Bible Answer

Which Bible translation is best?

Which Bible translation should I use? I have heard that the King James Version is the only true translation. I'm concerned your ministry teaches from newer translations, which may not be as accurate.

Apart from stylistic differences, all authoritative English translations of Scripture suitable for use in Bible study can be categorized into one of two groups, broadly speaking (not including paraphrased translations which are not appropriate for Bible study).

Group 1 Bibles include the King James Bible (KJV), the Young Bible, the Douay-Rheims Bible, and several other older translations.  

Group 2 Bibles include NASB, NIV, HCSB, ASV, NET, BBE, the Darby Bible, ESVS among others.

These two groups differ according to which set of ancient manuscripts they chose as their source material.The Bibles found in Group 1 relied on newer manuscripts (i.e., copies of the original Greek and Hebrew source material) which were produced later in history. The manuscripts chosen by Group 2 translations were produced earlier in history, closer to the date of original authorship. The newer manuscripts used by Group 1 translations incorporate minor additions (i.e., additional words added to the text, or in some cases, additional verses) that are not present in the older manuscripts used by Group 2 translations.

The argument for one group over the other depends on how one views these additions. Supporters of Group 1 translations claim that these additions are "recovered truth" wrongly deleted from older manuscripts. Supporters of Group 2 translations believe these additions were introduced over time through copyist errors, therefore they should be rejected. 

VBVMI agrees with the argument made by Group 2, believing the older manuscripts more accurately reflect the original Hebrew and Greek texts, and therefore translations taken from these manuscripts will be more reliable. For this reason we prefer to teach from Bible translations taken from Group 2 (e.g., the NASB, HCSB, etc.) over transitions taken from Group 1. 

Nevertheless, the differences in meaning between Bibles from either group are insignificant at worst and largely immaterial to accurate Bible study, and therefore these differences will not impede a faithful understanding of the Scriptures.

In fact, no English translation of Scripture translation can be considered "authoritative," since all translations are approximations and derivative works that depart from the original inspired texts. Simply put, inaccuracies are inevitable in any translated work. Only the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts are authoritative and inerrant, so unless a student is capable of reading and understanding ancient Greek and Hebrew, he or she has no choice but to rely on imperfect English translations (since, again, all translations are imperfect by definition).

Therefore, we advise Christians not to become sidetracked by pointless arguments over the quality of one Bible translation versus another. In our experience, a Bible student will not be harmed in their understanding of God's word by choosing any Bible from either of these groups (paraphrased versions, notwithstanding). So whichever translations we chose, we must trust the Spirit to steer us to the truth and guide our understanding regardless of any imperfections that may exist in our particular translation (see John 14:26).

For this reason, Verse By Verse Ministry International is not dedicated to any single English translation of the Bible. Pastor Armstrong routinely consults many different versions of the Bible during the course of his studies, including versions found in Group 1. We have chosen to use the New American Standard Bible for all our studies for the sake of consistency, because the NASB is found in Group 2, and therefore we believe it has been translated from the more reliable Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. Moreover, it uses a style of English familiar to modern audiences. Nevertheless, we do not hold the NASB in higher regard than other translations (e.g., the KJV), and we appreciate the strengths of all translations.

(On the topic of Bible accuracy, you might appreciate the following article we have available on the website.)