Weekly Devotional: Understanding Versions of the Bible

By Josh Sugata

Students whispering to each other under the weekly devotional banner

2 Timothy 3:16-17

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

One of my favorite classroom games to play when I was a child was “Telephone.”

I’m not talking about when two cans are strung together with a single piece of string and the ends are pulled tightly; I’m talking about the game involving a circle of friends or classmates sitting together and a predetermined phrase, such as “My favorite fruit is a banana,” is whispered into the ear of the first participant. The message is then relayed to the second person, on to the third person and so on until it reaches the last participant.  At that time, a “reveal” occurs and often times a jumbled, misinterpreted phrase is uttered out.

“My favorite loot is a bandana!”

For some reason, whenever I played the game, there was always that one person in the group who thought it would be funny to purposely misinterpret or sabotage one of the rounds, by completely changing the phrase simply for the sake of laughter.

A game such as this may appear irrelevant or juvenile to many; however, it serves as an example of many hard life lessons that we can experience on a daily basis.

Rumors often start with innocent, misinterpreted phrases that get blown out of proportion during circulation. These stories we tell from person to person get overinflated or embellished each time they are repeated. The hard lesson, of course, is that we cannot trust everything we hear from others.

Unfortunately, this mistrust of information also spills over into our spiritual lives. I have often heard people claim that the Bible is impossible to believe or, at least, very inaccurate due to the fact that there are so many translations or versions that are in circulation.  This is often accompanied with suggestions of contradictions within the text.

Recently, Pastor Tim Griffin and Dr. Jason Hiles sat down for Trending Faith to discuss the question: “Hasn’t the Bible been rewritten many times? How do I know which version to read?”

Dr. Hiles references several very common versions that are used in many churches today. He also explains that these different translations occur because the Bible is an ancient text written in other languages. Even between modern languages, phrases do not always translate perfectly.

Below is a table that displays Hebrews 4:12 in three different formats that are referenced within the episode of Trending Faith:

Hebrews 4:12

New International Version (NIV) King James Version (KJV) The Message (MSG)
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—
no matter what.

Although each of these translations uses different verbiage, the message of the passage is still the same. Unlike “Telephone,” where the message can change as it passes between each person, the actual message of the Bible does not change with each interpretation.

This passage, in each of its interpretations, clearly states that God’s word is powerful and absolute. This shows us that the written Word of God has remained unchanged for centuries, no matter how different scholars and writers may interpret it.

I hope we all seek out understanding and clarity when it comes to the Bible. My prayer is that His word becomes so active within your own life that it cuts through any doubt or uncertainty when it comes to experiencing God.

If you’d like to hear Dr. Hiles and Pastor Tim discuss this topic further, send your questions or responses to TrendingFaith@gcu.edu. For more information about faith at Grand Canyon University, take a look at our Christian worldview.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.