Bible Translation

Let the Minutiae Speak

The place of genealogies, numbers, and parallel passages in the King James only debate

“Things that are different are not the same.” So says the title of Mickey Carter’s book advocating the exclusive use of the King James Bible. This sentiment is a fair summary of the mindset of most King James only (KJO) advocates. The differences between Bible versions demand a judgment. Which Bible is right?

Troubled by differing Bible versions, many sincere Christians seek for answers. One side affirms that no doctrine is affected by the relatively minor differences between Bible versions. The message is the same, but finer points and particular details may be slightly different. A typical KJO position jumps in and says this can’t be right. Verbal inspiration is useless without the preservation of those very words of God. In fact, we need to know each and every word, in order to live (Matt. 4:4). All differences, even word order and spelling differences, matter (Matt. 5:18). Differing versions cannot both claim to be translations of the perfect, inspired Word of God.

On the face of it, the KJO argument makes sense. When we’re speaking about the Bible, shouldn’t every little difference matter? Some respond with manuscript evidence that calls into question the choice of the King James Bible as a perfect standard. Others have shown that the various proof texts for word perfect preservation don’t actually promise a single, identifiable, word-perfect copy of the Bible. And prior to 1611, where was such a copy to be found, anyway?

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The Perspicuity of Scripture as Applied to Bible Translation, Part 3

Read Part 1 and Part 2.

All things being accounted for, the Scriptures are understandable! It is in those terms that we attempted previously (Briefings, August 2009 and December 2009) to state the doctrine of perspicuity or clarity of the Scriptures as applied to Bible translation.

In examining the Scriptures, one soon discovers many aspects that may render them difficult to be understood: linguistic complexities in the process of translating; particular twists of styles; antiquated literary genres; abbreviated language; unexplained historical and geographical inferences; differing cultural practices; unrevealed meaning of names, things, places, events, and concepts; and more. These difficulties can be compounded by the limitations of the reader who may be unsaved, or limited in knowledge of Biblical facts, or lacking in his investment of time and effort to the study of the Scriptures.

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Preservation: How and What? Part 4

Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Biblical doctrine is teaching derived from Scripture. While we may possess many strong convictions based on our experiences, on our understanding of history, or on the opinions of experts, these do not rise to the level of biblical doctrine or tests of orthodoxy.

The case of Bible preservation is no exception. Any position we identify as “the doctrine of preservation” must be taught in Scripture. In this series I’ve argued that while Scripture does give us a doctrine of preservation, that doctrine does not include all the particulars some attach to it. God assures us that His Word will endure forever and will not pass away. He assures us that believers will have sufficient access to His Word until all is fulfilled.

But some insist that the true doctrine of preservation must also include all of the following:

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Book Review - Understanding English Bible Translation: The Case for an Essentially Literal Approach

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As I am writing this, Tyndale House is sponsoring a contest to promote the sale of their New Living Translation (NLT). Among the giveaways are several iPads, an iPod, a Kindle and a trip to Hawaii! This “Bible Contest and Giveaway” is called “Breakthrough to Clarity.” Of course, I entered. I may not be a fan of the NLT, but I am of Apple and Hawaii.

To various degrees marketing influences us all. How healthy an impact it has had on modern society is not for this discussion. However, marketing does enter into our consideration of the history of Bible translation. Marketing puts the emphasis on the consumer. It makes the audience supreme. It was this attention to the audience that led to the great divide between translation theories.

Next year, the King James Version (KJV) will celebrate its 400th birthday. For over 360 years the KJV reigned unrivaled. This changed in 1978 with the debut of the New International Version (NIV). The NIV quickly became a best seller. Leland Ryken, in his book Understanding English Bible Translation suggests the “NIV cornered the market because (a) it was the only viable alternative to the obsolete King James Bible, and (b) marketing and advertising made it irresistibly attractive to the masses” (p. 65).

The Committee on Bible Translation for the NIV had the audience in mind from the outset:

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"Faith in Jesus" or "Faithfulness of Jesus"?

Reprinted with permission from Doug Kutilek’s As I See It, (May, 2010) with some editing. AISI is sent free to all who request it

The question

I have come across an interesting translation of the Bible that Dallas Seminary produced. It is online, and it is called NET Bible. I was wondering if you would agree with how they translated Galatians 2:16: “… by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ” (other verses translated the same way are Galatians 2:20; Romans 3:22, 26; Galatians 3:22; Ephesians 3:12; Philippians 3:9). I … think this is extremely thought provoking, if their translation is correct. If you have time I would love to know your thoughts on this!


I own a print copy of the First Beta edition of the NET Bible. The interpretative notes in the NET Bible at this point are undoubtedly the work of NT Professor Daniel Wallace. His Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics takes precisely the same view, and indeed with precisely the same wording much of the time.

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Preservation: How and What? Part 3

Read Part 1 and Part 2.

Does the Bible teach that God’s people will always be able to point to a particular text1 of the Bible and know that it is the word-perfect, preserved text? Those who believe a particular choice of translations is “the biblically right” option, tend to answer (passionately) in the affirmative. But many who use other translations or simply prefer the KJV are not so sure. Who is right?

Points of agreement

Nearly all involved in the controversy are agreed that God has preserved His Word for us in some sense. Nearly all are agreed as well that Scripture teaches God will preserve forever, somewhere and in some form, every one of the words He inspired and that some believers will always have access to Scripture in some form. God’s ability to use imperfect sinners to perfectly preserve His Word is also not in dispute, nor is the fact that we should accept what the Bible reveals to be true regardless of the claims of the “science of textual criticism” or any “high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 10:5, KJV).

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The Perspicuity of Scripture as Applied to Bible Translation, Part 2

Read Part 1.

The doctrine of perspicuity or clarity of Scripture can be stated this way: All things being accounted for, the Scriptures are understandable. The question is, however, what should be accounted for?

Luther grappled with the idea and admitted in The Bondage of the Will that the Scriptures were both clear and unclear. He, like many other reformers, attempted to balance the statements in the Scriptures themselves that tended to support the understandability of the Scriptures on the one hand and their difficulty on the other. Most significant among the passages that state the difficulty of the Scriptures is Peter’s declaration that in Paul’s epistles there “are some things hard to be understood” (2 Peter 3:16). The experience of reading and studying the Scriptures also proves that not all things in the Scriptures are readily understandable.

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The Perspicuity of Scripture as Applied to Bible Translation, Part 1

The essential characteristics of the Scriptures may be summed up in these tenets: revelation because God has communicated His mind to men; inspiration because God has superintended the recording of what He communicated; canonicity because what is inspired is recognized; infallibility because what God intended to be written was recorded without error; authority because what is recorded is binding upon all men; necessity because man cannot do without what God says; sufficiency because what God has communicated needs no supplement; preservation because God has pledged for His Word to exist to all generations; and understandability because God communicated in order to be understood.

While all these characteristics of the Scriptures are essential and significant, two of them relate directly to the routine task of the Bible translator: preservation and understandability. The other characteristics may impress the translator with the sacredness and value of the biblical texts and shape his philosophy of Bible translation, but they do not directly affect the routine, technical work of translating. They are inherent qualities that are set and permanent but are not active, so to speak.

By contrast, whenever the Scriptures are translated into a new language, preservation is newly active. And whenever the Scriptures are studied, preached, or translated, understandability is also in operation. Both preservation and understandability of the Bible are acts of “fairness” from God. It would not be equitable that God would reveal His Word, render it binding upon all men, and then not make it available; or that He would make it available and not make it understandable.

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