March 5, 2012

Which Bible would Jesus choose?

Since Jesus spoke Aramaic and Hebrew, He probably read scrolls written in those languages. Most likely He and the apostles were also familiar with the Septuagint or Greek Bible since, during their lifetimes, the extra books contained in that version were generally read, accepted, and quoted by the peoples of God.

After the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D., scholarly leaders among both Jews and Christians wanted to canonize Holy Scripture, so everyone could, figuratively speaking, be on the same page. But, Jewish scholars decided to stick with Hebrew Scriptures exclusively, which meant excluding books written in Greek, whereas Christians initially kept all of the books in the Septuagint. In fact, not too long after Latin and other European languages morphed into English, the King James Version of the Bible came into being (1611) with all of the books still intact.

After the Reformation, however, Protestants took out the books now referred to as the Apocrypha. The word is a bit of a misnomer, though, since it means hidden, and, well, the apocryphal books have always been highly visible in Catholic and Orthodox editions of the Bible. So, when Catholic and Orthodox Christians refer to apocryphal books, they mean those such as the Gospel of Thomas that were never, ever part of canonized scripture. Nevertheless, the extra books in the Septuagint remain outside the Jewish canon, so Catholic and Orthodox Christians sometimes refer to them as deuterocanonical books.

Yeah, it’s confusing at first! But the important thing is whether you want a Bible with all of the books.

To find out, read Sirach (aka Ecclesiasticus) on the Internet, especially my favorite verse Sirach 2:18: “Let us fall into the hands of the LORD and not into human hands, for equal to God’s majesty is the mercy that He shows.”

To most readers, I and II Maccabees just won’t seem as inspired as wisdom books because they’re not always inspiring! However, they do provide us with an interesting record of historical events that occurred in the few hundred year’s gap between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.

Deciding whether to get a Bible with the Apocrypha will not be your only choice though! You have other choices to consider too:

Word for Word Translation
This option gives you the closest possible meaning of the original texts when Bible scholars translated the Hebrew, Aramaic, and/or Greek manuscripts into English. If you want biblical accuracy, these choices give you that, literally, but you may need footnotes to explain what now-archaic phrases initially meant.

In alphabetical order, the more literal translations of the Bible into English include: Amplified, Douay-Rheims, English Standard Version (ESV), King James Version (KJV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), and New King James Version (NKJV.)

Of these, the Douay-Rheims and KJV with the Apocrypha will give you all of the books.

Thought for Thought Translation
This option gives you the most readable text with each thought kept as close as possible to the original intent as shown by overall context.

Again alphabetically, these translations include: the Common English Bible (CEB), Contemporary English Version (CEV), Good News Bible (GNB) also known as Today’s English Bible (TEB), New American Bible (NAB), New Century Version (NCV), New International Version (NIV), New Jerusalem Bible (NJB), New Living Translation (NLT), New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), Revised English Bible (REB), and Revised Standard Version (RSV.)

Reportedly, the CEB, CEV, ESV, GNB, NAB, NJB, NLT, NRSV, REB, and RSV can now be found with all of the books that were originally included in the Septuagint and early Christian Bibles.

This choice provides an easy-reader especially helpful to children and readers of English as a second language. Although most Bible students want more accuracy and fewer words than paraphrases have, both the Living Bible (LB) and The Message continue to be very popular.

But, to get back to our first question:

Which Bible would Jesus choose?

I cannot prove this, of course, but His tender regard for peoples of all ages, backgrounds, cultures, and levels of faith show me that He has most probably chosen them all!


© 2012, Mary Harwell Sayler. If you want your church, Bible study, or other group to have this information, just promise me you will tell people where you found it. Also, I hope you remember to name drop my blogs and websites to your friends. Thanks. For more Bible topics, poetry help, and writing tips, see Blogs by Mary.



  1. I think you have a misprint. The NCV, wish you refer to as the "New Contemporary Version," is actually called the "New Century Version."

  2. Good catch :) I'll correct that. Thanks.