Not a simple answer…. I could simply say, "The Bible is the inerrant Word of God." But different translations of differing texts in over 2,000 languages make that a tough statement to defend.
First a decision has to be made if there is absolute, unchanging truth in the world, or if everything is relative and subject to change. If truth changes with the times then I am left to decide what is right in my own heart. But if truth doesn't change then I have to sort out what is true from what is not, or risk living at least part of my life based on deception.
I choose to believe in absolute, unchanging truth established by somebody other than man, because I'm simply not that impressed with man's intelligence. A person of influence (myself included) can be unquestionably sound in one area of his or her life and totally foolish in another; and I'm not willing to base my life on human understanding that has such inconsistent results.
I've never applied a Biblical principle that didn't eventually work; and any hold-ups have always been because of my incomplete understanding. So with confidence I can say that God has given us in the Bible everything necessary to make us complete and equipped for good works (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and that none of us has the right to try to improve upon God's Word (2 Peter 1:20-21).
Every word that God ever spoke to man and told him to write down is what I believe to be the inerrant Word of God. However, not all Bible translations are created equal. In man's effort to make God's Word more understandable (with a few questionable motives, as well) we have some texts that have a little too much of man's contribution. Any individual, with a sincere interest in knowing what God intended and with continued study of God's Word, will eventually begin to notice when man has overstepped his authority.
If you think that a Bible is a Bible is a Bible, please study the history of those individuals who have worked tirelessly to get it into the hands of the common people. If the Bible's just a harmless book of religious sentiments (as some believe) then why have so many been killed or persecuted as they have brought it to the peoples of the world?
I only speak the English language so I cannot evaluate Bible translations in other languages. As for the English translations, I prefer the King James Version. And if I could only have one Bible to study, it would be the KJV. But I also study especially difficult passages in other translations as well.
Whenever a certain passage is of critical importance to me I do a little deeper study:
- I first study the passage in the KJV.
- Then I look up the meanings of the significant words in that passage with an 1828 version of Webster's Dictionary (a facsimile of the original available at bookstores everywhere). Words frequently mean something different today than they did almost 200 years ago.
- I also study the definitions of the primary words with a Strong's Concordance.
- I usually cross-reference the passage to other passages throughout the Bible.
- And then I usually read the passage in a few other translations.
This is really not a big deal. All these tools are available online as well as in print. You do not have to be an intellectual to understand God's Word. He will help you if you want to be helped.
Here's a practicle example of what I'm talking about, based on 2 Corinthians chapter 9:
Let's say God drops an idea in my head that could be of value to many people. How do I proceed? Does He just give me the idea and then leave it up to me to accomplish?
That's what it seems like sometimes; although this chapter tells me I have everything needed to complete every good work. If I can begin to understand that I have everything I need to accomplish the work, then what? Does God just drop off the supplies at my door and leave me to figure out the rest?
Most translations say in verse ten that God provides-which means, to our western minds, that the rest is up to us. But when I dig a little deeper into the word "provide" which is "minister" in the KJV, I find out that he administers what He supplies.
In other words, He not only provides everything I need to accomplish every good work but He also stays with me every step of the way and shows me how to use that provision wisely. So I find out I am not on my own and don't need to act like I am. This is a huge difference in my mind.
Because the people that visit the ministry are not all Christians, I quote the simplest translation that, in my opinion, doesn't water down the truth.
There's nothing wrong with reading modern thought-for-thought English translations. There's also nothing wrong with preparing dinner in the microwave, but quite a bit of taste is given up for the convenience. As for me, I would rather spend more time in preparation and end up with a more complete and satisfying experience.