LESSON 2.0 Bible Translations, Paraphrases and Reading Plans
As you looked through your Bibles this past week, you may have noticed an acronym or something about version or translation. There are many different versions of the Bible written in the English language. Some of these are translations from the original Hebrew of the Old Testament or the original Greek of the New Testament. Other Bibles are simply a paraphrase of what the Bible might be saying.
Paraphrases are not evil, but as a beginning Bible scholar, they are not the best source of the true meaning of the Word of God. Some thoughts are skipped and the culture of the Bible is lost a little sometimes in a paraphrase. After you’ve read the Bible in a translation, reading a paraphrase can make a part of the Bible feel more applicable. Some would say to read a translation for study and a paraphrase for casual reading. Some groups of Christians firmly believe that only one translation into the English language is pure, while others argue that another is the best. The objective of this class is not to debate these things, but to instruct on how you can get the most out of your Bible reading.
Click Here to see where I obtained a list of translations of the Bible. I edited it for printing, but there are many pages and the list is extensive and a bit confusing. Wikipedia is not infallible and I do not endorse each translation/version of the Bible, but believe that giving you an impartial list is best. Paraphrases of the Bible are found in The Living Bible, The Message, Black Bible Chronicles, The Cotton Patch version, The Aussie Bible, The Clear Word (7th Day Adventist Paraphrase), The Story Bible, and Children’s King James Version.
The most logical place to start with Bible reading is the beginning. This is a great approach, but some of the hardest reading lies within the first 5 books of the Bible and many fail to continue after getting to Leviticus. If you can press through that portion of the Word, go for it. It is a good way to know how much of the Bible you’ve read. There are many places to start the Bible. Some begin at the New Testament and some start at the end. None of these methods are wrong.
Several Bible scholars have come up with reading plans. There is a resource available in the foyer of our church called “God’s Word for Today.” Each day has a devotional reading and a suggested scripture reading and a prayer for an area of the world. If you follow these daily, you will read the entire Bible through in a year. You will also read it in the order that the events occur or chronologically.
Our Bible is arranged in categories and not in a timeline order. The categories are The Law (5 books), History (12 books), Poetry (5 books), Major Prophets (5 books), Minor Prophets (12 books), Gospels (4 books), New Testament History (1 book), Epistles or Letters (21 books), and Prophecy (1 book). Some would say this order is advantageous and others would call it a hindrance to understanding the Bible. It is a standardized organization of the Bible. Also, each chronological arrangement of the Bible is a bit different because historians don’t completely agree on the timeline of events. While some of the timeline is plain to figure out, other portions are still only speculated as is the authorship of several books.
There are several Bibles that are divided into daily sections to distribute Bible readings throughout 1 year or even 2 years. Several translations have this option. Some of them are in the canonized order and some are in chronological order. The price of these varies also. The benefit of reading plans is that you don’t have to purchase another Bible. You can just read out of your own Bible. Some reading plans are written on bookmarks for easy access. We will talk about digital Bible Study as a whole lesson because there is much to say about it. For now I will tell you that most electronic Bible formats also have multiple reading plans available in them as well.
Some reading plans are specialized. Around Easter, Ressurrection, Lent, Passover, or Pessach the Spring-time holiday/feast there are special readings for those days laid out in a plan. Other holidays have plans. Jews read a whole book of the Old Testament out loud on feast days. For instance, on Purim, the book of Esther is read in the synagogue. There are daily Bible reading plans for times of fasting. Whichever plan you choose, let it work for you and don’t be ruled by the plan, but by the words you read during the plan.
While at times letting the Bible fall open and pointing to a passage may be exactly what we need, it is not always conducive to studying of the Word. The internet is a good resource for Bible reading plans, but BEWARES, and do not let it consume you. The internet is not the Bible. Some websites mis-quote the Bible. Some commentaries give a wrong picture of what is in the Word of God. Even with the Bible on my phone, I like to compare it to the printed Word to assure that I’m getting the right thing. Even a comma in the wrong place can change the meaning of a sentence. The common example is, “Let’s eat Grandma!” vs. “Let’s eat, Grandma!” It can be a matter of eternal life or death for someone if the Word of God is misquoted.
There are a few versions of the Bible that have been developed for a particular way of believing such as the Bible used by Jehovah’s Witness believers. NWT or New World Translation is this version. Jehovah’s Witnesses only read the NWT along with their denominational book which narrows their view of the Word of God. If using a version of the Bible developed for these groups of people, use it along-side a recommended mainstream translation (not paraphrase) of the Bible to assure that you are not missing a thing. Another translation developed for a particular religion is the Joseph Smith Translation which has been customized to the Mormon faith. Revelation 22 warns to not add to or take from the prophecies in that book. This is a rule that should apply to the entire Bible. Obviously we do not have the original text, nor do we English speakers understand it. We trust that the translators of the Bible have taken care to be as accurate as possible.
Finally, a Parallel Bible is one where there is more than one version of the Bible laid side by side in the same binding for easy comparison. Most people don’t own one of these, but own more than one translation of the Bible, so a good way to study the Word of God is with more than one version side by side and as we go through the course we will see more helps as to how to study the scripture.
Lesson 2.0 Worksheet
1. Which of the following versions of the Bible is a paraphrase?
a. KJV – King James Version
b. NIV – New International Version
c. NLT- New Living Translation
d. MSG – The Message
2. Which of the following versions of the Bible is a translation?
a. GNB – Good News Bible
b. NIV – New International Version
c. MSG – The Message
d. TLB – The Living Bible
3. Find 2 different versions of the Bible and transcribe James 1:22 in the space below
Version 1 _________ James 1:22
Version 2_________ James 1:22
4. Which version of the Bible is meant by the initials NASB?
Look for a reading plan and start it this week. Don’t set yourself up to fail by trying to read the whole Bible in 6 months or even a year if it is too hard. There are several good 2 year plans. It might be necessary to start with a one week reading plan. If you need a suggestion, try reading the book of Galatians. There are 6 chapters… read one chapter a day for the next 6 days.
Look at the Bible that you read most often or are likely to read most often and determine whether it is a translation or a paraphrase.