OUR USE OF BIBLE TRANSLATIONS
I would like to say a few words about our use of Bible translations. There are five versions that you will find in our writing. They are the King James Version, the New King James Version, the American Standard Version, the New American Standard Version and the Dead Sea Scrolls Bible. If you have been reading on our site, you may have come across a number of statements declaring that we have an accurate copy of the Bible. I stand behind what I have written regarding this. Having said that, I also wish to say that there is no such thing as a perfect translation of the English Bible in the world today. There is a difference between saying that we have an accurate copy of the Bible and saying that all copies of the Bible are accurate. There is a difference between saying that we have an accurate copy of the Bible and saying that we have and 100% perfectly accurate copy of the Bible. There is no 100% perfectly accurate copy of the English Bible. However, there are scholarly, credible translations of the Bible that do an exceptional job of conveying the sacred writings from the original form into our English language.
Many in the Christian community are not aware that there is a raging controversy over which Bible should be authoritative and which should be discarded. The controversy concerns two separate issues. The first issue has to do with the approach to translation that translators use. The first approach is called “a literal approach to translation.” This approach aims at translating, as much as possible, word for word translation of the original languages into English. Allowances are made for the differences in sentence structure in the original languages and in English. The final product follows quite closely to the original manuscript text. Such translation may require the use of study helps such as commentaries, etc., to fully open up the meaning of much of their precise theological language. The goal is always accuracy and this takes priority over readability. This literal approach to translation is what I feel is best and the translations that I have used are generally accepted as having taken this approach. The other approach to Bible translation is called “free verse translation.” This approach aims at translating from the original text into English thought for thought but not necessarily word for word. The translator reads the original text and then seeks to convey the thought contained in a verse without restricting himself to the actual words as they appear in the original. This approach involves interpretation on the part of the translator. Some would call these translations a paraphrase. However, the word “paraphrase” is being used less. Whether they are a fully paraphrased Bible or a Bible that combines both approaches, most modern English Bible translators apply, to a greater degree, the free verse approach over the literal approach to translating. I do not agree with a free verse approach to translating.
The second issue concerning the controversy over which Bible should be considered authoritative has to do with the manuscripts themselves. Throughout the centuries, or at least from the time of the Reformation onward, the most widely accepted underlying manuscript that was used to translate from was the Textus Receptus. This great underlying text can be traced back to Erasmus of the Reformation period and was used by Martin Luther, William Tyndale and the translators of the King James Bible. Because of its wide use over centuries, and how it has endured many hostile attempts to eradicate it, many feel that God has put a special mark of favour upon it. Challenging the Textus Receptus are a group of manuscripts sometimes called “Alexandrian Manuscripts,” named after the place where they were originally copied. Most notable among these manuscripts are Textus Vaticanus and Textus Sinaiticus. These manuscripts contain some differences between themselves and the Textus Receptus and modern Bible versions that have preferred Alexandrian rendering, therefore differ somewhat from translations such as the King James Version. Why do many Bible translators prefer Alexandrian manuscripts? It is because they are considered older. Those that prefer the Textus Receptus over the Alexandrian manuscripts argue that just because they are a little bit older does not necessarily mean that they are more accurate. This is a raging debate. In my opinion, the differences between the King James Bible and some of the other literal translation Bibles that also draw from Alexandrian texts has, to some degree, been overplayed. In my opinion, the King James Bible, the New King James Bible, the American Standard Version and the New American Standard Version agree with each other much more than they disagree. Having said this, I do not wish to defend one position in this debate over the other 100% completely. There are some differences between these translations that are disturbing and I would like to draw your attention to some of these differences.
As I have mentioned already, there are five versions of the Bible that I have used in my writings. I would like to say a few words about each of them. I consider them to be generally good, but I also have some words of criticism concerning them.
My writings include quotations taken from the King James Bible. This historic translation was translated originally in the year 1611. The time shortly before the King James Bible saw Protestant reformers pressing hard for an English translation of the Bible. Men like William Tyndale came forward with translations but they were strongly suppressed by the Catholic Church and by the English Crown. By the early 1600s, England had broken away from the Catholic Church and the monarchy saw value in having an English translation of the Bible. King James commissioned the work and a body of translators began the task in the year 1604. Their historic work, once again, is known as the King James Version of the Bible and this book is, without a doubt, the most influential piece of English literature ever published. More copies of this have been printed than of any other book in history and it is still widely used over four hundred years later. I have a great deal of respect for this translation and have used it in many places, especially in my tract literature. Having said this, it is not a perfect translation. Language changes over time and words adopt new meanings. One example of this would be, in 1 Peter 3.1, where Peter says “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;” Conversation in this verse meant “behavior” in the time that the King James Bible was written. Modern translations make this correction. This, of course, does not represent an error in the translation of the King James Bible but, rather, a change in language. Also, in Colossians 1.14, the deity of Christ is not as clearly communicated in the King James Bible as in other translations of this verse. Also, the King James translation of Acts 12.4 is very questionable. Chapter 12 claims that Herod imprisoned Peter and intended to bring him out after Easter. Most translations claim that he intended to bring him out after Passover. Easter and Passover are separate holidays. Defenders of the King James translation of this verse say that Passover is incorrect here because verse 2 implies that Peter was taken before the days of unleavened bread and that the feast of unleavened bread began on the 15th day of the first month. Leviticus 23.5-6 teaches that Passover fell on the 14th day of the first month. For this reason, King James advocates say that “Passover” would not be correct in Acts 12.4. However, this is a very weak argument because the Feast of Unleavened Bread was more than a one-day celebration and Acts 12.3 specifically says “ … days of unleavened bread.)”
Another translation that I have used is the New King James translation. This modern translation was put together by a team of 130 scholars and Church leaders, over a 7-year period, with the aim of producing an up-to-date edition of the King James Bible.
Another translation that I have used is the American Standard Version. This translation is rarely used today. It was first published in 1901. Its copyright has expired and it is in public domain. Those who hold to a “King James only” often criticize modern translations for not having the following verses in their Bible: Matthew 17.21, 18.11, 23.14, Mark 7.16, 9.44, 9.46, 11.26, 15.28, Luke 17.36, 23.17, John 5.3-4, Acts 8.37, 15.34, 24.7, 28.29 and Romans 16.24. However, if you look in the ASV, all of these verses appear. The ASV even has all twenty verses of Mark 16. However, some verses are questionable in the ASV. It renders 1 Timothy 3.16; “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; [a]He who was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the spirit, Seen of angels, Preached among the [b]nations, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.” (Footnote [a] The word God, in place of He who, rests on no sufficient ancient evidence. Some ancient authorities read which. [b] Or, Gentiles)
Jesus, here, is “ … He who was manifested in the flesh, …” The King James, however, says of Him “ … God was manifest in the flesh, …” The deity of Christ is declared more strongly in King James Version than it is in the ASV in the case of this verse. Also, the King James and the ASV offer quite different renderings of 1 John 5.7. This verse has been an important one for many who have used it to teach the doctrine of the trinity. In the King James it reads “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” However, in the ASV it reads “And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is the truth.” Another difference is Colossians 1.14. In the ASV it reads “in whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins:” However, in the King James it reads; “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:” The ASV does not contain the phrase “ through his blood” here.
I have also used the New American Standard Version. This translation, put out by the Lockman Foundation, is widely respected by scholars today. I have used it in many places in my writing. Concerning the list of verses that “King James only” defenders point out as missing from modern translations, mentioned in the previous paragraph, the NASV also contains all of these verses. However, it does place brackets around them, saying that they are not contained in the oldest manuscripts. There is nothing untrue about this statement. No one argues that the Alexandrian manuscripts are not older than the Textus Receptus manuscripts. Instead, debaters argue whether or not they are more accurate than the Textus Receptus manuscripts. It is to the credit of the NASV translation that these verses appear in its text, not just in a footnote. The NASV also includes all twenty verses of Mark 16. However, as in the case of the ASV, and as has been mentioned in the previous paragraph, 1John 5.7, Colossians 1.14, 1 Timothy 3.16, differ with the King James Version.
I have also used the Dead Sea Scrolls Bible in the past. This is a scholarly translation of the ancient manuscripts discovered in caves near the Dead Sea, between 1947 and 1956, known to us as the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls are extraordinarily old and have proved to be enormously valuable to scholars and Bible educators. This translation of the scrolls into English, of course, does not contain New Testament documents but, rather, Old Testament documents. It does not contain all of the Old Testament books, nor are the books that it contains perfectly complete. Some have suffered deterioration. It also contains some extra-biblical or apocryphal writings. Unfortunately this translation is strictly copyrighted and I have had to take down and stop distributing my two books “Jesus Christ And The Dead Sea Scrolls” and “Judaism and Christianity” that have quoted from it.