on a eureka moment where His voice is loud and clear on what to do. If I am still confused I speak to my spiritual mentor like a Pastor or older person that I admire and trust. Not selected for bias reasons, but because they read the word and truly live by the word in the areas that I need help with. No one is perfect, but everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and it’s wise to use your resources.
I found that I needed to acknowledge the strengths of each person in my life so I can ask them for help in those areas. I had to learn how to be vulnerable with others for the sake of furthering my spiritual growth. Overtime I even found myself being more vocal and asking more questions in bible study among my peers. When you have a desire to know God, what you’re willing to do outside your comfort zone has no limits!
Traditional vs. Modern
The KJV is the original translation taken directly from the ancient Hebrew texts to English in 1611. Most baby boomers probably memorised the Lord’s Prayer from the KJV and in turn have handed down the regurgitation of the old English language to their children. I think that the language is beautiful, but some Gen Z may find the words to be archaic and difficult to follow. That’s okay! We just need to be comfortable with change and allow others to study the Bible their way. I rather my friends and little sister to study the Bible in general than not at all!
What translations have Gen Y or Millennials been teaching their children or others? More than likely the KJV, NKJV or the NIV. What will Gen Z be teaching their children? Probably the same with the addition of the MSG or the AMP versions. The generation after Gen Z will probably have a wider variety of translations to choose from.
We should aim to spread the Gospel and not our culture
“So Moses was educated in all the wisdom and culture of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds.”
Acts 7:22 AMP
The point here is to spread the Gospel, not culture. Perhaps Moses required his wisdom and culture of the Egyptians to remember where he came from, to speak to the Pharaoh and to lead the people, but God alone was the source of his success. We need to learn how to differentiate culture from faith. Spreading or passing down culture is important to my family and my identity. But I try not to put my “culture” on a pedestal when I do God’s work.
When culture has a cornerstone in the church it turns into a “to do list” to achieve religious practices. It creates a stumbling block for others to have spirituality. The church in Corinth was the top place for traders in ancient Greek. This made Corinth one of the wealthiest cities. They focused heavily on their rich culture, which in turn blinded them from being humble servants of Christ (see Communion: Remembering His sacrifice).
We should aim to share and teach the Gospel
“And pray for me, that words may be given to me when I open my mouth, to proclaim boldly the mystery of the good news [of salvation],”
Ephesians 6:19 AMP
Some scholars are pessimistic about the “increasing growth” in translations of the Bible. Growing up in the church I have heard it before lots of time… they fear that God’s words are being watered down too much and that an oversimplification of the words will lead to further confusion about the truth and in turn false prophecy and false teaching.
This is despair and fear. Let’s have faith. I align myself with the fact that my history should not be forgotten or strayed away from. Especially not the history of my God! We need to remember where the church is coming from.
“For the husband is head of the wife, as Christ is head of the church, Himself being the Savior of the body.”
Ephesians 5:23 AMP
How do we remember and maintain the Church’s history (the origin of the words)?
First, we must keep ourselves grounded or rehearsed in the literal meaning before we explore further translations. I always study and interpret the Bible with the literal translation as my first source. You can also purchase a parallel Bible, which allows you to read the literal translation and a meaning-to-meaning or free-flowing translation side by side. I purchased the Zondervan KJV and AMP parallel Bible on Amazon. First bible I ever purchase for myself and money well spent!
I quote the AMP in my blogs in the hopes to capture the understanding of a broad audience, some of which may be unbelievers. I hope to plant a seed in their heart. I welcome all audience. Let’s share the gospel and pray for each other, especially the youth because they are the future.