Lingamish gets right down to the basics and says one of the best ways to do Bible study is to read the Bible itself. Well, like, duh! My wife says commonsense things like that often, also. Sometimes they just need to be said.
Lingamish recommends reading an idiomatic Bible translation:
Anyone can produce a word-for-word translation. Grab an interlinear and get to work! But producing an idiomatic translation requires an understanding of the Biblical languages and an ability to communicate those ideas in understandable English. An idiomatic translation will show you the meaning of words in their context where a literal translation won’t. Why is that? Because there is not a one-to-one correspondence between words in different languages. Words have multiple senses and a word-for-word translation conceals that fact making you think that you understand a word in every situation when you actually don’t.He goes on to recommend comparing different versions but notes:
Need suggestions for an idiomatic translation in English? Try the Contemporary English Version, or the Good News Bible, or the New Living Translation. These are all excellent translations.
You’re not looking for differences so that you can find out which translations are wrong. The truth is most translations are pretty much the same. There are small differences in wording but by and large they all express pretty much the same information. When you look at two different translations and they sound quite different there are a couple possible reasons:I like Lingamish's style. He doesn't mince words. He gets right to the point. I recommend that you read the rest of his post.
1. One is literal and the other is idiomatic.
In this case, the literal translation can give you a hint as to what the Greek or Hebrew looks like. But the idiomatic translation can tell you what it means.
2. They are saying basically the same thing but using a different expression.
Language is complex. There are many ways to say the same thing. If the translations differ it doesn’t mean one of them is wrong. Every major translation on the market was produced by a team of experts. Despite what the conspiracy theorists think, the translators weren’t trying to put across some hidden agenda. Instead, they wanted to communicate God’s word as accurately and clearly as possible. Dare I say that in most cases the translators are a lot smarter than we are! So don’t be quick to criticize their work. Try to make your own translation. That’s a quick way to realize the difficulty of the task.