Are You Using the Wrong Bible?

Wrong Bible2If you are like me, then you have most likely heard in one form or another that certain bibles are not accurate or that we should only be using the (fill in the blank) bible.  There is certainly no shortage of opinions on which version of the bible is the most accurate or authoritative.  There are also just as many options to choose from when deciding on what version to choose, from the famous King James Version to versions written by numerous scholars in their fields and even translations written by single individuals, there is a translation out there for nearly every theology and doctrine.

People tend to gravitate towards the version that supports their theology and that in and of itself is a problem.  Individuals who believe names like Jesus and God are Pagan, which by the way, they are not, will choose a translation that uses the Hebrew names for the father and son.  The Purified Translation of the Bible was written by those who believe drinking alcohol to be a sin.  Due to this doctrinal belief, all mentions of wine in the New Testament are instead translated as “grape juice.”  Most translations are faithful to the overall story, but small changes creep in when scribes and translators are biased towards a particular theology or doctrine.  This is where we run into problems with all the different versions.  Trying to translate 1000 + year old Hebrew and Greek words into modern languages is a daunting task and the truth is, the most authentic and correct words are not always chosen.  This can lead to some minor and major misunderstandings in the biblical text.

So which version is the most accurate?  I will answer that question shortly but first, let’s look at some of the oldest manuscripts we have found to date.  The Masoretic Text (MT) are the authoritative text of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) with the earliest copies dated to around the year 100 CE.  Most modern Protestant bibles translate their Old Testaments from the MT.  The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 has given us the oldest known copies of the Hebrew Bible with the earliest copies being dated all the way to before the time of Y’shua in 150 BCE. The earliest known complete New Testament manuscript is the Codex Sinaiticus which dates to between 330 and 360 CE, but most English Bibles, including King James, were translated from manuscripts of the Greek NT or are adaptations from a Bible that were translated from manuscripts of the Greek NT.

There are six types of manuscripts that were used for establishing the original text of the Greek NT.  The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary has this to say about the manuscripts used to compile the Greek NT, “The very oldest and best are written on papyrus.  About 115 Papyri have been identified, many of them from the second century.  Most of the Papyri have a small amount of text, but some are extensive.  Uncial manuscripts are written in large letters similar to capital letters.  The great early Codexes Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, and Alexandrinus are among the Uncials. Over 300 Uncials have been identified, dating from the fourth through the 10th centuries.  The Papyri and the Uncials are our most important sources.  Minuscule Manuscripts are written in a cursive style of handwriting that developed after the eighth century.  Over 2,800 Minuscules are known, dating from the ninth through the 16th centuries.  Lectionaries are NT texts arranged according to a reading schedule through the year for public worship.  These date from the eighth through the 16th centuries, but some are valuable as they are copied from a much older exemplar.”  1Draper, C. W. (2003). Textual Criticism, New Testament. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (pp. 1573–1574). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.  Of all these different manuscripts used to comprise the Greek NT, they agree 95% of the time with only a 5% rate of variance.  According to the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, “unintentional variants may be the result of errors of sight, hearing, lack of concentration, or poor judgment, on the part of the scribe.  Intentional variants generally occurred when the scribe thought he was improving the text by making spelling or grammar changes, changes for liturgical (worship) use, correcting geography or history, or harmonizing parallel passages (especially in the Synoptic Gospels).  Occasionally changes were made for doctrinal reasons.  Most of these were intended to make the text more orthodox (as the scribe understood Orthodoxy).” 2Draper, C. W. (2003). Textual Criticism, New Testament. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (pp. 1573–1574). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.  We also have to keep in mind that prior to the printing press, everything had to be hand copied and no two copies were every exactly the same.  Whether from intentional or unintentional variance, every time a manuscript was copied it was slightly different.

So we can see that the manuscripts used to produce the Greek NT that most of our modern day Bibles were translated from all have slight differences due to scribal error or additions, but surely the original Hebrew Scriptures are not full of scribal additions as well, are they?  They actually are and here are a few examples.  How tall was Goliath?  “The traditional (Masoretic) Hebrew text has him at “six cubits and a span” (1 Sam 17:4), roughly 9 feet, 9 inches.  The Dead Sea Scroll reading of 1 Sam 17:4 disagrees and has Goliath at four cubits and a span, or 6 feet 6 inches.  Virtually all scholars consider the Dead Sea Scrolls reading superior and authentic.”  3Heiser, M. S. (2015). The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (First Edition, p. 211). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

We can see an example of the Bible being updated in Genesis 14:14.

When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men … and went in pursuit as far as Dan. Genesis 14:14

“Did you catch the discrepancy?  This passage is speaking of the time of Abram.  This was before Moses and Joshua—before there was a promised land divided among the tribes of Israel. As a matter of fact, Israel didn’t even exist yet. So how can the Bible reference land that belonged to the tribe of Dan hundreds of years before it existed?  If we plotted out the battle with place names appropriate for Abram’s day, we’d see that the enemy was pursued all the way to a place called Laish, not Dan.  Some people would call this an error, but is it really?  Years later, in the days of Israel’s judges, Laish was renamed as Dan:

“And they named the city Dan, after the name of Dan their ancestor, who was born to Israel; but the name of the city was Laish at the first” Judges 18:29

At some point in history, an unnamed editor updated the text of Genesis 14:14 after the name change took place.  This was most likely done to make sure readers of his own day would understand the geography of the area being spoken of in the passage.  4Heiser, M. S. (2014). I Dare You Not to Bore Me with the Bible. (J. D. Barry & R. Van Noord, Eds.) (pp. 11–12). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press; Bible Study Magazine.

So what does all this mean?  I know a lot of this information seems tedious, but I had to show it for us to understand that the only 100% accurate version of the Bible is the original, which we don’t have.  Even when we go back to the oldest Hebrew and Greek, there are still scribal changes and additions.  All we have today are copies of copies of copies of copies…you get the point!  There is no perfect version of the Bible.  All of them will vary slightly, and that is why it’s a good idea always to use multiple version and not rely solely on one version.  It’s also pointless to fight about which Bible is the best or most accurate because they all have minor flaws in them.  We can rest assured, though, that the overwhelming majority of bibles all agree where it matters, and I believe that is YHWH’s divine inspiration over His Word!

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References   [ + ]

1, 2. Draper, C. W. (2003). Textual Criticism, New Testament. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (pp. 1573–1574). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
3. Heiser, M. S. (2015). The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (First Edition, p. 211). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
4. Heiser, M. S. (2014). I Dare You Not to Bore Me with the Bible. (J. D. Barry & R. Van Noord, Eds.) (pp. 11–12). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press; Bible Study Magazine.

Posted on August 29, 2016 in Answering Tough Questions, History

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About the Author

Chris lives on the Mississippi Gulf Coast with his wife and daughter. He has a heart for reaching people with the truth about Torah and is dedicated to seeking, teaching and living out the truth of the Word, from Genisis to Revelation. Chris grew up in Church and ran the gambit from Baptist to Non-denominational, but he admittedly was just a "pew warmer." His walk didn't truly start until a close friend asked him a simple, yet profound question. "What is Gods name?"

Responses (3)

  1. Stacey
    August 31, 2016 at 7:59 am · Reply

    So what bible do you tend to gravitate to the most? What are your top 3 versions you would want in your home? Which version would you give to your growing child?

    • TorahBabies
      August 31, 2016 at 8:52 am · Reply

      Hi Stacey,

      It really comes down to personal preference. I (Chris) tend to use the ESV and the Holman Christian bibles the most. This Torah cycle I’ve been using the Chumash, which uses the Tanakh, so I’ve been using the Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures (1985) from JPS.

  2. Joseph Fawcett
    December 7, 2016 at 10:17 pm · Reply

    Interesting info. Thanks!!! I use right now the Complete Jewish Bible. Mainly as an introduction to reading and getting familiar with the Hebrew names and terms. I refuse to use the NIV translation or any translation the translates pride or being proud as a good thing. That is a base line for me. I don’t care how much the translation cost to purchase it will go in the trash! Those are my thoughts.

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