Trivium Pursuit

Bible Translations

Dear Harvey,

Some time ago, I emailed to Gail Riplinger’s site (New Age Bible Versions) about something from her site, that the modern translations are inaccurate partly because they are not interpreting the original languages correctly, as the KJV translators did. I emailed to ask further about that and someone replied that the men who did the KJV had lexicons, no longer around, that gave the true meaning of the original vocabulary. Today’s lexicons are incorrect, according to them. So the point of all this is, if we can no longer really know what the original words mean, then why learn Greek or Hebrew in order to read the Bible? Frustrating thought. Appreciate any light you can shed on this. D.Y.

That closes the door to any new translation of the Bible, doesn’t it? It’s the KJV or nothing.

Let’s think this through.

The Greek lexicon would be of little use without the Greek grammar, and the Greek grammar would be of little use without the Greek text.

Nobody knows the actual Greek text which the King James Translators used. It was the opinion of F.H.A. Scrivener that they generally followed the Greek text of Theodore Beza, but he lists about 190 places where they appear to have followed a different Greek text, and he gives what he calls a “probably quite incomplete” list of about 60 more places where they actually preferred the Latin Vulgate text to any Greek text. So there are scores of places in the King James Version which do not reflect any Greek manuscript whatever. Hence, if the King James Version is the standard, then a Greek text would somehow have to be reconstructed backwards from the King James Version.

According to the theory upon which these people are operating, they would need to construct a Greek lexicon and grammar and text and a Hebrew lexicon and grammar and text from their King James Version. But why would they bother, since they would only do this in order to translate the Greek New Testament and the Hebrew Old Testament back into the King James Version?

In essence, what they are claiming is that all Biblical scholarship began and ended with the King James Version translators. How could anyone prove a proposition such as this? Well, one could only prove it by using the King James Version itself – one could not use any scholarship outside of the King James Version, because that would be infinitely less reliable than the King James Version.

Please notice the circular reasoning in all of this. The King James Version is its own independent authority. It is self-authenticating. All things must be measured by the standard of the King James Version. The net effect of all of this is to elevate the King James Version to a place of worship alongside of God. No other lexicon, or grammar, or version, or even Hebrew or Greek documents can be consulted with any authority, for their authority could only be determined by comparing them to the King James Version. The word of the King James Version alone determines what is the Word of God.

Of course, there are some questions which remain. How do we know that we correctly understand any of the words and sentences (especially the more obscure and archaic usages of words and expressions) found in the King James Version? Unless we first know the meaning of the words and the grammar of the sentences in the King James Version, we cannot use the King James Version to understand the King James Version. Unless we were somehow (miraculously?) born into or given special entrance into the language of the King James Version, we could never be sure that we correctly understood it. But if we were somehow born into the language of the KJV, how would we ever know for sure that we were? This also would have to be self-authenticating. Hmm. Where are we headed?

I hope I have extended the implications of this theory far enough to show you that it makes no sense. It is absurd. When someone spins a theory, he tries to understand everything else in the world in a way which is consistent with his theory. He tries to make reality conform to his theory. If his theory is wrong, he will eventually find a contradiction between his theory and reality. At that point, he must choose between his theory and reality.

When evolutionists run into a contradiction between their theory and reality, they often choose their theory, which forces them to throw an interpretive cloak over reality so that it appears to agree with their theory. If evolution is the inspired, infallible, inerrant word of science, but we found human artifacts among dinosaur remains, then we would have to revise or abandon our theory, or else explain away or destroy the human artifacts.

Guess what? If the King James Version is the inspired, infallible, inerrant translation of the Word of God, then we must throw an interpretive cloak over Greek lexicons and texts so that everything appears to agree with our theory. Why? Because nothing can be allowed to rival the authority of the only authoritative translation.

Truth falls when it is undermined by the wrong foundation. When we believe something which is true, but we believe it for the wrong reasons, then when those reasons are exposed as wrong, we often lose our faith in the thing which is true.

For example, let’s suppose that I believe in the doctrine of the Trinity because water has three states: solid, liquid, and gas. Well, that’s no proof of the doctrine of the Trinity. Now suppose someone shows a fourth state of water – plasma. My faith is shattered. I no longer believe in the Trinity, because my reason for believing in it is shown to be false. But the doctrine of the Trinity is true, and it has nothing to do with the different states of water.

Now, let’s suppose that I believe in the doctrine of the infallibility of the Word of God because the King James Version is inerrant. Suppose someone comes along and demonstrates an undeniable contradiction within the King James Version. My faith is shattered. I no longer believe in the infallibility of the Word of God, because my reason for believing in it is shown to be false. But the infallibility of the Word of God is true, and it has nothing to do with the consistency of the King James Version.

Or worse, I continue to believe in the Trinity because of the three states of water – and I therefore deny or explain away the existence of plasma, or I continue to believe in the infallibility of the Word of God because the King James Version is inerrant – and I therefore deny or explain away the contradictions within the King James Version. I say this is worse, because such dedication to wrong reasons for belief will work to undermine the faith of others.

Do you have any idea how many people have come to deny the infallibility of the Word of God because of inconsistencies found in certain translations, or in certain textual traditions, or because of the absurd defenses of these inconsistencies? I am not talking about alleged inconsistencies which are no inconsistencies at all. Neither am I alleging that there were any inconsistencies when they were originally written. I am talking only about inconsistencies which have developed because of man’s handling of the text.

Even though the Greek Orthodox Religion acknowledges that the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew, they nevertheless insist that the Greek Septuagint is the only inspired and inerrant version of the Old Testament – immeasurably better than any Hebrew text of the Old Testament we may have. This, together with their own traditional text of the Greek New Testament, constitute the real Bible.

Even though the Roman Catholic Religion acknowledges that the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew, and the New Testament was originally written in Greek, they nevertheless insist that the Latin Vulgate is the only inspired and inerrant version of the Bible – immeasurably better than any Greek or Hebrew texts of the Bible which we may have. The Latin Vulgate is the real Bible.

Now, some Anglophiles (lovers of English), though they acknowledge that the Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek, they nevertheless insist that the English King James Version is the only inspired and inerrant version of the Bible – immeasurably better than any Greek or Hebrew texts of the Bible which we may have. The King James Version is the real Bible.

These theories are attempts to simplify the issue of the authority of the Word of God. But notice how they simplify it. It is the word of man – whether Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, or Anglophile – which establishes the authority of the translation of the Word of God. The authority of the word of man establishes the authority of the Word of God. But a lesser authority cannot establish the authority of a greater authority. That’s what Scripture says – even the King James Version.

. . . because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, . . . For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. — Hebrews 6:13,16

It is the Word of God which must establish the authority of the word of man – such as a translation – not vice versa.

Perhaps you have encountered the teaching of holiness perfectionism. This teaching claims that a man can live a sinless life in this life – and that many have. Of course, they have to lower their standard as to what is sinful – below the Scripture standard – in order to maintain this teaching.

Perhaps you have encountered the teaching of doctrinal perfectionism. This teaching claims that the instant a man is truly saved, he necessarily must hold to certain doctrines, never waver from those doctrines, and he must recognize the fact all those who do not hold to these certain doctrines are lost. Of course, they have to lower their standard as to what is doctrinally pure – below the Scripture standard – in order to maintain this teaching.

Well, this teaching – that the Greek Orthodox Bible, or the Latin Vulgate, or the King James Version is the real Bible – is a sort of scribal perfectionism. It claims that the only Bible we can trust is an errorless copy or translation of the Bible. Of course, they have to lower their standard as to what is errorless – below the Scripture standard – in order to maintain this teaching.

Only the Lord Jesus Christ has ever lived a sinless life. He is our righteousness. Only in the resurrection we will be delivered into sinless glory. Those who say that men can attain sinless perfection in this life essentially assert that Christ has become incarnate in certain men. Notice, I am not arguing against holiness. Without practical holiness, no man shall see the Lord. Nevertheless, we will not reach perfection in holiness in this life.

Only the Lord Jesus Christ has ever held perfectly to doctrine. Even His holy prophets and apostles – especially Peter – went astray at times and had to be corrected. Those who assert doctrinal perfection in this life essentially assert that Christ has become incarnate in their doctrinal standard. Notice, I am not arguing against doctrinal accuracy. We must hold to sound doctrine and beware of false teachings. Nevertheless, we will not reach perfection in doctrine in this life.

Only the Lord Jesus Christ has ever spoken or inspired absolute truth. The Spirit of Christ spoke in all the prophets, apostles, and other authors of Scripture. The Spirit overruled the sinfulness of the Apostles so that they could inscribe the doctrine of Christ perfectly in their writings. Those who assert scribal perfection to a certain text or translation in this life essentially assert that Christ has become incarnate in their document. Notice, I am not arguing against textual and translational accuracy. We must labor to identify the pure text and to keep the text pure, and we must labor to translate accurately and faithfully. Nevertheless, we will not reach perfection in text or translation in this life.

Humbling thought.

The net effect of these theories is to elevate, magnify, and exalt the word of man and to humble, demean, and degrade the Word of God. Man cannot establish the Word of God by inductive scientific methods, but the Word of God must be identified only by the self-testifying and self-purifying and self-authenticating power of the Word of God itself.

Now, I am no follower of the many modern translations which work with unbiblical textual theories and translation theories and grammatical theories and lexical theories and the like. But I am also not a member of the King James Version cheerleader squad. The King James Version has problems on several levels, and it can be improved upon. Unfortunately, the several attempts at improving it have failed, in my estimation, and other attempts at translating the traditional text have done as bad or worse. For cultural reasons, we need an accurate, reliable, faithful translation which has a good, flowing, readable, and memorable English style.

Harvey

One Response to “Bible Translations”

  1. Sylvanus Says:

    Woaw !!
    Superb Post I must say, and I agree with almost all therein.

    You say: ‘Now, I am no follower of the many modern translations which work with unbiblical textual theories and translation theories and grammatical theories and lexical theories and the like.

    How spirited. I translate the New Testament, as an individual (mainly for personal study), and I have come to the determination that the wisdom of man contends the wisdom of God in all these theories – after all, were not the disciples ill-literates in the theologies regarded absolute in their days?

    You say: ‘we will not reach perfection in text or translation in this life.the Word of God must be identified only by the self-testifying and self-purifying and self-authenticating power of the Word of God itself’

    How beautifully said, and Oh, so true.

    I am not myself a fan of some of the new Translations available today in, and seemingly favoured by, Christian shops or others, especially if these are then used from the pulpit, but I must admit that I rejoice greatly by the variety available today, particularly via the web (see http://www.biblebureau.com/read the bible online.htm ), which give us much opportunity to study the Holy Word of God for the purpose of furthering our understanding and elevating our hearts to God.

    Too many Bibles today have been produced for the sake of a good sale. Bible Commitees have compromised true translation to serve popularity, and intellectuals have dissimilated dissected truth in subjection to their biases; all in defiance of the Spirit ‘contained’ in the Scriptures, as you rightly say and explain: ‘a lesser authority cannot establish the authority of a greater authority

    All well said……….. And good reasoning too.

    Sylvanus

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