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Ask A Pastor – January 4, 2017

Scott T. Sharp,

Pastor First Baptist Church Nashville

Question: “Which translation of scripture do you prefer to preach from and why?”

In today’s world, we have about as many different translations and types of bibles as we do makes of automobiles. With so many choices available, how does a pastor go about choosing a particular translation or type of bible from which to preach and what differentiates one translation or type from another?

Personally, my top priority when selecting a bible is the accuracy of the translation. Since the original manuscripts of scripture were written in Hebrew and Greek, I want my English translation to be as close and as true to the originals as possible. That being the case, I look for a translation which has the best scholarship behind it. What exactly do I mean by that?

Often times, Hebrew and Greek words have a deeper and broader meaning than can be translated by a single English word. Translators have always attempted to find words which best convey the intent and meaning of the original manuscripts. For example, in 1611 King James of England commissioned translators to produce the bible we know as the King James Version of scripture. While it is certainly an accurate translation with beautiful wording, new archeological discoveries such as the Dead Sea Scrolls (1947) have given translators more information and more examples of manuscripts from which to work. Due to these new discoveries, improved scholarship has produced updated translations of scripture which are more accurate. While these newer translations do not change the message of scripture or in any way contradict previous older translations, improved word derivatives have served to increase the understanding of certain passages by providing more clarity and have thus served to narrow the interpretation of certain passages. This is a good thing where scripture is concerned as the intent and message of God’s Word is meant to increase unity of understanding among those who study it and not diversity.

One popular type of bible is known as a Study Bible. It contains a particular translation of scripture manuscripts along with notes, maps, illustrations, charts, timelines and articles. When we combine the two, we have the best of both worlds – God’s words given to us in scripture and commentaries on the meaning of God’s words provided by the world’s foremost biblical scholars using the latest scholarship available.

With the previous information in mind, the translation I prefer to preach from is the English Standard Version or ESV. The ESV Study Bible combines the most recent evangelical scholarship with an essentially literal translation of the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts and for my purposes, that makes it the most comprehensive and accurate study bible available today. I do, however, use four translations of scripture on a regular basis for sermon preparation to include the King James, New American Standard, New International and English Standard Versions. All are trustworthy and accurate translations.

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