Bible Study Methods (Part 5)

This entry was previously published by me on another blog. Due to its relevance, I’ve included it here.

I was inspired by a comment from my friend, pathoflife. She mentioned she doesn’t have a lot of time on her hands, so sometimes her study time is limited to using different translations for a given passage. I asked her if I could expand on that thought a little bit, and she gave me her blessing. I hope this is of some small blessing to you all.

I can’t say enough good things about translation. You may know I was a professional sign language interpreter in the schools for several years. I am no longer full time in that position, but I haven’t let everything in that field go to seed. I may not be active in interpretation at this point, but I still have an appreciation for taking ideas, thoughts, and concepts in one language and carefully translating it into another. There are huge blessings in this process!

First and foremost, we can’t discount that translation opens a door for someone who wouldn’t ordinarily have fluent access to the original communication. Thankfully, someone thought the Bible a significant work, enough to translate all the portions from Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek into something we can read today. Many of us would love to read the original language and comprehend all of the nuances contained in the first texts, but time, energy, or education may get in the way. Praise God for those hard-working godly men who did the work for us so long ago…and for the men and women still doing that work today. Millions of people, from large national language groups to isolated tribal dialect speakers, have the Scriptures because of these translators. (That’s the blessing of translation that I love!)

Secondly, we need to know translation has a purpose and a style. The translator often has a reason for every word choice. The large picture of the style sets the tone for how that original text will move into the translation. Some are word-for-word translations. Some are more along the lines of capturing the larger concepts and the flow of the original text. Word choices are selected based on the target audience and the chosen style. So, we have translations for young children, students, and adults. We have more specialized translations for segments of the population. We have NASB, NIV, NLT, KJV, NKJV, the Amplified, The Message, and a host of others. Some Bibles target their audience along with study and application helps, while others focus on the Scriptures alone.

Let me interrupt here to say I’m not foolish enough to believe this isn’t a hot topic between Christians at times. Everyone has a perspective, an opinion, or a favorite. (Even I have a point of view on this topic, if you can believe that.) This is mainly a personal choice. I’m fairly certain we’ll talk to lots of folks in heaven who used the various translations. Remember any standard translation can be warped with poor study methods and habits, and that isn’t the fault of the translator. Rather than disagree on something like this, can we simply agree it’s a blessing to live in a time and culture where the Word is so readily available, accessible, and both intentionally and personally translated? There are many places (even isolated locations in our own nation) that have a much more difficult time getting even one Bible, yet most of us can walk into a store around the corner and find hundreds just waiting on the shelf. Be blessed by the freedom we have! You might even consider how you can be used to help others have the same blessing of walking in the Word daily that you have.

Now, how can we use these translations to our benefit? Here are some ideas:

This is a great way to select a Bible. I suggest picking a passage with which you are very familiar (I tend to use John 3:16). Read that same verse in the various translations to get a feel for the style and possibly the audience. Check to see if it has cross-references or the study and application helps. Decide if that’s something you’d like to have. I personally feel a Bible should be studied. Do I need the helps? I might not. They are, however, incredibly helpful when I’m beginning to study something new. I find the cross-references to be a mixed bag most often, but I have used them. (Perhaps I’ll do an entry about using those in the near future.)

Try comparing translations. When you have the option of using more than one translation, whether you have several hard copies or choose to use an electronic form of several translations, it can be an interesting fresh wind to your devotional time. I won’t say this is the best way to feed ourselves spiritually for the entire Christian life since there are other fabulous tools we’ve been given for study, but I will say that it is wonderful for busy seasons, times when we need to hear verses in a fresh way, or when the text we’re reading isn’t necessarily making sense. Another translation can, in fact, shed light on what God wants us to hear in the passage. It can be a quick way to examine Scripture from a few different angles very quickly.

Here’s your assignment for the week! (What? Did she say assignment?)

Yes, my fabulous friends, you have an assignment for this week. Are you ready?

I would love for you to find a passage you are currently studying, or an old favorite, and try this method when you have a moment. By now you probably know about Crosswalk.com and e-sword.net, so those are ready and fast tools for this assignment. Find the verse in your everyday translation, and then find it in another translation you might not ordinarily use.

I’m going to be bold now. Are you ready again? Why not post the two (or more) translations in a comment right here. We’ll all be blessed by the sharing! Enjoy the exercise!

Love in Christ,

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