Which is the best Bible translation to use? Though I’ve been asked this question many times over the years, I still don’t have a good answer. Let me explain why, and what my best recommendations are about which Bible translation to use.
The Word of Elohim is something I take very seriously. It is something to be trembled before with a contrite heart (Isa 66:2). Sadly, there are numerous designer Bible translations out there that claim to cater to the needs of the Messianic or Hebrew roots community. Often these Bible translations are being peddled by money-grubbing charlatans who are duping many who are unsuspecting and naive. Most of these “translators” have little or no academic training in the ancient biblical languages, yet this doesn’t stop them from peddling their wares. I have some academic background in foreign and biblical languages, so the subject is dear to my heart, although I’m no expert.
There is not a single Bible I can unreservedly recommend. David Stern’s Complete Jewish Bible is probably the best, since he’s forthright about his academic background—and he has an earned degree in Koine Greek from a recognized academic institution (he discloses this information in the introduction to his Bible translation). Furthermore, he has been living in Israel for a long time, and so has a good knowledge of, at least, modern Hebrew, which is, basically, an expanded version of biblical Hebrew. His New Testament translation takes some liberties with the Greek, but in his New Testament commentary (The Jewish New Testament Commentary), he explains why he translates things as he does. I usually agree with his interpretations, but how he translates the Greek at times is a bit libertine—some might even say, unscholarly. That’s a matter of opinion.
Beyond that, there is no translation I can recommend with the possible exception of Jay P. Green’s The Interlinear Bible, but you’ll need your reading glasses when viewing this Bible, since the print is so small. Some of the more popular designer Hebrew roots Bibles have been translated by questionable individuals who have little or no academic training, and they refuse to tell you what their qualifications are for translating the Bible. I find this to be a huge red flag. If you have qualifications, why not state them? If you don’t, then it’s probably because you have none. I suspect that most of the translators of these fad-Bibles sat down with a copyright-free English version of the Bible (e.g., the KJV) and along with the help of a concordance and a few other lexical aids, came up with a new translation by making a few changes to the copyright-free translation. Voila, they have their own “Bible translation,” which they now peddle for big bucks. To me this is unrighteousness, and total dishonesty. It certainly will not pass muster in the linguistic and academic community! One of the more absurd examples of this is one author (who has little or no linguistic background) who apparently sat down with the English Bible and prayed over each verse and claims the Holy Spirit gave him the translation. He translated each verse how he “felt led” to do so by the Holy Spirit. He’s probably sold thousands of his “Bible translation” by now. Now the Holy Spirit is to blame for his faulty translation. This is totally disgusting unacceptable, to say the least!
Which Bible version do I personally use, one may ask? Honestly I still use the King James Version and New King James Version, since at least they were translated by competent linguists. Because I’ve been studying Greek and Hebrew for more than 40 years, I know where a lot of the poor translations are, and I know the Greek and Hebrew words behind many of the English words. For example, as I’m reading from the KJV (when teaching publicly) or quoting it (in the articles I write), I correct the faulty translations (based on what expert linguists have to say about it) by inserting Hebrew words in place of some of the English ones. It takes some practice, but it can be done. For example, in the Old Testament (or Tanakh), the word law becomes Torah, God become Elohim or El, and LORD becomes Yehovah or Yehowah. Likewise in the New Testament (or the Testimony of Yeshua), Jesus becomes Yeshua, Christ becomes Messiah, and so on.
Obviously, much more could be said on this subject, but I’ll leave you with this. Stick to a major Bible version that was translated by a team of linguistic experts (this helps to avoid translation bias, more or less), and that is not promoted by a publishing house that has tampered with the text for profit motive purposes (this is another discussion in itself!).
Again, consider Isaiah 66:2 when choosing a Bible translation.
For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith YHVH: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. (emphasis added)