Which Bible is best for Bible study?

My valued Facebook friend, with whom I rarely can agree, lately stated on Facebook,

“For those who care I’m beginning to see the KJV is more for me and closer to the originals (that we know of).

Here is my comment on that thread:

On this point, I must say that I fully agree with you about the value of the King James Version after my many years of scholarly study on this issue.
I have studied the works of Bruce Metzger and other scholars like D. Carson (who wrote an excellent short book on exegetical fallacies) and many more besides in my Logos Bible software library. I do not at all concur with their arguments and findings about what is the best original text to follow for the Greek New Testament.
A major reason involves the rather logical question about how modern scholarship (so-called) can justify or even trace the genealogy of the manuscript tradition they select to find or support the readings they propose. The short answer is they can’t and they don’t. Very recent research on this issue has demonstrated that when an older manuscript (which is still extant) has been copied and we have the copy that was made from it too, the tendency of scribes is to shorten the text not lengthen it.
This is a most interesting finding.
As a retired English teacher I find that the language of the King James version is superior to that employed in modern translations from a literary point of view. I know of other scholars who agree with me.
The King James Version preserves many more of the figures of speech present in the original Hebrew in particular but also in the original Greek than most modern English versions and translations do.
This is most important when you want to actually study the Bible, not merely read it.
Figures of speech are used for emphasis and clarity. Most modern translations, for example, miss the word “know” or “knew” in Genesis 4:1 and elsewhere in the Old Testament. Some translations translate the meaning of the figure rather than trying to reproduce it in English. This helps the reader understand the meaning but blocks the reader from recognizing the figure when used elsewhere where it is rendered differently, so the reader misses the connection.

Modern Bible translations do have better and older manuscript witnesses to the text of the Greek New Testament than were available to the King James translators. But in many instances, the King James translators were better in their judgment about the choice of underlying text to translate.
All translations and versions of the Bible are helpful and should be consulted for the additional insights they provide. But I think it is good to have a more literal translation from which to start your study. For me, that is the King James Version. For greater understandability, I use the CEV (Contemporary English Version) and the NLT (New Living Translation). For the most accurate rendering of the nuances of the Greek text of the New Testament, I use the Lavender’s New Testament.

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2 Responses to Which Bible is best for Bible study?

  1. I saw this in my curated newsfeed (I’ve went back to an RSS reader since I rarely see things on Facebook anymore). This is a good take. I’ve used several translations in my years of study. I still find myself returning to the KJV for some things but employ others like the ESV and LNT. I also like the CEV for the same reasons you mention.

    I think your claims here are both respectful and thoughtful given the divisive nature these types of discussion usually pose.

  2. Jerry says:

    Thank you, Pastor Cheatham, for your encouraging comment. I have many different Bible translations in my personal library and benefit from each one.

    I did not reply sooner because I have been so busy preparing my reading program, The Language Enrichment Program, for publication.

    Anyone can now find my Language Enrichment Program on Amazon by simply entering that title in the search box.

    Many people need it–now I have to figure out how to let them know it even exists.

    Thank you for spreading the word for me where you are whenever that is appropriate.

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