What is the best translation for Pentecostals? Is the KJV really the best for us?
Bible translations. This is a subject that many stay away from because a lot of our pastors live, breathe and will die with the King James next to them in the coffin. Is it really the “go to” translation for all things Pentecostal?
First of all, the reason these pastors hold this view is because their pastors had the same view. They were raised on the translation and in some cases, it is because of their beloved Jimmy Swaggart that demanded only the KJV be used in churches.
However, in the last 20 years, there has been an open questioning of this practice among Pentecostals. In fact, Dr. Doug Clay normally uses the New King James. Many of its’ well known leaders are now using the NIV. The debate has been broken wide open!
I try my best to use the New International Version for articles on Azusa Report. I study using it as well as the several others…. in addition to checking back to the Greek or Hebrew. I do not own a King James Version bible and have not for many years. I just find it to be outdated and not really that useful in 2018!
I know many will disagree with me.
Issues with the King James Translation
The problem with the KJV is not just the thees and thous. That is annoying for sure but there is actually fundamental problem with it. Some of them date all the way back to the early 1600’s and others are because of updated manuscripts such as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Make no mistake about it: it is a bad translation and should not be used, even for study by serious students of scripture. While it was the best we had for several hundred years, that is no longer the case.
Erasmus (1466-1536) translated the New Testament as quickly as he could in fear that Cardinal Ximenes would beat him to press. To finish it, he had to “back translate” many whole passages from Latin to Greek and then translate them from there. As you can see, this is problematic.
This work was what drove the project that became the King James Version. Erasmus even admitted his work was seriously flawed later in life. Instead of fixing many of his errors, some overzealous translators in the late 1500’s expanded them in the new translation being worked on.
As a result, there has become people who are more passionate about this faulty translation of scripture than they are about the Savior of the scriptures. The “King James Only” crowd really look silly when you look at the issues about translation, the earlier work of Erasmus, and the fact that even the King James has been revised numerous times to fix up to 100,000 errors.
A final thought about the King James is I have realized that most people who love it are normally southern Americans or Englishmen. It is very rare to hear someone from a country that was influenced by the British Empire to share this passion.
Why the NIV?
I do not use it just because it is the “easy to understand” translation. I use it because it is also the most widely missional translation. The NIV has the complete bible is over 670 different languages. No matter where I find myself in the world, people are using this translation.
Like the KJV, it does have its’ weakness because it is also a translation. There is not one perfect translation out there, I just find that using the NIV is the best of the options out there and easiest to understand for unbelievers.
To be fair, I also could use it for the same reason that those old timers use their favorite one: I was raised on it. I have learned verses, studied in bible college and used it as a main translation in ministry. I am not blind to the fact that I could be bias in using the New International Version. However, I won’t be joining any “NIV only” cult anytime soon.
One thing I have noticed among churches that use it is that the common people are much more theological in nature. They study the scriptures for themselves while people in churches that push KJV are more willing to trust their pastor for spirituality. I do not have anything from Barna to back this up but it seems there is a connection between translation and active lay ministry.
I expect that we will see more and more Pentecostal churches using the NIV in the coming years to be honest.
Some helpful resources for students
No matter which translation you use, that version alone is not enough. I know people like to quote Smith Wigglesworth but the reality is more times than not, it leads to be bad theology.
I read no book but the Bible. I believe in no spirit but the Holy Spirit.
I personally use the Lagos software but it is very pricy for most people. ($250 and up!) However, you can find some great options on the internet as well. Here is a few free ones that I recommend.
This is great to get a general idea of what the Greek word is, what it can mean, and some places in the New Testament it is used. I used it a lot in bible college. It is not perfect but it is a big head start on becoming a student of the New Testament.
Did you know that all of John Wesley notes about the scriptures are free? They are! While there are some theological issues with Wesleyan theology (namely eschatology), this is an amazing place to start to understand our roots. Much of the Pentecostal framework for doctrine came from Methodist theologians that got baptized in the Holy Spirit.
One of the most challenging things to understand biblical text can be where what is happening and when it happened. It is important for any student of the scripture to take a hard look at what maps exist at the time they are studying. Thankfully, they are free on the internet!