A REVIEW OF BIBLE "PER"-VERSIONS
by Wayne S. Walker
The previous article in this series introduced the problem of errors in various translations and the often asked question, how can we be sure if the translation is really God’s word? In order to deal with this problem, it is important to note that there have been "translations" in which the original text has been mishandled in an attempt to slant the reading of God’s word toward the ideas of some man or group of men. Yet, it is also important to point out that we do have a reliable and accurate text in the original languages as a benchmark, a standard, against which we can check human renderings.
Three other "translations" of recent vintage illustrate how careful we should be in evaluating the different versions. The New World Translation was made from 1950 to 1960 by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society refuses to divulge the names of the translators, so there can be no examination of their scholarship credentials. This is a blatant attempt to "revise" God’s word to teach Jehovah’s Witness doctrine. For example, their rendering of John 1:1 is, "In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god." It is well know that one of the Witnesses’ cardinal doctrines is that Jesus Christ is not a divine being. However, Colwell’s rule of Greek grammar shows that the usual translation, "And the Word was God," is correct.
Another example is found in Colossians 1:16 where the New World Translation reads, "Because by means of him all [other] things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All [other] things have been created through him and for him." The original text says, literally, "Because by him were created all things in the heavens and on the earth…." The New World Translation uses brackets to indicate interpolations by the translators. The interpolation of the word "other" fits quite well with the Jehovah’s Witness theology that Christ is a created being through whom God created all "other" things, but it is not what the text says nor what the Bible teaches anywhere else.
Today’s English Version, commonly known as "Good News for Modern Man," was produced by the American Bible Society in 1966 and revised in 1977. The basic text was translated by Robert G. Bratcher, who is reported to have stated that he does not believe in the infallibility and inerrancy of the scriptures. Why such a person would even be chosen to translate God’s word to begin with is a good question because his unbelief would most surely color his work. Today’s English Version was supposed to be "a distinctly new translation…to express the meaning of the Greek text in words and forms accepted as standard by people everywhere who employ English as a means of communication." It falls far short of its goal!
Bratcher chose a style which makes for a racy, even vulgar, reading at times and sounds more like a cheap novel than the word of God. In Acts 8:20 Peter is quoted as telling Simon, "May you and your money go to hell." The word "hell" is not in the text. There are careless (or deliberate?) mistranslations, such as "Saturday evening" in Acts 20:7, instead of "on the first day of the week." And various sectarian doctrines are given credence. The idea of salvation by "faith only" is slipped in at Romans 1:16-17. And Matthew 10:32-33 is made to sound like the denominational teaching of confessing pardon rather than Christ, by reading, "Whoever confesses that he belongs to me…."
Then there is the Living Bible. This was issued as a compilation of scripture paraphrases by Kenneth Taylor, originally intended for children, that were begun in 1962, completed in 1971, and published by Tyndale House Publishers. To be fair, Taylor does not even claim for it genuine translation status but openly admits that it is a paraphrase. However, it was at one time immensely popular. Television advertisements for it had celebrities endorsing it as making the Bible as easy to read as the morning newspaper. Yet, the question must be asked, is one reading the Bible?
In the Living Bible, 1 Kings 20:11 reads, "Don’t count your chickens before they hatch"! Is that what Ben-Hadad really said? The footnote on John 3:3-5 says, "This alternate paraphrase interprets ‘born of water’ as meaning the normal process observed during every human birth." Making "water" refer to the physical birth is a common denominational dodge to take baptism out of the new birth. And Romans 8:16 reads, "For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we really are God’s children." This accords with the human doctrine of the direct operation of the Holy Spirit, but is not at all what the verse says.
Again, we acknowledge that there are mistakes of one kind or another in nearly all versions. However, this does not mitigate against the clear evidence that, from the manuscripts known to us in the original languages, we do have access to a reliable text by which we can be confident that the word of God as He gave it to mankind is available to us. Those versions which seek to remain closest to the original texts should be accepted, and those which do not should be rejected. The next article will look at the "modern speech" translations. (—taken from With All Boldness; April, 2000; Vol. 10, No. 4)