Question & Answer Forum: Bible Versions

I notice that many of the quotes in T & T are from the ESV. Is this an attempt to wean the assemblies away from the KJV to the ESV?

The current controversy over “versions” has, unfortunately, sensitized us all as to from which version one reads and quotes.

We are told to “earnestly contend for the faith.” The version which communicates that to us, as long as it is true to the most reliable manuscripts of the original text extant today, should not be allowed to become a divisive issue.

For decades, writers have used alternate versions when it helps to clarify the meaning of a passage. For example, you will read or hear men, when speaking, cite the RVNewberry, or Darby’s New Translation. All of these afford valuable help. None is totally free from misleading or confusing statements. For example, the men given the responsibility to translate the KJV were charged to not interfere with the then prevailing church hierarchy which explains why terms such as bishops and deacons are employed. At times, the KJV refers to the Spirit of God as “it.” How often have you heard a speaker clarify that “conversation” really means “manner of life” and that “power” means “authority,” to name only a few of the archaic words in our AV which have lost their original meaning?

Likewise, the ESV also has a glaring misleading translation in 1 Corinthians 11 when it uses “wife” instead of “woman.” Another misleading change is in Luke 2:22 where “the days of her purification” is changed to read, “the days of their purification,” giving the hint that it involves the Lord Jesus as well.

Others can easily add to the list of changes in the NKJVESVNASV, and others. Bibles which give interpretation rather than a literal translation are in another category and open to the bias of the “interpreters.” We are not speaking of these and their limited value (and danger).

The faithfulness and accuracy of a version should be judged by its adherence to the translation of the actual words in the existing manuscripts of the Scriptures, as faithfully as possible. Godly men have spent their careers and lives weighing the accuracy of different manuscripts to seek to give us the most accurate words and meaning of a passage. This is true of the men who undertook the task under King James 400 years ago; it was true of many of the men who worked on the RV; it was certainly true of Thomas Newberry and J. N. Darby. It is equally true of many involved in the ESV and NASV.

The purpose of any writer or speaker is to “cause them (the people) to understand” (Neh 8:8). That responsibility is still a mandate to which every writer and speaker must adhere. At times, this may mean giving an alternate rendering of a verse. There is scarcely a speaker amongst us who has not referred to a marginal reading, alternate rendering, or other translation in his speaking.

The Board of T & T does not place any restraints on writers other than to give a source if it is something other than the KJV. The very fact that alternate versions must be cited indicates that we are using the KJV as our “standard.” Truth and Tidingsdoes not seek to influence its writers as to the versions from which they quote.

Even a casual glance at the Bibles used by many believers (look at those left on seats at conferences) will show that many of the Christians are using versions other than the KJV. The track record of 400 years of usage of the KJV cannot be ignored nor slighted. But accuracy and fidelity to the manuscripts should, in the end, be the ultimate criteria for assessing any version.

There is nothing which matches the cadence, rhythm, beauty, and majesty of our KJV. It is a delight to read. My own personal preference is for the KJV. But then I am reminded that the purpose of the Scripture is not to be in awe of its literary beauty, but to know its truth and to come to know God better. Therefore, anything which sheds light on the meaning of Scripture, any version which gives a clearer and more accurate understanding of terms and phrases, is to be valued.

A concern for godly order in the local assembly should dictate that the versions used in the public reading of God’s Word be controlled by the oversight of that assembly. But the translation used in private reading should be determined by the individual. Publically, citing other versions for clarification and mentioning alternate versions, when they can shed light upon a teaching, should be encouraged and not discouraged.

Above all, we should not jettison clear doctrinal truths – the autonomy of an assembly and the conscience of others – in an attempt to mandate our preferences. As stated earlier, the issue of “versions” should not become divisive. We are all striving to know God better and to understand His Word. If a believer uses a particular version for private study, if a writer quotes from something other than the KJV, and, even if the oversight of an assembly should decide to move to a different version, this should not be viewed as “departure from the faith” and become a rallying cry for division.

On behalf of the Board of Truth & Tidings
A. J. Higgins