The full Bible has been translated into more than 700 languages, and the New Testament has been translated into more than 2,000 languages. All those translations help ensure people of all locations and cultures can access the inspired Word of God.
But for English speakers, there isn't simply one English version. There are dozens of translations, including options such as the King James Version (KJV), New International Version (NIV), Common English Bible (CEB) and the Message.
Whether you have a favorite version already or didn't realize the Bible came in various translations, all those versions can get confusing. Which one should you read, and are any of them more correct than others?
If you're preparing to lead or join a Bible study in your assisted living community or just want to find a version of the Bible that teaches you accurately about Jesus but is easy to read, our guide to Bible translations below can help.
The answer to this question depends on who you ask. Some believers and even entire church congregations hold strongly to the belief that the King James Version is the only correct version of the Bible. All other versions are suspect and potentially fallible.
But the truth is that the King James Version is not an original. It was translated from the original Hebrew and Greek, in part so English speakers could read the Bible.
It's in no way immune from the issues any translation might have, such as biases or agendas related to the translators or the people who supported them.
However, that's not to say that the KJV is bad or that the Bible in any well-vetted form is inaccurate. People who translate the Bible tend to put a lot of work into being as accurate as possible while making the Scriptures accessible to the people and culture reading it.
There are three main types of Bible translations. It's a good idea to know what they are so you understand which type you're reading, as they all have pros and cons for various purposes.
These translations seek to remain as true to each original word or phrase as possible. If a word is used in the Hebrew or Greek, the translators use a single English word to convey that meaning if at all possible.
Examples of this type of translation include KJV, English Standard Version (ESV) and New American Standard Bible (NASB).
A pro of word-for-word, or literal, translations is that they are very accurate to the original writings. The downside is that the odd phrasing that can come from a word-for-word match when translating often makes them difficult to understand. They may also use archaic or formal language that is harder for modern readers to engage with.
These translations take equal care to convey the exact meaning of the original text, but they do so by looking at the thought behind the phrases. Then, they try to find a modern equivalent for the concepts. That's not to say historical context is stripped; horses aren't replaced with cars because modern readers do understand the concept of horses, for example. However, language and style may be converted to more modern phrases.
Examples of this type of translation include The New Living Translation (NLT) and the New International Version (NIV).
The pro of these types of translations is that they are easier to understand while upholding historical context and accuracy. That makes them favorites as study Bibles for many people. The downside is that without knowing some of the Biblical context, modern readers might misunderstand some verses.
These translations use a freer approach, attempting to translate the overall ideas of each passage without maintaining exact sentence structures or word choices. Often, these types of translations are very easy to read because of this. The Message, for example, reads almost like a novel at times.
The downside is that paraphrase translations do give up some accuracy with regard to original text. Examples of this type of translation include the Message and The Living Bible (TLB).
The right Bible translation for you is the one you can understand best and feel you learn from. Many people like to have a paraphrase translation for just reading the stories and a word-for-word or thought-for-thought version for Bible study or to check the accuracy of a verse.
Ultimately, seniors of faith shouldn't worry heavily about whether God can speak to them through whatever translation they're using. That's the power of God's Word and the Holy Spirit: If you ask God to guide you, he'll make sure you get the right message.
Plus, modern times bring new marvels, and that's true for Bible study. If you have a computer or mobile device and an internet connection, you can go to sites such as Bible Gateway to access free online versions of dozens of translations.