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Why are there so many versions of the bible?

2 Nephi 29:3 states “And because my words shall hiss forth—many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.”

Heavenly Father has given us a bible that we can learn from and receive guidance. The bible can be a great source of inspiration and guidance. The bible can be a place we can turn to in trying times. Yet the question is raised, why are there so many versions of the bible?

Reading Level of the Reader

One explanation is that the versions differ as to the reading level of the reader. For example, the different versions vary from a third grade to a twelfth grade reading level. The lower reading level versions have shorter sentences, draw from a smaller English word pool, and avoid all uncommon words. Some versions employ a vocabulary limited to 1000 words.

More precise knowledge of the original text

Some contend newer English versions reflect more precise knowledge of the wording of the original text (Hebrew or Aramaic in the Old Testament, Greek in the New Testament). The differences between the older versions and the newer ones are the result of increasing knowledge about the original texts of the Bible resulting from modern discoveries of ancient manuscript copies of those texts. The most famous of these discoveries are the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in the late 1940s. These scrolls included Hebrew manuscripts of Old Testament writings that were roughly a thousand years older than any other Old Testament manuscripts known at the time.

Different Versions for Different Churches

Different religious communities have produced their own English versions of the Bible. Jews and Christians have both produced translations of the Old Testament (what Jews call the Tanakh or The Bible). There are Catholic versions (e.g., the older Douay-Rheims or the New American Bible [NAB]) and Protestant versions (the KJV, NASB, etc.) of the Bible. Among Protestants, there are mainline or ecumenical versions (e.g., the New Revised Standard Version or NRSV) and conservative, evangelical versions (e.g., the NASB, New International Version or NIV).

These are just a few reasons why there are different versions of the bible. So why does the LDS church use the King James version of the bible. In July 1987, Franklin S. Gonzalez, shared in the Ensign that, “When the Church was organized in 1830, the King James Version (KJV), also known as the Authorized Version, was the translation predominantly used in the English-speaking world. Latter-day Saints relied on it in their meetings, and the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price were written in a style of language similar to that in the KJV. Joseph Smith also used an 1828 edition of the KJV to prepare an inspired version of the Bible.”

Additionally, in August 1992, the LDS church put out a statement that explained why the LDS church uses the King James version of the Bible.

Since the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith, The Church of Jesus Chirst of Latter-day Saints has used the King James Version of the Bible for English-speaking members.

The Bible, as it has been transmitted over the centuries, has suffered the loss of many plain and precious parts. ‘We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.’ (A of F 1:8).

Many versions of the Bible are available today. Unfortunately, no original manuscripts of any portion of the Bible are available for comparison to determine the most accurate version. However, the Lord has revealed clearly the doctrines of the gospel in these latter-days. The most reliable way to measure the accuracy of any biblical passage is not by comparing different texts, but by comparison with the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelations.

While other Bible versions may be easier to read than the King James Version, in doctrinal matters latter-day revelation supports the King James Version in preference to other English translations. All of the Presidents of the Church, beginning with the Prophet Joseph Smith, have supported the King James Version by encouraging its continued use in the Church. In light of all the above, it is the English language Bible used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The LDS edition of the Bible (1979) contains the King James Version supplemented and clarified by footnotes, study aids, and cross-references to the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. These four books are the standard works of the Church. We encourage all members to have their own copies of the complete standard works and to use them prayerfully in regular personal and family study, and in Church meetings and assignments.

Sincerely your brethren,

Ezra Taft Benson

Gordon B. Hinckley

Thomas S. Monson

 

The Bible along with the Book of Mormon are great places to turn for inspiration, guidance, and to feel the spirit. May each of us cherish the scriptures we have been given.

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