Many lament the fact that people do not study their Bibles like they once did. Instead, belief is often formed by what is said in the pulpit or by something in the inspirational book du jour. I have warned for years that people must never trust their preacher. True enough, I said it tongue in cheek, but there is also a serious side to that warning. First, you do not need your preacher to get to heaven. The path to God is through Jesus (John 14:6) and no intercession by an earthly man is needed. Jesus calls you. No go between is needed. Second, it is your very soul that is at stake. You hold nothing more precious than your eternal soul. It is far too precious to entrust to any mortal.
Even Paul commended the Christians in Berea for checking up on his teachings. “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). If people were commended for double checking Paul’s teaching, shouldn’t we also search the Scriptures to test what our own preacher is saying? There is a massive need for personal Bible study today. I am absolutely convinced that if individuals would study the Bible for themselves denominations would crumble and we could all stand unified on God’s word.
I offer some thoughts on Bible study beginning today. I hope it helps.
Choosing a Bible Translation
This may seem a daunting task. There are so many translations on the market today a Bible student might easily be confused as to which is best. Understand that there is no such thing as an inspired translation. God inspired the original documents (autographs) but not the future translations. While some have argued that the King James Version is inspired such a claim cannot be sustained. Nevertheless, for a variety of reasons beyond the scope of this article, we can be assured that our English translations are accurate and true to the originals. I think we can agree that God’s providence ensures that his people have his word today.
The originals, that is the documents actually written by the authors, were mostly written in Hebrew (Old Testament) or koine Greek (New Testament). The work of translation is not easy. Fortunately, that work has been done for us by well-trained scholars.
For the most part, the differences between the so-called mainline translations are cosmetic. The American Standard Version of 1901 is written in a style that employs “thee” and “thou” frequently. A newer translation, like the English Standard Version does not. Such does not make one superior to the other. The student should go to a bookstore and browse many different versions and select the one which seems easiest to read. My guidance would be to stick with one of the following: American Standard, English Standard, King James, New American Standard, new International Version (1984) or the New King James. ((This list is not intended to exclude, only to suggest. Other translations could also be useful.))
It could be useful to acquire two Bibles for study, one that is more literal like the ASV and one at the other end of the spectrum, more dynamic, such as the NIV(84). When the student finds differences in the two versions, he may then use that difference as a “hook” for additional study. In other words, you can use other resources to try and understand why one translation uses a given word or phrase while the other does not.
Once you settle on a translation, stick with it. Mark it up with notes, highlights and underlines. It will become invaluable.
We should also mention the wide availability of digital translations now available. Many translations are available without charge. A student can switch between translations easily and compare notes.
The point here is to do your own study. Entrust your soul to Jesus alone. I hope you have a preacher who is sound and skilled. If so, he can guide you. But remember. Be noble. Search the Scriptures yourself.
Bryant Evans may be reached at bryant at bryantevans.com. You can follow Bryant on Twitter @jbevans.
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