Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Animation: How to Choose a Bible Translation

What Bible Version do you prefer? Why? 

Explore with me in a quick fun video about Bible Translations. It will help you understand a little bit about the differences.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Choosing a Bible Translation

The Big Idea: Why there are so many translation today and how to choose one for my studies.

For over a century the King James Version of the Bible was read in most English Speaking churches.  Today there are so many excellent translations it is hard choose one. There are at least 50 decent translations. Some are very similar. Some sound very different from each other. Why so many? And why doesn't everyone just settle on one to use?


In the days of the Early Church, the Old Testament was available in Hebrew, translated into Greek a couple hundred years before Jesus was born (the Septuagint). The New Testament was written in Greek. Greek was clearly a widely used language in many countries, especially among the educated and literate.  In 400 A.D. A Latin translation (later version called the Vulgate) was carefully translated. Latin was another language used globally for the educated.


The early Middle Ages is sometimes called the Dark Ages. It was a time of feudalism, a church of hierarchy and territorial demands, and the Plague of Black Death. Out of it came Martin Luther (1483-1546 A.D.), a monk who wanted people to know God for themselves and learn the Bible in their own language. He translated the Bible into German for his people. Out of it Lutheranism and a fresh movement of excitement for God's Word was born across Europe. Other voices before and after him championed the Bible for non-clergy, the common man. The era coincided with the invention of the printing press.  William Tyndale (1494-1536 A.D.) was burned at the stake for translating and printing the Bible into English. The Tyndale Bible was instrumental in the careful construct of the King James Version of the Bible which came into print in 1611 A.D.


For the next couple hundred years, the King James Bible would be the most popular version of the Bible. To this day it is preferred by many. It was created in the period and language style of Shakespeare and is stunningly beautiful and memorable. It remains my favorite version for memorizing Bible verses because it is so poetic. Its unique language style makes it easier to remember as it flows in a musical manner. Many verses and sayings you know come from this Bible. However, many new to the faith who have not grown up with it find the archaic language slows down their understanding of what God says.


Up until about 80 years ago there were only a small handful of English translations of the Bible. Now Christian Bible Distributers carries 45 different Bible versions! So, what's up with that? Why are there so many? Here are a couple of reasons.

  • Language changes over time, such as spellings and word meaning.  ("gay")
  • English language differences in different parts of the world. (US-"trunk" vs UK "boot")
  • Efforts for different reading levels. (Scholarly language vs. 5th grade reading level)
  • Archeological discoveries of older Bible portions and Biblical land clarifications. (Dead Sea Scrolls)


King James reigned at a time in history where Christian divisions were sometimes violent. In an effort to bring clarity and unity to God's people, the King James Bible translation was born. King James called a conference of church scholars to discuss his idea. Ultimately almost 50 scholars worked on it. Working groups were formed, and peer review essential. The model of a large scholastic team with peer review is done still today for the best translations.

Just as a side note on teamwork, the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Old Testament is abbreviated the LXX, meaning 70. It is so called because in 3rd Century B.C. 72 Jewish scholars were commissioned to translate the Hebrew Bible into Greek for the Greek King, Ptolemy of Philadelphus.


There are two basic sides to explain translation methodologies. On the one side is a word for word translation. That is, the most literal efforts to translate what the original languages of the Bible are saying into English, word for word. It is a formal equivalence of the ancient words.

The other side of the spectrum is the thought for thought method. It takes these ancient languages and explores the thought, the intention, to communicate words to God's people. It then seeks to translate that thought in such a way that the audience today, in a given cultural setting, can understand. It has been referred to as a dynamic equivalence method.

At first you might be tempted to say the word for word would certainly be the most accurate. However, the ancient writings of the Bible were used in a Middle Eastern culture a couple thousand years ago, using ancient languages that don't always have a modern English equivalent. So translators have to ask themselves, how can this be written so people can understand what God is saying to us in our world? Most of the best translations have some blend of both sides.

Jaqueline and me

We can learn from this by looking at what Bible translators have to do in a completely different culture around the world. For instance, where I worked for a number of years in Guinea, West Africa, there is a people group there, the Kissiens, who have remote towns that still do not get bread. Rice is their staple. The question, "Have you eaten? actually means, "Have you had rice yet today?"  Their nickname is "People of the Rice".  To translate "I am the bread of life" directly, inventing a word for bread, a product that has never been seen or eaten, would not be meaningful. To say "I am the rice of life," would not be an exact word for word translation. But it is a necessary adjustment for understanding. I asked my Kissien friend, Jacqueline, what is written in the Kissien Bible. It is a word that means powdered rice made into a little cake. I recall eating some. It was a treat. To think of Jesus as their rice of life is beautiful. Jesus is something they need every day, just like they need rice.

Finally there is the paraphrase. This is generally an explanation of what God's Word is saying. It may be done by one person rather than a scholarly team. It is based on another Bible in the same language, and is not a direct translation of Hebrew and Greek. A good example is the Living Bible. It started as a godly man, Kenneth N Taylor of Tyndale Publications, sought to read the Bible to his children in family daily devotions. He would write out passages in an explainable way for kids to grasp. He was encouraged to share it with others. A couple epistles were printed first in 1962. His rendition made the Bible come alive in modern language.


Here is a chart from Christian Book Distributors showing the Word for Word vs. Thought for Thought translations. You will see that the most literal translations are the New American Standard Bible (NASB) the English Standard Version (ESV) and the Amplified. The most thought for thought Bibles are the Living Bible and the Message.


  • Advantage:  Accurate and literal renderings of what the Bible says. It seriously take more attention to the text, themes, Biblical terms, and so on.  
  • Disadvantage: Sometimes the translation can sound a little wooden, or use terms that are more scholarly which need to be looked up.

Use these when you want more detailed Bible study with the desire to be true to the original text. Precept, Intl. uses the NASB and ESV for their studies. 


  • Advantage: Easy to understand, and fresh thoughts about what it in the Bible. Sometimes it is helpful for a difficult passage, to gain understanding for our world today.
  • Disadvantage: At times it may interpret the Bible too general, or miss some of the nuance of what is in the verse.

Use these when you want a fresh look at what a verse means for your life. It helps greatly with application to our lives. It is often written at a vocabulary geared for a children's audience. It is a wonderful tool for children, teens and new believers. They create a thirst for God's Word.


In the middle of the chart, with a nice blend of the two approaches is the popular New International Version (NIV). This has been used by many churches now for years. It is a very readable, understandable version of the Bible. Also somewhat near the center is the New Living Translation (NLT) and the Christian Standard Bible (CSB/HCSB). They are also beautiful to read and well understood.


Years ago, my husband, a pastor, went to a new area to work. Someone approached him and said, "Now Pastor, do you use the King James Version of the Bible, or one of those Devil Bibles?"

The feeling was that the King James was the absolute best, unpolluted version of the Bible out there and the others were tainted. Honestly, God's Word is powerful. Why shouldn’t it be? It is just that. God's Word. He is not going to give the Devil opportunity to totally ruin God's Word and cause others to go astray in hordes. Give God some credit. If we read it asking God's blessing, with the intention of God speaking in to our heart, the Bible will speak, even if it is a version that is less accurate than some might like.

There is a place for various translations.  I would expect the pastor's pulpit and our seminaries are going to look to texts that are more accurate, scholarly works. But it was on the Living Bible, the paraphrase, that I got hooked on reading the Bible at age 16. I was not worried about verb tenses in the original language or any kind of difficulty with the texts. I just LOVED to read what God had for me and it changed my life and my view of the Bible forever.

What version is right for you? You need to ask yourself if you need something right now that is clear to your understanding and applicable to your life (more thought for thought), or if you need to get into the meat of the Word, figuring out what the intricacies of study have for your soul. You might just need both types in your life. Just as someone need to live on adult food rather than mother's milk, so we should learn to take in the deeper meat of God's Word.

God's Word is GOD's Word. It will accomplish His purpose as it is read. READ IT TODAY!

"It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it."
Isaiah 55: 11

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Bible Passage Worksheet

The Big Idea: Print off a Bible passage so you can mark it up with colors, word correlations, etc. Having a worksheet like this is one serious Bible study method! 


I learned about Bible worksheets from my college days when InterVarsity Christian Fellowship offered a Manuscript Bible Study. Everyone in the group worked from a double spaced page of a Bible passage with plenty of room to circle, color, and write questions. Everyone had the same Bible version and passage in front of them. Talk about all being on the same page! More about a manuscript study in a few minutes.

What I like about a worksheet:

  • A lot of room to make notes.
  • Use markers and pens and not worry about it bleeding through or messing up your Bible.
  • Multiple people talk about it from the same version.
  • Larger print than most Bibles for easier reading and observation.
  • A fresh look at a Bible passage you may have read many times before.


I find a worksheet to be so helpful, I've used it many years in various ways. I almost always include chapter and verse.

Personal Study. I use a worksheet for personal study of a passage. This is especially useful in examining a difficult passage.  With my ipad, I have even taken a screenshot of a passage and used a coloring feature to highlight and circle words. 

Side by Side. I use side by side worksheets of 2 or 3 translations for comparison. There are parallel Bibles available in hard copy. You can view the YouVersion app with 2 versions side by side. Comparisons can be useful. I don't double space these.

Group Worksheets. I do not give a worksheet for every Bible Study I lead. But for a particularly difficult passage, or for working together on a passage, I make a worksheet to hand out. Thus we are in the same translation for vocabulary and ease of discussion. Usually everyone will read the passage several times, each time looking at something different.

Often I create a passage with wide margins.  Occasionally I arrange a it with a Quarter page margin So more notes or correlations can be written. One could also use this space to make drawings or charts next to sections of the passage. 

Pre-marked Worksheets. At times I have prepared a worksheet with some of the work done for the class ahead of time. I may mark key words, or mentions of God. The class takes the task further. This works well for ease of listing multiple points such as actions of God in a given section.  This is a time saver since Our class is hemmed in by time.


With internet Bible availability I copy the text in the version I want and paste it into my Microsoft Word program. Here are three excellent websites for an electronic Bible on the web.

You will most likely make a worksheet on your computer and print it. Decide what Bible Version to use. Copy, cut and paste onto a document in a word processor program such as Microsoft Word. Make it about 12 pt print or larger for easier reading.  Word has a double space option. With Word and other programs you can change the margins, even specifying how wide from the left or the right. For making a side by side with different versions, I use the columns feature. Word also has a feature to number rows as you will see is valuable for a manuscript study. Also www.bibles.org allows you to remove verse marks in the settings feature. 

Use colored pencils, markers or highlighters to mark it up. If you don't have contrasting colors use circles and squares around words, and underline/double underline. Symbols can be used. But the point is to SEE the relationships of words.


Precept Ministries has worksheets for everyone to have the same version and the same
passage. You can get a study for the New American Standard Bible (NASB) or the English Standard Version (ESV). The packet is usually for a book of the Bible and each chapter is on a page. Chapter and verse numbers are included. There is a line at the heading for the chapter theme to be inserted, and a chart at the end of the study for you to record the theme of each chapter you have studied. It is a good recording tool. 

Precept provides suggested colors and symbols to help get you started marking the passages.  Suggested symbols include a purple triangle filled with yellow for God (the Father), purple for royalty the king, and yellow because God is light.

Manuscript Bible Study was started in the 1950s by a staff member of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Paul Byer. He discovered it was helpful to have a double spaced passage of the Bible. It really enriched his learning as he marked the pages up and identified correlations in the text. Purists of this method remove the chapter and verse markings and paragraphs. It is printed only on one side. As they work through the book or section, they may lay them all out in order on the floor to get a sense of what the original Bible passage looked like when the writers in Bible times put down the Words of God.

In looking at paper with the words put together without chapter, verse or paragraph, you have a chance to view it the way the early church did. It is a fresh way to interact with God's Word. This is why it is called a Manuscript study. Many who do this will put line markings every 10 lines so a Bible Study group can refer to it more easily.

The Bible was originally written in mainly Hebrew (OT) and Greek (NT). It was put on papyrus, parchment, vellum (animal skins) and even pottery chards. There were no chapters or verses assigned. It was purely written like a letter, story or document.

For the first 1000 years of the church, there were no chapter and verse divisions. The first thing to be added prior to 1000 a.d. was paragraph markings to divide the Word into readings to cover a year. Chapters were first introduced in the 12th century in the Latin Vulgate. Verses were added to the first English Bible, the Geneva Bible, in 1560. They were considered helpful for reference and quotation. The artificial chapter and verse divisions has caused some problems in breaking up a coherent thought or theme that should go together. There is a good chapter and verse history on Wikipedia. We have become so used to chapter and verse markings it is hard to imagine it another way. We must remember the chapter and verse markings are not inspired, just a useful tool for finding our way.

The authors of the Bible wrote it so we could understand the story of God as a whole. It is a story with themes that synchronize together to tell us of God and his desire to communicate with us, that we can know him and be his friend. It is great to study it and dig deep into his Word. But don't break the Bible into small favorite parts so much that you miss the woven tapestry of the whole story.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Bible Observation

The Big Idea: To understand the Bible oberve the text like an newpaper reporter. Look at the facts. Read the passage again and again from different angles.

Observation: What does it say?

"I spy" is a child's game that teaches the power of observation. Scripture Spy follows this intent. The Bible is not a mere child's game. It is to be observed and studied intently to find every treasure, encouragement and guideline for a fulfilling, God honoring life.

Inductive Bible Study is a process of digging into a scripture passage itself instead of relying on devotional guides for our Bible study. There are various methods, but most agree that the 3 most important steps are:

  • Observation - What does it say?
  • Interpretation - What does it mean?
  • Application - Why does it matter?


Today we will focus on the first step. Observation.

Of course as I always say, prayer is always our first work and our last work. I trust you have prayed over your study time already. If not, be sure you do so. 

We read. We observe. We chart. But ultimately we want to know God better, understand what He is telling us, and be led by His Holy Spirit in our study.

Observation is foundational to our study of God's Word. We are taught from a young age to learn to be aware of our surroundings and the job of discovery. Your mother played Peek-a-boo with you as she temporary hid from your sight, then you both giggled when you saw her again. Remember the hours you spent playing hide and seek? How about the "I Spy" game. "I spy with my little eye, something ____." Oh, the joy of discovery! 

Observing the well known verse, John 3:16, one might briefly write "God loved the world. Sent His Son. Believe and live forever." Sometimes it is helpful to digest a verse, a chapter or a book into ten words, or a simple sentence. It is the big picture. But the point of inductive study is to slow down. Examine. Meditate. Observe what you may not have seen before.


Imagine a fender bender at an intersection. The casual pedestrian might report that a blue car ran the stop sign and hit a red car in the intersection. A trained investigator will note so much more. They will notice the make and model of each car. The license plate with state. How many were in each car. What the driver looked like. If a car had a broken tail light. What the sounds were. If a security tape caught it on camera, they will stop the tape and rerun a section. They will zoom in on certain features. They will look at weather conditions and time of day.

An investigator will look. Examine more carefully. Look again. Ask themselves questions. Consider the five senses. Map out the scene on paper.


When I was in college, I attended a retreat with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship called Bible and Life II. It focused on Inductive Bible Study. The opening illustration grabbed my attention and has stuck with me all these years. The story comes from the 1800s. It is called Agassiz and the Fish.  It's about a Harvard professor, a student, and a fish. Professor Agassiz gave the student a fish and asked him to study it. Then report. Don't consult a book. Don't ask anyone else. Just study the fish. He didn't say when he'd be back. 

Boredom set in as the student studied the pickled fish. Then he started looking at it more closely. Hmm, two eyes. Sharp teeth. Then he drew the fish and discovered all kinds of features not noticed before.  The Professor came back and coached him on further observation of the same fish. Finally after 4 days Dr. Agassiz introduced a similar fish and asked for comparisons and contrasts to be made. And sketched. The student grew to love the etymologic study of fish.


This story is now a famous illustration for the power of observation. It gives a great example for doing Inductive Bible study. Some key thoughts:

  • Slow down. Don't rush through the passage. Read it again and again. Read it in other Bible translations.
  • Just sit with the passage a bit. Think about it. Visualize it in history. Meditate on what it is saying.
  • Write down words and ideas in the passage. Look for repeats and synonyms used. Note contrasts. Lists.
  • Consider drawing a chart. Make a stick figure picture that illustrates it.


Every investigator, be it an insurance agent, news reporter, police officer or international spy, learns to answer these six questions. Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? Not every question is going to be relative to the verse or sectional passage, but it is good to go through all the questions. It will slow you down as you ask yourself these questions.

  • Who? - Who is writing? Is God mentioned (Father, Son, or Holy Spirit or all 3)? Is the audience mentioned? Is someone else named? Do we learn some characteristic or quality about the person?
  • What? - What is happening? What event is going on? What is someone doing? What do you learn about the historical context? What object or lesson is featured?
  • When? - Do you see any time references? Time of day? Season? Historical reference (i.e. when so and so was king…) Does is say when something will happen? Does it refer to a past event?
  • Where? - Is a town mentioned? A country? A region? Does it talk about the land? Hills? Village? Going up to Jerusalem? Can you find where it was written (check notes at the beginning of the book in a study Bible)
  • Why? - Is there any reason given why something was said? Why one should respond a certain way? Why God did something or the motives for a person? Sometimes we have to deduce, but sometimes the Scriptures are very plain (i.e. God loved the world so much that He gave His only son. John 3:16).
  • How? - Are we told how God will accomplish something? How the people reacted? How something is done? How is a truth illustrated?


As you are working through the passage, there are other word groupings for which to look.

  • Key word or phrase: Perhaps a word repeats or is illustrated throughout.
  • Contrast/Comparison: Rich and poor, light and darkness, good and evil, It/then and so on.
  • Transitional words: Therefore (what is the "therefore" there for?). But. Because. Likewise.
  • Command. Promise. Warning. Advice.
  • Illustration or analogy ("The Kingdom of God is like…")
  • Emphatic statements: Indeed. Truly. "I tell you/I say unto you." Behold/Look!


Anytime in this phase, feel free to write down questions that come to you. Hopefully the answers will start to reveal themselves as you study. Note also if there are questions and answers in the passage.

Are there Old Testament quotes? Usually they are indented in the passage. There is a cross reference in some Bibles to tell you where it was said. You can also Google it. Yes, you can! Look that up in it's original context. (If not at this phase, in the interpretation phase). 

Cross Reference illustrated

If there are words you don't understand, feel free to look them up in an English dictionary. Also if a person in the passage is mentioned, check for other sections of the Bible that tell more about that person. (A concordance, or the search feature of an electronic Bible).


You have made a great beginning to digging into God's Word. As time goes on your power of observation will get easier. You will always be amazed at what you see in God's Word as you slow down.

Finally, there is a comical informative video by 2100 Productions (Intervarsity Christian Fellowship's media branch). Used by permission. It shows Observation in Inductive Bible Study and tells the story of Professor Agassiz

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

S.O.A.P. Method of Bible Study

The Clean, Easy Way to Study the Bible

The Big Idea: The S.O.A.P. method of Bible study is a very easy way to remember how to study the Bible, in a basic inductive manner. 

Have you ever found an easy way to remember something like a name, or the order of the planets? It is often a method of word or letter association like K.I.S.S. "Keep it Simple, Silly!" 

If you want to dig into the Bible on your own on a regular basis, this acronym, S.O.A.P., is very useful. This formula will get you into the word, simply. It will keep your mind on task and let you apply it to your life. And you will remember it day to day, even without a cheat sheet! If you want something to help you get started, you can use my downloadable worksheet here

Free downloadable S.O.A.P. worksheet
So let's go over the basics.

  • Scripture
  • Observation
  • Application
  • Prayer

Gather your Essentials

It is helpful to have several items to begin your time of study.  This is a very low budget method.

  • A Bible (can be a book that is a Bible, or you can use an electronic version).
  • A notebook or binder for regular note taking.  Paper in the notebook, or printouts like this.
  • A pen or a pencil.
  • A quiet place to think and pray, and a few minutes to yourself.

Put your text at the top of the page, and the date as well. It will be interesting as you study God's Word to go back and look at what you have learned over time.

Pray Before you Begin

Prayer is listed at the end, but prayer should be our first and our last work. We pray and invite the Lord to bless our time in His Word. We examine our self for any barrier of sinfulness that might poison our time with the Lord. We pray for an open heart. We ask for the Holy Spirit to guide and reveal to us what He has for us in the Bible text.


Rather than choosing random passages or verses, it is often good to begin at the start with a book of the Bible.  If you are completely new to Bible study I would recommend the Gospel of John, or a shorter epistle of the New Testament such as Philippians.

Whenever you start a new book, on the first day, you may want to look at an introduction of that book. Many Study Bibles have an introduction. If you use www.youversion.com, you will find the NIV Bible and the Good News Bible there have an introduction at the start of each book. 

It is good to note who was the author, when was it written, who was the intended audience, check for an outline, key verse and theme. It might be good to read the book in the entirety the first time to get a sense of the book before you study it in greater detail.

After that, you may wish to start lessons by chapter or by 1-2 paragraphs at a time.


The interrogative questions are always a good place to begin. Who? What? When? Where? Why, and How?  Observe if there are any names mentioned. Check for locations such as towns and countries. Is there a time reference? Is there a phrase or a word that is repeated or said in a fresh way a second time? Is there an unusual word you want to look up in the dictionary? Often an English dictionary is a useful tool for this. You may want to summarize what is being talked about in a sentence. By looking at these various facets of the verses you will find yourself reading the passage more than once. You will slow down and notice things you have not noticed before. This is a good and useful habit to acquire.


This is the "so what" phase. It is beyond what does it mean to what does it matter for my life today? Is there a promise of God to embrace? Is there a warning about sin or bad habits? Is there an admonition or encouragement that will help us live the Christian life? Is there a good example to follow? What might you learn about human nature? About yourself?  What about God? What do you see about God in this passage? And how is this beneficial for your today? Is there something for you to let go? Is there something you should do or an attitude adjustment that needs to be made based on this Bible passage?


So finally, talk to God as your friend. Tell him what you have learned in His Word and ask for His help to renew your mind. Ask Him to help you do what you need to do. In all of this you will draw closer to Him and He will draw closer to you and give you strength for this day. 

End Note

It is always good to share what you have learned with someone else. Talking about it will help to reinforce what you are learning in your study of the Bible.

In inductive Bible study, a valuable part is interpretation. There are steps to follow to discern this. They include another set of questions, consulting with parallel passages, Biblical themes, word studies, using other Bible tools, and so on.  Some of this you will find yourself doing using S.O.A.P, in the observation and application phases. There is a place for interpretation and we will cover it in more detail in another blog soon. However, this simple method using S.O.A.P. gets you into the Word on a regular basis, even if some days your time is limited. It is a very satisfying process. Just as soap is what we use to keep our bodies clean, the S.O.A.P. method gets us into the Word to keep our mind and our soul clean and fit.

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