Which Bible Translation Do I Use?

Continually, people ask me what Bible translation I personally use when preaching and when writing. I wish there were a good answer to this question, but there isn’t. I’ve been asked this question many times over the years. The short answer is all of them and none of them. Let me explain what I mean.

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 Messianic Bibles out there being peddled by money-grubbing charlatans or self-proclaimed experts who have just enough knowledge of the original languages to be dangerous, but not enough to competently translate a Bible. These individuals are duping those who know less than they do, and preying unsuspecting and naive people who are hungry for truth. They are proving the old adage that says “an ‘expert’ is simply someone who knows more than the next guy.” Most of these “translators” have little or no academic training or linguistic expertise in ancient biblical languages, yet this doesn’t stop them producing a constant stream of “new and improved” Bible translations. I actually have some academic background in foreign and biblical languages and have done translating work in both French and Koine Greek at the academic level, so I speak with some understanding on the subject. Yet, I am not an expert, and am not qualified to translate anything.

There is not a single Bible translation on the market today that I can unreservedly recommend. Some of the more popular ones have been translated by questionable individuals who have little or no linguistic training, yet they (dishonestly) refuse to disclose publicly what their qualifications are for translating the Bible. I find this to be a huge red flag to me. If you have linguistic qualifications, why not state them? If you don’t, it’s probably because you have none. I suspect that most of these self-proclaimed Bible translators simply sat down with a copyright free English version (e.g. the KJV) and along with the help of a concordance and a few other lexical aids, made a translation, which they now peddle for big bucks. This is dishonest and unrighteous. 

Which Bible version do I personally use? I still use the KJV and NKJV, since at least they were translated by competent linguists. Because I’ve been studying Greek and Hebrew for more than 45 years, I know where all the translation biases are, and I know the Hebrew and Greek words behind many of the English words in our Bibles. As I’m reading the Bible (when preaching) or quoting (when writing), I start with the base of the NKJV, and as I am going along, I “clean” up the English. For example, I insert Hebrew words for the names of deity (i.e., God becomes Elohim, LORD become Yehovah, Jesus becomes Yeshuah, Christ becomes Messiah, Holy Spirit become Ruach HaKodesh, and so on). In cases where there are Hebrew or Greek words that the translators have translated into English using misleading words, based on the lexical meanings of the words I make changes. For example, in Romans 10:4, I change “end” to “final aim, goal.” This is totally consistent not only with the meaning of the Greek word telos but also consistent with biblical truth. Another example would be Matthew 5:17 where fulfill (Gr. pleroo) means “to fill up, to make full, to complete, to fill to the top.” In any place in both the Tanakh (Old Testament) or the Testimony of Yeshua (New Testament) where the word law occurs in referring to “the law of Moses”, I replace it with the Hebrew word Torah meaning “instructions, teachings and precepts [in righteousness of YHVH Elohim].” I could give many other examples, but hopefully the reader gets the point. I don’t carelessly or haphazardly substitute words, but do so full well recognizing the meanings of the words in the original languages, and how the biblical authors use them in the full context of the whole Bible. Again, I tremble before YHVH and his Word, I cringe at the thought of being labeled a false teacher, or bringing  curses upon myself for adding or subtracting from the Word of Elohim.


4 thoughts on “Which Bible Translation Do I Use?

  1. Do you have an opinion on new “Complete Jewish Study Bible”? I enjoy reading “The Complete Jewish Bible” translated by David Stern (and his associated commentary on the NT), however, it appears this new “Study” version of his Bible is not even associated with him.

    Wondering your thoughts…

    • I have great respect for Stern’s Complete Jewish Bible. First, Stern is formally educated Greek scholar, and second he is fluent in Hebrew having lived in the land of Israel for decades. He also states his linguistic qualifications and expertise at the beginning of his Bible unlike any other so-called translator of a Messianic Bible the I know of. Yes, in some of his NT translations he takes some great liberties and does not translate some Greek idioms word for word. This is because to do so would make little or no sense in English. Instead he uses the best dynamic equivalent translation possible, so that the verbiage makes sense to the English reader. Having done translating work myself when studying in Europe, I realize that this is sometimes necessary, so I have no problem with it. In his Jewish NT Commentary, he explains why he has translated certain passages as he has. Therefore, I recommend reading his Bible translation and commentary side-by-side. His OT Bible is from the JPS early 20th century public domain version, which he has adapted and changed or updated as necessary. Stern is in a class by himself when it comes to Messianic Bibles. All the other Messianic Bibles that I have encountered to date have been done by those with questionable or non-existent linguistic training and qualifications. Therefore I flat out reject them. We cannot toy with the Word of Elohim!!!! Yet so many deign to do so at their own peril. I fear for them. I don’t want to be one who is condemned for adding or subtracting from the Word of Elohim.

  2. I have done a one term uni course in biblical Hebrew. My first 12 years of life was under the tuition of a Messianic Jewish grandmother and great grandmother. My favorite Bible version is the Complete Jewish Study Bible by David Stern and I do refer to 6 other translations when studying.
    My favorite school of learning is Hoshanarabbah.org.
    Shalom, John

  3. I was taught at a Christian college that if one wants to undertake serious Bible studies it is important to use various translations. The 2 major ways of translating are ‘word by word’ which can sometimes cause confusion because different languages put their sentences together in different ways and sometimes ‘word by word’ does not always capture the clear meaning. The second way of translating is by ‘meaning’; here we trust that the translator has correctly understood the meaning of a sentence and then freely translated it so it can be easily understood by modern folks, since language changes all the time.
    The serious student needs to use at least one of each kind of translations to avoid error. We also mostly use Stern’s Bible and are glad that Natan approves of this one. But we agree that none is absolutely perfect because humans aren’t perfect.

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