Bible Translations—Q & A
What is your opinion of the King James Version?
I love the King James Version. I have studied it carefully for many years. I use it heavily in my personal Bible study. Many people have come to know the Lord Jesus Christ through the King James Version. Many Christians have become strong in the Lord Jesus Christ through the King James Version.
Then what is the purpose of having other English translations?
For one thing, the English language has changed through the years. Some words that meant one thing in the 17th and 18th centuries have come to mean other things today. For someone who is familiar with King James English, this may not be a problem. But for others, it can be a huge problem.
For example, in the KJV, 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Evil communications corrupt good manners.” To a casual reader, this might seem to mean that if you say bad things, it is very impolite. Or, “It is not good manners to say bad things.” But a study of the Greek words used in this verse will make it clear that the meaning is, “Bad company corrupts good morals.” A young (or old!) person, reading this verse in the KJV, might miss the real point of what God is saying!
1 Peter 3:1 says, “They also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives.” A casual reader might assume that God is saying that husbands may be won without the Word of God by the way their wives talk. However, a careful study of the Greek makes it clear that He is saying almost the exact opposite! The character of a wife may win her husband to the Lord without the wife saying many words at all!
What are some extreme attitudes about translations?
At one extreme, some people may virtually refuse to use the King James Version (KJV) on the grounds that: (1) the English has changed so much or (s) that King James himself was such a wicked king or (3) because Erasmus, the Roman Catholic (humanist) priest who compiled the Textus Receptus (Received Text or Byzantine text) on which the KJV is based simply translated some of the Greek in his Greek NT from the Latin Vulgate. At the other extreme, some people may refuse to accept the validity of any translation except the KJV. This "King James only" approach leads to some interesting difficulties, such as...
If the King James Version is the only translation that should ever be used, what version should be used by people around the world who do not speak and read English?
That's a good question. If the KJV is the only acceptable translation, then non-English readers around the world have a problem. They have no Bible.
If the King James Version is the only translation that should ever be used, was there an acceptable translation of the Bible before 1611?
That's another good question. If the KJV is the only acceptable translation, then people who lived before 1611 had a problem. They had no Bible. But God has preserved His Word though the ages in many different translations in many different languages.
So what is the problem if the King James Version happens to be the version I prefer to use?
No problem! Just watch out for the extremes! Unfortunately in recent times there have been many unwarranted criticisms aimed at some other excellent translations of God’s Word. These criticisms have been based on a misunderstanding of these translations. There have even been accusations made against some translations that would imply that the translations are from the devil himself! I urge these critics to be very careful! It would be very unwise to attribute to the devil things that are of God! Many have become quite emotional in this debate, sometimes taking a position they know very little about. In some cases they have taken a strong stand against certain translations simply because they have heard a pastor or a brother or sister make strong criticisms of that translation. Just because someone is very passionate in their opposition to a translation does not mean that they have studied the issue thoroughly or that they have taken a wise stand on the issue.
It’s one thing to say that you love the KJV or to say that the KJV is your favorite translation. There is nothing wrong with that! But it is quite another thing to reject or criticize other translations which may very well be wonderful translations of the Word of God.
In what languages did God originally inspire His Word?
The Old Testament was written in Hebrew (with some Aramaic) and the New Testament in Greek (with a few Aramaic words).
Was the King James Version the first translation of the Bible into English?
No. There were earlier English translations. For example, the favorite translation of the Pilgrims who came to America in the 17th Century was the Geneva Bible. When the King James Version was published, they rejected it in part because they felt it to be influenced by the Roman Catholic Church. (The original King James Version included the Apocrypha. The King James translators acknowledged consulting the Roman Catholic Rheims translation.) Of course, they were also very doubtful of King James himself, who was a notoriously wicked and depraved man.
When was the King James translation first published?
So my KJV is a copy of the 1611 translation?
Actually, no, it is not. The KJV has been “revised” several times. Most all the King James translations available today are copies of the revision of 1769. (Even though Bibles often do not mention that fact.) Most people today would find the original King James Version of 1611 very difficult to read.
Some people have said that the newer translations have “taken the Blood out” or “taken out the Virgin Birth.” Is this true?
No, it is not true. But the best way to learn the answer to this question is to read the translations for yourself! For example, for comparison purposes, here are some passages from the King James Version, the New American Standard Version, the New International Version, and the Holman Christian Standard Version:
1 John 1:7 (KJV) But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
1 John 1:7 (NAS) but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
1 John 1:7 (NIV) But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
1 John 1:7 (HCS) But if we walk in the light, as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son, cleanses us from all sin.
Hebrews 9:14 (KJV) How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
Hebrews 9:14 (NAS) how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
Hebrews 9:14 (NIV) How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
Hebrews 9:14 (HCS) How much more will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve the living God!
Ephesians 2:13 (KJV) But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
Ephesians 2:13 (NAS) But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Ephesians 2:13 (NIV) But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
Ephesians 2:13 (HCS) But now in Christ Jesus you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah.
Isaiah 7:14 (KJV) Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14 (NAS) "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14 (NIV) Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14 (HCS) Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel.
Matthew 1:23 (KJV) Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
Matthew 1:23 (NAS) "BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD, AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL," which translated means, "GOD WITH US."
Matthew 1:23 (NIV) "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" —which means, "God with us."
Matthew 1:23 (HCS) See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel, which is translated "God is with us."
Then why would anyone say that some translations have “taken out part of the Bible?”
Suppose I made a copy of the Bible. When I got to John 3:16, I wrote, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life, through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Later, a scholar who studies the Greek manuscripts reads my copy and says, “Wait a minute. That last phrase may be good theology, but it is not really in the Greek.” And he takes it out.
One could accuse him of “taking out the blood.” But what he has really tried to do is give a translation that most accurately reflects what God inspired in the first place.
In the days before the printing press, it would certainly have been possible for a copyist to include words which may have reflected truth and good theology, but which were not actually in the original manuscripts.
For example, John 3:13 quotes Jesus as saying, “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” Some Greek manuscripts include those last four words (“which is in heaven”) and some Greek manuscripts do not include them. It is at least conceivable that a copyist might have added the words to emphasize the true doctrine of the divinity of Christ, even though the original manuscripts may not have included those exact words.
In Ephesians 1:7 we read, “ In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” In Colossians 1:14 we read, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” All the Greek manuscripts agree that the phrase “through his blood” is part of Ephesians 1:7. However, many Greek manuscripts omit that phrase in Colossians 1:14. It is at least conceivable that a copyist added the words in Colossians 1:14 so that it would read the same as Ephesians 1:7.
Which translation is based on the best Greek manuscripts?
We have thousands of ancient Greek manuscripts. They are all in agreement on passages that would affect any basic Bible teachings. There are some minor differences among some of the manuscripts, and in those cases sincere, conservative Christian, Bible-believing manuscript scholars may disagree about which of the manuscripts are “best.”
Some scholars believe the oldest manuscripts are closer to the originals. They point out that the early Church leaders quoted from the older manuscripts, not from the Byzantine text.
But other scholars believe that even though the King James is not translated from the oldest manuscripts, it is translated from the most accurate manuscripts.
The point here is that while there may be room for honest debate among the scholars about the manuscript differences in a few verses, there is actually NO Bible teaching that depends on the minor differences in ancient manuscripts.
Therefore it is probably not wise to become too critical of any particular translation, just because there are slight differences in wording or disagreements on a relatively small number of verses.
Is there any reason to avoid using the King James Version?
No! While it is important to understand that many words have changed their meanings since the King James translation was written, there is no reason to avoid the King James Version. Some people, who have not read the Bible very much or who are not familiar with King James English, may find the King James Version difficult to understand simply because the English language has changed through the years. But certainly, with the help of good Bible study tools, it can be read and understood by most English readers.
What should my attitude be toward those who might have strong disagreements with me on the issue of Bible translations?
Love and humility.
“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” (Galatians 5:14-15)
“But He giveth more grace. Wherefore He saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. (James 4:6)
Good external links
http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/kjvdebat.html (Probe Ministries):
https://www.evidenceforchristianity.org/index.php?option=com_custom_content&task=view&id=3954 (Evidence for Christianity)
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