A Pastors Perspective, Bible Versions


By: Mike Upchurch

Bible Versions

Over the years I’ve encountered many Christians who label themselves as “King James Only”. Some are adamant that the KJV is the only version of the Bible God would have us study from. A very few are downright intolerant, bless their hearts; but others just love the poetic phrasing of passages found in the KJV. I understand that. Psalm 23, for example, is beautifully expressed in the King James language.

But there are a few others, such as myself, who read from other versions and enjoy reading the scriptures in a more modern language. I have many different translations in my library and read from the New American Standard daily, and have since the ‘70’s. I also read from the New Living Translation regularly. In addition, I have a Strong’s Concordance and consult it often for Hebrew and Greek definitions. That said, when I encounter a “KJV only” believer I rarely, if ever, argue with them. It’s just a personal preference for me, and not worthy of contention or strife. However I would like to offer my opinion on the matter though, since this subject recently came up with a friend. This is not a position I hold to from any particular Denomination, but just my own personal opinion.

Because the King James wasn’t necessarily transcribed in the ‘street’ language of the day when published in 1611, (that work itself was a revision of the Bishops Bible of 1568), I don’t feel I’m straying from the Lord by using other versions in my studies. At the time of its printing, most in England spoke Elizabethan English, so named after Queen Elizabeth. Most scholars feel that the phrasing and words unique to the King James, such as Thine, Thou, and Thee, were inserted to give majesty to the Lord and to the Translation and set it apart from other works. That said, you’re not really quoting the dialect or language of the Lord, the Prophets, or even the Disciples, when you’re memorizing or quoting the KJV. For that feat you would need to be fluent in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and have access to the original manuscripts. So, since it’s not necessarily capturing verbatim what each writer penned, then when I’m studying I like to read a verse in a more modern day style, so that I might better understand it.

Think of it this way….have you ever heard a joke, and then turned to someone and said “I don’t get it”? Hopefully others around you did get it though, and you had their interpretation. It’s no different with the Bible. What good is reading a verse if you don’t understand what’s being written, or even worse, you misinterpret what’s being written? To me it’s simply a matter of preference. If you can understand the original Version printed by the Church of England, then bully for you! I however am not so fortunate. I’m even a little thick sometimes, so I need a more modern phrasing of sentences to absorb what’s being written.

Let me give you just one example. In the New Testament Book of James, let’s examine verse 5 of Chapter 4. We will find that verse written this way in the King James Version…..

“Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?”
‭‭James‬ ‭4:5‬ ‭KJV‬‬

I’m sure many of you can decipher that verse better than I, because I’m really at a loss as to what that the writer is saying. But let’s look at it in the New American Standard….

“Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: ” He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”?”
‭‭James‬ ‭4:5‬ ‭NAS

And here it is in the New Living Translation…..

“Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit He has placed within us should be faithful to Him.”
‭‭James‬ ‭4:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Now I get it! That verse is saying God placed the spirit in us that we have and He jealously wants that spirit to yearn for Him and be faithful to Him. I understand that completely. But I didn’t understand it at all in the KJV. Again, I’m the thick one and just need help sometimes.

There is also something else happening of late in some circles regarding Bible study I’d like to address. There seems to be a growing interest in books which were not part of the Christian Biblical Canon which we now have. Books such as Enoch and Maccabees are now getting traction and are being studied and even quoted on the internet as a viable source for end time prophecy.

Well, here is my stance. And once again, this is only my personal opinion. When a student of the Bible has read the original 66 books of our current KJV or other version, (which I have more than once) then it’s probably safe to read the ‘other’ books for historical reference or just to peruse interesting reading material. But if you’ve not read or studied the Bible we now have; and especially if you’ve not studied it with understanding, but are reading other books not found in the Protestant Canon, then you are reading books which most Bible Scholars feel are not divinely inspired. You are possibly assigning them scriptural value and that to me is dangerous ground, simply because you’re consuming your free time with works and writings other than the word of God which contains wisdom which we need to live a victorious Christian life. You may walk away with a vast understanding of Biblical History, but you may know little of how to walk in love, walk in faith, and how to apply divinely inspired verses to your life, ultimately drawing you closer to Him. You might as well be reading the Encyclopedia Britannica.

If you want to more deeply know God, and if you desire to know more of Jesus, and if you are desiring a deeper understanding of the role and work of the Holy Spirit, then study the current Biblical Canon we now have; the 66 books which are available in dozens of versions. I can promise you that you will know the Lord more deeply and you will draw closer to Him! He is locked deeply within those hallowed pages. However, other books not found in our current versions may offer little insight about a personal relationship with the Lord, but may be more historical in value, and some may even have prophetic value. But you can study History and even end-time prophecy and never know the Lord on a personal basis. But you can’t study our current Bible without learning not only who He is, but that He desires a personal relationship with us! Once a person has a clear understanding of Jesus as Savior and has immersed themselves in a daily walk with Him, then I suppose historical studies would be of some value, but they should never take precedence over the books we have which most feel are Holy Spirit inspired.

Again, these are my personal opinions and are worth little to some, but if you disagree you may ask the Lord what He thinks…..I’m pretty sure He will tell you!

And that’s the way I see it!

Pastor Mike