Today the Bible is translated into over 450 languages and there are over well over 200 English versions. Of these there are about 30 that are fairly popular. Bibles are known as versions, translations, or paraphrases. Every different Bible can be called a version. A translation, however, means that the Bible was entirely translated directly from the original languages. A paraphrase Bible such as the Living Bible is one simply one that uses everyday language in order to convey the message in an easier way to the reader.
First of all, let’s get the false scriptures out of the way. Not all Bibles are true. Below are a few popular examples.
New World translation - It should be noted that Jehovah’s witnesses have their own translation known as the New World translation. The interpretation committee had no members with a recognized degree in either Hebrew or Latin. They also were instructed to change phrases that did not agree with their doctrine.
Koran –The Koran is a separate book from the Bible written solely by Muhammad. The Koran refers to the Old Testament, but Islam has its own version of Old Testament. Muhammad completely changed the Old Testament to fit his own belief. Muslims believe their version is the only true version of the Old Testament despite the fact that it was written over 2,000 years after the time of Moses.
Book of Mormon - Mormons have added to scripture by believing in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon was written in 1830 by Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon faith. Supposedly, Smith received the scripture on golden plates given to him by an angel and written in reformed Egyptian. Christians denounce the Book of Mormon because the Bible is considered a final revelation from God, and because many of the Mormon teachings are bizarre, historically inaccurate, and contradict the Bible.
Apocrypha - Catholics have a different Bible than Protestants. The Catholic Bible has a additions known as the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha consists of 9 books, additions to the book of Ester, and 4 other writings. Protestants do not accept these writings as part of the Bible for several reasons:
1. The Apocrypha was never an official part of the Old Testament.
2. Jesus and his disciples never quoted from the Apocrypha.
3. Ancient Jewish writers such as Philo and Josephus never quoted the Apocrypha as scripture.
4. The Apocrypha was never considered scripture until the Council of Trent in 1546.
5. They have been found to contain historical and geographical inaccuracies.
I would recommend the New Living Bible (NLB) or another paraphrase Bible for someone who has never read the complete Bible. The Living Bible was my first Bible that I read through as an adult. It served its purpose. That purpose was to make the Bible easy to read and interesting enough for me to get through the whole Bible.
I then chose the New International Version (NIV) because I then wanted the most accurate version I could get in plain English. I considered the NIV as the most accurate version because it is based on The Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947. Radiocarbon dating shows the linens that wrapped these 600 leather pieces of scripture to be from 175 B. C. to 225 A.D. The New International Version became a completely new translation based on these original manuscripts written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. The Christian Reformed Church and the National Association of Evangelists began the process that brought over 100 scholars from around the world to create the NIV. Many denominations from around the world including the Assembly of God churches, the Baptists, the Brethren, and the Mennonites supported this effort and made sure there would be no sectarian bias.
The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) printed in 1989 has also taken advantage of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The NRSV however has made politically correct changes that vary from the strict literal interpretations. The NRSV has changed the word virgin to young woman even though the original Greek of Hebrews and the original Hebrew of Isaiah uses the word meaning virgin. The NRSV is therefore accepted mostly by some of the more liberal churches such the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church. I find it a testimony to God’s oversight that there does not appear to be any theological difference between the NIV translation based on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the King James Version which is based on various sources past down and changed over centuries.
The King James Version (KJV)
The books of the Old Testament were originally written in Hebrew and the original books of the New Testament were written in Greek. They did not have chapters or verses. We do not have any of the original writings, but since all copying had to be done by hand, the religious officials of the day took great precautions to make sure that every word and punctuation was copied correctly. The first well known translation was done around 200 A.D. and is called the Septuagint. Seventy-two scholars translated the Old Testament into Greek by the command of the king of Egypt.
As early as 1199 the Pope opposed the translation of the Bible into English and the common man reading and the Bible. In the mid 1300’s the Wycliff Bible became the first complete English Bible to appear in England. It was soon considered Heresy to own such a Bible and owning one was punishable by death. In 1525, thanks to the newly invented printing press, William Tyndale printed the first English translation of the New Testament translated directly from the Greek and Hebrew. Tyndale was a genius who was educated at Oxford and spoke 7 languages fluently. Because of his translation, Tyndale was killed in 1536 by the King of England as a heretic.
Until the beginning of the 16th century all European versions were based on the Latin Vulgate language. In fact, the Catholic Church did not accept any Bible that was not based on Latin Vulgate unlit the 20th century. The Bible went through many variations and translations until the King James Version was printed in 1611. At that time there were 5 popular versions. King James VI of Scotland at the direction of the Puritans, a division within the Church of England, commissioned about 54 scholars to come up with a version that would be more accurate and more universally accepted than the other versions. Most of the King James Old Testament was based on the Bishops Bible which was then the first “authorized” version of the Catholic church. 80% or more of the New Testament was taken from Tyndale’s Bible. The King James Bible later became the new authorized version of the Church of England.
The King James Cult
There are some people who will not read any version but the King James Version. That is fine if they feel comfortable with that version. However, there are people that believe so strongly in the King James Version that they are cult like in nature. They have books and brochures stating that all other versions are the work of the Devil. These advocates also often attend churches that believe the same doctrine. The only thing that seems to make these people different than the Catholic priests of the dark ages is that they don’t push for the death sentence for those reading versions that do not meet their approval.
Why do these people believe in the King James so strongly? I will try to answer that question as briefly as possible. I will also list the arguments against their beliefs.
1. KJV extremists point to scriptures such as Ps. 12:6,7 that says the words of the Bible will last “forever”. What these people do not acknowledge is that since they take this scripture literally, they should not be reading scripture in English. They should be reading the Bible in the original Greek or Hebrew.
2. Another reason for KJV extremism is that other versions such as the NIV have fewer words. The NIV has also left out certain verses. These KJV advocates believe that certain words and phrases were changed or left out by the power of Satin in order to water down the scriptures.
a. One should note that the original scripture did not have chapters or verses, so it is not possible to pervert the originals by leaving out verses. In fact, the KJV has perverted the originals by using chapters and verses.
b. The KJV has more words because the translators had to use phrases that helped to reinforce Catholic doctrines such as the doctrine of the Trinity.
c. The NIV for example is based on the most current ancient manuscripts available. Translation is strictly academic and words are not changed to meet a certain doctrine by any particular denomination.
d. An example of the NIV being criticized by the KJV advocates is Luke 2:33; many claim the NIV uses the term "father" instead of using Joseph and thus supposedly denying the virgin birth. First of all, this idea is a slap in the face to any parent who adopted a child and is called father or mother. Secondly, and most importantly however is the fact that the proper noun "Joseph" (looseef) is not used in the Greek manuscripts for this scripture. Instead, (pateer)is used which means father. This checks out in three different Hebrew study Bibles. Additionally, almost eleven of the most popular Bible versions do not use "Joseph". Finally, if the translators of the NIV had ulterior motives, they would have changed Matt 1:18…... “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.” The KJV thus takes liberties with the literal translation in order to emphasize a church doctrine (virgin birth).
e. I have personally compared many of the verses in question to different Bible versions and see no difference in theological teaching in any of them.
3. Above all, KJV extremists mainly claim that the KJV version is the only “authorized” version.
a. They seem to ignore the fact that there was a previous “authorized” version and it needed to be replaced.
b. Furthermore, who authorized this version? It was done by an act of Parliament with backing by the Church of England (later called Anglo-Catholic). The Church of England was part of the Catholic Church by decree of the Elizabethan Agreement in 1558. It also followed the Nicene Creed which states that the Catholic Church is the only true church. I find it interesting that KJV extremists do not attend a Catholic Church or an Anglo-Catholic denomination. (The Episcopal Church is an American denomination of the Anglo-Catholic church.)
c. Furthermore, why don’t these KJV advocates believe in the Apocrypha since it was part of the original KJV translation and was accepted by the Church of England as part of the Bible.
d. I also wonder why these legalistic KJV extremists read a version named after a man? Especially a man who wasn’t even clergy, but a king. Sure, the KJV is officially called the “Authorized Version”, but we all know which name is by far the most popular.
e. Another point is that some people may not read the King James Version, but they may read the NIV or an accurate paraphrase Bible because it is easier to read. Therefore, to scare people away from these versions may be a sin based in legalism.
f. Also, remember, the Church of England (which encompasses many Catholic beliefs) endorsed the KJV about 400 years ago, but many of the conservative churches of today also endorse versions such as the NIV.
One reason for different versions is because of new archeological discoveries such as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Another reason for new versions is because of an ever-changing language. For example: At one time a person could say: “I gave my son a little pot to keep him from crying.” I would be careful about saying that today.
With so many versions where does one start? I like to make the point that reading of a particular version is similar to listening to a particular preacher. It’s not the words that are important; it is the message that counts. The same truth may be expressed in many different words. That’s why we have different versions. To believe in only one version is like saying one should only listen to one pastor. In fact, he better use the exact same words if he gives the same sermon twice.
Finally, if a person cannot make up their mind regarding which version to read, they can get a Bible called a parallel Bible. It has as many as 6 columns spread across two pages so you can see 6 versions at once. Better yet, you can buy Biblesoft software for your computer and see 22 versions at the click of a mouse and compare several at one time in multiple windows. As a bonus, you are only a mouse click away from Hebrew and Greek lexicons as well as Bible commentaries, Bible dictionaries, and Bible encyclopedias. God’s Word is out there so all you need is to let the Spirit move you!
1. Comment on how the Bible has been passed on through the centuries.
2. What surprising information did you learn about the Bible?
3. How many versions are you familiar with? Which version do you read and why?
4. What information in this lesson will help your future study of God’s word?
*Find it in the Bible by Bob Phillips……: Howard Publishing Co. copyright 1982