IT’S THE QUESTION OF THE WEEK.
It comes from Debbie Hartman.
Here’s how she put her question:
How do we know which is the correct Bible to use? In my study group we have about six different ones. I was once told from a pastor that the correct one is the Greek and English Interlinear KJV/NIV. When in doubt about something I use it along with my NIV. Sometimes the meaning in these Bibles is very different.
It’s a shopper’s heaven when it comes to Bibles. You can chose from among 60 different English versions.
But if you’re looking for “the right one,” signed and sealed by God himself, 60 options might sound like shopper’s hell, with odds stacked against you—Vegas style.
Example. Do you pick the Bible that says “virgin” or “young woman” in Isaiah’s prophecy in 7:14?
- Virgin: “The Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel” (New Living Translation, a Bible version popular among Bible newbies).
- Young woman: “The Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel” (New Revised Standard Version, a Bible popular among scholars).
There can be only one right, right?
The original Hebrew word can mean both.
That’s the thing. A lot of the ancient words have multiple meanings.
So do English words.
Impact is one of my favorites.
Lots of people use it when they mean “influence” or “make a difference.” As in “I want to have an impact.”
I never use the word that way.
It’s because my wife is a nurse and my daughter is a nurse practitioner.
When they talk about someone having “an impact” they’re talking about a patient with impacted stool—which they have to dig out with gloved hands.
Double gloved, I’d say.
I do not want to have an impact.
The Bible’s original languages of Hebrew (in the Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) also have words that can mean different things. That forces translators to lean on context clues—if there are any.
Some words remain a mystery.
So scholars guess.
God promises to make the nasty Middle Eastern superpower, Babylon, home to:
- The hedgehog (Isaiah 14:23, NRSV).
- Porcupines (NJKV).
- Owls (NLT).
- Screech owls (Holman CSB).
- Herons (GWT).
- Wild animals (CEV).
Take your pick. I think the CEV took the easy way out.
I haven’t read all 60 English Bibles, but I’m guessing that every one of them has something factually incorrect in them. But I’m also guessing that each version is mostly right…like maybe 99 percent of the time—and higher than that when it comes to the important stuff for Christians, like getting the resurrection of Jesus right.
Let me offer two tips when it comes time to buy a study Bible.
The good read. Pick one that rings your bell when you give it a sampling in the store or online. If it reads like a book you think you might actually enjoy reading, buy that sucker. If you pick a scholar’s delight like the New American Standard Version, you should probably be someone who stays awake during your pastor’s sermons.
Compare translations. If you have a computer, Biblegateway.com is a great way to compare one version to another. That’s where I went to look up the hedgehog/porcupine verse.
By comparing Bible translations and reading the occasional wide variation of ideas among Bible experts, you can discover what many Bible scholars already know: sometimes they have no idea what they’re talking about.
But most of that stuff involves relatively small matters in life.
The Bible is pretty doggone clear on the big matters.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind….Love others as much as you love yourself” (Matthew 22:36 CEV).
Once we perfect that behavior in our life, I think it would be safe to move on and start trying to figure out whether God intended to plague Babylon with hedgehogs, porcupines, or the Cleveland Browns on the only channel available.