Written by: John Sernaque
This will be the ninth part of a series of articles outlining the history of the Bible. These articles will point you to the most accurate translation of the Bible, and will help you to avoid the many spurious translations which exist today. This series of articles are based on the book “The King James Bible and Modern Translations” written by Vance Ferrell. Let’s pick up where we left off.
Most Frequently Used Modern Versions
The men selected to serve on committees to prepare modern Bible translations are to show a broad representation of denominations and to increase the sale of books, and are not involved with actual manuscripts or facsimiles. The translators work with a single critical Greek Text, either the Nestle-Aland or the UBS Text, both of which are based on the Westcott-Hort Text. Sales are the important thing.
The Four Types of Modern Bibles:
1) The Conservative Revisions- these sought to remain somewhat close to the King James yet still follow the Nestle-Aland or UBS Greek Text. Of these, the New American Standard Version is closer to the Majority Text than the others.
The English Revised Version (1881, 1885)
The New Testament portion of the English Revised Version was printed in 1881. The Old Testament was completed in 1885. Burgon and Scrivener both protested the ERV. (At this same time, Darwin’s Theory of Evolution was taking control of the intellectual world.) The revision committee had violated the rules which had been assigned to them. Scrivener found that the underlying Erasmus’ Greek Text had been changed by Westcott and Hort approximately 5,337 times. The ERV contained 36,191 changes in the text from the King James Bible. Its sloppy text helped it die out. However, the errors in the Greek text it came from (the Westcott-Hort Text) were perpetuated into the 20th century through the Nestle Text.
The American Standard Version (ASV) (1901)
In 1901, an American committee made a few changes and published it under the name American Revised Version (ARV). These two revised versions attempted to follow the precise rendering of the tenses and articles in the order of the Greek words rather than the word order that is natural to English. These versions also used archaic words that no one understood.
The two translations in the 20th century which are most conservative are the Revised Standard Version (RSV) and the New American Standard Version (NASV) or sometimes it is called the New American Standard Bible (NASB). They have the least amount of paraphrase. However, these two translations are based on the Nestle-Aland/UBS Greek Texts, so these will have the errors in those texts which are based on the Minority Texts. Of the two, the NASV is nearest to the Tyndale-King James pattern, but it still has its flaws. Those that tried to remain close to the King James are called versions while all the others are called translations. Hence, only a few Bibles are called versions. The publishing firms discovered that sales were more important than the Westcott-Hort theories. After the initial publication of the RSV in 1952, the RSV Bible committee considered making changes which would make the version more acceptable to the public. The second edition of the RSV New Testament was copyrighted in 1971. The restoration of passages previously given only in footnotes were made. The NASV New Testament was published in 1963 and the entire Bible in 1971. The NASV is closer to the KJV and its Majority Text than any other 20th century translation.
New King James Version
This version was to modernize but a few words but turned out to be partially based on the Nestle Text. It has Westcott-Hort errors in it. The New Testament was published in 1979 and the Old testament in 1982. Thomas Nelson was the world’s leading Bible publisher. The problem is that Thomas Nelson believes the “original language” is closer to the Nestle Text than it is to Erasmus’ text. In 774 instances, two alternative Greek readings are given, one in the text and the other in footnotes.
2) The Paraphrases- these are designed to read like novels. Their authors were not translators. They took great liberties with the text to make it all flow well, be interesting, and even exciting. These are the worst Bibles of all.
J.B. Phillips had little training in Biblical languages. He did not even bother much with using a Greek text. The New Testament was published in 1958, Four Prophets in 1963, and the revised New Testament in 1973. Phillips turned the Bible into more of a fiction novel.
Living Bible (LB) (Taylor)
Kenneth Nathaniel Taylor was another Christian who had little background in Biblical languages and wrote a paraphrase of the Bible. He did not use Greek texts, but used the English American Standard Version (ASV,ARV), so his translation was from English to English. In 1962 he started his own publishing company and called it Tyndale House. The complete Living Bible was published in 1971. Its circulation has been helped through the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association by publicizing it on TV and giving away hundreds of thousands of copies. Taylor adds a legend to Genesis 6: the “sons of God” are made into “evil beings from the spirit world.” The entire book of Revelation is set into the future. Revelation 1:10 has John going to church on Sunday and calls it the Lord’s Day. In the Psalms, he implies that when you die you go to heaven. Many more errors are contained in his paraphrases.
New English Bible (NEB)
The New English Bible is also a paraphrase. The New Testament was published in 1961, and the complete Bible in 1970 in two editions, one with and one without the Apocrypha. The NEB does not try to stay close to the King James Version. Its translation is a meaning-for-meaning. It differs in many passages in its use of the Greek text. It used peculiar “Western family” readings which not even Westcott-Hort would use. It changed parts and the order of the Old Testament and the Creation of our world.
3) The Doctrinal error translations- these had errors deliberately inserted to favor the teachings of a certain denomination.
The Watchtower Bibles:
1) New World Translation (NWT)
As in the Catholic Bibles, Jehovah’s Witnesses produce the most biased Bibles in the world. The New World Translation (NWT) was published in 1961. “Jehovah” is constantly given in the Old Testament, and also introduced in the New Testament 237 times and 72 times in the footnotes. There is no basis for the translation of the Greek original by the word “Jehovah.” Jehovah is an artificially created word from the consonants of the name of God, transliterated YHWH (JHVH), and the Hebrew vowels of the word for Lord, Adonai. The Jews refrained from uttering the name of God and substituted in its place Adonai. Thus, the vowels of this word were placed with the consonants of YHWH so the reader would know he should read Adonai instead. Most English Bibles follow the Jewish practice of translating YHWH as LORD (full caps) except when YHWH is preceded by the word Adonai, then it is translated as GOD (full caps), for Adonai itself is translated Lord. The translators carefully select between “Lord” and “Jehovah” in order to downgrade Christ. Depending on whether they think the Greek word for “Lord” applies to God or Jesus, they use “Lord” for Jesus and do not want to call Him “Jehovah” as they only consider Him to be a created angel. They do not believe the Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Godhead either. They translate the Greek word for “Lord” as “Jehovah” even when the reference to Jesus is clear. In John 1:1, he is referred to as a god, as to them He is not God but a god. This is even when the Greek does not have the article before “God.” The lack of a definite article requires that Theos be translated as a fully divine being. There is no justification for the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ translation of John 1:1. In order to avoid the teaching of the Second Advent, parousia is always translated as “presence.” This helps explain all their predicted second comings of God which have failed to occur in the 20th century. Their use of “torture stake” for the cross and “impale” for crucify is based on their belief that the cross which Jesus was crucified on was a single stake. This is even though historical and archaeological data agree on the cross as a means of crucifixion in the first century AD and that the word “impale” does not mean to nail a person to a post but is to run a rod all the way through him. The word patibulum, or horizontal bar, was used by Roman authors as synonymous with crux. This they use as their proof that a single upright pole was used for executions.
2) Bible in Living English (BLE)
This Bible is published by the Jehovah’s Witnesses but was not written by one of them. It was a translation by Steven T. Byington who put the word “Jehovah” in the Old Testament, so the Witnesses wanted to print it. After his death, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society obtained publication rights in 1972. The reason they did not translate a Bible themselves was because they had no Greek or Hebrew scholars to do it. Note some of the comparisons between the BLE and the NWT: “Jehovah” is only used in the Old Testament , in the NWT it is used in both the Old and New; the word God is capitalized when used about Christ; Romans 9:5 clearly identifies Christ as God; Holy Spirit is capitalized, unlike the NWT; “cross” and “crucify” are used instead of “torture stake” and “impale.” It seems that the only reason the Witnesses published this translation was the use of the word “Jehovah” for God’s name in the Old Testament.
4) The rest of the modern versions- these vary in competence but still adhere to the Westcott-Hort theory.
New International Version (NIV) 1973
This is the 20th century translation that its publisher tried to make acceptable to the broadest number of people. It is based on the modern Greek texts. It is called an international version because the members of the committee came from English-speaking countries such as Canada, England, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. The translators came from many denominations, including Baptist, Brethren, Church of Christ, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Nazarene, Presbyterian, Christian Reformed, and others. One hundred translators helped produce it and they did not base their work on the Majority Text. There are portions of 147 verses that have been omitted from the NIV, constituting a total of 1,284 words omitted from the Holy Bible. There were words omitted because they were considered to be “harmonizing passages.” Also, words were omitted which the editors considered to be from “obviously late readings.” They were considered late because they were in the Majority Text and therefore in the KJV, and not in their corrupt Neutral Text. Then there is Matthew 16:18, which many modern translations twist in order to please Rome, making Peter the rock and not Jesus. You will find that the NIV is fully modernized and fully in conformity with Westcott and Hort.
To be continued in the next and final article, Part 10.