Saturday, March 26, 2011

I Like Bibles Part 3: Saturday Resource

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen 

Trevor's Stack 2
Trevor's Stack of Bibles
Although I risk stricter judgment by presuming to teach (James 3.1), this installment is significantly less objective than other things that I have done. But I still hope that you can get something out of it.

In our previous adventures, I told you a bit of my personal history, and then some of the history of English language Bibles. That last one was a great deal of work, but very rewarding. I left off somewhere around 1611, when the King James Version had been released.

Since then, not only has the KJV had several revisions, but other Bible revisions and translations have cropped up. I believe that is a good thing to some extent (I am most definitely not a "King James Only" advocate), but there are also drawbacks. One drawback that I will briefly mention is that Bibles have been rewritten by and for cultists like Joseph Smith, Johannes Greber and the Jehovah's Witnesses. I urge Christians to remove those from their libraries because of their negative influence (1 Tim. 4.1), with the possible exception of firmly-rooted apologists and researchers who know their doctrines and are aware of the spiritual warfare dangers.

Now I am going to attempt three more parts to conclude this series.

Multitudes of Bibles
The King James Version was revised a few times, and the 1769 version is the one that you probably have on your shelf. Others have come around many years later (such as the English Revised Version of 1881 and the American Standard Version of 1901), but the KJV remained the most popular Bible. It is an accurate translation and considered a masterpiece of literature. Today, there are one billion KJV Bibles in print! Although it will never "go away", more readable and more accurate (using better source documents that were unknown at the time of the King James Version) translations are to be found.

Today, there are more Bible versions in the English language than you can shake a pulpit at. Hooray for us. (Meanwhile, there are 340,000,000 people speaking over 2,000 languages who do not have a Bible translated in their language. Just thought you should know.) They range from scholarly translations like the HCSB, NASB, NIV, ESV and others to the dubious translations that are more like commentaries than translations, such as the New Living Translation and The Message. Personally, I do not care for the last two. I insist on accuracy in translation, and not what one man felt that the text should say.

Now, some of the versions are "gender neutral" or "gender inclusive". That really is not necessary. (My ESV has a footnote, "Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated 'brothers') refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God's family, the church..." Elsewhere, I have seen "or brothers and sisters" in the footnotes. But footnotes or not, I think we all know that God's word is intended for both men and women! Further, when some of these gender inclusive versions change the translation in order to please the public (or perhaps to be politically correct), that makes me wonder what else is being altered. If the word is masculine, I want it translated "he" for the sake of accuracy.

Some versions have a liberal bias (the Revised Standard Version is infamous for that). Some Bibles are not really new versions, but they have special notes and sections targeted to a specialty audience. I have felt that some of these have been a good idea, and some were desperate attempts at special-interest marketing, to be blunt. You can find specialty Bibles for all sorts of things, including:
  • Men
  • Women
  • Students
  • Military, fire, police, nurse and other professions
  • Cowboys
  • Apologetics
  • American history/heritage
  • Recovery (from Saddleback Church)
  • Women of color
There are some justifications for new translations, which usually sound like: "While other Bibles have met the needs of their times, we felt that a new version in the language of today..." I am wondering when we are going to make it trendy slang, "Yo! God is ticked at you, dude!" which will have relevance for about six weeks until new slang comes along. Meanwhile, the Word of God has been cheapened for the sake of sales. Yes, publishing companies are not charities. They are trying to make a living (1 Tim. 5.18). However, they seem to be competing and trying to make the "next big thing" to stimulate sales. I think that's wrong. 

King James Only-ism
I went to a Christian school for three years and graduated from it. This school claimed to be "interdenominational", but the faculty and staff were mostly Fundamentalists. This was quite a challenge to this United Methodist preacher's kid. There were several King James Only (I shall abbreviate it as "KJO") people there, and some grudgingly admitted that the New American Standard Version was "acceptable", even allowing the New International Version later on.

But there are people who insist that we should use the King James version exclusively. Other versions are evil, translated from manuscripts that are corrupted by Roman Catholics or are Satanic, "New Age" versions. They believe that the KJV itself is inspired by God; sometimes, they elevate the Textus Receptus (the source documents from which the KJV was translated) above other ancient manuscripts. Translators of ancient documents generally know that older is better. Not in this case. Even though the translators of the King James Version themselves made no claim that they were doing something extraordinary (although they took it very seriously indeed), their work is elevated in the eyes of the KJO people. One question is often asked: "If the King James Version is the true Bible, then what good were the Bibles that existed before then?" You see, the Textus Receptus plus the apparently inspired work of the KJV translators combined to make a special divine document.

When I begin writing about reasoning and arguments (in the real sense, not the "yes it is, no it isn't, you're a doo doo head" sense), I will use some of the KJO criticisms as bad examples. As soldiers for Jesus, we need to be able to know not only what, but why we believe (1 Peter 3.15), and be able to present some of the evidence for our faith. Sometimes, we get sloppy and run with a fantastic story to "prove" our point. If we had checked the facts, we would have saved ourselves — and our Lord — some embarrassment. To bolster the insane rants of people like Texe Marrs and Gail Riplinger, a very dishonest exaggeration has been touted, but is actually a lie. It was said that Dr. Don Wilkins "lost his voice" discussing new Bible versions on the John Ankerberg show. Not true. Such conduct, whether carelessness in checking facts or outright dishonesty, is disgraceful.

Since the KJV has been the standard for 400 years (even though we have seen that revisions stopped just over 240 years ago), some feel it should continue to be the standard. (By the way, they do not even like the New King James Version.) Sorry, but even though the KJV has been an important part of Christian history and should always be respected, I will not accept being considered a heretic, or even a lesser Christian, because I prefer the NASB, ESV, and NIV. Let me be certain that you understand this point: If the KJV is your favorite and you prefer it, great! Use it! I am not happy with some of the other modern translations for reasons touched on earlier, and not because I believe that the translators have an evil agenda or used corrupted ancient manuscripts.

Saturday Resource
There are several items available to you for investigating King James Onlyism.

First, John Ankerberg and John Weldon have several articles on the KJO controversy. There is no direct link, you will need to scroll down (at least they are alphabetical) or use your browser's search function for "King James".

Next, Dr. James White has done a great deal of research on this topic and written a book. Here are some articles. First, "New Age Bible Versions Refuted". Several other articles are linked here. Finally, a long video debate (which I converted to audio and heard instead of watching) is here.


So, even though my own personal feelings are evident, I believe that I have given you some things to think about as well as further materials.

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