A word about Bible Translations
A question confronting almost everybody is what Bible translation to use. This question arises because the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew (with a few chapters in Aramaic) and the New Testament was written in Greek. Therefore, if a person doesn’t know these biblical languages, he or she will need to use a Bible translation.
There are two major criteria used to judge the quality of translations: 1) its faithfulness to the original, and 2) its readability for the user.
In regard to point #1, it needs to be emphasized that, although we don’t have any of the original individual books of the Bible (these originals are called autographs), we can be certain that the Hebrew and Greek Bibles that we translate from today are 99.99% accurate with the original. We can be sure of that because literally thousands of ancient copies exist and from those copies we can almost always determine what the original said. There is an entire scholarly discipline called textual criticism devoted to this. And in the .01% of cases where we can’t determine the original reading, either option of reading which is used does not change any biblical teaching. The bottom line is that there is no reason to doubt that the Bible was transmitted faithfully done through the centuries and that today’s Hebrew and Greek Bibles accurately represent the original.
The second criterion deals with how readable or understandable the English is. This is especially the reason why we don’t use the King James Version (KJV). When it was first translated in 1611 its English was common and understandable. But the English language has changed dramatically in the last 400 years. Today its English sounds almost like a foreign language to most people. In addition, many of the words it uses have changed meaning over the years. For example, the word “charity” in 1 Corinthians 13:13 is just another way to describe love. When it was first translated it had nothing to do with helping the poor and needy. Or take the word “prevent” in 1 Thessalonians 4:15. In 1611 prevent meant precede. But, over the years, that meaning disappeared. Therefore most people today will get the entirely wrong meaning from that verse because they will naturally think prevent there means stop. These are just two of numerous such examples. For these reasons, we do not use the KJV.
After comparing many English translations according to those two criteria we have determined that the best translation for us to use is the New International Version (NIV). We are not alone in that either as millions of other Christians have also made that determination. Having said that, however, we realize that there is no such thing as a perfect translation. Therefore it is our practice to go back to the original Greek and Hebrew to determine the meaning of individual passages.