Reflections on the Holy Scripture

The Bible is the inspired1 word of God (2 Timothy 3:16), and as such, is the basis of all Christian doctrine. The Bible is also a way for us to commune with God; by reading and studying the Bible, we can better understand God's character, His will for us, and the world and therefore build our relationship with Him. Reading the Bible on a regular basis is something we ought to do as Christians so we can be better utilized by God for His purposes.

The Books of the Bible

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The Bible is split into two Testaments—the Old Testament, which was written before the coming of Jesus Christ, and the New Testament, which was written after Jesus's time on earth. There are a total of 66 books in the Bible, 39 of which make up the Old Testament, and 27 that make the New Testament. Each book is divided into chapters, and those chapters into individual verses for a quick navigation of the Scripture.

The Old Testament

The Old Testament is mostly history. It tells of the Creation of the universe, the first sins, God giving His law to the Jews, and the history of the Jewish nation up to about 400 years before the coming of Jesus. In addition to history, the Old Testament contains many prophecies that foretell the future arrival of the Messiah, which were all fulfilled by Jesus, and of the end times, which will be fulfilled during the last years of time. A few books are of poetry and wisdom.

The New Testament

The New Testament contains the eyewitness accounts of Jesus's time on earth, especially during His three years of ministry. The four books that contain these accounts and the teachings that accompany them are called the Gospel, which means "good news". The New Testament also tells of the growth of the early church especially through letters of Paul, additional teachings from some of Jesus's apostles, and prophecy dealing with the end times.

Studying the Bible

Since the Bible is God's Word, we ought to read and seek to understand it. This is best done systematically as the Bible is a large work, and some parts are better suited for learning from than others. Unlike most books, it is not recommended that you read the Bible from start to finish; instead, begin with the Gospel, especially John. Then, carry on to the rest of the New Testament, minus Revelation. When you begin reading the Old Testament, begin with Psalms and Proverbs. Revelation is best saved for last as there are may references to the Old Testament that can substantially help in understanding the symbolism in that book.

Just reading through the Bible is not as effective as studying it. Think critically about it. Learn something from what you read, and apply it to your life. Even though the Bible was written hundreds of years ago, it is still valid in the present day.

Bible Versions

Bible versions are a result of the evolving English language. Over time, words change meaning, and some phrases become hard to understand, so various paraphrases of the Bible have been made to accommodate these alterations. While some versions have been made in order to make the Bible easier to understand, others were made by people so that the Bible fit their personal beliefs. It is therefore important to know which Bible versions are accurate and how these versions came to be.

There are multiple versions of the Bible. Each version of the Bible contains nearly the same material as the rest, just paraphrased in different, sometimes significant ways. This is to help readers all around the world better understand what His word is saying.

The Versions

Some versions of the Bible are more popular than others, and are thus used by more people. However, this does not make these versions better than the others, as each person may prefer a different version than someone else.

Here is a list of some of the most used versions found today, with their abbreviations:

New International Version (NIV) The NIV is one of the most popular Bible translations being a midway between a literal translation and free paraphrase. Its success is due to it being easy to understand and mostly reliable.
New American Standard Version (NASV) The NASV is a version created to be a literal translation of the Bible. It is supposed to be a very accurate version, and considered the most accurate alongside with KJV, of the Bible using more modern English.
King James Version (KJV) The KJV is an older Bible version from 1611 based off of ancient Biblical manuscripts. Other Bible translations are compared to this version since it is supposed to be the most accurate version. However, the English of the KJV is outdated making this version very hard to read.
New King James Version (NKJV) The NKJV is the revised version of the KJV to update the English. It maintains literary style of the KJV while making it easier to understand and read. This is the version used by most verses in this site.
Revised Standard Version (RSV) The RSV was issued in 1952 as an attempt to "preserve all that is best in the English Bible as it has been known and used through the centuries". It is a literal translation that uses easy to understand English.
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) The NRSV is a direct revision of the RSV. The need for a newer version arises from acquisition of older manuscripts and the evolving English language.
The Living Bible (LB) The Living Bible is a paraphrase of the American Standard Version aimed at making the Bible easy to understand for most ages. It was published by Kenneth Taylor in 1962.
Amplified Bible (AMP) The AMP is a revision of the American Standard Version that uses various punctuating features and inserts in order to "amplify" the meaning of the Scripture. Emphasis is used on various parts in order for the Scripture to be easily understood.
Contemporary English Version (CEV) The CEV is an attempt to have a version that is Biblically accurate and is easy to understand. The English is at a lower level so most people can easily understand the text.
The Message (MES) The Message, by Eugene H. Peterson, is a free paraphrase and interpretation of the Bible. This version therefore doesn't offer any Biblical accuracy, but it provides the perspective of an individual on the Bible.

Comparison

Preferably, a more literal translation of the Bible is wanted for the sake of accurate Bible study and the understanding of God's Word. Paraphrased or modernized versions may have lost some of the original meaning, and some of the meaning in some versions may have been twisted. Normally, the older Bible versions are more accurate. The original Bible was written in Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament), so to have the most precise understanding of the Bible, one would have to learn Hebrew and Greek.

The New King James Version of the Bible is considered to be the most literal translationa while maintaining readability. Still, when comparing Bible passages, they are generally compared to the King James Version since it is old, famous, and accurate. Major differences can be seen between paraphrased versions such as The Message and King James. It is recommended that you read on as literal a level as possible (without becoming confused with the material, of course), using versions such as the New King James Version, the New International Version, and the New American Standard Version so that you can become more familiar with verses and precise understanding of Biblical events. In the end, however, the version you choose to read mostly comes down to personal preference.

Perhaps the best way to compare Bible versions is to compare how each version portrays a particular verse marking differences and noting similarities.

Romans 3:25
Version The Verse Notes
KJV "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;" The old English can make this passage a little confusing. The NKJV attempts to update the English
NKJV "whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed," NKJV is easier to read. An as replaces the infinitive to be in the KJV. This is an example of the Old English being slightly confusing.
NASV "whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;" This is very similar to NKJV except that it has an important adverb, publicly. This enhances the meaning of the verse.
NIV "God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—" The NIV is much easier to read, but it is also quite different from the NKJV and NASV. The major difference is the use of the word justice which can be taken differently from righteousness.
RSV "whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins;" The RSV being an older version uses some uncommon words like expiation. The NRSV helped correct this.
NRSV "whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed;" This is similar to both NIV and NASV. This version is generally like the NIV throughout the rest of the Bible.
LB "For God sent Christ Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to end all God's anger against us. He used Christ's blood and our faith as the means of saving us from his wrath. In this way, he was being entirely fair, even though he did not punish those who sinned in former times. For he was looking forward to the time when Christ would come and take away those sins." The Living Bible is a direct paraphrase. This verse adds to the original meaning which can make the true meaning of the verse altered.
AMP "Whom God put forward [before the eyes of all] as a mercy seat and propitiation by His blood [the cleansing and life-giving sacrifice of atonement and reconciliation, to be received] through faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over and ignored former sins without punishment." AMP adds in words and excerpts to "amplify" the meaning of the scripture. These words are not inspired, and some words are not even in brackets.
CEV "25-26God sent Christ to be our sacrifice. Christ offered his life's blood, so that by faith in him we could come to God. And God did this to show that in the past he was right to be patient and forgive sinners. This also shows that God is right when he accepts people who have faith in Jesus." The first thing to note is that CEV merges verses 25 and 26. This is also paraphrased and much of the original meaning from KJV and NASV are lost.
MES "25-26God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public—to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it's now—this is current history! God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness." Again, verses 25 and 26 are merged. This is a very loose paraphrase with many added phrases and even personal opinion.

source: b

The Septuagint

The Septuagint (LXX) is the oldest known manuscript of the Old Testament. This was written in Greek, the main language of the day, in the third to second century BC. Being the oldest manuscript, this is believed to be a more accurate version of the original Hebrew text as it has undergone less phases of translation. However, its primary importance is that it was written before Christ's time, and therefore none of the Old Testament prophecies could have been forged to fit Jesus's life.

Observation

When studying the Bible, ask yourself a few basic questions. Ask who is involved in the passage, what is happening, when did these events happen, and where are the events taking place. Don't worry about asking why the passage was written until you begin interpreting what you read. These basic questions help establish the setting and primers the purpose for the passage. Knowing these things can help you interpret the Bible better.

Interpretation

Learning to interpret the Bible correctly is essential to understanding it. Sometimes, the meaning is easy to see, but many times, Jesus conveys a message through symbolic parables that require paying close attention to the wording and context to understand. Jesus did this intentionally so that only those willing to understand would figure out what He meant (Matthew 11:15, Mark 4:9, Luke 8:8). There are five key points to remember when interpreting the Bible.c

  1. Pray that the Holy Spirit will help you understand what you are reading.
  2. Take into account the wording, grammar, and historical meaning2 of a passage.
  3. Always take what you read in context. Read the whole paragraph and the paragraphs immediately before and after that one.
  4. Remember that the original text of the Bible contains no contradictions3.
  5. Chapter and verse divisions were added for navigation and reference purposes; they did not exist in the original writings. As such, many thoughts go across chapters and verses.

Application

This is the most important step in studying the Bible. If you fully observe what happened in a passage and interpret it, but stop there, you might as well have never read that passage. Applying what you learn in your life is the whole reason we should read and study the Bible in order to grow in Christ. Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:15 that he was to

15Meditate on [reading, exhortation, and doctrine]; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.

NKJV

Don't be concerned about being perfect; everyone will still sin sometimes. Instead, focus on making progress. Making good progress is how you can be a model for the Christian life.

Inerrant?

One thing commonly questioned about the Bible is its legitimacy. We believe as Christians that the entire Bible is God-breathed and therefore, the Bible has absolutely no flaws4. However, why do we believe the Bible is inerrant? Isn't it like any other historical text, having worth but not 100% accurate?

Mainly, it takes faith to believe that the entire Bible is from God5. However, the intricate detail of the Bible cannot be ignored. For one, Jesus fulfilled over 300 old testament prophecies that were all provided before His time. Another thing, the Bible was written over a span of several thousand years by over 40 different authors all detailing an integrated message system. Finally, in studying the original Biblical texts in its native language, we find various tidbits of information, detailed on the Bible Trivia page, that are more or less hidden within the text. This information serves as the signature of God in a sense that we as men could not have perceived forming such beautifully written texts either accidentally or even intentionally. God had his hand over the Bible as it was written as is evident in many ways.

And as such, we are evermore confident that the Bible is inerrant and indeed of God.

References

a. http://www.dyeager.org/articles/bibletranslations.php
b. http://www.ibsstl.org/bibles/translations/
c. Exploring the Basics of Biblical Christianity by Niel Curran (Christian Communications, 1996)

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Scripture quotations taken from the Amplified® Bible,
Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation
Used by permission.

Scriptures marked as "(CEV)" are taken from the Contemporary English Version Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society. Used by permission.

Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked "TLB" or "The Living Bible" are taken from The Living Bible [computer file] / Kenneth N. Taylor.electronic ed.Wheaton : Tyndale House, 1997, c1971 by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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