Learning Bible Translations Do matter

Reverend Malcolm Watts was the other speaker hosted at the Keach Conference this past weekend. He spoke on the Providential Preservation of the Scriptures. My notes from his lectures are quite jumbled, so I won’t be sharing them. For much of his lectures I sat in the pew quietly stunned by what I was hearing. Certainly, he was saying things I was quite unaware of.

As some of you may know, this year was the 400th anniversary of the Authorized Version (The 1611 King James Version) of the Bible. Because of this fact, in celebration of this, Rev. Watts spoke about the KJV and other translations from the majority texts (please note neither I nor Rev. Watts are advocating a KJV only stance here) over and against our modern translations from the critical texts. His lectures were uncomfortable for me. I had always been a good ESV carrying Calvinist. I mean, that is the translation of choice among young Calvinists, is it not? Why did I have this translation? Why had I chose it? These questions went through my mind as I heard what Rev. Watts said about the surfacing of the Critical Texts translations in 1880(I don’t have the exact date on hand). 1880?! That is so young in the scope of church history! That alone puts a red flag up for me.

So why was I carrying around an ESV anyway? I realized it was simply because the teachers and pastors I admire tend to use it. You know, those celebrity type pastors. I had never considered how it was translated or what from. Shouldn’t I take the Word of God more seriously?

Needless to say, hearing the two lectures from Rev. Watts sent me on a search to find out more about Bible Translations, what the church had always used since receiving the Scriptures, and what the difference between the critical and majority texts was. Those two lectures, sparked hours of reading and research and late night discussions between me and my husband. We are still wrestling with this. It’s never easy to admit you were wrong.

As you may guess, all my research and learning seems to have me shifting camps. I went from critical text beliefs because they were popular to leaning toward majority texts (and maybe the TR camp specifically … still learning). The one thing we have solidly agreed on from our learning thus far is that the ESV is not a good translation (no, we aren’t throwing out our ESVs or saying they aren’t Bibles. No worries – we aren’t fanatical! It’s just no longer our translation of choice).

I’m very thankful that God allowed me to sit and listen to Rev. Watts. That God stretched me outside of where I was comfortable. If it weren’t for Rev.Watts lectures at the Keach Conference I would still be blissfully ignorant to this issue. I praise God for allowing me to learn more about Him and His church!

One day, I hope to write a more detailed post of the differences between the two. Until then, here are two lectures I have found very helpful on the subject. When Rev. Watts’ lectures are available on sermonaduio.com I will share them as well.

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20 thoughts on “Learning Bible Translations Do matter

  1. I am actually starting to become more distrustful of the KJV, actually after finding that some things were translated very badly.I'm not leery of the Textus Receptus, of course, but the translation. There are other versions based on the TR, besides the KJV. I am actually using the Young's Literal quite a bit more. I almost fell into a KJV only thing for some time, and even heard one of my favorite teachers say don't check the Greek! I'm so grateful we live in a day that every translation (along with the Greek and Hebrew) is at our fingertips! Whenever I have a question or doubt I check the original language. I'm not a Greek or Hebrew scholar, of course, but you can check word usage in other passages to get an idea of what it means. Sorry to ramble on! Best wishes in your search sister:)

  2. Hi Ma! Thanks for your comments. To be clear, the KJV is not the only translation from the majority texts. The translations from the majority texts include the KJV, NKJV, and the Geneva Bible. All modern translations come from the critical texts 🙂

  3. I'm not advocating, nor was Rev. Watts, a KJV only position at all! He did say he believes the KJV to be the best translation. I don't agree with him on that. However, I'm sure there's issues with all translations. With that being said, I still say the Bible is sufficient and trustworthy- even in the English translations.

  4. Ma- There are some differences. None of the differences really change the foundations of the Christian faith. The Critical texts omit many of the verses and chapters that are found in the TR. In most modern translations these differences are noted in brackets or footnotes that say something like, "these verses are not found in the earliest manuscripts." My main problem with the critical texts, is they don't really promote a closed Cannon of Scripture. Up until the release of the "Revised" versions (based on the critical texts) the church accepted things like the doxology of the Lord's prayer and the woman caught in adultery as Scripture. Now many don't because of an archaeological discovery. Critical texts are often esteemed as better because they are older. But, what if tomorrow somewhere they dig up a bunch of even older manuscripts that don't have the genealogy of Jesus, or the first chapter of John. Do we then remove them from Scripture or cast doubt on them too? I would say based on critical text thinking we would have to if we were to be consistent.

  5. I meant to add, the critical texts are a little over 2,000 words shorter than the majority texts (which the TR comes from the majority texts). It's the equivalent of removing first and second Peter from our Bibles. Also, it is my understanding the critical text originate from Alexandria where there was never any Apostolic presence but where many heresies developed. Whereas the majority text originate from Antioch, where much Apostolic preaching was done. That's just what I've learned so far. I'm still learning!

  6. I covet (ha! coveting a bible) my seminary professor's Bible all the time for just this reason.His was a massive text and each set of 2 pages was one passage. On the far left, the original language. The next column, a literal translation (literally literal- "go he mountain" was not an uncommon style line) the next column was KJV and the next column was commentary. It was amazing. Also something like $200, but one day I'm going to justify that expense!

  7. "So why was I carrying around an ESV anyway? I realized it was simply because the teachers and pastors I admire tend to use it. You know, those celebrity type pastors. I had never considered how it was translated or what from. Shouldn't I take the Word of God more seriously?" This tendency to follow celebrities is what had gotten me into the perfect mindset for being misled. Great observation, Holly! Keep you eyes upon Jesus… He will guide you and your husband toward His truth in increasing measures! Otherwise, a very thought-provoking post!

  8. It is indeed very important to not be "blissfully ignorant" of the issues, but I do hope that you will continue to research and read up on this, as you stated, very important topic. Before I continue in my comments I hope you will read it with the knowledge that I, in no way, mean to be rude, unloving, or arrogant. It is hard to convey feeling and emotion through a blog comment (or any text for that matter), but I hope you will trust how much I love you and know that my greatest love is for the Word of God itself as it reflects our Lord. I know this is exactly how you feel and thus I feel that I can bring up my concerns without fear knowing that you will weigh them and discuss them with your husband without feeling attacked.Some of the "red flags" that went up for me during this post and in a later comment you made were these:1. When you talk about the only reason you were reading the ESV was due to the celebrity pastors you love who also read and preach from it as though this were a bad thing. Surely, we should never ignorantly follow the lead of someone just because we think he is "smart," but when you have brilliant, wise, humble, faithful, educated pastors, professors, and theologians (Greek scholars even) who highly recommend the modern translations (most notably the NASB and ESV) above older translations their recommendation and reasoning should be taken into account. Their faithfulness in ministry and love of the Word of God should give insight to their preference for a particular version. Of course, good intentions, education, and faithfulness do not mean that these men are infallible and therefore should not be the basis of your decision but it should indeed influence it.to be continued because my comment was too long…

  9. continued from my last comment…. :)2.) In a comment you mentioned that using older manuscripts somehow negates the notion of a "closed cannon". This seems quite contrary to the belief that the original words breathed out by God, penned by the apostles and prophets themselves were inspired rather than copies made by scribes hundreds of years later. The inspiration of the Word of God that we have today is only as good as it is close to the original writings. To say that the cannon cannot be considered closed if we can simply find an older document that has variations is an argument that assumes the particular manuscript you prefer is closer to the original than an older version closer in proximity and date. I am not in any way saying that the majority texts should be discounted, but rather that the critical texts should not as well. Both give us important insight into the original texts, and in some cases both challenge the other, giving us reason to further examine and study. Yes there are more similarities among the majority texts and more differences among the critical texts, but does it not make sense that as time progresses and manuscripts became more abundant they would look more and more alike?What if Paul's original writings (and you could verify that it was indeed the actual thing) were somehow found and a beloved passage from the KJV (or any other translation for that matter) was not in it? Would it be rejected because the cannon is closed? Certainly not! We would simply have a better understanding of the Word of God, the very words that he intended for us to have. 3. Probably the first red flag that came up was the fact that Rev. Watts does believe that the KJV is the "best translation." I do not mean to be disrespectful in any way (please believe me when I say that), but this automatically makes me wary of his teaching. Not because no good teacher can love the KJV (obviously that is not true). But someone who adamantly believes that the KJV is the best translation available does not qualify to me as someone who should be directing people in their understanding of translations, manuscripts, etc… I hope that that doesn't come across arrogant, but it is pretty well accepted (within the reformed community) that the KJV has an incredible amount of errors, is misleading in places, and simply doesn't reflect the tone (common language) that the original text so beautifully reads in. It, even if you do not believe that the critical texts should be taken into account (which I just cannot understand), would still not be my first choice, though I must admit I am unfamiliar with other, older translations. I would like to recommend a book that is very informational on the topic. I don't know if you have read it or if it is one you are considering reading as you guys sort through all your thoughts. It is James White's "The King James Only Controversy". I know that you mentioned that you are not advocating a King James Only view, but, the view you are heading towards (majority or TR manuscript preference) falls within the bounds of the arguments he makes in his book. He covers all of the concerns you listed, and I am sure more that you haven't in a very concise, informative manner. I hope that it is a helpful resource to you.Again, I love you and will be praying for you guys as you sort through all of this.

  10. Jessalyn,Thank you for being so kind to take yout time to comment! I appreciate your concern, your thoughts and I'm always encouraged by your love for Christ 🙂 All the things you've mentioned are things we are/have been thinking through. 1. You might be surprised at how many not-so-popular (but just as learned) Pastors and Teachers prefer the Majority text side. We have yet to have this own conversation with our own Pastor, due to timing, but he has told me he leans toward the Majority text. Jeff Riddle, the pastor I linked, is a man we (well moreso my husband) knows personally. His church was a church plant of ours. Joel Beeke also is a majority text man. Much to my surprise as I researched, there are quite a few people within Reformed circles that take this view. The problem is that when yuo say this loud and clear you are often painted as KJV-only type and it doesn't take long for tweets and blogs of popular pastors to tell everyone you're probably kind of crazy because of your view. (This actually happened to a pastor we know personally. And it's so sad because Reformed Baptist circles are so small, we really don't need friendly fire going on.) That being said, we of course don't dismiss people like James White simply because he's popular. Dr. White is a favorite in our home. We both admire him and have a deep sense of respect for him. (I listen to the Dividing Line every day I can while preparing dinner. For 'date nights' we used to watch his debates together! LOL). We have both read much of what he says on this. Pretty much all that's available on his blog. And, it seems, we are currently respectfully disagreeing with him. It reminds me of that saying just because it is popular doesn't make it right. (like you I will need to continue in another comment 🙂 )

  11. 3. This is one that many, many brethren take issue with. And it makes me really sad. You aren't alone in feeling this way. And, I myself had trouble swallowing Rev. Watts message when he said this. But, the KJV is 90% of our beloved Brother Tyndale's work. It's a close translation to what the Reformers used. Some Puritans used it. These were great-great men that paved the way for us. I don't think it's right to turn our nose up at it or discount someone's (especially an elder Pastor) teaching because they prefer it. We personally don't prefer the KJV. My husband does not like it because it was issued to stamp out the Geneva Bible (that's why the King issued the translation. The men that translated it were indeed godly men with a love for God and his word. The King, of course, did not want the Geneva Bible because of the notes in it.). I also know many smart, intelligent brothers in Christ that prefer this version because they grew up memorizing it. After hearing Rev. Watts lecture it certainly humbled me a few pegs and I hope I don't judge people again based on my personal preferences. Now, being KJV-only is wrong. I don't know of any Pastor or sound teaching man or woman that would say we should not have a variety of translations for study. Even those that prefer the majority texts suggest having critical texts translations for personal study and such. Thank you for the book recommendation. Like I said, we have read much of what Dr. White has to say (all that is available in his archives) and simply must respectfully disagree for now. I think we have the KJV Only Controversy but I'm not sure. If you are interested, here is an article we have found most helpful from Monergism (a site we trust very much): http://www.all-of-grace.org/pub/kenaga/SkepticalTrends.pdf Thank you for your prayers. We are still working through this and are trying to be diligent and non-biased. It's been a very humbling experience for us both.

  12. Wow some neat stuff!!! Now, you lost me in a lot of it lol I really hope you do not think I'm dumb,Hollie. I personally like the KJV or NKJV. I haven't studied anything on them. It's what we were raised on,but I like the wording if that makes sense. The old style thee thou and such. I have read others and some I just don't like. Some seem I don't know. Like it is too modern. I used to be bad about judging others for what they liked. I'll have to read some of the links.

  13. Thanks for replying Hollie. And of course I agree that many incredible Bible teachers of the past have used the KJV and much to our benefit. I mean, hello, pretty sure that my all time favorite Spurgeon preached from it. But they also had a very limited selection, as you mentioned the critical texts being taken into consideration much later. Anyway, I am excited to hear more information and be challenged by whatever you learn/are learning. I will definitely be looking into the links you posted as well as the ones Josh posted.I would LOVE to continue the conversation through email as time permits each of us. Considering that we both care so deeply about the Word of God and studying it, I know that we each would want the other to convince them of their position. Maybe we can have a little James White"esk" debate through email. I would like that. Sincerely, your devoted ESV loving friend.

  14. Jessalyn -That would be wonderful! I only wish we could have the conversation face to face over tea or coffee! And I must say, I love the way you signed off on your last comment. It brought a huge grin to my face! Like, I've said we are still learning. We are leaning toward Majority Texts, yes, but we still have much to learn for sure 🙂 Love you!

  15. I've always been leery of the NIV, mainly because in omits the power of the blood of Jesus in some verses (Colossians 1:14)And there's the whole, "morning star," debate that has bothered me before I even knew about the TR/CT.

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