Let’s say you decided to start reading the Bible each morning as a daily quiet time with the Lord. You’ve got your “cup of joe” in hand, you’ve gathered your materials, and you’re all excited about hearing from God. Your assigned reading for the day is Proverbs 20:30. You turn there with great anticipation and excitement and read the following verse in the King James Version (a literal, word-for-word translation published in 1611 in “the King’s English”). It says, “The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.” Say what? What does that mean? Would that give you the spiritual fuel and inspiration you need to live for Christ today?
But then you remember that the WORDview method suggests you read it several times in different translations. So, now you find that same verse in the New American Standard Bible, another literal word-for-word version written in modern English in 1995. Surely it will be easier to understand and more inspiring. It translates Proverbs 20:30 as, “Stripes that wound scour away evil, and strokes reach the innermost parts.” Hmmmmm. Is that clearer? Would that put a “spring in your spiritual step” for the day?
Next, you read it in the New International Version. This one is a “thought-for-thought” translation that attempts to give the thought of the verse when the literal word-for-word does not translate clearly into modern English. It renders Proverbs 20:30 this way: “Blows and wounds cleanse away evil, and beatings purge the inmost parts.” Yikes. Is that better? How does that apply to me? Not sure the spiritual light bulb is on yet.
Finally, you read it in a paraphrased version which is a kind of “in other words” translation. Here the translators do a bit of interpretation to give the intended meaning of the verse in modern vernacular. You find the same verse in the Good News Translation where it is rendered in this way: “Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways.” Pow! What just happened? Spiritual light. Spiritual insight. The translators understood the intended meaning of the passage in its context and gave the “in other words” version for us to more easily understand it.
So, let’s recap. We went from: “The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.” (KJV),
“Stripes that wound scour away evil, and strokes reach the innermost parts.” (NASB),
“Blows and wounds cleanse away evil, and beatings purge the inmost parts.” (NIV),
“Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways.” (GNT)
And we did all that in just minutes. I hope you can see the value of this WORDview technique. Reading a literal word-for-word translation helps keep us from error and wrong doctrine. But the use of thought-for-thought and paraphrased versions can help us to quickly understand the intended meaning and the practical, personal application of the passage for our daily life. Give it a try. And consider joining one of our online WORDview groups, where we practice this in community and share our insights. Very exciting and encouraging!
For more information about Bible translations (including a chart that lists and organizes them according to type) and for other valuable resources, be sure to check out our “Articles and Guides.”
Guy Jackson is President and Co-Founder of WORDview Ministries with his wife, Jackie. They have four children and eleven grandchildren. Guy pastored in church ministry for 23 years and taught as an associate professor at the College of Biblical Studies, Houston, for 20 years.