March 8, 2012

Does one Bible fit all Christian readers and denominations?


When translating from ancient Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic languages into contemporary English, variations occur because of the synonyms translators choose from and also because of archaic phrases that would puzzle readers today. Some translators convert each word into English, but most choose to render old idioms or colloquial expressions into current thoughts or contemporary phrases, rather than translating word for word.

If you plan to write Bible stories, Bible studies, church curriculum, or other Bible-based poems and manuscripts for Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox readers, you’ll do well to compare the many fine translations on the Internet, or, better yet, get a copy of every English version of the Bible you can find.

As you see how biblical scholars translate a familiar verse or story in a truthful but fresh or unfamiliar way, you’ll broaden your view of God’s word and better understand where your readers are coming from, regardless of their denominational beliefs.

Whether you use Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox editions of the Bible, all of the books of the New Testament will be the same and in the same order. In the Hebrew Bible or “Old Testament,” however, the number and placement of the books may vary, depending on whether the translators accepted the Septuagint – the Greek Bible that most Jews and Christians read up until the first century or so.

After the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the Jewish leaders agreed to accept only the books written in Hebrew as they canonized the Bible, but the early church continued to use the books in the Greek Bible too, referring to them as deuterocanonical.

Then, after the Reformation, the deuterocanonical books were removed from English versions, including the King James Version, which originally included them all. After this, the “extra” canonical books were generally referred to as apocryphal, which means hidden.

Those books remained hidden from many of us until recently. But then, just this week as I researched information for the new posting “Which Bible would Jesus choose?” for the Bible Reviewer blog, I discovered that almost every translation of the Christian Bible now offers all of the books!

Bible book publishers may still refer to the “extra” books as the Apocrypha, but who cares as long as you know what to look for in the bookstore. You also might enjoy, as I did, the joy of discovering those “hidden” books for your personal reading. More importantly, perhaps, Christians who once again have all of the books in common might be less apt to think of ourselves according to denominations but according to our solid word-for-word translation into the Kingdom of God through our one Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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© 2012, Mary Sayler, all rights reserved. If you want to share the information in this article, be sure to acknowledge the source and website. For more information on the many wonderful translations of the Bible, visit Bible Reviewer. May God bless your Bible reading and your Christian writing life.

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