Book Review - Which Translation?

Which Translation is a compilation of articles on the subject of Bible translations available from The Testimony Magazine. Though I disagreed with some sections and comments, I found its considerations of some of the different translations of the Bible interesting and helpful. The book presents a history of the different translations and information about the direction they take. Included are several comparisons of scriptural rendering revealing some disturbing omissions in some texts. I recommend this book, particularly for those using something other than the King James Version to teach young people or as their only study Bible.

One article addressed the source of the Authorized Version (AV) and its predecessors, indicating they were based on a traditionally accepted Greek text, often loosely referred to as the Majority Text. In the 16th century, Erasmus edited the first printed Greek text of the New Testament, basing it on the Majority Text (in 1516 it was known as the Received Text). The New King James Version is based on this Received Text.

The Revised Version is said to have come about in response to the archaic language of the AV. Two Cambridge scholars were given the task of editing the NT Greek text. They used two early manuscripts, Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, which were out of Alexandria, rather than the traditional Majority Text. The two manuscripts differ markedly from each other but the scholars apparently chose these texts because Origen had edited the Bible in Greek using similar texts and these scholars believed, " Origen aimed at presenting the higher knowledge: He marked out for us the domain of Christian philosophy. " A telling comment is that the Vulgate, which followed these Alexandrian texts, was considered as corrupt by the Albigenses and Waldeneses, who used the Majority Text.

In contrast, almost all other recent versions use an eclectic text, that is, each editor manufactures his own text of the New Testament by selecting Greek text which, in his own judgment, makes the best sense or reads more like a phrase or sentence. The New International Version, for example, is based on such a subjective text. The problem with eclectism is the editor's own beliefs determine which text is followed. For example, the book indicates that the NIV dropped "begotten" in "only begotten son" (John 1:14, 18), because one of the translators argued that "only begotten Son" cannot be right, because "if it has to do with origins, derivation of descent, how does that square with the Son's eternality?" In regard to the NIV, the book reveals it to have many serious short comings as a translation; of particular concern is the apparent avoidance of any rendering which would support the Biblical doctrine that Jesus had the same flesh as we do.

Most modern versions of the Bible in English, from the RV of 1885 onwards, use a significantly different Greek text for the NT from that which was used by earlier translators (for example, Tyndale, Geneva Bible, AV). It is calculated that there are 209 passages in which there are omissions from the older text, representing a total of over 1500 words that have been dropped by the modern versions. The Living Bible and Good News Bible have shortened the Old Testament by about fifteen percent.

In regard to the King James Authorized Version the book offers this observation; "One of the great virtues of the AV is the consistency with which it generally renders a particular Hebrew or Greek word by the same English word. A translation needs to be reasonably consistent in the way in which it renders original words, and to do this the English word which will be used to translate a particular original word has to be chosen with great care. A number of the translators of the modern school have not given evidence of this degree of care in their work." It makes it hard to follow a thought or concept through scripture or tie them together when the words chosen are not consistent and that beautiful thread is broken.

The appearance of so many 'new' translations implies dissatisfaction with the AV. Let us not be swept away by this critical viewpoint. The new versions of Scripture can all be helpful as we read and study Yahweh's word. They can be used to help with understanding in those cases where the AV is difficult to understand. However, after reading this book, I think they should be used only alongside the AV and not as a substitute for it; as the promotion for the book attests; "...modern versions have too many problems associated with them to be unreservedly used." These newer versions make for easier reading but we must be wary of taking them at face value. Our young people need to be informed so that they with us might remain steadfast and not be led to innocently "add to or take away" from Yahweh's word.

Anyone using a modern translation to the exclusion of the Authorized Version (KJV) should read Which Translation and consider the translations addressed and the problems they create. This will help keep us from being unduly influenced by a poor or inaccurate translation.

An Unamended Sister