The Best Translation of God’s Word

It seems to me that life was much more simple and uncomplicated as I was growing up. I realize that I revealed a great deal about my age as I typed those words, but I believe that most people of almost any mature age can look back on their childhood and make a similar assessment.

I’ve been doing some thinking lately about one way in which my life was much simpler than it is now. I’ve also been in conversations with people lately that have caused me to think about this. Some of those conversations have been face-to-face and some have been written exchanges.

You see, when I was growing up, I was only aware of one translation of the Bible. From time to time, there was some mention made of “certain religious groups” who had “their own Bibles.” Those groups and those Bibles were not held in very high esteem among people I was around.

Over the years, I became personally aware of more than one translation of God’s Word. I learned that some of these translations were not at all used exclusively by some particular religious group that may have had some “pet doctrines” to promote. 

To the contrary, I learned that some of these other translations were products of the work of multiple scholars of the original languages and that, in many cases, these scholars came from differing religious backgrounds. While it is very easy to let one’s individual tastes or prejudices influence how a passage is translated, the people who produced at least some of these translations had a stated goal of being impartial.

During the years since my childhood, even more translations of God’s Word than the ones available then have been produced. In fact, I recently listened to a podcast during which there was a discussion of the supposed benefits of one that is just now “hitting the market.”

I found the following information on the website of the American Bible Society. Since it was posted on December 2, 2009, it is already out of date, but I still find it informative and interesting:

I am afraid no one can give you an exact number for the English translations and paraphrases of the Bible printed since Tyndale’s New Testament of 1526. In part this is due to the difficulty of determining what should be defined as a new translation as opposed to a correction or a revision of an existing translation. There is the additional question of how we should count translations that include not a complete Bible or Testament, but just a group of books or even a single book. And then, of course, there is the difficulty of sheer numbers. With all these caveats in mind, the number of printed English translations and paraphrases of the Bible, whether complete or not, is about 900.

I don’t know about you, but my mind starts to get sort of numb as I consider all of the translations, the theories of translations, the methods of translations, the arguments for and against certain translations, manuscripts, etc. I long for that simpler time when things were much easier to understand.

I realize that it is impossible for me to go back to my childhood or to the time when the translation of the Bible with which I was familiar was almost universally accepted. It is not, however, impossible for me to offer my opinion about the best translation of God’s word. It may not be smart for me to do so, but it is possible.

In my opinion, the best “translation” of God’s message is seen in people. How does God’s message “translate” into my life and into the lives of others around me?

Whenever I see myself or others as being contentious for the faith instead of “…contend(ing) for the faith…” (Jude 3), I really do not believe I am seeing a good translation of God’s Word. Truth and love are not mutually exclusive. In fact, Paul was inspired to write that we are to supposed to be “…speaking the truth in love…” (Eph. 4:15). Whenever I see an individual whose understanding of “truth” causes him or her to be mean, sarcastic, and argumentative, I think I am seeing a very poor translation of God’s Word.

At what might be considered the other end of the spectrum there is also the possibility of rejecting God’s written revelation to us in favor of feelings, the opinion of some so-called expert, our family heritage, “church tradition,” the current culture, etc. Any one (or all) of these things can stand in the way of allowing God’s Word to be accurately “translated” in my life. Since I will be judged by the words of Jesus (cf. John 12:48), I must read, heed, and practice what He authorizes.

I think that most of us have probably heard something like the following statement:

Your life may be the only sermon that many people will ever hear.

I do not believe it is beyond the realm of possibility to suggest that our Lord had something like this in mind when He said:

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matt. 5:16, KJV).

Not only do I believe that it is accurate to suggest that my life may be the only sermon some will hear, I also believe that my life may be the only Bible some people will ever read. Instead of spending an inordinate amount of time in studying, discussing, and debating which volume to hand people to read, I might be more well-advised to consider something else.

I may want to do some serious self-examination and ask myself if the people who know me are observing a good translation of God’s Word in my life.


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AUTHOR: Jim Faughn

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