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Bible Translations: Are They Accurate?

Editor’s Note:
This is the second in a series of articles that traces the origin, collection, transmission and translation of the Bible. Each representative article examines one of the four questions pertaining to the inspiration, canonization, textual transmission and translation of the Bible.

tyndale-webThe issue of translation of the Bible stems as a natural corollary once the question of the textual transmission is settled. To assess the fidelity and accuracy of the Bible today compared to the original texts we must investigate the issues of translation theory and the history of the English Bible. The task of translating the Bible from its source languages (Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek) into a receptor language (English) involves many issues related to the nature of language and communication.

Is word meaning found in some fixed form of inherent meaning, or is meaning determined by contextual usage? Is meaning located in the formal features of the original grammar, or in the function of words within the grammar? These are just a few of the questions pertaining to translation theory. Some translators maintain that accurate translation requires a word-for-word approach of formal equivalence (KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV).  Others contend that a straightforward one-to-one correlation between two languages actually distorts meaning. These translators employ a phrase-for-phrase approach of dynamic or functional equivalence (NRSV, NIV, CEV, NLT, TNIV).  In light of linguistic, exegetical, and stylistic considerations translations produced in accord with dynamic or functional equivalency more effectively reflect the meaning of the original languages.  The goal of all translators, no matter what translation theory they may employ, unanimously continues to be the production of an English version that is an accurate rendering of the text written in such a way that the Bible retains its literary beauty, its theological grandeur, and most importantly its message.

tyndale-translation-webThe history of the English Bible satisfactorily demonstrates that the Bible of today does indeed faithfully represent the Scriptures in their original languages. For centuries the only Bible available to Western people was the Latin Vulgate composed by Jerome who was commissioned by Pope Damasus toward the end of the fourth century.  The Latin Vulgate served as the official version of the Bible throughout Medieval Europe and was restricted to the clergy, monastic orders, and scholars.

A British priest and Oxford scholar, John Wycliffe (1330–1384), was the first person to make the entire Bible accessible to the common English speaking people.  His translation, however, was based on the Vulgate and not on the Hebrew and Greek.  William Tyndale published the first English New Testament based on the Greek text in 1526. Two close associates of Tyndale (Miles Coverdale and John Rogers) finished his work by publishing their own respective translations of the entire bible: the Coverdale Bible (1535) and the Matthew’s Bible (1537).

The Geneva Bible of 1560 provided a translation of the Bible entirely from the original languages.  This paved the way for King James I to issue a translation that would correct the partisan nature of the Geneva Bible.  Thus in 1611, the much celebrated Authorized Version (KJV) largely based on Tyndale’s work, quickly became the unrivaled English translation for 270 years.  The twentieth century has given rise to a number of new translations.  The reasons for the updating and producing of new translations are necessitated by the manuscript discoveries, the changes within the English language, and the advancement of linguistics since 1611. Not, as some might assume, because of any faults in the Biblical texts. Today, when someone opens any English Bible (KJV, NASB, NIV, ESV, TNIV, HCSB) they may know that generations of faithful scholarship has managed to preserve and protect that Bible as it was originally given.

Alan S. Bandy, Ph.D. serves as the Rowena R. Strickland Assistant Professor of New Testament & Greek at Oklahoma Baptist University.

Author: Alan S. Bandy

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  • Charlotte Proffitt

    My comment to the content of the article; “Bible Translations: Are They Accurate?” The vast majority, probably 90% of Christian’s, are misinformed on the subject about Bible versions. The fact is that “every word of God is pure”. KJV Proverbs 30: 5 Every word of God IS PURE: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. 6 Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” Not only that, but God promised to preserve them ; his words, not just the message. Look this verse up in your Bible and see how the words , as well as the “message” is changed. KJV Proverbs 12: 6 The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. 7 Thou shalt KEEP THEM, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. The “them” is “words”, not people, as these new Bible versions will say. Get a KJV, NOT a NKJV, which is nothing but a revised NIV (see preface or read the KJV for yourself and see) , and do a word search on “words”. There are quite a few passages that speak of God’s “words”, NOT just the message. What has happened, is that “scholarship” and the mighty $$ has taken the place of God’s PURE WORDS and folks will take the word of men aka “scholars”, over what God has already told us. The language of the KJV is not hard to understand. That is just a rumor or trick of Satan to get you to read what Man has to say, instead of God. I started reading the KJV at age 9 and have never had a problem with it. It is a mindset that Satan has whispered in the ears of those willing to help him along. You know that the whole world has a set “standard” for everything and that “standard” is set by England. Well, English is the world language, therefore, in it’s PUREST form, God preserved HIS WORDS in the Bible of the KJV 1611. The men of that translation cannot be compared to the “scholars” of today that are not even true Bible believers, yet for some reason, are allowed to infiltrate the committees. For example, the infamous Westcott & Hort from the 1880’s and the many of today. If Christians want to know what God thinks of “originals”, read Jeremiah chapter 36, the whole thing. God does NOT need “originals” & in fact even the KJV OR ANY translation we have today is not from the “original” paprys; it is from EXACT COPIES. Jesus Christ nor any of the apostles ever mentioned needing the “originals” For more info on Bible Translations, you can read “In Awe Of Thy Word” and “New Age Bible Versions” both by Gail Riplinger and, “Did The Catholic Church Give Us The Bible” and “What’s Missing” both by David W. Daniels. They can be found at http://www.chick.com Or http://www.avpublications.com as well as other books on the same subject. Do you know what God has to say about his words in the last days? Amos 8: 11 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a FAMINE in the land, not a FAMINE of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:” and Matthew 4: 4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by EVERY WORD that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” This is also WHY there will be no revivals in these last days before Christ comes back. Just something to think about. Sincerely, Charlotte Proffitt

    • branden biebel

      In rebuttal to Charlotte Proffitt, I must say that it is important that we remember that contextually the scriptures were written down not even as they happened but often by recollection or through oral tradition. I struggle with the notion that you believe there will be no revival in these last days. What exactly do you mean by that? What about the great awakenings? what about the revivals that broke out in the hebirdes? What about what God is doing in China in the underground church? I struggle with the idea that because we cannot accurately obtain the exact words of God we will have no revivals in these “last days.” God will do whatever he wants, whenever he wants for his own glory, when we forget that fact, we limit God in our own minds and not only that we limit our usefulness for his glory. I find it very devastating to faith and hope to believe at least what it seems in Charlotte’s words that there will be no revival. If we don’t believe the opposite what is our purpose in this world. does he not revive our hearts daily? Does he not speak to us daily? Does he need only the scriptures to prove who he is to us? I would hesitate to say that the KJV has a complete accuracy after translating many pieces of scripture to original greek text and context you will find that if we were to make a statement such as “the KJV is the only English translation that is accurate” you would find yourself mistaken. Not everyone speaks the original language these original documents were written in nor were we existing in the time and culture in which they were written. God’s truth is pure. His words are pure and endure to all time. Because there is no doubt of this, Why is it impossible for us to be able translate what was originally written? Just to read it in any language is a translation. Just to hear it is a translation in our minds. A translation we must in our own minds comprehend or else we will never understand anything that was ever written in scripture. God still speaks to us. He still stirs us. To think otherwise is to give up entirely. Where is hope without this? In Charlotte’s own words, “God doesn’t need originals,” he spoke to ordinary people who wrote down what he said and what they saw happening. Can God not speak to us in the same way still? His words are written down so that we might know him and make him known. Is this not the purpose of scripture? When will we look up into the skies and see the glory of God? I am no scholar, as you can see by my writing, but I do know God doesn’t need us to be able to read the bible in order for us to know who he is. The original Christians didn’t have any of the new testament, yet they followed without hesitation. It was written down so we can have a conception of who he is. God reveals himself in many ways. If you study history massive revivals occured without preaching, without witness, without reading of scripture. People were just found lying in ditches on their faces begging for forgiveness because they could see who he was and that they needed him because he showed them. Not us. The revival in the hebirdes stemmed from a group of 5 people who gathered and prayed and fasted for God to reveal himself. And because they were faithful and God saw fit to reveal himself, every person in the island chain encountered God in a real way. not in a way that wavered that lasted and eventually went away. These people were changed in such a way that they never turned back. Our problem is that we overthink, we forget that faith is what drives salvation. We cannot please him without faith. If miracles can’t happen and God can’t revive us, Why have I seen him change lives, why have I seen the walls broken down, Why have I seen the unexplainable? He still works. He’s still here.
      Is it possible that Amos when he was prophesying God’s words was talking about the time that existed after the prophets in between the time the last prophet spoke and the time of Jesus birth? Perhaps Amos could have been speaking of that? How could there not be revival after the death of Jesus? We have been in the end times since Jesus died, have we not? within the first one hundred years historical events occurred that sounded alot like what Jesus spoke of when he prophesied of the end times. great wars and natural disasters, the moon blood red, go down the line examine history, the end has been upon us since the first century and the christians have been living like it ever since. During the first decades after the death of Christ prophets spoke of his return as if he was coming right now. Does this mean that God stopped talking to people after John died? Or does it mean that perhaps there was nothing more that needed to be written down? sincerely Branden Biebel

      • Charlotte Proffitt

        Part One
        Yes, I agree that God speaks to us through his words and as individuals we should strive to keep that intimate relationship with him through prayer and daily Bible reading.

        On “revival” of Christians in the church; The problem with our churches is that we are lacking a “final authority” which has lead to pastors spending a great deal of time on un-necessary research (Satan loves to keep us busy with such) which in turn leads to numerous attacks on the Holy Bible….in the pulpit. In other words, correcting the KJV with the Hebrew & Greek. This is totally un-necessary and leads to a lack of faith in the word of God amongst the parishioners. This in turn has lead to Christians being frustrated by thinking the Bible is just too hard to understand, not that some scholars wouldn’t love for us to think that we just can’t get by without their excellent “understanding”. Most either combat this by either putting down the Bible for good in not reading it anymore (Mark 4:15…Satan cometh immediately, and TAKETH AWAY THE WORD…” ) OR by getting a modern translation that has changed God’s words to the point that they are man’s words, thus lessening the impact they have on the reader.
        Hebrews 4: 12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and SHARPER THAN any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
        The wording in these new Bible versions is DULL. Not only are they more wordy, they are NOT easier to understand or memorize and don’t have the same impact as the true words of God in the KJV.

        As far as “revivals” in general, there have been NO REAL REVIVALS in the last 60 plus years. The preaching of Billy Sunday may have been the last of the “Great Revivals” that so impacted society that whole towns were affected…and not just church members. The men of the “Great Revival” Era were all KJV men and they did not correct the KJV with the Hebrew or Greek but just preached the pure words of God in the pure English that God gave us in 1611.
        There has to be a “Final Authority”. God has always provided his words in the dominate world language of which English has been for the last 500 or so years. In fact, God has given us “progressive Revelation” in the King James of some things that were not understood in the Hebrew or Greek.
        Do a word search on “words” & “every word” in the King James Bible to get the full impact on how precious are God’s very words. A good website to do this is http://www.Godsview.com . In order for us to “keep” God’s words, John 14:23, and to “not live by bread alone, but by EVERY WORD THAT proceedeth out of the mouth of God Matt 4:4,…. we must have God’s words, therefore, a “final authority”.

        continued….

  • http://Google Marcia Hendricks

    I agree 100 percent with you, Charlotte.

    I have been a member of First Baptist Church Dallas for over 30 years and loved my pastor, W.A. Criswell so much. He passed on to Glory in 2002. I am now homebound by illness and am a widow.

    I have been watching the services via the internet of First Baptist Dallas for about a year. However, Robert Jeffress, pastor of that church uses New American Standard Version. In contrast, Dr. Criswell promised me that he never had nor ever would preach from any other version from the pulpit but the King James Version. I still have his hand-written letter on that. I have always believed that he was not just pacifying me by saying that. I have recent reasons for questioning because of some recent things I’ve read on the internet. Also, I loved the church under his preaching because he was the “Old-Time Religion ” preacher. I now, instead of watching the services from FBC Dallas, watch a sermon catalog of over 25 hundred sermons of Dr. Criswell.

    I have for years been upset over all the new versions. I don’t know why the Southern Baptist preachers don’t speak about Westcott and Hort. The publishers are sure making a lot of $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. I also resent all the so-called Christian rock music — some call it contemporary. I can’t accept it, and I don’t know if there is any Southern Baptist Churches left that use the King James Version — the true Word of God, and I know that in my heart. The new versions have corrupted God’s Word and we must be surely living in the very last days with so much apostacy.

    Again, Charlotte, your comments have blessed my heart.

    Marcia Hendricks

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