We go through life doing the same things in the same way because it’s how we’ve always done it. Those tried and true methods work for us. However, switching things around a bit often sheds new light on a situation, thought, or action. It can bring us to a higher level of understanding.
There are dozens of translations of the Bible but most of us read only one or two throughout our lives. When pondering a verse or passage, looking at multiple versions of scripture can be enlightening.
Translating anything from one language to another isn’t an exact process. The translator must interpret the significance of what’s being said before replacing the foreign words with those of anther tongue. This can alter the meaning slightly because words rarely translate equally. For example, to say that someone is tall is different than lofty, gigantic, or above average in height. We perceive what is said slightly differently with each word substitution.
This also happens when we update a version of Scripture. Our feeling and interpretation of words change over time. Current translations enable readers to understand scripture more fully because it is in common language, but again, this comes with some risk in altering the meaning.
The only way to avoid any variance would be to read the original version in its own language. But then we would have to not only know the language but the essence of those words in that time period in that location, and very few of us are able to do that.
An alternative is to read several translations. My favorite Bible is the NRSV. My friend and publisher’s, Greg Pierce, is The Message, a contemporary, straight-talking version. I have a bookshelf of Bibles and reference a few of them when writing. But you can easily do this yourself by going to a fabulous site called Bible Gateway.
Following is the passage John 16:25-28 in multiple translations. Read them and tell me what you think. I’d love to hear if your perspective changed at all by reading the different versions.
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King James Version (KJV)
25 These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father.
26 At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you:
27 For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.
28 I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.
New Revised Standard Version NRSV
25 “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but will tell you plainly of the Father. 26 On that day you will ask in my name. I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.”
Living Bible (TLB)
25 “I have spoken of these matters very guardedly, but the time will come when this will not be necessary and I will tell you plainly all about the Father. 26 Then you will present your petitions over my signature! And I won’t need to ask the Father to grant you these requests, 27 for the Father himself loves you dearly because you love me and believe that I came from the Father. 28 Yes, I came from the Father into the world and will leave the world and return to the Father.”
The Message (MSG)
25-28 “I’ve used figures of speech in telling you these things. Soon I’ll drop the figures and tell you about the Father in plain language. Then you can make your requests directly to him in relation to this life I’ve revealed to you. I won’t continue making requests of the Father on your behalf. I won’t need to. Because you’ve gone out on a limb, committed yourselves to love and trust in me, believing I came directly from the Father, the Father loves you directly. First, I left the Father and arrived in the world; now I leave the world and travel to the Father.”