Update 11/16/23: This post has been moved from my previous site and some links may not work properly. Thank you for your understanding.
Myth #4: It is best to use several different translations/versions of the Bible
The Truth: If you recall from Myth #1, each version of the Bible used must be cited on your copyright page. If you use five different versions, you will have five different permissions statements. You will need to follow the rules for each version as set forth by the copyright holder. While that isn’t all too difficult a task, I have some advice:
Choose and use one version of the Bible.
There are a few reasons I suggest this.
1. Consistency of Style: Many style elements are dictated by the primary style manual. I use The Chicago Manual of Style (CMoS). My secondary style manual, which usually defers to the CMoS, is The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style (CWMS) which contains specific capitalization and uses for terms you’d use in Christian books as well as those permissions statements and assistance with citation. However, there is much room for author choice when it comes to style.
One of the most important style elements that deals with Bible versions is pronouns for God. In my personal preferred version of the Bible, any pronoun for God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit is capitalized. For example:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in
Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16 NKJV, emphasis mine)
In my own writing, I also prefer to capitalize those pronouns. Now, this goes against the advice of the CWMS. But I can get away with it because I want my style to be consistent with that of my preferred version of the Bible. If I used a different version, I would want to match the pronoun usage with that version.
The reason to use one version, then, is to make it less confusing what style you should use! If “He” is capitalized sometimes and not others in both your writing and your Bible versions, a reader can get confused as to whether you are discussing God or Jim Bob over there.
2. Credibility: If you need to use a different version of the Bible for a particular verse because you like the way it is worded, and it fits the argument you are making, you need to stop and think about that. You are essentially changing the wording of the Bible to suit your book.
If you can’t make the argument with the wording in your chosen version, the Bible is not the problem.
Actually, if the Bible doesn’t fit any argument ever, then the Bible isn’t the problem. Your argument is the problem. Period.
If you use one version of the Bible, the reader will get a sense that the Bible is your standard. If you do not have a standard Bible, there is a sense of malleability in what should be your backbone. Measure all you say against one version, and do not change that version based on your wording.
Stick with one version. Make your arguments and wording fit the word of God.
3. Citation Simplicity: Permissions statements come in a few different forms. Some of them are worded so that you can use more than one version:
Scriptures marked NKJV are taken from the New King James Version (NKJV).
Copyright© 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International
Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by
permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com. The “NIV”
and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and
Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™
And if you use one version it will read something like:
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright© 1982 by Thomas Nelson,
Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Now what that means is that every time you change versions of the Bible, the reference will have to include (NKJV) or (NIV). If you use mostly one and a verse from another, you’ll only have to mark the “odd” verse the one time. But if you switch constantly among many versions, each verse will need to have that marking. The version used must be accurate or you will be in violation of copyright. When I copyedit, I check each verse for perfect adherence to the Bible, even if you use twelve versions. Not to scare you, but I have never seen an author who uses more than one Bible version and cites the correct one every time with perfect accuracy. It is hard for an author to keep track of all those versions, and not every editor will check.
Use one version and you’ll never have to mention which one it is except on the copyright page.
Thus, it is best to use one version of the Bible in one Christian work. Not everyone agrees on that, so I’d love to see your arguments for using several!
Editor’s Tip: Passive Voice vs. Active Voice
It is not always advisable to avoid passive voice, and it fits well in some contexts. Passive voice can provide some distance between the author and the audience (as if the writer is just a passive participant in the writing). However, most of the time it is best to be direct. State the subject, then what the subject did—not the other way around.
Passive Voice: The store was gone to by me.
Active Voice: I went to the store.
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