Multiple translations are among the best tools we have for Bible Study. No translation is perfect. The word of God is perfect, but not translation translated the Word perfectly. Multiple translation is a healthy corrective to this problem. Here is an example of a kind of quesiton I often ask:

How does your translation deal with the word workmanship?

Of course, I would have some examples of translations ready that tease out the various meanings of the word. In this case, I might have some of the following translations: [emphasis added]

  • For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephes. 2:10 [NLT]
  • For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them. Ephes. 2:10 [NAB]
  • We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life. Ephesians 2:10 (NJB)

English language users are blessed with such a depth of translations. One of the best sources of information as to what a word means is simply to look it up in several translations.

Bible software makes this easy. If you can afford it, you would do well to spring for some Bible software at some point. There are two big benefits: it makes finding verses quicker, and it allows for searches that would be almost impossible without Bible software. For example, you can look for every time the words faith and love appear in the same verse. Then, when you find the verses you can put fifteen translations on the screen at once. That would take so long as to be impractical without Bible software, but with it, it is quick and easy.

I took every Greek class available to me in seminary–some twenty eight hours of Greek. One of the things I learned in all that was to have a great appreciation for the work done by translators. We really do have some fine translations. And, having so many available to us helps us to really understand the full circle of meaning that a word contains.

Our translations are so good, in fact that I am very leery when I hear someone say this, “What this word really means is_______. Now, you won’t find this in any of the translations, but the real meaning is thus and so.” If I have fifteen English translations of the Bible and not one of them draws out the meaning this teacher is describing, I am very leery as to whether that is the real meaning.

Get your copy of Good Questions Have Small Groups Talking: the book.