Which Bible is the Word of God?

by Matt Slick

When we ask which Bible is the word of God, we have to say all of them. You see, Bibles are translations into a particular language from the original Hebrew and Greek. Yes, there are different ways of translating. Some translations tend to be more wooden in that they try and stay with the original language as much as possible. Such Bibles are the New American Standard Bible and the English Standard Version. Then there are Bibles that tried to translate as accurately as possible but also make them less wooden; that is, they try and make the language smoother in English. A Bible like this would be the New International Version. Then, there are translations that are more paraphrased that try to convey a bit more of the intention without the literalness of the original language. Such a Bible would be the Philips Translation or the Living Bible.

Following is John 3:16 in Greek with the literal words translated into English under each1. Notice how the language is arranged differently than ours.

ουτως γαρ ηγαπησεν ο Θεος τον κοσμον ωστε τον υιον αυτου τον μονογενη
So for loved the God the world that the his Son of him the only begotten
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
εδωκεν ινα πας ο πιστευων εις αυτον μη αποληται αλλ εχη ζωην αιωνιον
he gave, that all the believing ones on him not may perish but may have life eternal

So, a literal translation would be "So for loved the God the world that the his son of him the only begotten he gave, that all the believing ones on him not may perish but may have life eternal." As you can see, this literal translation is difficult to follow. So, translations differ in how literally they would translate as they seek to make them easier to understand. So, let's gradually smooth out the translation, bit by bit. I color-coded some of the words so that you can compare how they change a little bit as we smooth them out for the English speaking ear.

Literal Translation

  •  So for loved the God the world that the his son of him the only begotten he gave, that all the believing ones on him not me perish but may have life eternal.

Less literal translation

  •  for God so loved the world that his son, he only begotten son, he gave that all the believing ones, on him may not perish but may have eternal life.

As you can see, the above translation is better, but is not perfect according to the English ear. So, let's smooth it out just a little bit more.

  • for God so loved the world that he gave the only begotten son, that all the believing ones in him, will not perish but have eternal life.

This is closer to how we would speak in English, but in order to achieve this translation we have to move a little further away from the literalness of the Greek. Okay, let's do another one where we smooth it out a little bit more.

  • for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that all the believing ones in him, would not perish but have eternal life.

 As you can see the above translation is even better, but let's smooth it out a little bit more. 

  • for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever would believe in him, would not perish but have everlasting life.

This is more familiar to our ear, but as you can see the more we smooth things out, the less literal we are. This is why different translations sometimes have different ways of translating the original language into the English. Depending on their intent, to be as literal as possible or to carry across the meaning, translations differ. But all of these translations are the word of God.

  • 1. Newberry, T., & Berry, G. R. (2004). The interlinear literal translation of the Greek New Testament (Jn 3:16). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
 
 

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.