If you go to a book store, to the Religion section, and look for a Bible, you will see many different versions. A quick Google search shows no less than 35 different versions of the Bible.
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Even more confusing is the fact that all these different versions have been translated into hundreds of different languages, each with its own challenge to express the proper meaning and not have it lost in translation, resulting in the situation where now we have so many different versions of the Bible in the world that it is impossible to find two different versions that match, exactly.
In fact, from what I understand about copyright laws, there is a limitation on how many verses can be written exactly the same (somewhere around 500) without written permission from the author, and they cannot be presented as an entire work.
In other words, it is illegal (at least here in the USA) to have two different versions of the Bible that are exactly the same.
So, nu? If the Complete Jewish Bible says one thing, and the New International Version says another thing, and the King James Version says something completely different, which one is correct?
I could give examples of these differences, but that would take more time than is necessary, so if you don’t believe there are significant differences, just use whichever search engine you like (Google, Bing, Mozilla, Yahoo, for example) and do a search for a few of your favorite verses, then compare the “hits” you get. I am sure you will be amazed at how different some of them are.
For me, there is one version I would never recommend, and those are the ones that call themselves extended language versions. The reason is that they are “filling in the gaps”, so to speak, of what is written that may be difficult to comprehend, or they just add a lot of words to try to make some things easier to understand. We are told, very plainly, in Deuteronomy (more than once, in fact) that we should not add to or remove any words from the book, so (in my opinion) by God’s command these extended language versions are just not the place where you want to get your information from.
So, again, who do we believe? How we can trust what we are told is “God’s Word” when the word, itself, is so different?
My belief is that we can trust what we read, no matter which version we read it from, so long as we read it trusting not in written words in a book, but in God’s Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to give us the true understanding of what God is telling us.
And my belief is founded in what Isaiah heard God say, which was that God’s word will never return void (Isaiah 55:11)!
So, when people argue the Bible is untrustworthy because it has so many differences between different versions, or that the Zachariah mentioned in Luke is not the same Zachariah mentioned in Matthew or any other number of apparent discrepancies within the Bible and between Bibles, my reply is that human error will be found in anything humans do, but God can overcome human error.
The way God does this is through his Holy Spirit in those who have accepted it, and USE it when reading the Bible. Yes, we can have the Holy Spirit but ignore it, if we choose to, and often (too often!) I have heard people say things that aren’t from the Bible, but from their own flesh, yet they use the Bible to justify what they want.
I am sure you have run into this, as well- someone who clearly has decided what they want the Bible to mean, then pull passages and verses out of context in order to prove their point.
You usually cannot argue effectively with these people because they are the living example of the old saying “I have already made up my mind- don’t confuse me with facts.”
The most important thing about the Bible is that it tells us how to worship God and how God wants us to treat each other. God doesn’t have any religion, just his instructions to us; and when I say “us”, I don’t mean just Jews, I mean everyone. God told Moses that the Israelites would be his nation of priests (Exodus 19:6), which means priests to the world, and as such the instructions God gave to the Jewish people through Moses are meant to be taught to the world. That is why he told Abraham, long before the Torah was given, that his descendants would be a blessing to the world.
Let’s face it, salvation is the goal we all want, and every Bible ever written will have one thing that will always be understood to have the same meaning: Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. In other words, it is through faith, and faith alone, that we can be saved.
The problems start after this, usually with the confusion about faith and works, but that’s for a different message.
The Bible is not God- it is a book about God. And since it is written by humans, it will have faults. The most dependable word of God is the Torah, and I mean a Hebrew Torah because of all the painstaking steps that are employed when copying one Torah to another; for example, did you know that when the Sofer (Scribe) copies one new Torah from another, one of the tests they use to ensure accuracy is that every single letter is counted to make sure nothing is missing?
Read the Bible, read whichever version you find easiest to understand, but never read it without first praying to God to give you HIS understanding of what the words are supposed to mean. Remember that Yeshua didn’t teach just the P’shat, which means the literal meaning of the words, but he taught the Remes, which is the deeper, spiritual meaning of the words, so don’t let different words or what seem to be discrepancies confuse you.
Know what God wants you to learn from his word by praying for guidance by, and listening to, the Ruach HaKodesh, which God will help you hear when you ask him to do so.
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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!