Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Why are there so many different Bible translations?

Often times an individual will decide they need a new Bible. Maybe the one they have had since childhood has worn out or they just are ready for a change. A person decides to go to their local bookstore to buy a new Bible and they are quickly inundated with numerous different translations to choose from. King James Version, New King James Version, New International Version, New American Standard version etc. The shopper wonders to him/herself, “why are their so many different English Bibles?” A person may assume that all English Bibles are the same, but they learn quickly that this is not the case. This post will provide a couple of reasons why this is so.

Reason #1 - The Constantly Changing English Language. 

Below is a quote from the King James Bible (Hebrews 1:2) from the year 1611. 
“Hath in these last dayes spoken vnto vs by his Sonne, whom he hath appointed heire of all things, by whom also he made the worlds”
This not way English sounds today, the language has changed over time. As language continually changes, there will always be a need for newer translations. Words will often change meaning. Publishers are aware of this, so new translations are always being formed. The Bible has not changed, but the language it has been translated into has. 

Reason #2 - Philosophy of Translation

Different translations are designed to meet different goals. Most would say that they desire a literal word for word translation. The sentence structure in Greek or Hebrew, however, is different than English. Because of this difference, translators have to decide how “literal” they want to translate a passage.

Another consideration when forming a Bible translation, is the level of readability. At times, when striving for accuracy, readability will suffer. Some translations are written at level for children and others are written for the highly educated. 

Translations will differ depending on whether or not they are a “paraphrase”. A paraphrase is more or less a summary of a passage into English rather than a true translation. Each type of translation has its place, and thus there are many different English Bibles.

Which Bible Should I use?  (Taken from a previous post)

A quick google search for a "Bible Version Chart" will give one a basic understanding of the different versions and their philosophy of translation (some philosophies of translation are better than others for study).

When seeking out an English translation for personal study, I recommend a version that is accurate (preferably a word for word translation) and readable (preferably in modern English).

You have  3 different types of translations (In order from most accurate to least). 
  • 1. Word for Word
  • 2. Thought for Thought 
  • 3. Paraphrase. 

I only recommend "Word for Word" translations. "Thought for thought" and "paraphrased" Bibles are great for comparisons, but not for deep study of the Word. The most popular Bible in America is The New International Version. The NIV claims to strive for "a balance between word for word and thought for thought". Although a very popular translation, one would be better served using a "Word for Word" translation as their primary study Bible and save the others for casual or personal devotional type reading.

The most common "Word for Word" translations in use today are the King James Version (KJV), New American Standard Version (NASB), New King James Version (NKJV), English Standard Version (ESV) and the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). One would not be doing themselves a disservice in choosing any of these translations. 

Of the "Word for Word" translations available, the three I recommend (in this order) are: 
  • 1. The New American Standard Bible (NASB) (1995 Update). 
  • 2. The English Standard Version (ESV).
  • 3.The New King James Version (NKJV).
    • (These 3 versions successfully balance accuracy with readability).

Due to its older English, I do not usually recommend the King James Version to new Bible students and I have not spent enough time in the Holman Christian Standard Bible to offer a recommendation as of yet.

My primary study and preaching Bible is the New American Standard Bible, which I will often cross reference with the English Standard Version. - These versions are the ones I will usually give to a new Christian or recommend for a person to purchase (The New King James in a very close 3rd).
Side Note: I recommend that you also familiarize yourself with the many free electronic tools available today. You can download many great Bible apps for your smartphone (this way you can study wherever you go). I have an ESV app on my iPhone by Crossway publishers that is free and very easy to use. There are many other apps that contain multiple versions.  When on my computer I will often use or These sites are free and contain all of the common English versions plus dictionaries and more.

Remember the best Bible is the one you read! Spend time in the Word of God... it will change your life. 

By Cliff Sabroe

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Was Jonah swallowed by a fish or a whale?

Children in Sunday school have debated this question for many years. Was the creature that swallowed Jonah a fish or a whale? The text of the book of Jonah reads,
And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. (Jonah 1:17 ESV).
The aforementioned verse usually satisfies the curiosity of most students, and they are left with the conclusion that Jonah was swallowed by a fish, and not a whale. We are taught in school that fish are not mammals... but whales are. In modern biology there is a distinctive difference between a “fish”and a “whale”.

Skeptics, however, are quick to point out that in the King James Version of the Bible, Jesus does not call the creature a “fish” but a whale”. It reads.
For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40) (Note: Most other english translations use the word “fish and not “whale”).
What do the dictionaries say?
The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and the New Testament was originally written in Greek. Often times there is more than a one word translation of a term into English, and at times there is not even an equivalent term. 

The Hebrew word for “fish” in (Jonah 1:17) is the Hebrew term “dag” and according to the (Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon), the word “fish” is an accurate translation. 

In Matthew, when Jesus speaks of this event, the word translated “whale” in the KJV is the Greek word “ketos” which according to (Thayer’s Lexicon) can mean “sea-monster, whale, huge fish”. 

Are we asking questions the text is not intended to answer?
Yes, the book of Jonah is not a book on the Animal Kingdom (nor is the book of Matthew). Our modern classification of animals was not around at that time. Although we make a big difference between a Whale Shark and Humpback Whale, they most likely would have not. When the book of Jonah uses the term “fish” (Hebrew - dag), we cannot definitively say that it would exclude aquatic mammals like a whale, and we cannot say with certainty whether or not the Greek word “ketos” that Jesus used, meant “whale” or “fish” 

We do not know for sure what swallowed Jonah. Did it have gills or a blowhole? We will most likely never know. All we know, is that a big creature in the ocean swallowed him...and later vomited him up on the shore (Jonah 2:10).

By Cliff Sabroe

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Is masturbation a sin?

This question was submitted by email. Remember you can submit in questions anytime to All email correspondence is private and will not be shared. 

Although many are afraid to ask, this is a question that most have. Is masturbation sinful?

Answer: It can be, but it depends on the situation in which it occurs. Usually when one engages in self-stimulation they are also having lustful fantasies (sometimes accompanied by pornography or other stimulating images). This is sinful, and in our modern internet age, with the ready availability of pornography, this problem and temptation afflicts many. 
(NOTE: If you are struggling with an addiction to pornography, please confess this struggle to one you are close too, have them help keep you accountable and please install filtering software on your computer to help protect you and others who may use it. You may not be able to overcome this temptation on your own, allow others to help you).
Jesus said in (Matthew 5:28):
“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart”. 
The fantasy and lust that accompanies masturbation is sinful, thus a person should not engage in that behavior.

Are their any times when masturbation would not be sinful?

Answer: Yes, their are a few times I can think of when masturbation would not be sinful. 
  • A child or a mentally challenged person sometimes will engage in self-stimulation out of ignorance and innocence. This would not be sinful, but it would be wise to discourage it. 
  • A husband and wife may choose to engage in masturbation as part of a mutual married sex act. If the fantasy is for one’s spouse, and together you are engaging in this behavior, it would not be sinful and may be used as part of an active married sex life. 
  • A man may be required to provide a semen sample to a Doctor for medical reasons. In this case self-stimulation would most likely be permissible as long as one does not engage in inappropriate fantasy or views pornographic materials in doing so.

Conclusion: Although the Bible does not specifically condemn masturbation, lust is strongly condemned! Most of the time when one is masturbating they are viewing inappropriate material (like pornography), or fantasying about engaging in a sinful behavior (like sex with someone or someone in the nude). Lust makes masturbation sinful. 
"But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death" (James 1:14-15)

By Cliff Sabroe (Quotes from ESV Bible)