Anyone shopping for a new Bible is likely to be overwhelmed by the choices available today. The bewildering array of translations, all cryptically encoded behind letter trios, is enough to confuse even a seasoned pastor. When one is forced to choose between acronyms like KJV, NKJV, ESV, NIV, NLT, HCSB, ASV, ATV, ABC, QUV, WWE, the letters soon become a meaningless jumble.
Despite the challenges, sorting through the jargon to select a good translation is important. Not all versions are translated equal. Some translators did their job poorly. Some translators included too much of their own interpretations. Some translators intentionally distorted the meaning of key verses. Can a person find the gospel in a bad translation?
Consider the worst case scenario. An individual in a cult reads the cult’s version of the Bible translated by members of the cult with little training in Greek or Hebrew. The translators intentionally change the text to undermine key Biblical truths, such as the deity of Jesus. Yet, even when incompetent heretics mangle the words of God, gospel truths are such a major part of the Bible they can never be entirely removed. Thomas Jefferson produced a highly edited version of the New Testament in which he attempted to cut out the Divinity of Jesus and all description of miracles. Yet, the gospel is still present. The Jesus Seminar voted to remove from the gospels everything they thought was myth. But they could not erase the gospel. The saving truths of the gospel so fill Scriptures that removing all gospel truths is nearly impossible. A Bible without the gospel could not rightly be called a Bible since it would be little more than two leather covers and a bookmark.
A person can be saved from a bad translation. The Bible itself contains evidence of the power of the gospel even when communicated by an inferior translation. At times Jesus and the apostles quoted from the Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint (today it has its own confusing three letter acronym, LXX). This translation was inferior to other texts available at the time. Jesus certainly knew the Septuagint was not the best translation, but He quoted from it any way. He quoted it as the Word of God. He quoted it expecting His hearers to believe and obey it as Scripture. Christians ought to have a translation that accurately communicates the inspired words written by Paul, Moses and others, but we need not fear that a weak translation is going to damn a soul to hell. The Holy Spirit is able to convict men of sin and show them their need of a Savior even when the truth of His Word has been obscured by the failures of men.
A bad translation may create confusion in the mind of the reader. A bad translation may require the soul winner take more time to explain key elements of the gospel. A poor translation may make sharing the gospel more challenging, but never let a bad translation stop you from sharing the gospel. Keep witnessing. The Word of God is alive and powerful. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (Romans 10:17)