Before I was saved, I thought there were two or three translations of the Bible available in the English language. It turns out, there are over 450 translations – and that is only for the English language. The one that I seemed to encounter the most was the King James Version (KJV), which dates back to the 17th century. While poetic at times, the archaic language makes for a difficult read. The Bible my father handed down to me when I was a kid was a KJV. The Bible I inherited from Mom last year was also a KJV. It is the classic text that many people think of when it comes to the Bible.
Back in 2018, just before I was saved, I was beginning to explore Christianity. I no longer had my father’s Bible (a story for another day), so I bought my first Bible. It was a King James Version – Easy Read (KJVER). Basically, it updated words like “thee” and “thou” to their modern equivalents. Unfortunately, I still found it hard to follow – especially as a new believer.
Around the time I was saved, JC introduced me to the YouVersion Bible app. It currently contains over 60 English translations of the Bible. I find it to be an indispensable tool, and it allows me to have the Bible with me at all times by being on my iPhone.
I soon discovered the New Living Translation (NLT), which allowed me to understand better the overall story of the Bible. It dates back to the 1990s. Two years later, it remains my go-to translation. I tend to favor it heavily when quoting here on Beloved Walks, for instance. However, I still enjoy comparing different translations of the Bible. I also like the New International Version (NIV), which is slightly more “formal” than NLT. NIV dates back to the 1970s.
JC and I read the Bible together as much as possible. One of the things I love doing most in this world is reading His Word aloud to her. In the course of doing that, we will occasionally try different translations. Depending on what is going on in our lives, we sometimes need a laugh. The translation that offers the most comedic value, if not necessarily Biblical insight, is the Message (MSG), which dates back to the 2000s.
I know there are people out there who swear by one translation or another. For instance, some say that the KJV is the only “true” version in the English language that has the inspired Word of God. That is not a debate I care to enter, other than to say, I sure wouldn’t put God in a box of any kind, including that one. If a certain translation helps someone grow closer to Jesus, then that is the translation for that person in that time.
Just for fun, today, I want to compare some translations. Up first is Genesis 1:1-2.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”
Genesis 1:1-2 KJV
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.”
Genesis 1:1-2 NLT
“First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.”
Genesis 1:1-2 MSG
KJV and NLT are pretty close on Genesis 1:1-2. I would probably give the edge to KJV. As a writer, I like the sound of, “And the earth was without form.”
Next, let’s take a look at Romans 8:31-39 – one of my very favorite passages of the Bible.
“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:31-39 KJV
“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.’) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:31-39 NLT
“So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture: They kill us in cold blood because they hate you. We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one. None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”
Romans 8:31-39 MSG
For Romans 8:31-39, NLT far outpaces KJV. I especially love the last two verses in NLT: “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Let’s wrap up our comparison with one last excerpt, Romans 14:6-9.
“He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.”
Romans 14:6-9 KJV
“Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead.”
Romans 14:6-9 NLT
And now, ladies and gentlemen, the comedy stylings of the Message:
“What’s important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God’s sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you’re a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It’s God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other. That’s why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.”
Romans 14:6-9 MSG
I find KJV pretty hard to follow on Romans 14:6-9, especially without cheating by looking at NLT. NLT makes sense of the passage, while MSG makes some kind of stew out of it. I’m not sure what’s going on there, but it makes me laugh every time.
Thanks for reading. May Jesus bless you.
My current favorite translation is “The Scriptures.”
What I have learned about translations is the underlying manuscripts are important! The English Standard Version (ESV) translation is easy to understand, but I decided not to buy one because of the underlying texts.
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