Why are there so many different Bibles?

Last updated on March 9, 2021

Why are there so many different Bibles?

We are blessed this day to have so many great resources available to us to further know and understand the word of God. With the advent of the printing press, the translation of the Bible into the common tongue, and other subsequent developments in communication technology, the Bible has been made more available over the past 500 years than any time prior. This gives new meaning to Paul’s words to Timothy where he says that the “word of God is not chained” (2 Timothy 2:9).

Opportunity for everyone

Bibles are available in hundreds of languages and Bible translators are feverishly working to get the word of God translated into every tongue. The goal behind the translation of Bibles is that everyone may have the opportunity to know God through His Son Jesus Christ and have eternal life (John 17:3) and meditate on God’s law day and night (Psalm 119:97). As we ascribe to the belief that God’s word is the ultimate authority over all affairs of men, it is important that all people have access to it. It is a good thing that there are many translations of the Bible, because it increases the opportunity for a person to read it and be changed.

Why do we have so many?

This question seems to address the multitude of versions available on the bookshelf. Why do we have so many? The simple answer is that the market for the Bibles is free and there is a demand for all sorts of variations. Some people want to buy a copy that provides a word for word literal translation of the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament. Others prefer a translation that covers the meaning of the text without being literal, allowing for more poetic or modern renderings. Others want a paraphrase of what is said, stretching the bounds of the Bible’s meaning into the world of the translator’s interpretation.

Many versions are spliced by many versions

On top of this, there is a demand for study Bibles, where inter-linear notes and footnotes help the reader to understand the text and apply it to daily life. So not only do we have many versions of Bibles, but those many versions are then spliced by many versions of study Bibles. The various translations of the Bible do not teach different things, but the commentators and study Bibles may contain different messages in the footnotes. Yes, we can admit to there being a market driven impulse which may lead to the creation of specialized study bibles addressing narrow parochial interests (i.e. “The American Patriot’s Study Bible”). Yet, we say that we should keep printing them because a person’s encounter with the word of God, which is living and active, is a sure way to produce fruit and turn a person’s heart to Christ, much like the Ethiopian eunuch’s encounter with the writings of Isaiah in Acts 8:26-40.

With that said, the new believer may find it challenging to find a Bible. The first thing a believer wants to do once he gives his life to Christ is to pick up a Bible, and the choice of a Bible can become daunting or intimidating. If you are a person who is unsure about what translation to read, consult with a pastor or a trusted Christian friend. Ultimately, God’s word is not chained.

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