The Issue of Translation

The Issue of Translation

It seems to me a common theme of why I don’t understand the bible and it’s scriptural difficulties is because I’m using the wrong translation.  And the reason I am perceiving some of these scriptural difficulties as CONTRADICTIONS is cause I picked the wrong translation.  If only I had use the correct translation then I would not have this problem.  Oh how foolish of me, All this time if I had been using the right translation, then I would have never have experience this doubt or questioned my faith. {That’s Sarcasm for those who can’t tell.}  But when I get these comments on using the proper translations, some say I should be using the KJV/NKJV not the NIV.  Some say I should be using the ESV, not the KJV.  Some have recommended the NASB.  Others think the NIV.  So just which translation is it?  This is the issue of translation!

My very first Bible as a born again believer was a slim NKJV.  I loved that thing.  (I lost it at church sadly one day.)  And I remember two friends recommending me to switch to their versions.  My first friend said that I should switch to a Parallel KJV-Amplified cause that’s what my pastor uses and I should too.  And my other friend said I should switch to the NIV cause in his opinion the NIV was just a better translation and easier to read.  This got me stirred up inside to find out which is the best and most accurate translation to the original manuscripts!

The Question: Which is the best and most accurate translation to the original manuscripts?

A simple question, with a not so simple answer, because these are some of the things one must consider when dealing with bible translations & version: style of translation, which manuscript, how many translator and their level of expertise, methodology of translations, and how they handle differences in manuscripts.   In addition when you go into this topic, you go deep into the history of bible: i.e. The first (English) bible, The Septuagint, The Latin Vulgate, William Tyndale, Majority Text, Critical Text, Byzantine Text, Masoretic Text, Translation Methodology, Textual Variants, Alexandrian Text, John Wycliffe, The Apocrypha, Council of Nicaea, Catholic/Universal Church, Various Papyrus manuscripts, Codex Sinaiticus, Textual Criticism, Westcot and Hort Text.  One could actually do a textual critique of every chapter and every book in the bible.  I could literally start a whole new blog on this topic.  And believe me I am far from an expert on this topic.  But I did enough studying to roughly answer that question. 

The answer to the question is nobody knows.  Because we don’t have the original for each book of the bible but, through textual criticism and diligent studies scholars can get a pretty solid idea of what the original manuscripts looked like.  But it did let me know that I shouldn’t settle on just one bible as a source of study. So in my own studying I use a minimum of three different bible versions when going into STUDY MODE. 

When I do my own personal reading I prefer the NKJV, cause I enjoy the archaic language, but not the difficult reading of the more literal translations.   However when I go into study mode, like when I do research on a particular biblical scripture topic.  I will have a tendency to use three bible versions.  NIV, HCSB, NASB.  Why these three, because in my opinion they provide a good balance to understanding the true context of the scripture.

Why the NIV?  Well because when doing a complete literal-to-literal translation, something’s can become incoherent and difficult to understand, so a thought-to-thought may be necessary in that circumstance.  I also like the NIV version because the translation took nearly ten years and involved a team of nearly 100 scholarsfrom the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.  (Hence, the name international version.)In addition, their translation method was one of the most meticulous in comparison to other bible versions.  The range of those participating included many different denominations such as Anglicans, Assemblies of God, Baptist, Christian Reformed, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and even Secular Scholars.

Why the HCSB? Holman Bible Publishers also assembled an international, interdenominational team of 100 scholars and proofreaders, all of whom were committed to biblical inerrancy.  The translation committee sought to strike a balance between the two prevailing philosophies of Bible translation: formal equivalence (literal, “word-for-word”, etc) and dynamic or functional equivalence (“thought-for-thought”). The translators called this balance “optimal equivalence.”  According to the translators, the primary goal of an optimal equivalence translation is “to convey a sense of the original text with as much clarity as possible”. In addition, the HCSB uses the textual variants to its full capacity, were it recognizes questionable scriptures and textual differences with its manuscripts in its textual variants.  Other translations do this to, but not to the degree that the HCSB has committed itself too.  Furthermore the HCSB has very good readability and understandability without much loss in translation. 

Why the NASB?  The NASB is widely and unanimously regarded as the strictest literal translation of scripture, even more so than the ESV or KJV.  (Not including the Interlinear translation, because at parts of its strict literal translation the wording and meaning can sometimes be hard to understand and incoherent.) The NASB has been revised just once since its inception in 1971, all together up to 50 translators from a variety of denominational backgrounds who are conservative Bible scholars with doctorates in biblical languages, theology, or other advanced degrees worked on the NASB.  No compromise on being literal was the game plan by the translators who put this together. 

Thesethree versions in my opinion are very balanced for in depth bible study.  I would recommend for anybody who studies their bible, that when they come across a difficult passage to use at least three different versions and to cross reference them against each other.

Now I could use other versions, because I have plenty of versions in my own house: i.e.:

  • ·         King James Version (KJV)
  • ·         New king James Version (NKJV)
  • ·         Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
  • ·         New Living Translation (NLT)
  • ·         Green’s Interliner translation
  • ·         New International Version (NIV)
  • ·         THE New International Version (TNIV)
  • ·         Contempory English Version (CEV)
  • ·         English Standard Version (ESV)
  • ·         Amplified Version (AMP)
  • ·         The Message
  • ·         New American Standard Bible (NASB)
  • ·         The Living Bible
  • ·         I think I might even have the Jehovah Witness’ bible laying somewhere around the house.  The New World Translation (NWT)

However I have found that it is not necessary to use every version, because all the bible translations & versions are relatively 99.1% similar with the exception of some grammatical &  manuscript error.  Now for anybody who wants to research this topic themselves here are a few helpful resources to get you started.  Like I said there is so much information on this topic, I could start a new blog on it.

*For a basic guide on Biblical translations, here is a helpful website: http://getreal.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8341fd10e53ef0147e17965dc970b-800wi

http://www.apbrown2.net/web/TranslationComparisonChart.htm

*A short guideline on Bible translations: http://betterbibles.com/versions/

*A top ten bible version list with explanation, pros, & cons: http://homepage.mac.com/rmansfield/thislamp/files/20070608_top_ten_bible_versions_complete_boxed_set.html

In my study of Textual Criticism I found three books to be most helpful in my study of textual criticism.

The Origin of the Bible’ by Bruce, Packer, Comfort, & Henry

Who Wrote the Bible?’ by Richard Friedman

The one source that I found to be the most informative is ‘Difference between Bible Versions’ by Gary Zeolla. This one I have found the most helpful. It actually goes through the different translations and how they were translated and the different manuscripts used to write the bible.  I would highly recommend this read to anybody who is serious about this topic.   

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About M. Rodriguez

When I first received Christ salvation, I made it a priority to read the whole bible and I did. But it was the Bible that made me question my faith. For I found it flawed and lacking. Due to this I launched a personal inquiry/investigation into my faith, and ultimately realized that the Christian God of the Bible was indeed man-made. Now I Blog about those findings and life after Christ.
This entry was posted in bible, bible contradictions, biblical difficulties, debate, inerrancy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to The Issue of Translation

  1. Nate says:

    Great post! You did a very good job researching all of this.

  2. to Nate,

    It’s funny you say that, cause when I wrote this post, it didn’t take me long to write this post, because most of it is just old research I’ve done. I actually thought I was being too general in the post and not specific enough.

    I just really wanted to put this post up, so I have standard reply for when people bring up the issue the issue translation and bible contradictions.

  3. portal001 says:

    Let me know what you think of this:

    http://www.avpublications.com/avnew/downloads/PDF/LOTKJB/preview.PDF

    Should people be wary when reading the NKJV?

  4. portal001 says:

    Its interesting how the omission or changing of one word in a verse can change the entire meaning and understanding of a text

  5. Nate says:

    That publication appears to be from a KJV-only site, which makes me a little skeptical of its findings. When I looked through their comparisons between the KJV and NKJV, I didn’t see too many that seemed like they would make a big difference. And they seem to imply that the NKJV was put together as some kind of conspiracy, which I find highly unlikely.

    • portal001 says:

      But changes in just a few words can have a huge impact eg:

      http://bible.org/article/lucifer-devil-isaiah-1412-kjv-argument-against-modern-translations

      What do you think?

      • In my opinion, YES, anybody who uses the KJV or NKJV should be wary of accuracy and precision.

        I almost find it comical that put so much emphasis on the KJV, since it’s not even the first ENGLISH Bible. I mean it was written over 1500 years after Christ death.

        To put this way, The HCSB, NIV, and NASB, were huge undertaking by large group of experts in their field with extensive knowledge and resources to use.

        The KJV was written by a smaller group of people of about 30-36. These people who wrote this in 1611, they were not the top experts in their field. They did not have extensive resources. In fact they only had a few choices in regard to manuscripts to use as basis for translating the bible. Really at that time in history. One could only have used the Latin Vulgate (which is greatly flawed) or the Textus Recptus, which no modern version is translated from now. In fact the reason why the KJV was written was in response to the Catholic Church not wanting a protestant english bible. Futhermore, when writing the KJV, the group did use the Textus Recptus, however that was not their basis of translation. They actually used the Tyndale Bible as the basis for translation. Scholars ambigously say between 70%-80% of the KJV is word for word the Tyndale Bible. So it was even written mainly form greek-hebrew manuscripts, one could say the KJV was a copy of another english copy.

        Now the NKJV, had a larger group work in it, around 130 people. Now they had more resources, like more copies of byzatine manuscripts, dead sea scrolls, and the septugaint. Now even though these may have been used in the translation of the NKJV. The main basis for the NKJV was actually the KJV. Their primary focus wasn’t to present the most accurate translation, but to preserve the KJV and it’s language, without destroying the original context of the KJV. What they did in their translation was replace much of the archaic language with a more modern terminology. That was about it.

        so yes I do caution anybody who decides to use the KJV or the NKJV as their main study bible.

    • Nate says:

      Sometimes, yes. But this article about the devil/Lucifer seems to say that the problem actually stems from the KJV. From what I understand, most scholars agree that the KJV is not a very reliable version. Modern translations are relying on much more manuscript evidence and a better understanding of the various languages that go into it.

      • Yes this is true, one of the main reasons for this is the choice of manuscripts for translation.

        There are generlly two families of manuscripts Bynzatine and Alexandrian. most (or all) modern translation now use the Alexandiran family of manuscripts when tranlation/writing new bibles. Most (Almost All) agree that the Alexandrian is more accurate and contains fewer errors and differences in discrepancies within each other. Here is a simple overview of the two family of manuscritps:

        #1–The Byzantine–This family boasts the larger number of mss by far. However, they are also the later ones. For example, there is little evidence that any of these mss date anytime before the 4th century.

        #2–The Alexandrian–While there are fewer mss here, many scholars consider them to more accurate and they are certainly the earlier ones. We even have some of the early church fathers quoting from this tradition.

      • The KJV – Textus Receptus comes from the Bynzatine family.

  6. unklee says:

    I tend to go for preservation of the meaning rather than the words, but in the end I think it isn’t crucial. The important thing is obedience, and there are enough things in the Bible that are in absolutely no doubt that challenge our obedience. When we have learnt to love our enemies and pray for them, to forgive unreservedly, to be convicted of our sins and quickly repent, to love God with our whole hearts and our neighbour as ourselves, etc, etc, then we can start to worry about the bits that are less certain due to translation!

    • Brenda says:

      UnkleE

      I think some people (like yourself possibly) approach the bible with the big picture in view and then will zero in on some of the particulars, whereas others need to know they can trust those particulars before they are willing to trust the bible’s bigger messages.

      Not saying one of these is right or wrong – just a difference in perspective and approach that I think comes into play in some of these discussions.

      • unklee says:

        Yes, we need to have enough confidence in the accuracy of the Bible to want to be guided by it. But this post isn’t talking about why we have confidence in the Bible, but how a believer should read it (I think).

  7. imbrocata says:

    Isn’t the argument between the Textus Receptus or Majority Text vs. the Sanaiticus and Vaticanus, or the majority of newer translations vs. KJV and others something along the lines of one appealing to the proliferation of the texts (Majority Text) vs. the other appealing to the age of the text sample? Sorry if I missed the answer if it has already been given – I didn’t see it and was just curious on your thoughts regarding this.

    • yeah the Byzantium family text do have larger proliferation and circular of that family of manuscripts, but as many people will agree…more in quantity does not mean more in quality.

      • imbrocata says:

        Thanks for the reply:) Do you think ‘quality’ is subjective at all? If an even earlier or more complete text supporting the ‘Textus Receptus’ were found, would you apply the same argument and begin using that translation/version?

    • To be honest, I really don’t know. I’m not an expert in the field, must of my knowledge and opinion relies heavily off the experts in the field. And what I read in books, and on the internet.

      And yes to a degree, the choice on weather one (family of) manuscripts is more accurate to the original and has higher quality is some ambiguous. For example, many scholars if they were comparing two manuscripts and one had more words than the other, the experts in field would typically assume the shorter manuscript/verse with less words was the original or closer to the original. Because it would be more likely that a scribe would add more than take away words. For example in Mark Chapter 16….http://www.gotquestions.org/Mark-16-9-20.html

      So really if there was an earlier byzantine manuscript that gave more validity to the textus receptus, than that is something I would consider. However because I’m not an expert in the field, and don’t know ancient Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic. I would prefer to withhold judgement on something like that until the experts have weighed in on their own opinion.

      Now I prefer the alexandrian family of manuscripts because of various reasons, but in the book Difference between Versions by Gary Zeolla, he actually prefers the byzantine family of manuscripts and explains why. (And he actually has a background in greek & hebrew) (however even though I can understand his argument, i don’t agree with him on his conclusion.) And he is one of the main reasons why I prefer the alexandrian over the bynzatine.

      *Now if you are really interested in study of this, and really want to learn more about it, his book is the #1 source I would recommend.

  8. IgnorantiaNescia says:

    Bible Reader, I was wondering whether you also use Bible commentaries? These can be quite a help, even if some commentaries sometimes differ on issues.

    • yes, but not very often. I usually use commentaris as a last resort, when using various bible versions doesn’t get it done.

      http://bible.cc/ has very good commentary selection, when you put in the scripture. It will follow with how it’s written in different version. And a listing of the most recognized commentaries.

      And On blueletterbible, they have audio commentaries which is pretty cool.

      Like I said, I usually only use commentaries as a last resort cause feel if you really want to understand a scripture, you would probably be better off at looking at a different version, and then doing a lil bit of cross refereeing and research. And if you still don’t understand then a commentary.

      * another reason I usually look don’t like using commentaries is that something are more doctrinaly inclined vs. objective in inclined.

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  10. Thane says:

    Very, very one-sided. Most here seem to say “I’ll look for expert opinions, just so long as they don’t purport the truth to be found in support of the KJB/received text”. You have done a lot of research, but your research focuses on scolarly, university trained supporters of the school of textual criticism; therefore, you have a bias against the received text. If you are willing to hear some loving Christian brothers who are also highly trained and academic in nature who have different conclusions than you, I will share a few names with you that you can look up.
    1. Dr. Floyd Nolen Jones Expert in Bible Chronology
    2. Dr. Jack Moorman Expert on manuscript evidence
    3. Pastor D.A. Waite (The Dean Burgon Society)
    There are many others, but these are loving Christian brothers who have expertise and decades of scholarly research that shows that the received text is the only text that accurately preserves the Words of God.
    I implore you; please read for yourselves. There is much evidence out there that supports the preservation of God’s Word. Ask yourselves these questions as you prayerfully & search this matter out.
    1. Does Scripture say about itself that it is inerrant?
    2. Did God promise to preserve His Word?
    3. If He did promise then, is this important for us today?
    4. If He did, then where can I find it?

    One thing my dad told me a while back is that those who research Scripture should have an appropriate believing bias. Many on modern version translation committees are not even Christians. Just having a Phd behind your name does not qualify you to critically analyze the Words of God. Please, I am not on here to argue, debate, or win. I hold the Words of God very near and dear to my heart. Please don’t call me KJV only unless you define what you mean by KJV only. Please prayerfully consider my exhortation & actually look up the things some of these guys have said for yourselves & ask the Holy Spirit to guide you because it is He that will lead you into all truth.

    Thane

    • M. Rodriguez says:

      You look for expert opinions, because they are experts. They are experts, because they have spent a large portion of their life researching and studying these topics. You wouldn’t ask a butcher for advice or their opinion on matters for medical advice, no you would ask a doctor. It is only reasonable and logical to read the experts papers on things. But also in doing that, you can also make yourself a sort of expert on those matters also.

      When studying the topic of the bible, you have to start with history and textual criticism, because the first question is and will always be What is the first Bible? and what one learns is that is not so easy of a question to answer, which leads one also into the field of textual criticism

      now as for your experts, I’ll be honest, i’m not going to research them, I’ve researched this topic well enough to know who are some of the most well respected experts. And they are not. In addition, you don’t have rely on experts opinion for information. Just study the chronolgy of the bible on how it was written. Study the history of the bible. and manuscripts. This information does not need expert opinion. This can be done yourself.

      As for your questions:
      1. Does Scripture say about itself that it is inerrant?
      https://bittersweetend.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/does-inspiration-imply-inerrancy/
      2. Did God promise to preserve His Word?
      I would say No, in the sense of written word. But if you talking about Jesus being the logos, then I would say Yes. https://bittersweetend.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/the-history-of-inerrancy/
      3. If He did promise then, is this important for us today?
      I would say no
      4. If He did, then where can I find it?
      Again No, I find it hard to believe that the KJV is the preserved word of God, considering it has errors that only exist in the KJV. https://bittersweetend.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/did-michal-have-any-children/

      there is nothing wrong, if you choose to believe in the KJV, or prefer it. But like my point in this blog post…..I’ve done my research.

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