Are Bible translations valid, and how can we really trust that we are able to understand the original meaning of Scripture?


Bible translations are most certainly the way we can understand the Word of God in our own language. The Bible offers proof of this fact, and it further reveals additional keys that will determine whether or not we have true understanding of what is written.

On the Day of Pentecost, miraculous events took place that included the giving of God’s Holy Spirit. Note what occurred:

“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with OTHER TONGUES, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone HEARD THEM SPEAK IN HIS OWN LANGUAGE. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, ‘Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, EACH IN OUR OWN LANGUAGE IN WHICH WE WERE BORN? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking IN OUR OWN TONGUES the wonderful works of God.’ So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘Whatever could this mean?’” (Acts 2:4-12).

What those assembled heard was the Gospel being preached. They heard the truth of God in their own language, and as the account shows, there were many who came from other countries and who spoke other languages.

The very fact that God caused this miracle in order to teach His truth also places great importance on the fact that people would be able to understand God’s Word as it was taught in their own native tongue.

Remember, it is God Who first caused a mixture of languages to be spoken (compare Genesis 11:7, 9).

At different times various disciples spoke in tongues (compare Acts 10:46; 19:6); that is, God supernaturally enabled them on those occasions to speak in another human tongue or language which they had not studied before. These miraculous occurrences served to reinforce what happened on the Day of Pentecost—that the Gospel would be able to be taught in all of the world and in all languages.

Paul had apparently studied many different languages and was able to speak and understand them (compare 1 Corinthians 14:18)—including Hebrew, the ancient language used by the religious leaders of Judah (compare Acts 21:37-40). However, he made a point of explaining that the spoken words should be easy to understand:

“There are, it may be, so many kinds of languages in the world, and none of them is without significance. Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be a foreigner to him who speaks, and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me” (1 Corinthians 14:10-11).

At the present time, no original manuscripts of the Bible in either Hebrew or Greek are extant. Rather, we have faithfully preserved copies that have survived impossible odds over many, many centuries! None of the original writings from any of the writers of the New or Old Testament are available today. And, yet, we do have the Bible, and we have it, partly because it was translated into understandable languages.

An example is the Septuagint, a Greek translation from the Hebrew that was popular among Greek-speaking Jews around the time of Christ. It contains more books than the accepted Hebrew (Masoretic) text, but through careful scholarship, those have been classified as apocryphal and are not a part of the accepted books that comprise the Old Testament—at least, among translations that follow the pattern of those such as the Authorized or King James Version. One reason is that the apocrypha contradict the inspired and preserved Word of God–and God’s Word cannot and does not contain errors or contradictions (compare John 10:35).

Early Christians were more familiar with the Greek and Aramaic languages than that of Hebrew. The online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, in an article about the New Testament, points out: “The common languages spoken by both Jews and Gentiles in the Holy Land at the time of Jesus were Aramaic, Koine Greek, and to a limited extent a colloquial dialect of Mishnaic Hebrew. Despite this, it is generally believed that the original text of the New Testament was most likely written in Koine Greek, the vernacular dialect in 1st century Roman provinces of the Eastern Mediterranean, and later translated into other languages, most notably, Latin, Syriac, and Coptic.”

Bible translation has occupied entire lifetimes of countless individuals, and it has been the focus of various religious organizations as well as kings and governments. Translations available to us, today, fall into three general categories: (1.) a literal, word for word translation from the earliest known copies in Hebrew and Greek into modern languages–such as The Authorized Version and The New King James Bible; (2.) so called “thought for thought” translations, or, dynamic-equivalent versions, that focus on contemporary language usage in equivalent words and phrases–such as The New International Version; (3.) paraphrased editions that attempt to restate words and phrases with the introduction of added statements–such as The Living Bible.

While using all three types of translations when studying the Bible can be beneficial, only literally translated editions—such as the New King James Version (for English)—should be depended on for doctrinal clarity. But even they may contain errors due to inaccurate translations, and it is therefore necessary and important that a faithful minister of God explains and corrects such errors (compare Romans 10:14-15). Study Bibles providing added cross references and historical explanations along with Bible Dictionaries also are helpful aids and can be very useful.

Undoubtedly, our resources for Bible study are virtually unlimited. We have computer programs that make commentaries and the myriad of translations instantly accessible in a variety of languages. For example, along with and are some of the sites that expand our ability to research the Word of God.

Yet for all of these remarkable resources, to truly understand the original meaning of Scripture, another dimension must be available to us!

We must stand in awe of the true Author of the Bible, for it is God Who has both inspired and then preserved His Word throughout man’s history. His Word also reveals the starting point for anyone who seeks to know about God and what He has written:

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments” (Psalm 111:10).

Obedience to God is the unfaltering key that we must have if we really do want to understand. In addition, God decides WHEN to reveal certain aspects of His understanding:

Daniel was told by Michael, an archangel and spirit being of immense power and responsibility before God, to, “‘…Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end’” (Daniel 12:9). Daniel wrote what he saw, but, at that time, he didn’t understand—nor could he! (verse 8). Compare also Matthew 13:16-17 and Ephesians 3:8-12.

More is explained by Peter about the fact that the Word of God has been preserved to reveal God’s Will at the times of His choosing: “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ [which] was in them was indicating when [it] testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven–things which angels desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:10-12).

Please also note–in passing–that “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21). Compare also Psalm 45:1.

In another example, we find that the disciples of Jesus Christ–those who had followed Him throughout His ministry–did not understand certain prophecies in the Old Testament about Christ until He opened their minds: ”And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45).

On the other hand, Peter testified at one time that Jesus was “‘…the Christ, the Son of the living God’” (Matthew 16:16). How did he know? Jesus explained to him: “‘…Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father, who is in heaven’” (verse 17).

Paul understood that the record of God’s Word holds a tremendous purpose and that God is communicating to us through it: “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).

In the book of Revelation, we find this explanation about the purpose of the Book: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw. Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near” (Revelation 1:1-3).

Consider how few really do understand the book of Revelation or any of the books of the Bible! While estimates range into the billions of Bibles that have been printed and distributed all over the earth in all the major languages, still, understanding remains the issue, because people are not willing to obey what God says (compare John 7:17).

God can reveal His Will to you! He can do it through the voice of a true minister; through the example of a true follower of Christ; or, through His written Word—and even through words written about the Bible! To help you understand the momentous times we are now living in–called the “end of the age” in the Bible, please read our free booklet, titled, “Is That in the Bible?–The Mysteries of the Book of Revelation.”

Lead Writers: Dave Harris and Norbert Link

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