I have spent the last two years trying to learn from the Holy Spirit. During this time the issue of Bible translations has arisen. The Lord led me to look at and compare all the different versions. I found the NIV translation to have omitted many vital scriptures. This has also left me wondering which version we can trust. I have gone back to the King James but it is a case of…..’is it King James or Authorized King James’. Therefore when I came across your website it answered a question I had specifically asked and that was, when was the very first Bible printed and what do we look for as regards it’s accuracy? My question to you therefore is… Are you aware of any place where we can purchase a Bible we can trust? I would really appreciate your advice on this as I do need to feel that I have the true Word of God for study.
This is a good question. There is no perfect translation. It is debatable that there is even a “best” translation of the Bible into English. What I can say for sure is that the NIV does not omit any vital scriptures. The only passages “removed” from the KJV are a verse in 1 John 5:8 and John 5:4 (as well as part of one verse in Acts 8:37. All are removed from the NIV (and the RSV, the HCSB, NASB, and virtually all translations) because the clear evidence from the manuscripts is that these verses were added by translators hundreds of years after the New Testament was completed. The opinion of scholars of every stripe is that 1 John 5:8, for example, was added after AD 500. It was added, probably first in the margins as an explanation and then, perhaps accidentally included in some manuscripts. This verse was included in the “textus receptus” which became the common Greek manuscript in the Byzantine church in the Middle Ages. If you insist on reading this verse, it is found in the footnotes of the NIV (and of all translations). The same can be said for John 5:4 and Acts 8:37. There is absolutely no loss in accuracy of the Bible by putting these verses in the footnotes instead of in the body of the New Testament.
About the King James Version (also known as the Authorized Version–two names for the same version), it was perhaps the best translation of the Bible in 1609. Today it definitely is NOT the best translation for several reasons. The first reason is that we have vastly better Greek manuscripts available for translation. When the King James translation was produced, there were less than ten manuscripts of the Greek New Testament, and none of them was older than 1000 AD. Now we have more like 8000 manuscripts, dozens of which are from the first four centuries. For this reason, we have a significantly better Greek text from which to translate. It is not that the KJV is bad, but it is that it is not the best available translation. Another reason the KJV is not superior is that it was translated into a kind of English which has not been spoken for over 400 years. The meanings of words change significantly. There are examples of words used in the KJV which have the opposite meaning today. It is not a very good idea to rely too heavily on the King James Version, although using it as one resource is not a bad idea.
About the “best” translation, there is none. As a rule, for any Greek word there is no English word with the EXACT same meaning. For this reason, it is good to have two or three different translations. Often, if you have two different translations, the actual meaning of the original Greek word will be somewhere between the two different English words. Add to this, there are different styles of translations. Some like the RSV or the NASB are word-for-word translations, which means that they are more “accurate”. The problem is that sometimes more accurate is harder to understand, which may be questionable as to understanding the scripture better. There are also “phrase for phrase” translations such as the NIV. In principle it is not quite as accurate, but if one understands better, then one can argue that phrase for phrase can yield a more accurate understanding. There are also paraphrased versions which are free translations. These leave more room for personal interpretation and are generally not as accurate, although they can be useful for reading.
You should be assured that there are several EXCELLENT translations of the Greek and Hebrew Bibles into English. These include the New King James, the NIV, NEB, TEB, NASB, RSV, HCSB and a few others. We are so blessed to have so many excellent translations. In addition we have different styles of translation, which also can add to our understanding. The King James is certainly not the best translation and you might want to get used to using more modern, accurate translations.
As for the first English Bible, it was done by John Wyclyffe in the 14th century. This translation is in Middle English and was made for Latin, so it is not useful today. The first English translation from Hebrew and Greek was that of William Tyndale in the sixteenth century. This was a fairly good translation, but the King James was an improvement on the work of Tyndale as it had a committe of scholars, not just one translator.
I hope this helps.