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The Importance of Digging Deeper

You may have seen Bibles for sale with things like "NKJV" or "NIV" or even "HCSB" written somewhere on or inside of them. These are the indicators of what translation that particular Bible is using. Since the Bible was originally written in Hebrew (with some Aramaic thrown into the book of Daniel) in the Old Testament and then Greek in the New Testament, both of which are languages that nobody uses in their ancient forms anymore, we have relied on Biblical scholars and theologians to translate these sacred words for us into something that we can understand.

One thing that's immediately noticeable about different translations is that they frequently use different words or phrases for the same verses. That's where the idea of translations gets interesting: other languages, especially ancient ones like ancient Hebrew and Greek, don't have a one-to-one exact translation into English. What I mean is that while you can get the meanings of words from a dictionary, just taking the exact translation of the words and the order of the words would result in something close to gibberish. Most people want to read the Bible as a book, so simply throwing translated words up in the exact order as the original text isn't in everyone's best interest.

Because of this, the translators don't need to provide an exact translation of the words into English but instead translate the ideas of the original text into something that can make sense to us. They need to research much more than just the words that they're translating so they can give us the best idea of what's happening in the text and what the text means to whomever it was written in order that we modern readers can understand what we should be getting from the text. So throughout the years, different groups of scholars have gotten together to translate the Bible in all sorts of different ways according to how they wanted to show what the original text said. They have to decide whether they wanted to portray an exact, literal translation of how the text was written (as Young's Literal Translation (YLT) does) or present an interpretive translation of how they understand the culture in which the biblical authors were writing and how they could best communicate those concepts to us readers (as the New Living Translation (NLT) does).

Both ends of the translation spectrum are valuable for different reasons. A literal translation allows us to see exactly what was written in the text in our own words so we don't have to learn the original ancient Hebrew and Greek, while an interpretive translation allows us to read more easily and understand the broader themes and ideas that the original authors intended. Because there are so many different ways and reasons the Bible can be translated, it's important to always be aware of what you are reading. Try to find out something about the translation you have whenever you can. If you're reading The Message, you should understand that it is a paraphrased translation of the Bible that is easily readable but highly abstracted from the original text. If you're reading the King James Version (KJV) or even the New King James Version (NKJV), you should understand that the original translators translated it for the Church of England at King James I's request in the year 1611.

It's important to know the reason behind a particular translation because it may not surprise you that the translators responsible are humans with years of life experience and strong-held beliefs. As much as we may want to believe otherwise, people can believe and understand things incorrectly. I'll admit that even I, especially I, get things wrong. I make this point so you can understand that it is impossible to translate the Bible without your personal beliefs coloring the resulting translation, even if it's very little. The moment you interpret the Bible, you are presenting it as you understand it from your point of view.

That's why we at Grace Aware encourage you to always dig deeper into the original text when you read or hear something. That way, you can understand why a translator used a particular word or phrase or judge for yourself whether what you have heard is actually true. And more than this, we urge you to try to put aside your past understandings and be honest about what you're reading. If you read something in the Bible that is different from or even contrary to what you have believed your whole life, dig deeper. It's much more likely that it is not what the Bible says that is wrong, but your belief about the Bible.

We've read enough of the Bible this way to realize that what we thought we knew about a certain passage was completely wrong. We've heard enough sermons that have been biblically sound almost all the way through but then got an important piece wrong or left out that caused the conclusion to make a point far away from what the passage intended. We want you to know the truth as the Bible presents it, and we want you to know how to discover it for yourself. That's why this website exists.

You deserve to know what God has given us, and we're excited to help you find it.

Photo credit: Digging via photopin (license)

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