Must There Be an Inspired Translation of the Bible?

by
Jason Dulle
JasonDulle@yahoo.com


Q: When reading your article I certainly could concur on some of it. But what you says almost throws out the validity of the Bible....either in KJV or NIV. I feel that even in the English version it is inspired, because God has kept His hand on it all these years. I also agree with those that think the NIV and others of its sort are possibly an instrument of the devil. That may sound biased, but I was once a Trinitarian, and those discrepancies are exactly what they use to tear down our doctrine.

One of the MOST important one is remission vs. forgiveness. There is a vast difference. When they translated into the KJV, the meaning was much more stronger than today. The world has done it's best to water down everything.

I also looked at NIV's version of John 3:16. "Should not" (KJV) and "shall not" (NIV) are two different words in this context. That is their sugar stick. If you take out the meaning of that part, you have taken out the thrust of the whole verse.

I have also always felt that it is important whether the verse should read "only begotten Son" or "one and only Son," although it does take away the strength of the verse by changing it. Why change something that is clearly understood? I only shudder to think of how the world is doing it's best to tear down our very foundation.

A: Thank you for visiting the site and taking the time to correspond with us. I have read your email and heard your concerns. Let me respond.

You made the statement that what I say "almost throws out the validity of the Bible." I can understand how you might feel this way, but the contents of my article are not intended to do this, nor do I believe that it does do this. My life and ministry is based on exegeting and expounding the Scriptures. If the Bible is not valid, I am wasting my time.

I do not think you are referring to the validity of Godís Word, but to the validity of the English translations of Godís Word, which is vastly different. If we are speaking of any particular translation of Godís Word, and viewing it as the ultimate authority, then yes, I would appear to be destroying the Bible's validity. But a translation of the inspired Hebrew and Greek which God chose to reveal His Word in is never the final authority. It is a good witness to Godís Word, but it is not perfect by its nature as a translation. If a translator mistranslates, under-translates, or misunderstands the original languages that God's revelation was inspired in, then the translation's reading is not the Word of God. The Word of God is found in the original language/documents as penned by the apostles and prophets. We can only know the Word of God insofar as the original languages are translated properly into the receptor language (in this case it is English).

I realize that it is a popular concept among the church to hold up one particular version as being an inspired version, or claiming that there must be inspired translations in various languages. Unfortunately this is a mere belief not based on any tangible evidence. It is an argument from emotion, nothing more. Usually the argument is derived from our human desire for absolute certainty that we have the Word of God in the English language. This is a valid concern, but the desire for absolute certainty can obscure our viewing of the facts. As Daniel Wallace commented in regards to the issue at hand, "Christians are more in pursuit of certainty than they are with truth. It would be better for us to have some doubts in an honest pursuit of truth, than it would be for us to be certain about something that was not true."1

We do have some amazingly accurate translations of God's Word, but none of our translations are perfect. Not even the translators of any one particular translation would claim that their translation is inspired or innerent (perfect). They only make claims of integrity and scholastic honesty in their translations. There are various verses in any translation which are not translated properly, the KJV included.. When it comes down to deciding which is correct--an English translation which is supposed to be based off of the original languages, or the meaning of the original language itself--it would be ludicrous to prefer a translation. Translations by definition are based off of an original. The original document, by definition, is superior to the translation. As such, it is logically absurd, that once that translation is completed, that we put more trust and faith in the translation, than that which it is translated from. The fact that the our English Bibles have to be translated from Hebrew and Greek demonstrates the superiority of the witness and authority of the source languages. So to say that by pointing out the fact that our English versions are not perfect, I am in effect destroying the validity of the Bible, is incorrect, because it is a confusion of the issue. What we are throwing out is not the validity of Godís Word, but the idea that any translation of God's Word is just as accurate as the original, if not more accurate.

The Bibles we possess today, for the greatest part, do accurately portray the original meaning, but there are places in which they do not. In those places, then, they are not truly conveying God's Word. One will object by saying, "How can I know what God's Word is, then, or know where the translations are and are not correctly translating if I don't know Hebrew or Greek?" Some are concerned that if we do not believe in an inspired English version, then we can never be sure that we are reading the Word of God. This is a valid concern, but I believe that the solution lies in the studying out of the matter, and seeking teaching from those who know these fields of study. God gave the church teachers for a reason. We should not say that because we do not know the Hebrew and Greek that God inspired His revelation into, that we should ignore it altogether, or place a higher premium on our translation of His Word. Neither should we raise our arm up in the air and say we cannot know God's Word. Both of these options are not wise, nor are they necessary. We must seek to understand God's revelation the best we can. If we only have access to the English, we will do fine. Most of the places of mistranslation or under-translation do not affect any major doctrine, yet alone our ability to know God, His will, and find salvation in the Scripture. But if we can study God's Word in the languages that He inspired it in, we are all the better. If all we have is the English versions, and they differ from one another, the only way we can know why they differ or which one is correct is by going back to the sources from which each is derived and examining the evidence.

Concerning the inspiration of any translation, we must ask ourselves, "If there is such a thing as an inspired translation, which one is it? How do we know which one it is?" It cannot be a subjective witness in the heart, because many would claim contradictory witnesses. Some would say it is the KJV; others the NIV or RSV. Who is right? We naturally tend to think we are, but how do we really know this? Have we not been wrong about things in the past which we thought we were right in? Does not the Bible say that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked? Can we really trust our hearts? If we say it is God revealing it to us, then why does He not reveal it to other Spirit-filled believers? Are they not sincere? How can we know that? Do you see the problem with making subjective claims like this? There has to be an objective way of evaluating the matter. We need to have evidence that can demonstrate which belief is correct. I can assert my belief and you can assert your belief for eternity, but all we have in the end is two people arguing over beliefs that they offer no proof for. If courtrooms operated in the way that most theological discussions in the church do, every trial would be a waste because one lawyer asserts his belief in the innocence of the defendant, and the other in his guilt. Evidence wins the case. Evidence demonstrates the truth, not opinion.

Most who believe in an inspired English translation tend to name the KJV as that translation. We must ask, however, Why should it hold this place? It is not the first major English translation. If the first English translation does not have to be the inspired one, then why can't the 100th English translation be the inspired translation? How do we decide which translation is inspired? It cannot be by asserting our opinion. It cannot even be by looking at the sales numbers. This has been a popular argument in favor of the KJV. It is argued that if it was not the inspired English version, it would not have been the best-selling and most loved Bible for the past 350 years. This line of reasoning, however, is not valid. We cannot use popularity or sales statistics to determine the inspiration or infallibility of a version. At one time the KJV was the underdog to the version known as the Bishopís Bible. The KJV was not received well at first, the Bishopís Bible being preferred over it. Only through some time would it become the most popular and best-selling English version. If we use popularity as the test for determining a version's inspiration, then the Bishopís Bible is the inspired version and the KJV is a version of Satan. Those who like the NIV could claim that since it is the most popular translation that it is the inspired version, being proven by the number of copies sold. Do we have three inspired translations? Using these types of arguments does not prove anything. It only proves that a version is popular, not that it is the best, or that it is inspired. The only way we can determine which translation is a good translation is by looking at a translation's conformity to the original Hebrew and Greek, which is the inspired version.

Concerning the origin of the modern translations being of the devil, I do not concur. Neither do I believe that the Trinitarian doctrine is confirmed in these versions to the exclusion of the Oneness view. You can find the Oneness doctrine in any Bible, event the New World Translation that the Jehovahís Witnesses use, and they do not even believe in the full deity of Jesus Christ. All versions of the English Bible are produced by Trinitarians, even the KJV. We can find the Oneness teaching in the KJV, and in any other version. Most modern versions are even more explicit in their translations of certain verses which teach the deity of Christ than is the KJV. There is no conspiracy to change or remove any doctrines in the new translations. The Trinitarians can no better use the NIV or RSV to tear down the Oneness view than they can with the KJV. There is not one major teaching that cannot be found in any certain translation. I find Oneness, baptism in Jesus' name, and speaking in tongues in every version. If you can show me any version that stamps out one of our doctrinal positions, no matter how small it may be, and can demonstrate that the translation that these versions chose is invalid, I will believe your claim that Trinitarians can tear down our doctrine with other versions. I have searched this out, and I do not find any such example. Even as I demonstrated in my article when commenting on the claims that the NIV is perverting the Word of God, all of the claims were unfounded. At first glance the conspiracy claims sound convincing, but most of them are nothing but misdirected and misinformed claims, if not even a deceptive misconstruing of the evidence.

As far as "forgiveness" and "remission," both words in the KJV come from the same Greek word, aphesis. There is no reason to make a distinction between them. Forgiveness and remission are synonyms. Their semantic domains greatly overlap. The only difference in the words is not their meaning, but their focus. "Forgiveness" speaks of a removal of oneís anger toward another. "Remission" has to do with a release from a debt, penalty, or obligation. The former focuses on the inward feeling, while the latter focuses on the external consequences. "Remission" is closer in meaning to the concept of "pardon," than is "forgiveness," and thus is used more in a legal way referring to the discharging of guilt and payment for wrongdoing, whether there is any inward forgiveness for wrongdoing or not. But even if "remission" was a stronger word in 1611, the fact remains that there is no reason to make the translation of the Greek word stronger in certain places and not in others, if it is the same Greek word that appears in every instance.. If the Greek word is strong, then they KJV should have translated it every time as "remission." If not, then they are choosing where to make it appear stronger, when in reality, it is only as strong as the Greek word allows. This is not a good translation principle. One cannot arbitrarily decide where they want to put varying degrees of emphasis in a translation of one word. The word means what it means. We cannot derive a strong and weak meaning for a word that only has one meaning.

Concerning John 3:16, I do not see any difference between "should not" and "shall not." They carry the same meaning. I do not see where the sense of the passage is changed by the variation.

Concerning "only begotten," you noted that if the word (Greek, monogenes) has to do with "uniqueness," (one and only) why translate it as "one and only" if we would automatically understand that concept from the term "only begotten." I agree that it is better translated as "only begotten," but the Greek word does refer to uniqueness, or the one and only of something. So it is not a mistranslation, nor is it a conspiracy. It is a valid translation, but I do not believe it is the best because it is always used in the NT of children, and thus, I believe, "only begotten" is a better translation.

I hope that this has helped you in some way, and shown you what I am and am not trying to say. I believe that we can and do find God's Word in our English versions. What I do not believe is that any one of them is completely accurate in their translation, or that any one of them is inspired. We find no Scriptural support for this idea. Our English versions are very good, but we must not place any one of them above the level of scrutiny, being able to judge their accuracy to the inspired Hebrew and Greek contained in the manuscript copies we possess today.


1. This quote is from a teaching seminar on textual criticism. The three-stage video series can be viewed on www.bible.org. This quote is from the first video. <back>

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