Why read multiple translations of the Bible?

I was recently asked, “How do you know your translation of the Bible is better than mine?” There is no other way to say it nicely: questions like this are naive. I used to ask the same questions. But contrary to a common belief: the English translations are not inspired! But that’s ok, because as one great preacher has said, the meaning of the Scripture is the Scripture. As long as we understand the meaning rightly, we are hearing from God!

All I know is that no one translation is perfect. And if you do not ever care to dig into the original languages (of which none of our Greek and Hebrew Bibles are inspired either; it’s only the original autographs that are inspired, but that’s for another day, maybe even another blogsite), reading multiple translations is the best way for you to get to the meaning of the original text.

One example should illustrate: Philemon 6 says “I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.” (ESV) That’s a great verse! Evangelism can help us know more of what belongs to us in Christ!   Right?   Wrong.

First, context could have helped anyone feel that was off to begin with. Secondly, NASB says “I pray that the fellowshipping of your faith…” Fellowship=sharing. This verse is about talking with Christians! Not that evangelism to unbelievers is bad, but of course you’re going to know more of what you have in Christ by fellowshipping, sharing in the faith.

Sometimes just reading multiple translations will help you see God’s Word from another angle that will even make the other translations make more sense, and ultimately, allow you to hear from God in your own language.*

*(if English is not your first language, I’m very sorry; I don’t know how relevant this discussion is for you. If your language does not have multiple translations, I do encourage diving into Greek and Hebrew, or at least reading lots of good Christian books)

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