There are four keys in making disciples. The four keys are: 1) Biblical Foundation; 2) Intentional Discipleship; 3) Relational Environment; and 4) a Reproducible Process. As the small group has the key purpose to develop prepared disciples, the Bible is the main focus for that Biblical Foundation. A question people often ask is, “What Scripture (version) do you use?”
There are strengths in every version. In the best intentions of many authors and organizations, and capitalism, there are some 50 translations in the English Bible. The King James Version (KJV) is excellent, but many of the words used are difficult to understand, because they are no longer used in our culture or used in the same way. The New American Standard Version (NAS) is an excellent translation and seeks to be a literal translation of the original languages. It is based on older manuscripts, but the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus manuscripts have many corruptions that may not be as accurate. The New King James Bible (NKJ) has the same purpose as the NAS, but it is based on the Majority Greek Texts and is likely more accurate from the original. The New International Version (NIV) tries to make the text as easy to understand as possible, so it is an excellent reading Bible, but not a good study Bible. The New Amplified Bible is a good text. Bibles like the New World Translation (NWT) were written for Jehovah Witnesses and seek to justify many false doctrines of the Jehovah Witnesses and translates the Bible at the expense of being accurate. The English Standard Version was translated with Calvinist Reformed Theology in mind and translates many verses in order to satisfy the suppositions of Reformed Theology, which hinders accuracy. While there are many translations, they each seek to be accurate. Versions like the New World Translation should be avoided, but you may derive benefit from other versions. Which translation should you use?
First, use the New American Standard Version or the New King James Version. These are the most accurate and objectively true to the original manuscripts without approaching the Bible with presuppositions. This is extremely important, because if theology is the basis for translation, rather than an objective original translation, then theology trumps language and that will result in heresy. In a small group, you can use the New International Version, because many people use that version, but recognize it is not the best for studying God’s Word.
Secondly, let people use the version they are using. Discussion about which version to be used should only arise when the people ask the question. It is best to help people become familiar with Scripture so that they do not think the leader has a hobby horse (version) to ride.
Thirdly, do not make fun of people by the version they use. Do not be sarcastic. Do not put down different versions. It does not help the cause of Christ, because it becomes divisive. It may be an easy put down, or “cute cut,” but is inappropriate.
Fourthly, you can highlight differences of versions. As you note differences, most of the time synonyms are used and the meaning is nearly identical. In some cases, where words are added or deleted, the meaning can change. For example, there are four English versions listed below of Hebrews 5:14. The translations are very close in all of them. However, there is a slight difference in two of them.
NAS Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
NKJ Hebrews 5:14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
NIV Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature,who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
ESV Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Hebrews 5:14 Τελείων δέ ἐστιν ἡ στερεὰ τροφή, τῶν διὰ τὴν ἕξιν τὰ αἰσθητήρια γεγυμνασμένα ἐχόντων πρὸς διάκρισιν καλοῦ τε καὶ κακοῦ.(Heb 5:14 BYZ)
The underlined word in question reveals a literal translation in the NAS and the NKJ, but is loosely translated in the EVS and deleted in the NIV. The Greek word αἰσθητήριαmeans faculty of perception or our senses. The words used in the NAS and NKJ are “trained” and “exercised” respectively. These are very similar, whereas the ESV loosely translates the word as “powers” and amplifies the meaning in the rest of the verse. A key of this verse is that a mature person has been so dependent on God’s Word that He does not depend on his senses as much as his senses are exercised to depend on God’s Spirit to discern both good and evil. The NIV deletes the word from translation. Deleting a word can easily take away meaning.
Fifthly, you can highlight advantages of using the same version. One hundred years ago, everyone in the church used the King James Version. They memorized in the same translation, read the same translation and encouraged each other with the same translation. I’m convinced more people knew more Scripture then, than they do now because everyone used the same version.
Sixth, avoid expanded translations, except when used as quotes or “another version.” Some will use “The Message” or the “New Living Translation” (NLT), but these are paraphrases and not meant for study. They are often very helpful to people in learning about Scripture, but the author’s theological bias is often very clear.
Even though there are so many translations, it does not seem like it has helped our country become better or more grounded in God’s Word. It seems like it has created more problems than it has resolved. Yet, with each new translation, there is more money to be made in our capitalistic society, which is one of the secondary reasons why organizations develop another translation. The primary reason is to help people understand Scripture. The secondary reason, it seems, is that by an additional copyright, there is more money to be made.
Hence, follow the guidelines above, but do not put anyone down for using a different translation.