There are no complete copies of the original writings of the apostles. What we have are translations and Versions of their writings. The oldest of these are partial and not complete. My understanding is that the Old Testament was very well guarded and very accurately copied by the scribes. This did not happen with the New Testament. This is where the challenge comes in, trying to figure out what the original actually said.
This might make you think that this is an impossible task, but it is not.
The reason that it is not is because we have several ancient texts. So many of these that do not vary from each other very much at all. Because of this we can be quite sure that what we have in these texts is very close to the originals. I have heard but do not know firsthand that there are copies and versions of Shakespeare's writing's, and that these vary quite a bit. Much more than the copies of the New Testament which were written much longer ago than Shakespeare's writings.
The people that translated the Bible were biased. There's no way for them not to be; therefore translations always reflect the translators beliefs. For example if a word can be translated one of two ways and one of the ways agrees with translators theology and the other does not, then it is guaranteed which way he or she will translate it. Whether it is correct or not.
One of the Bible scholars that I have come across is E.W. Bullinger. I very much like his attitude towards a Bible. He believes and I do also that the Bible truly has one author, which is God. Men wrote as God inspired them, therefore there is one author and no contradictions. Bullinger says that when there appears to be a contradiction we need to look for errors in translation as well as in our misunderstanding. I have found this to be true myself that there are no contradictions in the Bible.
I do believe that is the right attitude to have when approaching the Bible and trying to find truth.
There are many different English versions of the Bible and I own and use many of them. Last I counted I was approaching 30 different versions of the New Testament, I don't hesitate to read and compare them. Each is an opinion of how the passage could be translated into English.
So this is the task set before us when Reading or studying the Bible, how to handle these differences, the goal is to find out what is actually being said.
Many of the English Bibles of today are based off of the King James Version, so if it were wrong on a passage many of them could be too.
In my life I've been shown how to use the tools that help you study the Bible. For me personally it wasn't until I had the Bible on computer that it really came alive for me. And the reason for that is as I would study one thing, something else would catch my attention and with the computer I could go down that rabbit trail, and when I was done going down the that rabbit trail, I could back up to what I was originally looking at and continue on with it. Prior to that I did this with books and quite often would lose my interest or lose my place and what I was studying.
Most of the tools made for studying the Bible in English utilize the King James version. Because of that I have used it quite a bit, whether listening to it or reading it or memorizing it, because being familiar with it made using these tools easier. It made finding verses and passages easier by knowing how they were worded.
I have heard too many times that the King James Version was translated from the ‘Original Greek’. Which is incorrect, It was translated from what is called the Stephanus Greek or the Received Text. At the time the Received Text was completed it was not the only nor was it the best Greek version of the Bible. At the time it was published it was not thought of as authoritative. Though many preferred it over the other Greek texts available at that time, it was one of many at that time. Those that put together the Greek texts did so in different ways. Which is quite interesting and doesn't make one authoritative over the others, but does shed light on the strengths each has.
The Received Text and the King James version are both very good versions of the bible. And they are the easiest to start studying with, and I will primarily be using the King James version for that reason and the received text for the Greek. I will point out if I use any other versions in English or in Greek and state why.
There are two schools of thought when approaching the Bible, one is that you look at the whole and then look closer and closer at the details. This would be looking at the whole Bible and gradually breaking it down into New Testament and Old Testament, And then individual books and then chapters then passages then versus and then words. The other is that you look at the words, then versus then passages, chapters books and testaments. I think you need to do both at the same time. I think it's great to read or listen to the whole New Testament over and over, and this will give you a scope what you're dealing with. When you decide you want to go deeper into a particular book of the Bible, I think it's wise to read and reread it and/or listen to it multiple times. In addition Reading anything and everything you can about that book of the Bible realizing that all are just opinions. I recommend this because it’ll give you some background on the book which is very helpful.
I also think it's very important to be able to use the tools available to look up words; definitions as well as where there used elsewhere in the Bible. So I will recommend listening to or reading the new Testament to begin with and I will show you how to start having a deeper understanding of what you're reading.
What I've put together is a how to start studying the Bible. First will be how to look up a word, find out it's definition and finding the other places in the Bible the same word is used. By looking at other places were the same word is used you will have a better understanding of its meaning. The term used for this is called, usage.
Then we will look at phrases, and whole versus, and whole passages, looking to see how all of it fits together. The words the phrases so you can understand what was intended. While being familiar with the whole book will help you get its context.
I think it's important to know who wrote each book of the Bible, and who they wrote it to. Without knowing this occasionally confusion sets in.
Paul wrote a letter to Timothy stating that he should take Wine for his stomach ailment. The fact that Paul wrote this to Timothy, means it applies to Timothy, and not to everybody with a stomach ailment. Everybody with a stomach ailment should not drink wine to fix it.
Likewise there are things Paul says to the Corinthians that do not apply to everybody. I will explain more on that later.
I think it's important to have an idea of when the different books of the Bible were written and how they fit into the overall story of the first century. Before the mystery was revealed it was only partially known, and that is why it was called a mystery. The mystery revealed was a big turning point an understanding Christiandom, so things written before or after it was revealed will have a different feel than things written afterwards.
If just learning Greek and Hebrew was the answer to finding truth then all theologians would be of the same denomination, and they are not.
But being able to handle the Greek I think is the only way to not rely on other people to fix your spiritual food for you. It helps you to be able to think for yourself, it will make it possible to check for yourself and find out if what someone is saying is accurate or is in error.
With the tools available today it is very easy to do.
I use a hand full of concordances, a couple interlinears, and about 15 commentaries. I do not use the commentaries often but when I do I look at many and not just a few. By using many I will see more opinions and be less apt to get sucked into one way of thinking. I also have a couple books on the significance of numbers in scripture, figures of speech, and orientalisms.
With these and some basic principals I find the Bible is not a difficult Book to handle.
I will use analogy to show you the reason I think it is important to be able to study the Bible for yourself.
Some people are only able to microwave a meal.
Some people are able to use a microwave or bake a premade meal, TV dinners or preprepared dishes, And that is all.
Others are able to take fresh produce and spices and meat and make a huge variety of meals.
While others are able to grow vegetables that cannot be found in the grocery stores and Hunt or fish for meat that cannot be found in the grocery stores.
So when it comes to spiritual food do you want yours prepackaged so you can throw it in the microwave not knowing what really is in it. Or would you prefer to go hunt yours down, or pick from your own garden knowing everything there is to know about it. It is your choice. I am a man that does not like to be spoon fed baby food.