3 reasons you should study from different translations of Scripture

Are you like me? You lead a Bible study group, and you want to fully understand a Bible passage. You’ll soon guide your group to study the Bible. You could use your favorite Bible translation, of course, or you could go an extra step and perhaps greatly benefit by reading from other translations. Here are some reasons why you might want to (1) invest in some other physical copies of the Bible in different translations or (2) use a site like biblegateway.com to read the text in different translations:

  1. Reading from different translations will help you understand the passage. Reading from a literal translation of Scripture (where the translation process is called formal equivalence) can cause difficulties in understanding. Choosing to read from a translation that is based on dynamic equivalence (thought for thought) can greatly help you understand the original author’s meaning. Sometimes a different translation will convey the meaning of the text in such a way that you have that “aha” moment and really see the biblical author’s meaning in a new, fresh way.
  2. Your group members most likely use a translation different than the one you prefer. It would be odd if every person in your Bible study group read from the same Bible translation. People have their preferences, and they don’t give up their favorite translation very easily! Reading from different Bible translations can help you anticipate questions about particular words or phrases that your people are going to have as they participate in your Bible study. Most of the time the words or word order in our modern translations are very, very close. But sometimes there is just enough variance to cause a question to come up in the group. If you are aware of these, you can address them before they become a rabbit trail that your group runs down.
  3. It demonstrates good scholarship. As you lead your Bible study group and reference the way different translations approach the text, you demonstrate to your group members that you’ve done your homework and are informed about the various ways a verse or passage is translated. This shows scholarship, and boosts their confidence in you, their leader. If you find a word or phrase translated differently among various translations, simply use a Bible study tool like a concordance or Bible dictionary and do some additional homework – look into the Greek or Hebrew meanings of words, and decide for yourself which translation came closer to the original author’s meaning.

Some people feel so passionately about a particular translation that they will not even consider reading from another one. This is not necessary! There is nothing to fear in reading from different translations, and there are no “conspiracies” at Christian publishing houses that produce or print Bible translations. The work of translating the Scripture is difficult, tedious, and requires men and women who are experts in ancient biblical languages. They approach their work with seriousness and a high level of scholarship. Tradeoffs are made as they decide which word or phrase best translates the original author’s words and meaning.

Be thankful that we have so many good, accurate translations of Scripture today. You’re not going to walk into a Christian bookstore and purchase a “bad” copy! Some will translate the Scripture very literally (and could be harder to understand); others may use paraphrasing to help the reader understand the meaning.

If you need help deciding on a translation, I’d suggest 3  things:

  • Talk with your pastor. He’ll be able to explain his choice of a translation version.
  • Talk with your group leader. He’ll also be able to explain his choice of translation.
  • Talk with an employee at your local Christian bookstore – they are trained to explain the differences among translations.

My suggestion? Take a look at the CSB – Christian Standard Bible. It’s getting very high marks for (1) readability and (2) accuracy. Follow this link to an FAQ page about the CSB.


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