Essay: How to choose a Bible

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How to choose a Bible is an important question for every believing Christian who takes the Christian Faith in Jesus Christ seriously. The Bible is unique in world literature, because it contains the written communication of God the Holy Spirit through chosen human writers addressed to all mankind, male and female. A clear and accurate text is of supreme importance for the reader who desires to know what God has said and who seeks to understand, as far as possible, the revealed mind of God Himself.

Facts to bear in mind

The task of seeking a reliable and trustworthy version of the Bible is relatively simple when undertaken with a few very basic facts in mind.

The original languages of the Bible

The original languages of the individual books of the Bible are Ancient Hebrew and Aramaic and (mainly) Koine Greek. If you do not know these written languages, then a reliable and accurate translation will be needed.

Parallel and interlinear editions

For those whose primary or native language is English, the best editions of the Bible are those offering accurate Parallel English and Hebrew texts with accurate Parallel English and Greek texts. Understand that all languages change over the course of several centuries and the language forms in the Bible differ greatly from the current 21st century forms of these languages. A useful companion for aid in reading the original Bible languages is called an Interlinear Edition, in which every line of the Bible text has a translation in English usually below it.

Compare the following examples online:

Critical editions

The most recent textual research in print is represented by what are called Critical Editions of the text, which feature important variations in the earliest manuscripts of the Bible, often read by Biblical scholars as their own personal devotional Bible.

The biblehub.com online link page displays multiple versions of any canonical verse of the Bible in several languages, including scholarly researched Hebrew and Greek texts. See the following examples:


Important sources for study of the original texts.
Be aware that some of these are prepared by liberalist scholars, most of them by conservatives, and that all of them should be compared:

Septuagint

Hebrew Bible

Vulgate

Bible of faith tradition, family, community, denomination and church

Most Christians will have been exposed to the traditional form of the Bible approved by their own faith tradition. For example, many Protestant Christians treasure the King James Bible KJV, but many Evangelical denominations also use more recent translations such as the New International Version NIV or the English Standard Version ESV. The United Methodist Church today prefers the New Revised Standard Version NRSV. English-speaking Orthodox Christians have the Greek Bible as handed down from the time of the apostles available to them in the traditional English translation by Sir Lancelot Charles Lee Brenton, but they also have since then more recent translations in English approved by the Synods of Bishops of their countries—in the U.S. the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America ACOBNCA. Catholic Christians who are more conservative use the Douay-Rheims Bible in the Confraternity edition, but they also have the New American Bible, Revised Edition, approved by the USCCB, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Almost all Christians trust the English version of the Holy Bible handed down to them through their families. They are each held to be a good choice for members of their own faith tradition, or community, or denomination, or Church. However, some of these are held by expert linguists and experienced Bible scholars to be faulty or defective translations.

Some denominations have additionally specified the particular translation or version of the Bible which they have defined as authentic, as against other versions and translations which they deem to be defective, or false, or even demonically corrupt.[1] The King James Only movement is an example. Traditionalist Catholics who use only the Douay-Rheims Bible translation of the Clementine Vulgate as the only truly accurate and reliable translation of the Bible are another.[2] Some traditionalist writers constantly assert that their own traditional English version of a medieval thirteenth century manuscript of the Bible, which differs from the scholarly reading of the earliest Bible texts in the original languages from the eighth century or earlier, only demonstrates more clearly to them that modern Biblical textual historians and scholars have falsified and corrupted the original text of the Bible by their translations of the earliest ancient manuscripts. In other words, they unhesitatingly maintain, without evidence, that their own later traditional English version from a medieval manuscript, which they have always believed is true, is far more faithfully and accurately the true word of God than any of the more recently uncovered earlier and earliest extant manuscripts of the Bible discovered to date. When the medieval manuscript is shown to differ from the more ancient manuscript the traditionalist regards the more ancient manuscript as less reliable and the more recent medieval manuscript as more accurate, and regards the most recent textual scholarly findings as attempts to falsify the word of God.

The Canon

The number of books in the Bible accepted as a faithful transmission of the sacred scriptures by any religious tradition can differ, from the shorter Protestant canon of 66 books to the largest canon of 81 books in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

Authority to determine the canon

No version of the Bible contains in any of its books or texts of scripture an explicit listing of an authoritative Biblical canon as revealed by the Word of God. The religious tradition of each particular sect or denomination, Samaritan, Orthodox, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, has determined for their members the particular Biblical canon they have accepted as authoritative and definitive, the particular Bible they normally use. The number of Christian denominations alone, worldwide, varies in estimate from 20,000 to 43,000, but not all of them differ in doctrine.[3]

Choosing a particular canon

The particular Biblical canon which any individual person accepts as finally and definitively authoritative, is directly determined by the specific claim of authority presented by that particular canon-defining person or group or organization or religious body which the individual person perceives as authentic (see Logical fallacy). The average believer normally accepts the Bible tradition of his or her own family and worship community as being authentically true. Some alter their perception of which version and which canon of the Bible is true after investigating the historical development of the Biblical canon, and some after investigating are more fully confirmed in their original belief of which Biblical canon represents the Bible of the original Christian Church. A thorough knowledge of history together with prayer to God for discernment can be of substantial material aid in the quest for "how to choose a Bible".

The Friends (Quakers) do not define any writing as canonical but what each person, "led by the spirit and light of Christ", has determined to be scripture or recognizes as inspired.[4]
"Now the Lord's power was so mighty upon me, and so strong in me, that I could not hold, but was made to cry out and say, "Oh! no; it is not the scriptures;" and told them it was the Holy Spirit, by which the holy men of God gave forth the scriptures, whereby opinions, religions, and judgments were to be tried; for it led into all Truth, and so gave the knowledge of all Truth." —from the Journal of George Fox.[5]

See Apostolic succession

Discerning good and bad translations: Study Bibles

Every Christian faced with the question of how to choose a Bible must carefully learn how to discern good translations from bad translations, and this includes deciding among those Bibles offering "Guidelines for reading", "History of the Bible", "background articles", introductions, marginal "running commentary" and footnotes on particular verses.[1] Many of these are called "Study Bibles" and they always reflect the particular doctrinal interpretation and teaching authority of a particular individual, or committee of editors, or school of scholarship, or denomination; for example the Scofield Reference Bible which promotes the fundamentalist doctrine of dispensationalism, or Concordia's Lutheran Study Bible with commentary by Martin Luther, and the Orthodox Study Bible and The New American Bible, Revised Edition which promote and explain the doctrinal teaching of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.

Compare the following examples:

Parallel Bibles: English translations in parallel columns

Useful tools for the English-speaking student of the Bible include Parallel Bibles which show the English text of several, usually four, different published translations of the Bible displayed side by side in parallel columns on each page for direct comparison. These are not always available to consult at the public library and may be obtained through an interlibrary loan. Some individuals decide to purchase their own copies for use as home reference works.

  • The Complete Parallel Bible with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books: New Revised Standard Version, Revised English Bible, New American Bible, New Jerusalem Bible. Hardcover – November 25, 1993, by Publisher Oxford University Press. 3291 pages. ISBN-10: 019528318X ISBN-13: 978-0195283181.
  • The Guideposts Parallel Bible: King James Version, Modern Language Bible, Living Bible, Revised Standard Version. Hardcover – by Guidepost. 3187 pages. (1981) ASIN: B000BLNRBM. (1987) ASIN: B001JAAUM8. Does not include the Apocrypha.
  • The Parallel Apocrypha: Greek · Douay-Rheims · King James Version · New Revised Standard Version · New American Bible · New Jerusalem Bible · Today's English Version · The Holy Bible by Ronald Knox. Hardcover – January 2, 1997, by John R. Kohlenberger (Editor). Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Edition edition (January 2, 1997). 1248 pages. ISBN-10: 0195284445 ISBN-13: 978-0195284447.

See also this classic work online at Internet Archive:

The following online resource may also be useful:

Helpful Conservapedia resources

Conservapedia has several articles which can aid Christians in discerning which Bible is the best choice for assisting their ongoing personal relationship with God the Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

Articles

See the following articles in this order:

The best approach in reading these articles is to access and read all of the footnotes, and all of the articles and sources under "External links". This will take a while, but will be well worth the effort.

The Reward

αὕτη δέ ἐστιν ἡ αἰώνιος ζωή, ἵνα γινώσκωσιν σὲ τὸν μόνον ἀληθινὸν Θεὸν καὶ ὃν ἀπέστειλας Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν.
—ΙΩΑΝΝΗΝ 17:3 ΚΑΙΝΉ ΔΙAΘΉΚH

haec est autem vita aeterna ut cognoscant te solum verum Deum et quem misisti Iesum Christum
—Ioannes 17:3 VULGATE

And this is life eternall, that they might know thee the onely true God, and Iesus Christ whom thou hast sent.
—John 17:3 AUTHORIZED KING JAMES VERSION of 1611

And this is eternal life: knowing You, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom You have sent.
—John 17:3 CONSERVATIVE TRANSLATION

Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.
—John 17:3 NEW AMERICAN BIBLE, REVISED EDITION 2010

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Discerning good and bad translations. See the following five sources
  2. The classification of Traditionalist Catholics (see Independent Catholic churches) also includes the Ultraconservative Catholics, for example, the ultraconservative "Lefebvrists"—see the following links on The Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX):
  3. Global Christianity – A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Christian Population
    How Many Protestant Denominations Are There? The 20,000 30,000 numbers and David Barrett's statistics
    Hartford Institute for Religion Research. Fast Facts about American Religion
    Question: "Which of the 30,000 Protestant denominations is the true church of God?"
    THE WAY? HOW MANY CHRISTIAN DENOMINATIONS WORLDWIDE? 23 NOVEMBER, 2012 | UNKLEE
  4. See the essay Private Judgment [British Critic, July 1841] (newmanreader.org)
  5. GEORGE FOX'S TEACHING ON THE PLACE OF SCRIPTURE (qis.net)
  6. Aish.com: Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. Brief biographical note and bibliography.

External links

Septuagint Quotes in the New Testament

A Very Brief Introduction to the Critical Apparatus of the Nestle-Aland, by Brent Nongbri (revised 2006)

Why Luther and the Protestant Reformers Removed Books From the Biblewhen the page comes up with photo-image of Orthodox Study Bible, scroll down to the essay immediately below it..

Refuting an Attack on the Deuterocanonicals. A Response to 11 ‘reasons’ that the Deuterocanonicals Should be Thrown Out of the Bible, By Matt1618. Introduction (matt1618.freeyellow.com)

Roman Catholic and Orthodox Faith Examined, and The Apocrypha: "Reasons why the Apocrypha does NOT belong in the Bible!" (bible.ca)

CARM Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry: Reasons why the Apocrypha does not belong in the Bible, by Ryan Turner (carm.org)

Reasoning From the Scriptures with Ron Rhodes Critique of Chapter 2, Does the Apocrypha Belong in the Bible?, by Matt1618

Greek and English Septuagint
Latin and English Vulgate
Kings James Apocrypha Online