1) GOD INSPIRED THE BIBLE
2 Peter 1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
2 Peter 1:21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
The Bible is a book of 66 books written by 40 men over a period of 1,500 years. But while men wrote the words on the page, they did not write whatever came to their imaginations. The phrase “private interpretation” in verse 20 means that it is not a human invention. Peter also says in verse 16 that they did not follow “cunningly devised fables.”
Instead, these men wrote and spoke, “as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” The word “moved” is a word that is used of wind pushing a ship with sails.
Peter was a fisherman, remember, and had sailed boats. He knew what he was saying here. The Holy Spirit (the word “Spirit” means “wind) pushed the writers along as they wrote scripture. So, while they used their own personalities (compare John’s writings and Paul’s writings and you’ll see they are different), God made sure that the very words that He wanted were written down.
In 2 Timothy 3:16, this process is called inspiration—“All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” The word, “inspiration” means “God-breathed.” So the sails of the human authors were moved by the Holy Spirit wind that was breathed out by God. They wrote the exact words that God wanted written down.
The words themselves and the order they are put in—the grammar—are inspired, not just the concepts and ideas.
Why is this important? Here’s an example: some people look at Genesis 1 and 2 as simply God giving us the general idea that He created the world and mankind, but we can fill in the blanks with ideas like evolution. No. God clearly states in the words and grammar that He uses that He created in six, 24-hour days. You must deal with the actual words that God gives.
It’s important for us to know what the actual words of the Bible are. Those words communicate the concepts and ideas.
This is an important factor to consider in the translation of the Bible. There are different ways of translating the Bible. Imagine a line, a continuum. On the one end is a paraphrase. On the other side is a word-for-word translation. Translations of the Bible fall on the line between these two extremes.
A paraphrase looks at the inspired Greek and Hebrew words and brings out the ideas that are there and puts them into the language being translated.
Here’s an example from a paraphrase of 2 Peter 1:20-21—
The main thing to keep in mind here is that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of private opinion. And why? Because it’s not something concocted in the human heart. Prophecy resulted when the Holy Spirit prompted men and women to speak God’s Word. (The Message)
The advantage of a paraphrase is that it sort of acts as a commentary to help someone understand what is being said. The disadvantage is that it is a human commentary on top of the words of the Bible. It might be right, or it might be wrong. If it’s wrong, it’s hard to know because the actual words are hidden.
This particular paraphrase is far over on the paraphrase side of our line. All translations have to paraphrase to some degree, because Greek and Hebrew have a completely different sentence structure than English. To show you what I mean, I made a completely word-for-word translation of 2 Peter 1:20-21—
This first knowing, that no prophecy of scripture private interpretation not is. For not will of man came ever prophecy but by Spirit of Holy moved to speak holy of God men.
As you can see, an exact word-for-word translation is undesirable. You have to rearrange the order of words and paraphrase a bit to get readable English. So all translations fall somewhere on this line between a paraphrase and a word-for-word translation.
After I was saved in 1990, I used the NIV for a few years. But as I grew in Bible knowledge, I came to realize that the NIV is over on the paraphrase side of the line and started to look for a good word-for-word translation.
Over the next few years I explored translations like the NASB, KJV, NKJV and the ESV. By the way, I never found it confusing to use a different translation, and I still don’t. Perhaps someone growing up using only the KJV would find using other translations confusing and I can understand that.
I do think, however, that my Bible memorization suffered. Whenever I switched my main translation, I had to re-memorize everything. Having one translation has helped me to memorize consistently and to enjoy memorizing scripture.
But back to the point—I found, of all the translations in common use today, the KJV and NKJV are the most word-for-word. Why was that so important to me? Because God made sure the very words that He wanted put down, were indeed put down.
We need to concern ourselves with those words, their meanings, and the order in which they are put down. God inspired the words of the Bible.
3) WHICH VERSION OF THE BIBLE TO CHOOSE?
I mentioned that early on in my Christian life, I tried out several versions looking for a word-for-word translation that I could use as my main Bible. During that search, I came across another issue—which was the correct text of the original languages?
Briefly, there are two main views that differ over how we should view the 6,000 or so Greek manuscripts of the New Testament that we have. The issues are quite complex, but very simply:
1) The Textus Receptus or Majority Text side holds that the what majority of those Greek manuscripts say is the correct text. The KJV was translated using the Textus Receptus.
2) The Modern text side holds that the oldest manuscripts contain the correct readings. Most, but not all, English translations made in the last hundred years have used the Modern text.
Which is more accurate: the oldest or the majority? The Modern text side says that obviously the oldest are more accurate because they are closest to the original manuscripts.
The Textus Receptus side, says that the oldest manuscripts that exist are corrupted because they belonged to certain cults and sects.
Here’s a quick illustration of what the Textus Receptus side is saying: Imagine someone writing an important letter that got copied and passed on to other people. Imagine that the original was lost, but ten copies are preserved. Nine of those copies are from 10 or 20 years later. One of them was written only six months later, but it has some differences from the other nine. Which is going to be more correct? Our first inclination will be to say the oldest. But what if the oldest was copied by someone who was an enemy of the one who wrote the original letter?
To be honest, it’s difficult to know which side is correct. I spent a few years studying this issue and here’s how I eventually came to a decision.
1) The key turning point for me had to do with an argument the Modern Text side would make: no doctrine was significantly affected by the differences in the text. You can defend any doctrine from any Christian Bible version.
I simply turned their reasoning around…thereʼs nothing in the Textus Receptus that would significantly change any major doctrine.
In fact, the Textus Receptus has a proven track record. Christians have consistently and safely relied on it for hundreds of years. We can rely on the Textus Receptus today and for another few hundred years. Therefore, why not take the fuller text?
2) I have a love-hate affair with the older language of the KJV. On the one hand, if you did not grow up with it, it can be difficult to work out.
There are words that have changed meaning, like “conversation,” (cf. 1 Peter 3:1-2) that are hard for a novice to catch and could lead to misinterpreting the text because they plug in the common meaning of today instead of what the word meant when the KJV was translated.
On the other hand, I think the older language, despite its problems with communication to people today, has an unsurpassed beauty and authority to it. Certain phrases like, “Thus saith the Lord,” still connect with many people today. In short, it sounds like the Bible.
3) I think it’s helpful for a Christian to have one translation that they commit themselves to for their entire lives, to aid in memorization and knowing where to find something in the Bible.
Some of the modern translations that have introduced “updated” editions. To be fair, the KJV we use is not the first edition from 1611. But the KJV has not changed since the 1769 edition. Other translations have gone out of print, but the KJV is still a top selling Bible.
So I can trust that the KJV will still be around for many years. I can memorize it and not worry about a new edition changing what I memorized. I can use it and not worry about it going out of print.
4) Finally, as I mentioned before, the KJV is one of the most word-for-word translations in common use today.
Sometimes it is hard to read, not because the words are hard, but because the words are in the order of the Greek and Hebrew language. But that’s a good thing, because God inspired the very words and the order the words are in.
Since the Bible is God’s inspired word, we need to pay close attention to it. Look at what Peter says in verse 19—
2 Peter 1:19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
We have a sure word. Therefore, we should “take heed” to it, by reading it, memorizing it, and studying it. And we should do this because it is a light for us in a dark world. The Bible says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, And a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).
How long should we pay close attention to the Bible? Peter says, “until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.” The “day star” (or morning star) is Jesus Christ (cf. Revelation 2:28, 22:16) and the “day dawn” refers to His Second Coming.
But then why does Peter say that Jesus will “arise in your hearts”? Does he mean that Jesus is going to come back only in our hearts? No. Peter in chapter 3:10-12 is clearly talking about the end of world.
So what’s the “in your hearts” all about? Look at the context. He has said that we should take heed to the scripture until Jesus comes again. Why just until He comes again?
Because when He returns, every believer will know Him intimately in their hearts in a way that is not possible now. There will be no need for written scripture then.
But until then, to know Jesus, we must know our Bibles. As Christians, we need to pay close attention to the Word of God in order to grow. The stronger the Christian, the more they are in the Bible. The weaker the Christian, you can be sure they are neglecting the Bible.
What if you are not a Christian? What if you don’t know Jesus personally? Might I give you a challenge today? Sit down with a Bible this afternoon and read the gospel of John—it’s the fourth book in the New Testament. The Bible says that “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
I can’t promise that you will suddenly believe after three or five or ten chapters—all I am saying is that the Bible is the source of faith and the rest is between you and God.