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Question

There are some people that say that certain versions of the bible are the only version to read. Some miss out certain verses. What version of the bible should we read?

Answer

Thank you so much for your honest spiritual enquiry.

The first thing to explain is that copies of the New Testament in their original language of Greek were hand-written for many centuries. Great care was taken not to make a mistake, but nevertheless they happened. Sometimes, a copyist might believe that the manuscript he was copying was wrong so that he 'corrected' it. Once such alterations were made, the next copyist would repeat them so that what we have now is a collection of hundreds of early copies of the New Testament, or parts of the New Testament and between them they contain about five hundred variations, the vast majority of them minute, such as different tenses of the same verb. Scholars have to decide which versions are most likely to be correct.

Having said that, you should know that NO DOCTRINE is in doubt, or even A SINGLE IMPORTANT EVENT.

Most of the differences are minor differences such as one version having 'Jesus had gone from Jerusalem to Galilee' while another might have 'Jesus was going from Jerusalem to Galilee'. Very occasionally things appear in a few manuscripts which are not in earlier ones. An example is 1 John 5:7. Some late manuscripts have a statement about three witnesses to Jesus who are in heaven, 'the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit'. Most earlier manuscripts don't have that at all. So, how do scholars decide what is more likely to be right?

Their first task is to determine (a). which are the earliest manuscripts and (b). from which region or source they came. This is very technical work and I can only give a simplified explanation, but there are at least four basic rules:

(1) the earlier a manuscript is the less likely it is that any alterations have been mistakenly or deliberately made, so early manuscripts are more likely to be trustworthy.

(2). If the same version of the words come from several different regions or sources, it shows that it can be trusted as original.

(3). If a manuscript comes from a region where a doctrine was disputed, and the manuscript reflects that dispute, it should not be trusted. For example (and this is not a real one), if one region rejected fasting and statements in favour of fasting are missing when they are present in most other ancient manuscripts, the one without the approval of fasting would not be regarded as trustworthy.

(4). If most manuscripts agree, then ones with a variation are likely to contain either a copyist's mistaken or deliberate change.

The second thing to explain is about the manuscripts used to translate the King James Version and derivatives of that. The KJV, or Authorised Version, was translated in the early seventeenth century when the number of manuscripts available to the translators was much smaller than today. Furthermore, they tended to be late ones so that they sometimes contained things not found in earlier manuscripts. Some people believe that, because God had made those few manuscripts available at that time, they alone were approved by Him. Whenever their accuracy has been challenged by more recently discovered manuscripts, the old ones are preferred and these people claim that the Bible versions based on more recent manuscripts are not the 'true' Word of God.

You have mentioned a few examples where verses are missed out. The most striking one is that the end of Mark's Gospel is not found in the earliest manuscripts and so it is usually printed in a modern version of the Bible in a way that separates it from the rest of the gospel.

Who is right?

Virtually all Bible-believing scholars now accept that the manuscripts used for the Authorised Version are not as dependable as those which pass the tests mentioned above. It is not that they don't believe the Bible or want to undermine its authority.

However, the minority who claim that the seventeenth century texts are the only acceptable ones condemn any more modern version. It is a complex issue, and I can only tell you what I personally believe, which is to accept the modern scholarship. As I say, not one major doctrine or event is affected, so you will hear the same message exactly whichever scholarly version of the Bible you read.

Quite simply, if you're reading a particular version and don't like it, then read a different version where the Holy Spirit is speaking to you through the scriptures and where you know that you are being fed spiritually. There may be a particular version of the scriptures that is used in your church. Spending time with other Christians to read and discuss the word will help you in understanding it further. I encourage you to speak to the leader of your church also, who can help you further on this matter.

I hope this answer helps you to find peace with God through Jesus Christ. If you want to know more about what Jesus has done for you please watch the video on the main part of our site: Watch the video

I encourage you to attend a local Bible believing church and speak to the leader about your question. If you want to find a local church, our Church Finder may help you: Find a Church

Please feel free to submit a question to us or to read our answer database: Ask a Question

*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise

*If anything in this answer affects you directly, then please feel free to call our confidential prayer line in the UK on 0845 4567729, where trained Christian volunteers will take your call and pray both for you and with you. If you are outside of the UK then you may submit your request for prayer on line at www.ucb.co.uk/prayerline


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