Which Bible Version Does TruthForFree.com Use?
From time to time I have been asked which version of the Bible I prefer. Every so often I have received a complaint email about my occasional use of the Message version or other translations of the Bible, suggesting that by using multiple versions in my articles and blog posts I may be helping to promote “new age” versions of the Bible. There are some who believe I should use only the King James Version (KJV), because they assert that it is the most accurate. Perhaps some of you reading this are KJV fans yourself and have been curious about my views on this subject.
To be quite honest, this is a topic that does chafe me a bit. It’s not that I don’t think the translation of the text of Scripture is important, because I absolutely believe it is important. The thing is, I believe that all English versions are going to be subject to some errors in print because they have been produced by humans. That doesn’t mean that these errors are all some devious plot to twist the meaning of the Bible text so that it aligns with some conspiratorial new age agenda.
Certainly, some translations are far better than others when it comes to various passages of Scripture (in terms of how they convey the intended meaning of the text). This is precisely why I prefer to use multiple translations. The problem with that is, some people suspect me of picking whichever translation best agrees with my opinion. While I can legitimately understand why some people would have this concern (especially if they don’t know me already), I can only assure you that my personal interest is to convey what the Scripture does in fact teach. I desire this because I want to embrace only the truth for my own life as well. As a matter of fact, for those of you who don’t know me personally, if you were to ask some of my closest friends about this, they might even tell you that I sometimes over-examine/scrutinize things – even to the point where I distress myself with concern that I may get some detail wrong. My heart so desperately wants to understand God’s purpose for my life and to rightly discern the Scriptures so as to apply them accurately. Nothing annoys me more than when I see religious teachers pulling passages of Scripture out of context to push their agendas.
I am not a Greek scholar or a Hebrew scholar, but I do enjoy researching these texts by utilizing various lexicons written by those who are proficient in these languages. Some of my personal favorites include Richard Lenski’s Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Spiros Zodhiates’ Complete Word Study Old and New Testament, Gerhard Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, and several others (including classic works like Keil and Delitzsch, Strong’s, Albert Barnes, Brown-Driver-Briggs, Joseph Thayer, etc.). Once I have made a personal conclusion based on my study of the text (and the influence of my relationship with the Holy Spirit, who is the ultimate Teacher), I then observe the different translations at my disposal to choose the one that I am convinced most clearly portrays the meaning of the original languages to the very best of my understanding. I too realize my own humanity and the potential that I also can make mistakes. This is why I encourage every person to do their own research, study and pray… and, absolutely, feel free to offer questions or comments. I will never say that I am some guru whom everyone ought to follow. I share my sincere convictions but my desire is to remain teachable and flexible in the hands of God. The only reason I choose to use one particular Bible translation or another is to convey the meaning from the original as clearly as possible in as plain of English as possible.
And please notice, I consistently give the exact reference to every passage of Scripture I use in my blog posts and articles so that you can easily look these up yourselves. This website is also equipped with a special plugin that shows the actual text of the passage in the English Standard Version (ESV) when you hover over it with the mouse. Some may find this helpful when I use a paraphrase version for a particular text, because you can always view the actual verse by mousing-over the reference. I use the ESV because I believe it (for the most part) sticks close enough to the original text while maintaining a “plain English” vernacular. I’m picky and I always find exceptions, but overall I think it does a very good job. I considered using the KJV for this to make our visitors who prefer the KJV happier, but I really do like the plainer English styling of the ESV so this one won out for me. If enough people email with a different opinion on this, I may demonstrate some flexibility here and accommodate those requests. The heart is that the clear meaning of Scripture will be understood… plus, so many other websites use the KJV for everything because they hope to avoid controversy and (to put my feelings bluntly) I just don’t care what hyper-religious nit-pickers want to spend all day complaining about. Those who will open their hearts to hear what the Spirit of God is saying will hear Him just fine. I’m not going to get hung up on semantics and silly controversies or conspiracy theories. BUT, if you absolutely insist on seeing the passage in the KJV, you still can and is very easy to do so right from this website… Just click on the reference link and you can view it any of several different versions, INCLUDING THE KJV! So now everyone should be happy right?
In case anyone is curious, I was raised on the King James Version of the Bible. I memorized Scripture in this version. All of my bible studies, growing up in Christian School and church world, were based on the KJV Bible. My father loved the KJV and, oddly enough, many of the people in the church organization I attended loved to pattern their style of prayer and even sometimes their speaking when in congregation with each other after the KJV style (which I always thought was a little funny). Perhaps needless to say, I learned to think in KJV whenever I was discussing or studying Scripture. I learned to repeat the logic I learned from my teachers, which was that no other translation was needed to understand the Bible more easily because the Holy Spirit was the Teacher and He would bring the full, intended meaning of the KJV text to light as we remained faithful to pray and trust Him to do so. So, I guess you say I became a KJV-only guy (even if mostly by osmosis). It’s not that anyone forbid me, directly, to read anything other than the KJV; but the KJV was simply the most logical choice given the understanding we all operated under at the time. In later years, I became fond of other translations that used more modern language (such as the New King James Version), but I always held the KJV as my favorite and the most comfortable of all the versions I had reviewed. Most of the Bible dictionaries and lexicons that I has also become accustomed to using, reference the KJV exclusively, so it was just normal to stay there.
As the technology improved over the years, so that I could study the Bible using computer software, I found that I still did (and do) most of my searching in the KJV because that’s what I grew up with. Once I’d find the text I was searching for, then I could read how it was written in other versions for comparison. All of this to say that I am not anti-KJV, nor would I desire to condemn anyone who preferred to use it for purposes of reading, study or teaching/preaching.
For years, all I knew about the original Greek and Hebrew text of Scripture was to consult Strong’s Bible Dictionary. My big KJV Bible even had Strong’s definitions included in an index at the back for easy reference. After attending Bible college a bit more of the world opened up to me, in terms of discovering the several other quality resources that were available for study. One of my instructors was educated in Greek and Hebrew and could read and write it. He recommended a number of lexicons that were top shelf in his estimation… So I purchased them. They weren’t cheap, but I came to adore those books. They opened up the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures in wonderful ways.
As the years went on, I began to notice a fairly significant contrast between the Strong’s Concordance I grew up with and a few of the other available references (such as Vines and Thayer’s). When I was in church world, a number of my pastors informed me that Vine’s was only adequate and not as good as Strong’s (and there were several others they counseled me to ignore). I now believe I understand why they told me that… I believe it is because many of these other resources (which are generally widely respected at the collegiate level and among actual Greek and Hebrew professors) do not cater much to imposing traditional religious concepts into the text; Rather they draw out meaning from the text (based on the language itself and its context), which is far more preferable. I have noticed on numerous occasions how Strong’s will use terminology that is common with church tradition but not necessarily biblical tradition consistent with first century people. Regrettably, this can end up distorting the pure meaning of words as they were used by the authors who chose to use them. For this reason, even though Strong’s is a generally reliable resource (which I do still use often), it is no longer my preferred choice when studying. I do compare between dictionaries as well so that I can be as accurate as possible.
Just since we’re on this topic, if you happen to be using Strong’s, I advise you to observe the definition written immediately following the marks :- as this is usually the most direct definition. The rest is largely “commentary” (for lack of a better way to put it). It is also important to observe tenses and grammatical arrangements, context, etc. because all of these are essential to a correct interpretation of the original word, which sometimes can have multiple definitions depending on its use in the text. A student of the Bible must carefully weigh all these details before casting their conclusion as absolute. This is one reason why I believe we all need to exercise a lot of humility in our discussion of doctrine, because most of us are NOT experts in the Greek or Hebrew languages. And please note I said humility not timidity. When God instills in us a conviction of truth, we have a responsibility to that conviction. I am just saying we must also remember love and humility in the process of conveyance of those truths. If our zeal happens to get ahead of us and we are found in error of some details, would to God that we might be humble enough to embrace the correction and grow from it.
One of my favorite resources became a series of textbooks on the Greek language by a man named Richard Lenski. Lenski was a Lutheran minister who lived in the early 1900’s. Though technically a member of the Lutheran denomination, he did not talk much like a denominationalist. His sincere interest was the Scriptures as they are plainly presented. He was a Greek scholar of the highest degree. My Bible college professor told me, if you want the top of the crop, that’s the guy you want to read. He was right! Lenski is incredible. Since the Bible college I went to was connected with the church I attended, the head pastor also recommended these books and they sat on his shelf in his church office as well (though, looking back, I often wonder if he actually ever read them). The really funny thing about all this was that, as I began to read Lenski (and others), I discovered that Lenski’s interpretations of the Greek did not align well at all with so many of the traditions I had been taught in church world that were essential. Things like tithing for example. While my church was huge on the necessity of tithing, Lenski flat out called it a Romanish invention that had nothing to do with Jesus Christ or His Church – nothing beneficial concerning stewardship or developing a giving heart – in fact, he went so far as to present that it was in total contrast to the spirit of Christianity! Lenski also brought out a number of revelations concerning what the Bible actually taught about things like biblical leadership, which looked nothing like what all of us were up to in religion. When I raised these questions to church leaders I was responded to with either anger or silence. They had no good answer! In fact, they dismissed the very evidence that they once told me to trust in (though those books remained on the pastor’s shelf). This was because their solution to all these issues was man-made doctrines and the continuation of their own little religious kingdoms, not anything that was truly from God’s Word.
Getting back to my discussion about Bible versions… A few years back I was introduced to some messages and writings of a woman by the name of Gail Riplinger. She proposed that the KJV was the only trustworthy and God-inspired translation of the Bible in existence and that all the others are evidently “new age” translations, purposed to deceive the masses away from Christ and the true Gospel. Perhaps some of you are aware of this perspective. Recently, I have come across some “out of church” groups that have latched on to her teachings and become quite zealous about them. This is what prompted me to write about this subject today.
I will share with you honestly that I do not accept the perspectives of Gail Riplinger and, though she may be a sincere or nice person, I am sorry to report that I believe she is propagating a lot of error. I hesitate to use the word “lie” because I would hate to presume she actually would do this deliberately; however, some of her methods to enforce her statements can hardly be described as anything else. She has often taken various authors grossly out of context to paint a completely different picture of what they said. This is especially troubling when she inadvertently re-paints historical accounts by completely distorting the original stories to create ones that align with or bolster her statements.
I do not endorse nor recommend her writings. She may have some good intentions, but I believe she is herself operating under some grand misconceptions and her careless (even deliberate) misrepresentation of the evidence strikes me as deceptive in nature.
I am always impressed to find that so many of these kinds of people have money somewhere at the center of their so-called ministries and I have to say that Gail appears to be no exception (though I hope this is not deliberate and rather a byproduct of the religious environment that generally influences this behavior among many Christians). All you have to do is visit the websites of people like this and look for the shopping button. Gail is selling her book New Age Bible Versions (for nearly $20 a copy) and she has a host of other books and CDs in press too that she is profiting by (most all in the $20 – $30 range / not including tax or shipping). She also travels around and charges admission to hear her speak on these things. The other major problem here is that she speaks authoritatively regarding something that she is, by no means, an authority on. In fact, many of her statements that she presents as fact have been challenged and proven to be wrong, yet she continues to use them in her books and seminars (and she will not publically debate anyone who disagrees with her).
Several years back I began to study a bit about the origin of the KJV Bible. This is where some of my “puritan allegiance” to it lessened. Apologies if this statement offends anyone but, the fact of the matter is, the KJV Bible is a flawed translation every bit as much as many other translations that have been published since its time. I know this is stating the obvious, but the KJV Bible was not used by any of the apostles of Jesus or ANYONE ON EARTH before 1611. So I think it’s hardly fair to say the KJV-only crowd possess the absolute perfect translation of Scripture. The fact of the matter is, even those who stand by the KJV as the “perfect” translation often don’t realize that the KJV they use is NOT actually the original 1611 KJV. In fact, there are more versions of the KJV out there than there are all of the modern versions combined!
Many who consider themselves to be KJV-only also are ignorant of the translation’s full history and the fact that the majority of the text was essentially plagiarized from William Tyndale’s earlier English version along with other religious influences.
What’s most alarming about the KJV is how the King and his host of translators deliberately sought to keep many of the completely man-made ecclesiastical concepts and terminology in place (that had been inserted into the text over the years by religious scribes). These translators were instructed to reject the actual, original texts (on certain occasions) where they might contradict the established religious concepts under which the organized, institutional church system had come to operate! For example, the word “church” appears NOWHERE in the entire Bible! This is a glaring detail to come to grips with when you consider how central this word and concept is to the whole of modern day Christendom. Perhaps I should say “Christian-dumb”.
This is NOT conspiracy theory. This is historical fact! The KJV translators added or maintained a number of words in their translation that had absolutely no parallel in the original manuscripts they were working from. Another example of this is the word “office” where ministry is concerned. There is no such thing as a “religious office” in the New Testament, yet this terminology occurs on numerous occasions in the KJV. Words like “bishop” or “deacon” which represented existing religious offices in the man-made church institution were used despite their actual representations in the Greek.
Simple passages conveyed in the Greek to “yield yourselves willingly to those who have gone on before you in the faith, setting an example to follow” were changed to read “obey them that have the rule over you.” All kinds of false spiritual authority was added to the text to maintain the existing religious institution rather than correctly convey the Lord’s intention for His body.
A common argument among many KJV-only-ists is that if you compare newer translations to the KJV there are significant changes in places. They emphasize this suggesting that foul play was actuated by the translators in some attempt to include new age influences to modern versions, but nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that KJV-only folks make their first mistake here by placing the KJV translation center stage – as though it were the version to weigh all others by. Rather than testing it against the manuscripts we have from antiquity to insure a sound translation has been actuated in the first place by the KJV translators, they simply compare other translations to the KJV itself and state that if there are omissions or additions it must be a new age plot. But how can the KJV be the standard if we are trying to discover which translation is more accurate? Shouldn’t the standard be the original manuscripts from antiquity? After all, the KJV was translated from them! There is a lot to this subject and it can be very interesting to research…
The truth is, the KJV has whole verses that have been added which do not appear in any manuscripts but were obviously added by scribes! Newer translations compensate for these problems, usually by either placing the text in italics or by removing it altogether (and, generally, marginal notes are included to reflect the reason for the change).
But rather than spend a lot of time talking about all the details, let me just conclude on this point by saying that the KJV is JUST A TRANSLATION! When the Scripture says that ALL Scripture is God-breathed and inspired, it is talking about the original words that God spoke through His prophets and servants, which became the letters compiled in our Bible… He is NOT talking about a particular translation that is “God-breathed”.
Many KJV-only folks act as though the body of Christ was lost before 1611 and the KJV translation. This is ridiculous. The fact is that even the Greek texts we have found are examples themselves of translations into the common language of the day. To place too much focus on any one translation is to (in my opinion) make a god out of it. I have often joked that some people act as though the KJV is the fourth member of the Godhead… Maybe the fifth if you regard that “church” is the fourth.
I hope it is understood that I am NOT against the KJV Bible. Not at all. I use it. I believe it is a trustworthy translation overall (and is exceptional in most places, especially when compared against some translations that do fall very short in various passages). I love its poetic styling and it is very adequate for Bible study. If you love the KJV I hope you will not be offended by my comments. I am simply trying to convey the truth that a translation is a translation. It will always be subject to some level of human error, even if unintentional. That is why we need the Holy Spirit to lead us and why we ought to be diligent to study the Scriptures and use some of the fantastic resources we have available for this. Many of the claims some KJV-only folks lay on others (that they are only using these other versions to bolster support for their pet doctrinal opinions) is really the same thing they are doing themselves. The KJV grants them permission to possess a distorted view of biblical leadership and “religion” and you can bet many of them use this to their advantage. They don’t want to hear the truth about how King Jimmy’s crew left religious terms in the Bible that are not present in the original. This is documented, historical fact, but they ignore this. They don’t want to have their brand of hierarchical authority and religious organization and institution tampered with, even if these concepts that have dominated Christian denominations for centuries are against the teachings of Jesus and His apostles. Many really don’t understand how much influence the organized church system popularized by Roman Catholicism had on the many Protestant groups that followed in later centuries. And many have no idea how many Christians suffered under persecution because they would not go along with these ungodly influences.
Back in my church-going days, there was a pastor who knew I used a particular Bible software program and he asked if I could obtain a copy for him and burn it onto a CD. I happily agreed (it was the FREE e-Sword program). I asked him what add-ons he would like me to include, such as various Bible versions, commentaries, lexicons, dictionaries, etc. He quickly replied, “Oh, none of that. Just the KJV only. You know Dave, a wise man once said that the Bible sheds a lot of light on all those other commentaries.” In other words he was telling me that all we need is the KJV. He told me that he didn’t like all those other study-aids because they amounted to little more than human opinion and man’s corrupted influence on the pure text of Scripture.
With that in mind, I have to say that it both amuses and annoys me when some Bible teachers or preachers profess total disapproval of versions like the Message, saying that “God’s Word doesn’t need to be paraphrased because anyone can understand God’s Word if they trust the Holy Spirit.” This is essentially the same argument that those in the KJV-only camp use as well. But those same preachers will then spend the next hour in a sermon (not to mention scores of web articles, videos, and whole books they author) explaining that very KJV verse with their own mountain of explanation, commentary, modern-day comparison, and even their own paraphrase of the passage to bring out the meaning. The pastor I mentioned that didn’t want all those other human-tainted explanations of Scripture, was one of the longest-winded preachers at the church! His entire sermons were “commentaries” on passages of Scripture based on his own impressions of the text. In essence, as you can plainly see, those who reject other study resources, or paraphrase Bibles, or other versions beyond the KJV (or whatever pet version of the Bible they prefer) are doing the same thing they are complaining about! It’s absolutely ridiculous!
In conclusion, I will repeat that I am not anti-KJV, but neither will I refer to it as the AV (Authorized Version) because I don’t recognize King James (the man) as anything with respect to being an authority on Scripture or that he demonstrated any allegiance to the authority of the Holy Spirit. While I do have respect for the translation work (and believe it is a generally good translation), I think there are a number of excellent translations available for use and do not hold to any one in exclusivity.
Since folks have asked, I will share… Some of my personal favorites that I believe are decent for study include the ESV (English Standard Version), the NIV (New International Version), the NASB (New American Standard Bible) and the NKJV (New King James Version). I often use the MKJV as well, which is the “open source” version most similar to the NKJV (in other words, it doesn’t cost anything to include in Bible software programs where as the NKJV publishers charge). I also use the KJV still quite often, since many of my dictionaries and commentaries are numbered with the Strong’s Dictionary in concordance with the KJV so it’s a convenient translation (and a familiar one that I grew up using). I also enjoy using the MSG (Message) alternatively because of its plain English paraphrasing style, though sometimes it does not stay as close to the original as I would prefer (and sometimes it’s flat out terrible I will admit – such as its rendering of passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, where the Message completely omits any reference to the sin of homosexuality). The Message occasionally does a fine job of conveying the intended thought of the passage, even if it doesn’t do so word for word; however, I fully understand why some folks dislike it. There have been occasions where I have gotten just as upset about how the Message conveys certain passages; in its apparent attempt to be “seeker sensitive” and to generalize concepts rather than speak boldly and with conviction as the original text requires. I know of churches that have used passages from the Message Bible to justify positions on various topics of controversy, and the problem with this is that the segments of passage that they utilized as authoritative, were not even actually in the original text of Scripture anywhere!!! In other words, the Message inadvertently added phraseology to the text that was not present in the original, nor necessary to bring out the meaning of the original, and thus ended up being used to justify biblically-errant behavior or thought. This is most annoying and grievous to me whenever I have come across it. I don’t know that I believe it was the paraphraser’s intent to deliberately distort Scripture at these points, but I must acknowledge that this problem does occur at time in the Message version and readers ought to use discernment. This is why it is essential that we study to show ourselves approved as those who rightly handle God’s Word.
2 Timothy 2:15-16 (BBE) – Let it be your care to get the approval of God, as a workman who has no cause for shame, giving the true word in the right way. But take no part in wrong and foolish talk, for those who do so will go farther into evil…
Most every translation I am familiar with fails when it comes to the use of old traditional ecclesiastical terms such as “church”, “bishop”, etc. William Tyndale’s version in (1526) is one of the very few that do not use the word “church” but rather use “congregation” instead. The Coverdale Bible (1535), Matthew Bible (1537), and The Great Bible (1539) also use the more correct term “congregation” though they’re not exactly “easy-to-read” overall. I wish there were more modern translations that correct these problems, especially since there is absolutely NOTHING in the original text to support the word or religious concept of “church” whatsoever.
Indeed I believe there are also translations that are not worthy to be called such, as they are severely tainted by the organizations that produce them (such as the New World Translation published by the Watchtower Society; a.k.a. Jehovah’s Witnesses, or the KJV as published by the Mormon Church, etc.).
For those of you interested in this subject, I highly recommend the following websites and articles that touch on this subject of the KJV Bible, its origins, its translators, and those who hold it in exclusivity. Please also read the pages that deal with Gail Riplinger’s assertions and you will see that her allegations of conspiracy are not only false but illogical, deceptive and destructive.
At the risk of offending some of my readers I hesitate to refer to KJV-only folks as being a cult, though there are things about this logic that concern me greatly with respect to the matter of holding fast to the inerrancy of Scripture, in that many KJV-only people tend to hold fast to the idea of inerrancy of the KJV rather than of Scripture itself (which they conclude are one in the same). They tend to esteem this man-ordered translation (they call “the Authorized Version”) as higher than even the original writings themselves. In their mind, it is the KJV that is inspired, infallible and God-breathed rather than the Scripture (original text) itself. I am not exaggerating. I’m sure some might object to my phrasing things this way, but I see no other explanation that targets the problem more directly. This mindset I cannot agree with. Unfortunately, many KJV-only folks have embraced traditional concepts that are not actually biblical at all, solely because of the way they are portrayed in their KJV Bible translation (along with other external traditional religious influences that have led them to interpret KJV texts in various ways). To dismiss the facts for the sake of the love of a version is simply unacceptable in this writer’s opinion and is evidence of cult-like behavior.
I might also add that I know not every pro-KJV person fits comfortably in the camp of “KJV-only” and that is why I use words like “some” or “many” because I know there are many people who love the KJV version and prefer it above all others, yet are not so stubborn to impose their preference on others, often acting condescendingly, but who walk in true Christian love and trust the Holy Spirit as the ultimate Teacher of us all. With that I encourage you, as Scripture encourages us all:
2 Timothy 2:15 (MKJV) – Study earnestly to present yourself approved to God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.
Some may say, “Well, Dave, I appreciate your appeal to search out what the original writings of Scripture present, but I’m not a Greek scholar, I don’t speak or read Greek or Hebrew, and I don’t have the luxury of knowing the original languages to figure all that out.” I understand the complaint, however, the truth is that we are most blessed in our day to have EASY access to study materials that highlight the original languages and their direct translation and contextual and historical significance and meaning. Many of these resources are also 100% free of charge, so there is simply no validity (in my opinion) to the complaint unless a person is simply choosing to be lazy and not a diligent student of the Word as God expects!
Acts 17:11 – These people were more receptive than those in Thessalonica. They were very willing to receive the message, and every day they carefully examined the Scriptures to see if those things were so.
Just as a brief disclaimer regarding the following website links, TruthForFree.com does not necessarily endorse all the content in the following articles, letters, or websites. This information is provided for research purposes and in the interest of exposing error so that the truth is manifest. TruthForFree.com has no direct relationship with any of the following websites or authors (with the exception of George Davis and Michael Clark) and we encourage every person to examine these things with sincerity and diligence, holding fast to Scripture and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all things.
RE: KJV Only Error
RE: Gail Riplinger’s Errors