Churches Should Adopt a Modern Version of the Bible

In my previous post, I asked if churches should abandon the King James Version for a modern English translation. I answered, “Yes,” and suggested there were two main reasons…But the truth is that after 400 years it suffers a number of shortcomings when compared to modern versions. I will mention two.

The biggest problem by far with the KJV is the archaic language…Another part of the translation problem with the KJV is that although it was well done for its day, our knowledge of the biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek has advanced significantly since 1611. This means that today we have a more accurate understanding of what the original authors of Scripture were saying, and we can express that in current, natural English.

Dr. Bill Combs at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary asks if Churches Should Adopt a Modern Version of the Bible.

See also: Should Churches Abandon the King James Version?

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There are 19 Comments

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Totally agree. While there is not reason to denigrate the KJV, there is no good reason for any church to be using it today. It puts an unnecessary stumbling block in the way of the Gospel. Personally, I could attend a church using the KJV if I had to and have used the KJV when providing pulpit supply, but I would never accept a pastorate again in a church where I had to use the KJ.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

JG's picture

where the Greek definite article is absent and the modern translations include the English definite article with no more basis than the KJV does in John 4:27. His "not understanding the article" argument was largely mystifying to me. On the same basis, we can prove that the ESV and other translators don't understand it, either.

It is quite one thing to disagree with a translational decision. It is quite another to charge translators who manifestly got it spot on many multiple times with "not understanding". It left the impression that Dr. Combs may not understand....

christian cerna's picture

I personally believe that the ASV Bible is the most beautiful translation in the English language. It is also accurate.

That being said, I use the ESV Bible for memorization.

I don't really buy into that whole argument, about modern translations being a lot more accurate, or about modern scholars having a better understanding of what the original authors of scripture wanted to say. I think that is all just marketing hype, on the part of the Bible/book publishers. You have to remember that you will not get an unbiased statement from them, seeing as how they own the publishing rights to the modern translations, and have much to gain financially by how well their Bibles sell.

I appreciate all of the modern translations and the books that are out there. However, call me a bit cynical, when I say that I think the main reason for why the KJV translation was pushed aside, was because of modern book publishers wanting to market their own version of the Bibles. Since the KJV is public domain, any book publisher could print and sell that version of the bible. Too much competition. In order for a book publishing company to ensure no competition, and to make the most money from Bibles, they had to own the rights to that Bible- something that could only be done by producing their own translation.

I want to be optimistic about the whole thing, but I think that in the end, having so many translations and updates to the English Bible, will be detrimental to the Church- as each Church uses its own version, that limits dialogue between churches. And what do you do when you want to discuss a serious doctrinal issue with someone who is using a different version of the Bible? If my Bible reads that homosexuality is a sin, and another person's bible doesn't mention the word homosexuality, then how can there be dialogue? Have you ever tried to have a Bible study group, where almost every person is using a different translation? Trust me, it's not pretty.

Matthew Olmstead's picture

christian cerna wrote:
. . . However, call me a bit cynical, when I say that I think the main reason for why the KJV translation was pushed aside, was because of modern book publishers wanting to market their own version of the Bibles. Since the KJV is public domain, any book publisher could print and sell that version of the bible. Too much competition. In order for a book publishing company to ensure no competition, and to make the most money from Bibles, they had to own the rights to that Bible- something that could only be done by producing their own translation.

I want to be optimistic about the whole thing, but I think that in the end, having so many translations and updates to the English Bible, will be detrimental to the Church- as each Church uses its own version, that limits dialogue between churches. And what do you do when you want to discuss a serious doctrinal issue with someone who is using a different version of the Bible? If my Bible reads that homosexuality is a sin, and another person's bible doesn't mention the word homosexuality, then how can there be dialogue? Have you ever tried to have a Bible study group, where almost every person is using a different translation? Trust me, it's not pretty.

Yep, you're cynical. Smile

I don't follow your second paragraph. How would having different translation limit dialogue? Dialogue about what? What doctrinal issues of import would be significantly effected with different translations? Your example of homosexuality seems to presuppose that the authority is finally in the English translation rather than the text of scripture which underlies it. Your rhetorical question at the end seems to beg for an answer to the question, Why are translations different? I have been in a Bible study where the question has come up. It's a good exercise to try to find out why they are different. Certainly the worst thing would be to assume that one of them is flat wrong.

Try not to be cynical. Translators have godly motives!

Father of three, husband of one, servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. I blog at mattolmstead.com.

christian cerna's picture

Matthew Olmstead wrote:
christian cerna wrote:
. . . However, call me a bit cynical, when I say that I think the main reason for why the KJV translation was pushed aside, was because of modern book publishers wanting to market their own version of the Bibles. Since the KJV is public domain, any book publisher could print and sell that version of the bible. Too much competition. In order for a book publishing company to ensure no competition, and to make the most money from Bibles, they had to own the rights to that Bible- something that could only be done by producing their own translation.

I want to be optimistic about the whole thing, but I think that in the end, having so many translations and updates to the English Bible, will be detrimental to the Church- as each Church uses its own version, that limits dialogue between churches. And what do you do when you want to discuss a serious doctrinal issue with someone who is using a different version of the Bible? If my Bible reads that homosexuality is a sin, and another person's bible doesn't mention the word homosexuality, then how can there be dialogue? Have you ever tried to have a Bible study group, where almost every person is using a different translation? Trust me, it's not pretty.

Yep, you're cynical. Smile

I don't follow your second paragraph. How would having different translation limit dialogue? Dialogue about what? What doctrinal issues of import would be significantly effected with different translations? Your example of homosexuality seems to presuppose that the authority is finally in the English translation rather than the text of scripture which underlies it. Your rhetorical question at the end seems to beg for an answer to the question, Why are translations different? I have been in a Bible study where the question has come up. It's a good exercise to try to find out why they are different. Certainly the worst thing would be to assume that one of them is flat wrong.

Try not to be cynical. Translators have godly motives!

What is the reason for so many modern translations? Is the KJV really that difficult for the average church person to understand? It was used for several centuries in English speaking churches. Even if the language in some places does not represent how modern English speakers converse, is that really a bad thing? Are Shakespear's play being revised like this also? Is it really not a critique on how corrupted the English language has become, and how illiterate many people have become, rather than a critique of the KJV text? Instead of dumbing down English translations, should we not focus more on educating people in the Church, providing them with dictionaries and other Bible study tools, and encouraging them to become better readers?

Regardless, it doesn't matter how simplified they make a translation. It cannot make people actually read and study the Bible. And that is the problem. Christians are just not reading the Bible enough. I would say that a majority of church goers, only open their Bible during Sunday's service. Most of the time, their Bibles are probably collecting dust on a shelf, or lying behind the back seat of a car.

Those who are diligent readers of the Bible, are people who want a beautiful and elegant translation. Something that they can enjoy sitting down and reading, and memorizing, and meditation on.

If someone were to ask you to memorize Psalm 23 to recite at a funeral, I can almost guarantee that most of you would choose the KJV version of that Psalm.

Greg Linscott's picture

In the last couple of years, we have begun ministering to a group of Karen, a tribal people native to Burma/Myanmar. We can have 30 or more on a given Sunday ( http://firstbaptistmarshall.com/when/our-karen-ministry/ http://firstbaptistmarshall.com/when/our-karen-ministry/ ). For most of them, it is difficult enough reading English- trying to help them through KJV English would be ridiculous.

As population demographics in our country continue to shift, I am of the firm opinion that those who do not eventually make some kind of shift (we generally use the NKJV here and supplement with other translations as the need and occasion arises) will certainly limit their effectiveness with the diverse population that will reside here in the USA.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Matthew Olmstead's picture

christian cerna wrote:

What is the reason for so many modern translations? Is the KJV really that difficult for the average church person to understand? It was used for several centuries in English speaking churches. Even if the language in some places does not represent how modern English speakers converse, is that really a bad thing? Are Shakespear's play being revised like this also? Is it really not a critique on how corrupted the English language has become, and how illiterate many people have become, rather than a critique of the KJV text? Instead of dumbing down English translations, should we not focus more on educating people in the Church, providing them with dictionaries and other Bible study tools, and encouraging them to become better readers?

Regardless, it doesn't matter how simplified they make a translation. It cannot make people actually read and study the Bible. And that is the problem. Christians are just not reading the Bible enough. I would say that a majority of church goers, only open their Bible during Sunday's service. Most of the time, their Bibles are probably collecting dust on a shelf, or lying behind the back seat of a car.

Those who are diligent readers of the Bible, are people who want a beautiful and elegant translation. Something that they can enjoy sitting down and reading, and memorizing, and meditation on.

If someone were to ask you to memorize Psalm 23 to recite at a funeral, I can almost guarantee that most of you would choose the KJV version of that Psalm.

Apparently you're not willing to engage in a discussion since there don't seem to be answers to my original questions in this post. Rather, it's full of more unfounded and non sequitor assertions. You haven't proven anything. You can answer your first question by reading the preface to the translations yourself. The question about difficulty is predicated on the presupposition that the KJV is somehow authoritative in itself and misses the point of translating the originals in the first place, as does your "bad thing" question that follows. Your analogy of Shakespeare is invalid since Shakespeare was originally written in English. The reading level issue is really a red herring. It's not about reading level; it's about the language we use, the grammar, the syntax. You present a false dilemma with "educating" the church instead of "dumbing down" the translations—churches who use modern translations are educating their people. The real question you must ask is why not? Why not continue to translate the scriptures into the language of the people?

Hey, listen, I understand how difficult and emotional this argument can get, but we really need to get beyond that and to the substantive.

Father of three, husband of one, servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. I blog at mattolmstead.com.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

How is modernizing the text dumbing it down. While publishing houses are motivated by profits (at least in part) when developing a new translation, many of the modern translation teams are scholars who are looking to produce a better translation than we had previously, just like the KJ translators in 1611. As Dr. Combs said, more is known and available for use now than in 1600. Are we not fools if we despise, or even neglect, what God has preserved for our use?

Quote:
Another part of the translation problem with the KJV is that although it was well done for its day, our knowledge of the biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek has advanced significantly since 1611. This means that today we have a more accurate understanding of what the original authors of Scripture were saying, and we can express that in current, natural English.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Matthew Richards's picture

christian cerna wrote:
Those who are diligent readers of the Bible, are people who want a beautiful and elegant translation. Something that they can enjoy sitting down and reading, and memorizing, and meditation on.

I just want a translation that reflects what the original authors wrote. If it changes the elegance of the KJV, I frankly do not care. IMHO, diligent readers of the Bible want an accurate translation that doesn't have hundreds of words that are no longer in use among most English speaking people. Use the KJV in your private study if you love the beauty of it--Dr. Combs is referring to the official version of a church body.

Matthew Richards

Barry L.'s picture

I think christian cerna is referring to language like this link in Crossway.

[url ]http://www.crossway.org/rights-permissions/esv/

To be honest, makes it feel "owned". Any other religious literature, i.e. commentarys, music, etc, I understand, but the Word of God?

If a new translation was a collaborative of biblical scholars for the purpose of a true to original text translation; and then leave it open for all to publish, I'd feel better about it.

SamH's picture

that a translation can come from a source without having commercial concerns involved is quite unlikely. People like to, and need to be paid for the efforts they make--in translating, in publishing, etc. The idea behind copyright is not only a business concern (a legitimate one) but one of accuracy, integrity and consistency. The various versions of the AV point out the inconsistency which can occur, even when owned/controlled by something which is not so crass (tongue in cheek) as a business, but far more noble--the Crown. When someone says "I'm quoting from Wikipedia" (admittedly an argument from the absurd) in a sense we all say: "so, HOW reliable is this quote?" But, someone claiming to quote from an ESV, or whatever, has to (in this digital age) quote carefully and perfectly in order to be able to say "this is from the ESV." The notion he is implying is that "I am quoting from a known standard--you can check it out. They even have a basis for how they did their translation work publicly stated." This is valuable when coming to something as important as The Text of the Scripture. The scholars involved in doing this work had to be careful, and had to be paid. There needs to be a means of policing the value of the translation itself--commercial connections help in this. It's not the only answer, I grant, but it is essentially about as good as it gets.

SamH

Jay's picture

Barry L. wrote:
To be honest, makes it feel "owned". Any other religious literature, i.e. commentarys, music, etc, I understand, but the Word of God?

If a new translation was a collaborative of biblical scholars for the purpose of a true to original text translation; and then leave it open for all to publish, I'd feel better about it.


Barry-

And how would we go about agreeing on the best original texts? You ask a good question, but we've hashed and hashed and hashed the text issue over on SI and we can't come to a consensus about the best text types that doesn't ultimately wind up at "it's the best text because I say that it is".

As for publishing - the laborers are worthy of their hire, and it is just to make sure that they are paid for the hard and painstaking work of translation. That's before we get into designers/layout technicians, ink and printers, and the cost of raw materials to produce Bibles.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

christian cerna's picture

Ultimately, no matter what modern translation we choose to use, we are relying on the work of a handful of men, who we trust, will be led by God to produce a valuable work. However, we must be realistic, and see that no matter how good a translation seems to be, as long as the rights to that translation is owned by a publishing company, they will always feel the need to revise the text every so years- because they will either find some things that can be improved, or Company XYZ will revise their version of the Bible, so now they must revise their version to keep up with them. Is it any coincidence that the ESV and NIV were both revised again in 2011. Who was first, I don't know. This of course, makes it difficult for persons like myself, who like to memorize the scriptures, or for congregations that use pew bibles. Will we have to buy a new Bible every few years to keep up with revisions?

James K's picture

Study is done in the original languages. The Christian is near to being overloaded with resources on this. So many are free right on the internet. God forbid people have to think for themselves. KJVO people have to believe that thought ended with whatever version of that version translated from whatever version of the TR versions.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

J Ng's picture

Amazing how all the tired, old arguments that have little or no basis get trotted out again and again, both here and on Dr Combs's blog.

Kinda reminds me of D.A. Waite's failed "fourfold superiority" arguments. Superior texts never to be excelled. Superior translators, IQs of which will never be seen till the end of time. Superior theology, untainted by the Romish and Secular inroads of our day. Superior something else, I forget, but equally untenable.

Come to think of it, Combs may be ahead of some Fundamentalist circles, but he's probably about 20 years behind where we should be. We should have identified Single-Version-Onlyism for the nonsense that it is (even Jesus and His followers rejected a Masoretic- or LXX-only approach in their day!) and moved on. Our discourse should be centering on proclaiming the whole counsel--not just the familiar/favourite verses thereof--of God, e.g. the cycles of arguments between the opening and closing episodes of Job. We should have been focused on getting people to understand the whole message and drama of redemption as read from an understandable text, and then making direct applications to daily, weekly life.

We should long have stopped dancing around the pretty mole-hill sized (what, 2%? 2.5%?) issue of textual variants. We should long have marched beyond the issue of dynamic/functional equivalence vs formal equivalence--just look at how the NT uses both without exalting one over the other. We should have demonstrated, as the NT does, how multiple versions with multiple wordings can indeed communicate a singular message and gospel, and how the Holy Spirit can use all that to conform us to the image of the Son.

Rather than this. Because we already had all the facts then, textual, linguistic, and in so many other ways. Things have not moved forward much in these fields over the last 20 years due to all the posturing to accommodate those who teach a different view of versions than Christ and His apostles did. Perhaps it's time to let those detractors be and get on with discipleship and the Great Commission and biblical separation.

Barry L.'s picture

Nor do I think a church should use only one particular version. I was just defending christian's one point about the uneasiness of the restrictions on the use of these versions. I agree, scholars and workers need to be paid; however, the ESV is over 10 years old now and the NIV over 30. My guess the cost of translation has long been paid. If it's just to cover cost of printing, why not leave it open to everyone to publish? Wouldn't that help in the cost of distribution to the masses? Wouldn't it also help in distributing your version to more people?

BTW, I love this statement in NIV's copyright page.

"These Scriptures are not public domain.  These Scriptures are not shareware and may not be duplicated."

Greg Linscott's picture

The objection on ground of copyright sounds good, but doesn't really hold water in the days where just about any modern translation (English or otherwise), not to mention the more obscure ones, can be accessed over the internet on e-readers, computers, mobile phones, and who know what else. The http://www.amazon.com/English-Standard-Version-Cross-References-ebook/dp... ]ESV and http://www.amazon.com/The-Holy-Bible-Christian-ebook/dp/B0045U9UES/ref=s... ]HCSB have had free Kindle versions for quite some time now. Furthermore, most any church can buy low cost printed versions ideal for distribution. There is a sense of commercialism out there, sure- but copyright also does allow a certain measure of control that is good (not allowing the translation to be adopted/adapted by cult groups, for example).

BTW- I'm not seeing too many complaints from people that DA Waite's http://www.biblefortoday.org/kj_bibles.asp ]Defined King James Bible is not available for free, and is under copyright... Smile

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

SBashoor's picture

Quote:
BTW- I'm not seeing too many complaints from people that DA Waite's Defined King James Bible is not available for free, and is under copyright...

Defined King James Bible? $35

Pithy Comment about it's cost: priceless

FWIW, I have no problem at all with BFT charging for their work. In fact, D.A. Waite Jr. was one of my English and Bible teachers in High School, and his brother, Richard, took over my father's pulpit when he retired. Of course, I always use my old Cambridge KJV whenever I've been in the pulpit in my old home church.

And after this comment, I may never be invited again Smile

M. Scott Bashoor Happy Slave of Christ