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Which Version of the Bible to Read?

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IchorFigure
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All right, so I'm preparing to finally go ahead and read the entire Bible. I think it is important to have a real first hand grasp on something so relevant to something I have a very strong opinion about. Now the question, and something I have almost no knowledge about, which version do you think would be best to read and why? If I'm going to read this beast, I'm going to do it once, and only once, and do it right. I hear a lot about the superiority of the King James version, but I'm not sure why. Thanks for your help.

Edited by IchorFigure
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Now the question, and something I have almost no knowledge about, which version do you think would be best to read and why? If I'm going to read this beast, I'm going to do it once, and only once, and do it right.
This depends heavily on what your purpose is. Here are a few off the top of my head:

--You want to know what the typical Christian gets "taught" with at Church, to better understand what's going through his head when he references religion for himself

--You want to know what the original versions of the Bible (the Hebrew text) says, so that you can note any contradictions to Christians you may argue with in the future

But I am actually going to stop right there, because both of those assume your greater purpose is to better deal with polemics with the more common religious man. Another such purpose might include teaching a class on religion, where you would remain dispassionate about the subject related to a social, political, philosophic, or whatever other context. Another purpose would be a general interest in history, where you want to know what the earliest versions of the Bible actually said, and then perhaps later what the translations became.

You see, it is very difficult to recommend a version unless you clear up your purpose a bit.

Also, I personally think it is unimportant to read the entire Bible if your only purpose is to refute a Christian's argument. Why waste your time? It is easy to refute all religious arguments, qua religion, by saying, "God doesn't exist, and this is why..." On any ethical religious issue, all you need is a solid ethical foundation for yourself, reality-based, and you are set. The Bible is a very, very dry read, often incomprehensible (makes no sense, is related to nothing), continually contradictory, without context or explanation... In short, it's horrible! I wish the experience on no one who cares about ideas and his life.

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This depends heavily on what your purpose is. Here are a few off the top of my head:

Also, I personally think it is unimportant to read the entire Bible if your only purpose is to refute a Christian's argument. Why waste your time? It is easy to refute all religious arguments, qua religion, by saying, "God doesn't exist, and this is why..." On any ethical religious issue, all you need is a solid ethical foundation for yourself, reality-based, and you are set. The Bible is a very, very dry read, often incomprehensible (makes no sense, is related to nothing), continually contradictory, without context or explanation... In short, it's horrible! I wish the experience on no one who cares about ideas and his life.

I understand that and I seriously doubt my view would be changed by it, but I really want to for my own knowledge. The same goes for Karl Marx's writing. It's annoying encountering people who oppose Rand's ideas and easily admit they've never even read her work. I figure I at least owe it to myself not to be hypocritical in the same way.

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I understand that and I seriously doubt my view would be changed by it, but I really want to for my own knowledge. The same goes for Karl Marx's writing. It's annoying encountering people who oppose Rand's ideas and easily admit they've never even read her work. I figure I at least owe it to myself not to be hypocritical in the same way.
Well, you didn't really clear that up :thumbsup:, but for all "normal" purposes, I would go for the New International Version (NIV). It will be easier to understand, since it is written in "regular" English, and a pretty hefty amount of work went into it by theologians. Keep in mind, though, that a huge amount of Christians still read the King James Version, which, at best, you have to translate to yourself (thee, thy, thou) while you read (kind of like you would Shakespeare, but not quite as drastic).

Good luck. You might want to drink some wine while you do it.

Edited by JASKN
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I took Religious Studies back at school, so I'm somewhat equated with reading the Bible and scholarly opinions and all that. We used the New International Version, because, well, the language is quite simple and I imagine because since the exam board needs to set a book that can be understood by everyone. I found no problems with it (besides the language being dry-as), but I imagine someone more acquainted with Bible study would be able to tell you more.

I've got to say, I've tried reading the Bible on its own before, and it's fine and all, but if you want to really understand what it's saying, I suggest you take a course in Bible study or some such. There is so much that just isn't obvious on face value, if you don't understand the context of the writers or the events written about. I can certainly say, there's some pretty insane stuff in The Bible, but I can promise that studying it certainly isn't boring.

A quick search yielded a lecture course on the Old Testament, which is invaluable in understanding what the hell is going on there:

http://oyc.yale.edu/religious-studies/intr...class-sessions/

Seriously, the Old Testament is a vague recollection of real events, wrapped in metaphor, embedded in poetry, written as a dogmatic truth.

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I think you're wasting your time. While you do need to read Kant and Marx in order to understand the ideas expressed in their works, the same is not necessary for Christianity. All the imporant ideas of Christianity are widely known (God created the world in 6 days, man is innately evil but Jesus came to save us, you should not resist evil but turn the other cheek, etc.) and the details are both irrelevant and differ widely in their interpretation among the various denominations and sects. And I'm not sure if anyone other than the translators has actually read the whole Bible--including the Pope.

If you are interested in knowing what motivates people to become or stay Christians, I think the answer is simply that they don't feel like dying and don't have a firm enough grasp on the Primacy of Existence to understand that Christianity can't help them with that. This is the one key thing to understand if you want to figure out Christians, the theme of the play as it were--all the rest is just the specifics of acting out the plot, and as I said varies to a very great degree among the religion's different branches.

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I think you're wasting your time. While you do need to read Kant and Marx in order to understand the ideas expressed in their works, the same is not necessary for Christianity. All the imporant ideas of Christianity are widely known (God created the world in 6 days, man is innately evil but Jesus came to save us, you should not resist evil but turn the other cheek, etc.) and the details are both irrelevant and differ widely in their interpretation among the various denominations and sects. And I'm not sure if anyone other than the translators has actually read the whole Bible--including the Pope.

I think that the most important/interesting thing about Christianity is the link between the ideas it expresses (and their later development through the Reformation to the present day) and the changing social conditions over the last 2000 years, and this sort of thing does require some knowledge of whats in the Bible. One of the (few) positive things which Christianity contributed to Western culture was the doctrine of the soul which, along with a personal relationship to God, had the important corollary that people started to be viewed as individuals who matter in themselves, which was the foundation of the doctrine of individual rights during the Enlightenment. Understanding this requires a basic knowledge of how the relationship between the individual/society/God altered from the Old Testement (Judaism) to the New. The same applies to other Christian developments - the link between the Protestant focus on salvation by good deeds and the birth of capitalism for example.

But you arent going to get all of this from the Bible - to understand Christianity, you need to understand how different people have interpreted it at various points in history (and why). The way a Catholic interprets the Bible today is very different from how a Lutheran interpreted it in 1800, and so on. Some knowledge of the book itself is useful, but if you have an interest in the religion then its also important to read about the various schools of Christianity and how they differ from each other, and how their views have changed through history. The same applies to other religions - you arent going to get an accurate picture of what 'Muslims' believe today by reading the Koran for example.

Edited by eriatarka
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My understanding of this issue:

KJV (King James Version) is the most culturally influential. There is an NKJV (New KJV) IIRC was an attempt to clean up the second person pronouns and otherwise modernize the English vocabulary while leaving the sentence structures untouched.

NIV (New International Version) is most evangelicals' favorite and is a lot easier to read. Many atheist groups complain that it whitewashes a lot of things compared to the KJV. Apparently there is also a TNIV (Today's NIV) which is "dumbed down" and possibly "whitewashed" a bit more. Based on what I saw a couple years ago in a religious bookstore it is becoming popular. (BTW in re: the NIV whitewashing issue, it seems to be true more often than not, but their rendering of Ezekiel 23:20 made my jaw drop when I read it.)

Some atheist groups recommend the RSV (Revised Standard Version) as being most true to the original (in particular it translates Isaiah 7:14 (the one Xians claim is a prophecy of a virgin birth) as "young woman" rather than "virgin" which is correct); good luck finding an RSV; though. There is a New RSV (NRSV) that is also tricky to find but is current.

Interestingly the Orthodox Church In America (which is currently working on their own translation) presently prefers RSV with Apocrypha (they, like the Catholics, accept some books that the Protestants consider apocryphal; e.g., Ecclesiasticus and the Maccabes books). I asked the priest where on earth he actually found a copy of the RSV and got no answer.

If you can find a copy, Asimov's Guide to the Bible is educational (he was, of course, an atheist/secular humanist).

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Thanks for the responses everyone. I think I will probably pick the King James simply because it has been the standard for many decades academically. My understanding is that many authors of classic literature also make reference to the KJ version at times so maybe it would be helpful there as well. When I said "and do it right" I basically just meant taking notes of anything vital. I don't intend to go toe-to-toe arguing semantics with religious wackos. I realize it's a lot of work, but I don't mind it seems just like one of those things I should get done at some point in my life, and then it's done forever.

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As long as you are Bible shopping, you might as well pick up two of them--King James and The Living Bible to help interpret King James. There are countless verses in the King James version that you will likely find incomprehensible. The Living Bible will give you a layman's interpretation. I suppose you could always just read the Living Bible instead, but King James is what most people use and quote from. As for debating religious folk afterwards, actually reading the Bible will put you in a position of being more knowledgeable about Christianity than the vast majority of Christians who have never bothered to do what you are about to.

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All right, so I'm preparing to finally go ahead and read the entire Bible. I think it is important to have a real first hand grasp on something so relevant to something I have a very strong opinion about. Now the question, and something I have almost no knowledge about, which version do you think would be best to read and why? If I'm going to read this beast, I'm going to do it once, and only once, and do it right. I hear a lot about the superiority of the King James version, but I'm not sure why. Thanks for your help.

Are you planning on making the study of philosophy or religion a profession?

Or do you just want to argue with people?

Do you think reading the bible will help you accomplish any goals you have in life?

I don't think the bible is meant to be understood very well.

It's intentionally vague, so that millions of people can read it, not quite understand it, go to church, listen to someone else try to explain it, still not understand it, and if and when someone thinks they understand it, they find that they're interpretation is different than everyone else's interpretation, yet they all keep going to church to try to understand it all better.

My recommendation is that you read the following interpretation of religion by George Carlin, then move on with your life:

Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever 'til the end of time!

But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He's all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can't handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more.

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One must remember that the Old Testament and the texts of ancient Greece (Homer) are the most important works in our modern world.

Why do you think so? Homer, sure, but I'm not sure the Old Testament was even that instrumental in shaping the Dark Ages, let alone the modern world. I would say that Plato and Kant had much more influence.

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One of the (few) positive things which Christianity contributed to Western culture was the doctrine of the soul which, along with a personal relationship to God, had the important corollary that people started to be viewed as individuals who matter in themselves, which was the foundation of the doctrine of individual rights during the Enlightenment.

I agree that Christianity is an individualistic religion and that's a good thing about it, but I don't think it's the primary source of the West's individualism. It is clear from Homer's works that the Greeks had the concept of the soul and worshipped individual heroes right from the beginning of their civilization. Christianity (and Judaism) probably just inherited it from them.

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I agree that Christianity is an individualistic religion and that's a good thing about it, but I don't think it's the primary source of the West's individualism. It is clear from Homer's works that the Greeks had the concept of the soul and worshipped individual heroes right from the beginning of their civilization. Christianity (and Judaism) probably just inherited it from them.

Do you think that the United States source of individualism could have something to do with the great controls that Britian had over them before the Revolutionary War?

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All right, so I'm preparing to finally go ahead and read the entire Bible. I think it is important to have a real first hand grasp on something so relevant to something I have a very strong opinion about. Now the question, and something I have almost no knowledge about, which version do you think would be best to read and why? If I'm going to read this beast, I'm going to do it once, and only once, and do it right. I hear a lot about the superiority of the King James version, but I'm not sure why. Thanks for your help.

Why not go to www.biblegateway.com and read some passages to see which version you feel more comfortable with. KJV is more familiar, but I believe most versions are translated from original texts, so you're not necessarily watering down or losing meaning choosing an alternative. I read the Bible cover to cover when I was about 21 and it opened my eyes (wider) to the "big picture" of Christianity and religion in general, not to mention the wonders of context. I highly recommend it.

Lego-porn. Cool.... :D

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That was exactly what I was going to recommend once I saw the title of the thread, K-Mac beat me to it!

I'd also recommend adding "Asimov's Guide to the Bible"

http://www.amazon.com/Asimovs-Guide-Bible-...s/dp/051734582X

The top review does it justice

In Asimov's Guide to the Bible he utilizes this skill to pare down and untangle the many intertwined threads of biblical history and mythology. He views this guide as a way to illuminate the world of the Bible by incorporating the secular aspects of history, biography, and geography into a deeper understanding. Asimov's Guide to the Bible is not a book to be read in continuum but an indispensable companion to any journey through the Bible. Situating the writers of the various books of the Bible in time and space, Asimov gives its writings context and also explains how that context has morphed with time. While some of his conclusions and "qualified speculations" may challenge certain traditional assumptions (for example, there is no reference in the gospels to Mary Magdalene as a prostitute; rather, she was a madwoman whom Jesus cured by casting out seven demons), his aim is not to tear it apart but to flush out some of its mysteries, give it a context that the average Bible reader can understand, and therefore make it more real. --Jodie Buller
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  • 9 months later...

As an almost-theology-major, I'd recommend you grab a copy of the Oxford Annotated New Testament+Apocrypha. Honestly, it's about as good as it gets for scholarly bibles IMO. Aside from that, a tanakh isn't a bad choice if you merely want to gain the Orthodox Judaic viewpoint. However, as others have stated...if you want to know the "general christian" viewpoint, the KJV is where it's at. In any case, GL, because it's a long read (I've only bothered to read the Old Testament in its entirety, and THAT was a long read. GL with the New testament).

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