The above question is often asked, especially by those who are new to Bible study. Since Disciplers has gone online, I have had several emails asking what version of the Bible we use here at Disciplers. Let me begin by saying that in your Disciplers lesson, at the top of the first page of questions, right under “QUESTIONS”, is the statement, “All questions are based on the New King James Version of the Bible.” In addition, all Scripture references contained in the lessons are quoted from the New King James Version (unless otherwise noted).
Why do we use the New King James Version? Is that the version we recommend for your study?
When Pearl Hamilton began writing Disciplers Bible Studies many years ago, she used the New King James Version because it is closest to the King James, which she loved and respected. The King James Version is the oldest English version and one of the most literal translations. The use of rich and ancient language gives it a beautiful poetic flow, making it a joy to read and memorize. Pearl often taught from the King James Version, but she understood that many people benefit more from the simpler and updated language of the New King James. Furthermore, as you will notice in reading her lesson commentaries, Pearl consulted many other Bible versions in her studies.
So which version do we recommend to you? That is an easy question to answer. Use the version that you will read and which will draw you back for more. There is no such thing as a “perfect” translation. All translations are by imperfect human beings, and even the most perfect translation will do you no good if you don’t enjoy reading it. Nearly every Bible version carries the same truth of salvation and deliverance through our Lord Jesus Christ. The translations differ in the way the translators have chosen to express that truth in the English language.
As you do your Disciplers lessons, it may be helpful to have a New King James Version on hand, but it need not be the Bible you use every day. When looking for a Bible to use for study, we suggest a Bible with footnotes and scripture references in the side margins or at the bottom of the page. These will be a help as you do your lesson. We do not encourage use of study Bibles with excessive commentary on every page. In fact, it is better not to have another person’s commentary in the Bible you use for study (1 John 2:27). The purpose of Disciplers studies is to allow God to teach you through His Holy Spirit. If you begin your study time with prayer and ask God to open His word to you, He will bless you with gratifying insights and useful applications for your everyday life. Many men, women, and children have found this to be true. Once you begin to study in this way, you will keep coming back for more. Besides, wouldn’t you rather share with your discussion group something you have learned from the awesome God of the universe rather than something you learned from another human being?
If you are presently looking for a study Bible and are perplexed as to where to begin, let me give you a few tips on choosing a translation. I think that one of the first things to remember is that what is popular is not always right and what is right is not always popular. So go ahead and ask others what version they use and why, but in the end, you should choose what is right for you. Hopefully, what I tell you next will make your choice simple. Ask yourself two questions. 1.) Are you a student of the Bible who likes something that sticks as close as possible to the oldest manuscripts and gives the most literal possible translation or 2.) are you a student who prefers easier readability. If you answered “yes” to question 1, you should look for a translation which is a “literal or formal equivalency”. If your “yes” was to question 2, you will want to look for a translation that is a “dynamic equivalency”.
So, what do those words mean, and what is the difference? Formal equivalence means that the translator has attempted to give a word-for-word translation from the original language into English and also keep the grammatical structure of the original language. Sometimes the result can seem stilted and artificial, but the work is presented as faithfully as the English language allows. By contrast, in dynamic equivalence the translators' priority was to capture the intended meaning behind the original language as well as possible. Maintaining the original terms and structure were not their primary concern. Most Bible versions fall somewhere between these two extremes. Anyone who speaks more than one language knows that it is impossible to give a completely literal translation all the time and still make it understandable. On the other hand, if a “translation” is nothing more than trying to give the meaning in ones own words, it would not be a translation at all but a paraphrase.
The most used formal equivalencies are the New American Standard, King James, New King James, and Amplified Bible. The most popular dynamic equivalencies are the New International Version, and New English Bible. For those who are interested in delving into this subject further, below is a webpage with a translation comparison chart. In the end, if you can’t decide which Bible to get, it doesn’t hurt to have more than one. When I write and edit lessons, I use several different versions.
I hope this rather lengthy discussion has been helpful. Remember that in the long run, the important thing is not so much which version you use for study, but the fact that you do read the Bible and study it so you may grow in your knowledge and love of God, which means you will be more serious about obeying Him.
May God bless you as you study, implanting in your heart a deep love and longing for His word and His will.
I don’t make New Years resolutions because I don’t like to break things. But as New Years Day loomed on the horizon I began to think about what God would have me accomplish in 2014. I have not written a Disciplers study since 2011 and I've had plenty of excuses for not doing so. Life is full of other demands and I have come to see that the saying about time flying by more quickly as you get older is absolutely true! But my biggest excuse to myself is that my two dearest prayer warriors and encouragers, my husband and my mom, have gone to be with the Lord.
I have found it difficult to do many things without them, but the hardest thing to do without them is write. I relied upon their prayers and their presence in my life. I felt I could do anything with their faithful prayer support. When they prayed, it was evident that God heard and answered. I wrote with joy and felt God's pleasure. I also knew I could count upon my husband and mom for honest criticism and helpful suggestions, not to mention the thoughtful small things like the gift of a new commentary, a secret Starbucks when I was immersed for hours in study, or dinner brought in. I know it is not good to dwell on what is past, but I must confess that I have had difficulty going forward. Often I have felt like one of those stiff-necked, grumbling Israelites in the wilderness and I have been ashamed.
Anyway, rolling over into 2014, the Holy Spirit began to impress upon me that it was time to stop making excuses and procrastinating. It was time to write again. I started out with hesitant obedience. But I have taken the first steps -- praying about which book of the Bible to choose, deciding and prayerfully reading the chosen books over and over and over again, researching which commentaries to use, and then finally beginning to study and then write. Little by little, an excitement has begun to arise within me. One of the commentaries I bought so engrossed me that I read until I fell asleep in the chair and then woke up with a “crook” in my neck (smile). God has been gracious to give encouragement and bring into my heart an eagerness to write. But I want to tell you about the biggest blessing He has sent my way.
Last week I had a phone call from a leader of a Disciplers class in Southern California. As we talked, I shared with her that I was beginning work on a new study. She promised to pray for me. I have been remembering that. I have been counting on her prayers. Then, today I received a handwritten note from her in the mail. Even before opening the card, I began to smile. The front of the note-card is a watercolor of wildflowers in glass jars. I love wildflowers! And they look so happy in the glass jars. It lifted my day. However, it was her words inside that touched my heart and humbled me and gave me assurance that God is there and He cares. Here are the words she wrote.
“I’m so glad you are writing a new study…..I will consider it a privilege to pray constantly for His wisdom, insight, and time for you to do this wonderful work. I shared with my leaders today that you are starting a new study and asked them to pray for you.”
Now here is the reason (or at least part of it) that this note was so special. Just before I went to the mailbox, I had been working on the outline for chapter one of 1 Thessalonians. As I prayed, read, and wrote, the thoughts seemed to flow from my heart and mind. It was a joy -- it was the old feeling back again of God working and using His broken vessel -- me. When I opened and read the card, I knew that what I had experienced had been an answer to prayer. The tears came -- thankful tears for faithful prayers, for God’s hearing those prayers and answering -- remembering me, the excuse maker and procrastinator.
The sweet card and note have been a lesson to me to be attentive and sensitive to the needs of others, to pray earnestly and regularly when I promise, and to let people know I am praying. How refreshing it was to receive a handwritten note in this digital age. Prayer and note writing come from being thoughtful and caring of others. They are small things that do not take much time but they can make a huge difference in a person’s life. They have in mine today.
At the moment, I can’t think of anything more wondrous than seeing the prayers of others answered in one's own life. Who can you give that gift to this week? What small thing would God lead you to do for someone else? I will begin with a handwritten note to the dear lady who wrote to me and who I know is praying for me.
I have been involved in Disciplers since 1987, as a discussion leader, teacher, writer, and now as director. I am profoundly committed to the stewardship of this ministry which God has entrusted to me for a time. God’s word is the chief joy of my life. I cherish my personal time in the word, and I am filled with gratitude to be able to share His word with you, my fellow disciples in Christ.