Monday, February 20, 2006

Bible Translations

This is a subject that I have pondered over often since discovering that there were other versions of the Bible besides the great King James. I have followed the tireless debates over this issue on countless forums and must say that most conversations usually degenerate into name calling and vindictiveness. However, there is an incredible amount of ignorance among Christians concerning bible translations which is not helped by the bible-of-the-month "Christian" bookstores and their advertising methods.

For my twelfth birthday I was given a brown leather King James Bible, which sadly collected a lot of dust as it sat on my bookshelf for the next 10 years. When I was growing up in church in the 1980's most people still read mainly from the King James and I seem to remember this being the version of choice in the Southern Baptist church of my childhood. When I turned 22 the Lord began to call me back to Him and I began devouring His Word like a sponge. Of course, the only bible I possessed was the King James given to me ten years earlier. I loved the language of the King James and had no problems whatsoever understanding it. Sure, there were some tough places in the Old Testament, but overall fairly easy to read.

It wasn't long before I heard about the debate over Bible translations and those known as "King James Only." I read many books/booklets from the KJVO point of view, and for a while became convinced of their arguments. You could not get me near a modern "perversion" for anything. A few years ago I read James White's "King James Only Controversey" and it really opened my eyes to the fallacy of many KJVO arguments. So, what did I do next? Naturally, I went out and purchased numerous modern versions of the Bible-NKJV, NASB, ESV, RSV, NIV. I found the New King James to be the most familiar and my favorite among the modern versions. The New American Standard, in my opinion, is the most honest of the Critical Text versions because it includes the disputed verses in brackets. I have really enjoyed the English Standard Version, but am puzzled as to why they would use the liberal RSV as their starting point. The RSV and NIV have pretty much remained on the shelf since they were purchased. The RSV due to it's untustworthy liberal scholarship and the NIV for it's simple butchery of scripture and the tendency of the translators to interpret instead of translating. All of this being said, I still prefer the King James/New King James bibles and unless I am reading from them I always feel as if something is missing.

One of the reasons for this is my belief in the Divine preservation of scripture. I believe it was nothing short of God's sovereign hand in history when the Jews were expelled from Ferdinand and Isabella's Spain in the same time period of the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Could it be just pure coincedence that the Hebrew Masoretic and Greek Received Texts just happened to show up in northwest Europe at the dawn of the Protestant Reformation? Would God have led Luther and Tyndale to inaccurate copies of the Hebrew and Greek texts? I think not! Revelation chapter 10 was being fulfilled as the "little book" was opened and men like Tyndale gave their very life's blood to translate the Bible in the common tongue. How sad it is that few Christians today even know who Tyndale is! Are we to believe that God led his servants, in fulfillment of Revelation chapter 10, to restore His Word to the church based on corrupted Hebrew and Greek texts? God forbid! Do you mean to tell me that the church did not possess an accurate copy of the Bible until those spritual dwarfs on the Revised Version committee produced their revision, or should I say overhaul of the King James?

I often hear the oldest is best argument and it just doesn't hold water. Would not the accurate manuscripts have been so used and worn in their circulation as to warrant continuos copying? So why then, do today's scholars rely so heavily on the shaky testimony of a few contradicting and incomplete manuscripts such as Sinaiticus and Vaticanus? And excuse me, but I don't for one second believe in James White's harmony theory, where the scribes would add words and phrases from memory to make the verses similar to other verses found in the New Testament. For one thing, the scribes devoted their lives to copying the manuscripts and I do not believe they would have added to that which they considered to be holy. If anything, certain scribes would have erred by leaving verses and phrases out, which we see in the less accurate copies of the New Testament. Why would God preserve His Word at Satan's seat in the Vatican library or in a trash pile in some God-forsaken monastery while His people labored over inaccurate copies of His Word? Those poor Reformers and Puritans just didn't know any better, I guess.

All of this being said, I would not describe myself as King James Only but rather King James Preferred. I do not believe this is an issue that should divide Christians. There are a few modern translations, such as the English Standard Version and the New American Standard, that are very good translations of less accurate copies of the New Testament. However, many versions such as the NIV, NRSV, REB, NLT should be avoided. For those that have problems with the Elizabethan language of the King James I would recommend the New King James any day. Do not believe the lies being told by the KJVO about the NKJV, it is an excellent version in my own humble opinion.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can definitely relate. halfway through my second reading of the Bible, I have gone from NASB to NKJV. Not sure of the reason, other than the frequency of questioning certain words was increasing, leading me to question not God's intent, but man's. While investgating translations I ran across this article on the authenticity of scripture, in which it narrowed down the versions to basically, KJV, NKJV, and NASB in that order. the discrepencies for all translations over the history of such have been calculated, and were found to be approx. 10,000. while this seems like a lot, you must look at the sheer quantity of letters/words, and the most glaring errors are very few.(that is as long as you stay away from the newest and most liberal offerings) now if only I could convince some others to at least research their respective translations, and not go on the assumption that newer=better, I would have less acid indigestion. but I am also realizing that I have been trying to convince them in my strength, and not the Person who can actually make that happen.

9:45 AM  
Blogger Jonathan Hunt said...

The post is very well said indeed. Almost precisely my position too - but I often feel like I'm sitting on the fence with people either side trying to tear it down!

3:07 PM  
Blogger carolinabaptist said...

Lately I have very much enjoyed the NKJV and to some extent the ESV. I will always believe that the KJV/AV is the best translation we in the English speaking world will ever see. Sometimes, however, it is nice to read the Scripture in modern language.

4:46 AM  
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