Please check out 1 Corinthians 7:36 and 1 John 5:7 in various Bible versions, They seem to have different meanings. Also, only the KJV includes the term “God manifested in the flesh”, while other versions just say “He appeared in the flesh”. Which of these variations could be right? How do we deal with such differences in the meanings of such verses in different Bibles?  I presume this has arisen due to the usage of Westcott and Hort, and the Textus Receptus. Can you please tell me which Greek text is superior?  I’d like to buy a new Bible because I am not satisfied with the version that I have right now– the Good News Translation. So if you don’t mind, could you please suggest to me which one to buy? If the KJV isn’t good, then I would prefer you not suggest the NKJV or any other update of the KJV or the Textus Receptus because they all contain the same corrupted verses. I’m aware of the word for word, phrase for phrase and paraphrase types of Bibles. So I would like you to recommend for me specifically the best ones for each kind (word for word, phrase for phrase…..).


These issues are NOT because of Westcott and Hort versus textus receptus, generally.   The disagreement between the newer and the older Greek text is small.  In well over 90% of all translation questions in our English Bibles, it is not Wescott and Hort vs Erasmus’ textus receptus.  It is questions which arise from the different possible meanings of the Greek original.  It is because for any single word in either Greek or Hebrew, there is no exactly equivalent word in English.  Two different English words might be both fairly close to the precise meaning of the Greek.  That is why having multiple translations is always better.  For example in 1 Cor 7:36, the Greek is unclear (see below).  Having various translations helps here–it does not hurt.  Again, having multiple translations can be helpful.  As for “manifested” vs “appears”, generally the KJV has relatively archaic uses of words, for obvious reasons.  Therefore, if the KJV uses a particular English word and no other English translation uses this word, you can assume that this is most likely because the English (not the Greek) word in the KJV has shifted meaning.  For example, based on modern usage, probably manifested is no longer the best translation.

As for the best translation, there, literally, is no “best” translation.  There are pros and cons to every translation.  Probably the Good News translation is one of the worst to use if it is the ONLY Bible you have because it is a paraphrased “translation.”  Paraphrased translations such as the Good News can be helpful if used together with a word-for-word translation such as NAS or the RSV or with a phrase-for-phrase translation such as the NIV, but not alone. The reason is that there is way too much human interpretation in a paraphrased version unless one also has access to a more literal translation to give context to what the commentator/translator is saying in the paraphrased version.  The Holman Christian is one of my favorites, and it is a blend of word for word and phrase for phrase.   So, you can get the Holman Christian or the Revised Standard or the New International or Today’s English or the NKJV.  Any of these are fine, but having more than one of these at the same time is even better, as the “average” between two different translations will probably be closer to the meaning of the original.  Sometimes word-for-word is better, but often phrase-for-phrase is easier to understand, and therefore “better.”

For example, in 1 Cor 7:36, several translations have “his virgin”, others have “his virgin daughter” and still others have his “fiancé” or his “betrothed.”  The reason is that the original Greek is ambiguous.  It may be about a daughter or it may be someone the implied man wants to marry himself.  By the way, in this verse the New Living has “inevitably” but the word is not even in the Greek.  This illustrates both an advantage and a disadvantage of a paraphrase.  The word “inevitably” is perhaps implied, and for some, including this will be helpful, but for the sake of precise study this word definitely should NOT be used.  It depends on what you are trying to do.  Please be aware of the main point here.  Whether it is his fiancé, his virgin (fiancé? Daughter?) or his virgin daughter, the overall meaning of the passage is not changed significantly.

John Oakes

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