Which Bible Translation to Use and What Is the Role of the Spirit in Coming to Truth?

Mark Virkler's picture

This email request came to me recently: “The newer translations of the Bible have missing words, missing whole verses. We are just wanting to be sure which are the most correct versions of the Bible? At first, righteous anger rose up, knowing no one is supposed to add or subtract anything from the Holy Bible. (How dare they?) We’ve seen the arguments on both sides. We realize it’s something the enemy uses to keep people arguing and doubting the authority of Scripture. We’re not interested in division, only truth.” - Megan


Finding a word-for-word translation

Bible translations are typically categorized into three types.

  • Formal Equivalent - a literal, word-for-word translation of the text (Examples: KJV, NKJV, NASB, etc.)
  • Dynamic Equivalent - a thought-for-thought translation of the text (Examples: The Passion Translation, New International Version, etc.) 
  • Free or Paraphrase - a paraphrase of the original text (Examples: The Living Bible, Good News Translation, The Message, etc.)

While I was at Roberts Wesleyan College, I spent time in the library comparing word-for-word translations of the Greek by the King James Version, New American Standard Bible, and New International Version. The closest word-for-word translation was the NASB and then the KJV. The furthest was the NIV. Since I don’t speak Shakespearean English, I chose the NASB over the KJV. Now that we have the New King James Version (NKJV), I find that essentially equal to the NASB, however, I still use the NASB for careful Bible study. For devotional reading, I use The Passion Translation.

I love the free downloadable software e-Sword because it allows me to look up exact Greek and Hebrew meanings of any word (Bible Hub allows you to do the same). I can also look up every verse where a specific Greek or Hebrew word is found to see every time it appears and how it was translated each time. Plus, they offer Young’s Literal Bible which is an exact literal translation of each word in a verse. This makes it hard to read, so I only go there to confirm how that scholar translated the word. It is all so fascinating. A few of the interesting discoveries I made as I used this process are concerning imagination, meditation, and aion.

I need the guidance of the Holy Spirit

Jesus makes it clear that you need to hear from Him and the Spirit in order to properly interpret Scripture. The Pharisees were using the same Bible Jesus was using but they didn’t hear from God so they fought against Jesus. Paul had a Spirit encounter (Acts 9), and spent three years in the Arabian wilderness (Gal.1:17,18) being taught by the Spirit. Paul came back with a transformed theology from that which he was taught in his earlier Scripture training.


We all need both an accurate translation of the Bible PLUS to have Jesus walking with us opening Scriptures to our understanding and our hearts burning with revelation as they did on the Emmaus Road (Lk. 24:32).


Let’s explore every verse where Jesus talks about discovering truth

Notice Jesus' heavy emphasis on the role of the Spirit in bringing one to truth (NASB version is used below).

  1. Jesus is the truth: Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (Jn. 14:6-9). This means truth is embodied in a person, Whose Spirit bubbles up within us, leading us to the truth.
  2. Beholding the glory of Jesus: "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth" (Jn. 1:14). My understanding of this is that if I am gazing upon Jesus, asking for the leading of His Spirit and tuned to flow, the flow of thoughts will be truth from His Spirit.
  3. Continuing in Jesus’ words: So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know (ginosko = word for intimacy) the truth, and the truth will make you free" (Jn. 8:31-32). So we see that truth demands an intimate encounter.
  4. Practicing truth: "But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God" (Jn. 3:21). Obedience takes you further into a revealing of the truth.
  5. Truth is as we hear from God: "But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God" (Jn. 8:40). Jesus received truth by living out of the voice of His heavenly Father.
  6. Spirit of Truth within: "The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you" (Jn. 14:17).
  7. Spirit of Truth testifies about Jesus: "When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me" (Jn. 15:26).
  8. Spirit guides into all truth: "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come" (Jn. 16:13-15) Note: Coming to truth is a process that is guided by the Holy Spirit.
  9. Hearing Jesus’ voice is evidence you are of the truth: "Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice" (Jn. 18:37). Those declaring God isn’t speaking will be unable to come to truth.

Summary of Jesus’ 9 statements concerning truth - hearing from the Spirit (5 times); I am the truth (1 time); gazing upon Jesus (1 time); continue in Jesus’ words (1 time); practicing truth (1 time).

Yes, having an accurate Bible translation is a piece to the puzzle, but an equal or even larger piece is hearing from the Spirit of Truth Himself!

Resources

Related Resources: 

How to Start a Bible School in Your Church   
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