Problems With So Called Translations
Have you ever wondered why all Bible translations do not read the same? Have you ever been frustrated trying to follow along in the Bible you use while someone reads from a different translation he/she uses?
BIBLE PUBLISHING REALITIES All Bibles are not published just to spread the Word of God. This is perhaps one of the motives. Why are so many different Bible translations published anyway? Everyone possibly has his own ideas as to the reasons to make God's Word more understandable; to make the language clearer by replacing out-dated words; to make it more readable.
There are currently about 450 different English translations, paraphrases or retellings of all or parts of the Old and New Testaments. According to Time (9/9/96) "these wildly diverse texts chase the estimated $400 million that Americans spend each year on Bibles. This proliferation has birthed a growing industry in printed guides and videotapes to help sellers and customers sort through the myriad of choices."
PROBLEM # 1: BIBLE TRANSLATIONS ARE PUBLISHED TO MAKE MONEY WITHOUT REGARD TO THEIR ACCURACY.
If you are a book publisher your business is not just publishing books but publishing books that SELL. With a great majority of books that are published the publisher will barely break even. Dale Carnegie in How to Win Friends and Influence People mentions that the president of one of the largest publishing houses in the world confessed that after seventy-five years of publishing experience, he still lost money on seven out of eight books he published.
There may have been a time when you've been in a supermarket, department store, or discount store and seen tables of assorted books on sale. They have a variety of titles. Some have soft covers, some hard covers, fiction and non-fiction, and many have full color dust jackets. Some are works that just didn't sell and some are publishers' overruns. But, ordinarily you don't find Bibles on these tables -- any version! That's because the Bible and its plethora of versions continues to be the all-time best seller. Associated Press business analyst John Cunniff wrote in a 1976 release entitled, "Bible Still Best Seller," wrote; "In the cold, hard material world of book-selling, there is nothing like the Bible. The Word sells like nothing else. It beats sex, diet, money, and fad books. It has no equal year after year."
In 1976 when The Good News Bible was published the first day of December, it sold a million copies in that month. In January it sold 313,000 more. In 1976 sales figures for The Living Bible, The Way, etc. and similar editions was 2.25 million; The Jerusalem Bible about 380,000; the New American Standard Version (NASV) 130,000; and the New Scofield Reference Bible 100,000.
The first printing of the more recent New Living Translation (NLT) called for 950,000 copies, a promotional budget of $2.5 million, and an endorsement on the back cover by Billy Graham.
Many publishers are interested in publishing a version of the Bible and mostly without regard to the version's internal integrity.
Reader's Digest published a condensed version and someone published a feminist's version that was corrected for gender.
Back in April 1998 the Committee for Biblical Translation of the New International Version (NIV) decided to publish the NIV in a "gender neutral" version. It's plan failed miserably and was rejected by many prominent Christian leaders. That intention alone should have alerted NIV users to the Committee for Biblical Translation's true attitude and commitment towards adding to or taking away from God's Word.
Not only do Bibles sell but nice ones sell for much higher prices than the great majority of books. Bonded leather, genuine leather, guilded edges, thumb indexing, etc. will set a price from $50 to $100 dollars, per more per copy.
And most conscientious Bible students will want to know how some of them compare so one must have several versions. This number will increase because of the variety of study/reference Bibles available along with attendant reference materials for each translation. How many Bibles do you have? Without counting I know I have well over two dozen. This includes at least six modern translations and six study/reference Bibles.
PROBLEM # 2: THE VARIETY OF TRANSLATIONS MAKE IT DIFFICULT FOR THE BIBLE TO BE TAUGHT AND UNDERSTOOD.
Can you imagine the average congregation with its many different Bible versions and its pastor trying to preach and teach from his version? This is especially confusing to new Christians because it makes it difficult for them to follow the teaching.
Most effective educators would say it is not good practice to try to teach a class with students using several different editions of the same text Some churches use one particular translation as its pew Bible which may or may not be good depending upon the translation. (Publishers or book stores would be happy to sell pew Bibles to EVERY church -- any version.)
Some years ago pastors would have congregations read in unison from their own Bible the text for the message. Can you imagine what that would sound like in our churches today? "If no one any longer reads the same words on the same page, on what basis will people talk to and understand each other? Will easy-read Bibles, rendering ancient mysteries and miracles in sitcom terms, inspire awe or channel surfing?" (Time, 9/9/96)
It can be no less confusing to those we are trying to reach with the gospel. One pastor (J. Paul Reno) had an experience that documents this fact while visiting Alexandria, Egypt. When Egyptian, Arabic-speaking believers tried to witness to Muslims, they were continually confronted with, "Why do you have so many different versions of the Bible?" The Muslims to whom these Egyptian believers witnessed asked, "If Bible translations contradict each other, how can we believe the Bible? The Koran always says the same thing . . ."
PROBLEM # 3: THERE IS A DILUTION OR OMISSION OF SOME MAJOR DOCTRINES.
In the New King James Version the doctrine of hell is seriously damaged. There are thirty-one references to hell in the Old Testament translated from the Hebrew word sheol. In sixteen places it is rendered hell, completely omitted from Prov.9:18 and in the remaining fourteen places it is left "sheol" (untranslated). (Why should it be untranslated in what is supposed to be an English translation?)
The New International Version (NIV) uses the word hell only 14 times while the AKJ uses it 54 times. This might lead one to believe that hell is not a major doctrine of the Bible, yet Jesus spoke more about hell than He did about heaven.
The New Testament (NKJV) mentions hell as translated from the Greek hades eleven times. It uses the Greek word hades INSTEAD of hell all eleven times. This translation DOES NOT translate into English 25 Bible references to hell, not to mention the 40 references to hell omitted by the NIV. There is inconsistency here.
In the readily affordable, plain, award NKJV I have before me the word "hell" is not even listed in its concordance. In the more expensive editions, it IS listed.
Some modern Bible scholars do not believe in a literal hell. How many of the general population know and understand sheol and hades? How many new Christians reading these translations know to what these terms refer?
The average person will have no idea of sheol and hades. If he consults a dictionary such as Webster's Seventh Collegiate regarding the latter he will find: "1. The abode of the dead in Greek mythology; 2. Sheol; 3. often not cap. HELL." The Manual of Mythology portrays hades as an almost pleasant place.
While hell could seemingly be translated grave at times this does not fit the context of Scripture as a whole. At death all mankind's bodies may be consigned to graves, both saved sinners and unsaved sinners BUT, not all mankind's souls and spirits go to the same place.
Immediately at death unsaved souls and spirits go to a place of torment (hell) awaiting the final, Great White Throne Judgment, when they will be cast into the lake that burns with fire (Hell). Saved souls and spirits go immediately to be with God.
PROBLEM # 4: IT IS SAID ABOUT MODERN TRANSLATIONS THAT THE TRANSLATORS ARE TRYING TO GET RID OF THE ARCHAIC WORDS AND REPLACE THEM WITH TODAY'S ENGLISH.
Consider the word "knew" as used in Gen.4:1 (AKJ), "And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived . . ." "Knew" means had sexual relations with. The NKJV uses the same terminology as the AKJ. If the translators of the NKJV REALLY wanted to use today's English they would have said, "had sex with," or "made love to," or "went to bed with," or "slept with," or "had intercourse with," or "had marital relations with." (This same phenomenon also occurs in Gen.4:17,25; Matt.1:25; Luke 1:34 - among others.)
The word "harlot" is another term used by the NKJV and AKJ alike in some forty places. More commonly understood English words would be whore or prostitute. If the NKJV REALLY wanted to update the language why did it miss so many opportunities? Whore is used in some places, also in the AKJ, but wouldn't it have been more consistent to use the same throughout? In perhaps a minor instance take the English word dung. In six places in the Old Testament the NKJV translates the Hebrew word domen as "refuse" and in six places the word "peresh" as "offal." My Hebrew dictionary says that domen is manure or dung and peresh is excrement (as eliminated) or dung.
Webster's Seventh Collegiate Dictionary says refuse is "the worthless or useless part of something: leavings or trash, garbage." It defines offal as, " 1. the waste or by-products of a process; trimmings of a hide; the by-products of milling used especially for stock feeds; the viscera and trimmings of a butchered animal in dressing; 2. rubbish."
As one writer said about this kind of usage, one who might not mind having a little refuse or rubbish on the kitchen floor would certainly be repulsed by having dung in the same place. The NKJV has opted for weaker language that apparently has no relationship to the Hebrew.
What about updating the language of the AKJ Bible anyway? If the Elizabethan English of the AKJ is out-of-date we could have a grand old time with Shakespeare. Translators or linguists would run into a great deal of furor should this be attempted. If it is so important to preserve Shakespeare's great literary works wouldn't it be beyond comprehension to alter the language of the AKJ Bible? Surely the AKJ Bible is a greater work than any work of Shakespeare. The literary world wouldn't allow such tampering with Shakespeare.
Among other things the AKJ translators were competent masters of the English language, not to mention Greek and Hebrew. Their knowledge of words is unsurpassed today. It is well known today that Johnny can't read well and the average person is not interested in learning unfamiliar words. We should help one to be lazy in studying God's Word? What better way to increase one's vocabulary than studying the AKJ version.
Besides, if the archaic language of the AKJ was REALLY a problem publishers of the AKJ could do like the Thompson Chain Reference Bible Publishers. They list a glossary of some 265 "archaic" words with present day meanings at the end of the book.
What is not generally known is that many modern Bibles use archaic words also. The NIV uses 61 archaic words, NASV 160, NKJV 144, and New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 140.
Many times these same versions change AKJ words that are clearly understood to less understandable and mostly archaic words. The NIV follows this procedure 232 times, the NASV 252, the NKJV 155, and the NRSV 260. (Dr. Laurence Vance, Archaic Words and the Authorized Version)
PROBLEM # 5: CAN GOD'S WORD BE LEGALLY COPYRIGHTED?
The obvious answer is "No!" because only MAN'S word can be copyrighted. When writing for publication no one should EVER have to get permission from a publisher to quote as much of God's Word as he chooses.
I wrote a book that was published some years ago in which I quoted from several Bible translations. Prior to publication I had to get written permission from the publisher of each translation before I could quote GOD'S WORDS in print. Did those WORDS belong to the publisher or to the translator(s)?
The fact that modern Bible versions are copyrighted tells the reader that they couldn't possibly say the same things as the AKJ. If they did they could not be copyrighted. The Derivative Copyright Law states: "To be copyrightable, a derivative work must be different enough from the original to be regarded as a 'new work' or must contain a substantial amount of new material. Making minor changes or additions of little substance to a pre-existing work will not qualify the work as a new version for copyright purposes."
And if a man's name happens to be associated with a translation of the Scriptures, that glorifies the man, not God. Would translators be willing to allow their work to be a living sacrifice (Rom.12:1)?
Should their attitudes be as John's: "He must increase but I must decrease" (John 3:30). To paraphrase a recent idiom: "It is unlimited what one could do for God if he didn't care who got the credit."
Following the same reasoning, should a reference Bible be named after the man that edited it, or even King James?
PROBLEM # 6: WE NO LONGER HAVE ONE UNANIMOUS, CLEAR-CUT, AUTHORITATIVE STANDARD.
Having taught chemistry and physics for ten years I know one must have accurate standards. These standards must always be considered and they do not vary appreciably whether they came from some chemistry or physics text or from a book of math tables or from The Handbook of Chemistry and Physics.
All translations cannot be God's Word because they all don't say the same thing. If God gave us ONE Standard (and He did) it should always be the same; consistent. The standard should be pure. If the standard is defective the whole system will crumble. People lose faith in a questionable standard. They are afraid to trust it.
Most people might agree that there are counterfeit Christians (apostates) and counterfeit Christian music (CCM?). Yet they apparently don't believe the master counterfeiter who will counterfeit God's own Son (Antichrist) would also counterfeit God's Word.
Then which translation is God's Word? He said He would forever preserve His Word perfect. The trouble with most Christians is they don't actually believe God could and has pre-served His Word in perfect form today. Yet He says that He has in Psalm 12:7; "Thou shalt keep them," (God's words) "O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever."
They think only the original autographs were perfect and God, though entirely capable, could not keep His Word pure through the years (even though He said He would). They know that Scripture says, "With God all things are possible" (Matt.19:26; Mark 10:27) but in their hearts do not believe it.
Samuel C. Gipp, Th.D. in "The Answer Book" points out some things that have come to pass in this country since The American Standard Version of 1901 started the American flood of modern Bibles.
Abortion has been legalized, God (and prayer) has been kicked out of the public schools, dope (drugs and alcohol) has become an epidemic, Satanism is on the rise, abundant TV and VCR home pornography, child kidnapping and child pornography running rampant, and homosexuality accepted nationally as an "alternate life-style.
Truthfully, it may not be possible to DIRECTLY attribute all this decadence to an increase in modern Bible translations but it certainly could be the INDIRECT results.
There is an old adage of military strategy which says, "divide and conquer." Christianity today is divided over Bible translations. We no longer have ONE standard. Being divided makes it easier to be conquered. The Master said, "A . . .house divided against itself shall not stand." (Matt. 12:25)
By G. Grady Daniel, Jr.