Some of the Important Differences

The previous article discussed the basis of the differences between the Greek text behind the King James Version and those underlying some of the more contemporary English (and for that matter foreign language) versions. Some of the differences do not affect translation and some consist of ‘merely’ one or two words. Some, however, are important, for example John 7:8: “I go not yet unto this feast” (KJV) versus “I go not untothisfeast”(egNIV2011,NASB,ESV,NRSV, RSV, Douay).

There are circumstances where a more easily read Bible is called for as in the case of public seminars. As Christadelphians we want to know God’s intent in the original text rather than man’s impressions and therefore how well a version upholds the very Word of God is important.

Overt Trinitarianism

One of the features of the contemporary versions lies in their unabashed support for the doctrine of the Trinity as indicated in the table in the previous article. Kenneth Barker is General Editor of the NIV Study Bible and was Executive Secretary of the Committee on Bible Translation for the New International Version (1). In a personal conversation with author James White regarding his critics, Barker commented: “If they want to accuse me of being biased toward the deity of Christ, I’m honoured!”(2). Commenting on Philippians 2:6, Ankerberg and Weldon claim that the deity of Christ “is taught more clearly in the NIV than in the KJV” (3). In a chart comparing eight New Testament verses in ten versions, author DA Carson says, (3) “The KJV accepts only four of the eight as references to Jesus’ deity. (4) The highest number of such references belongs to the NIV, a translation made by evangelicals but based on an eclectic text” (7 out of 8)(4). Even the New King James Version is not exempt. Were it included in Carson’s table, it would rate 6 out of eight. The logo of that version is a triquetra, “an ancient symbol for the trinity”. All this should raise alarm bells! At least most of the contemporary versions could rightly be termed their translations.

Covert Catholicism

A Catholic Bible contains all the (Catholic-approved) Apocrypha (termed Deuterocanonical Books) and are given an Imprimatur (or approval to print) by responsible official, usually a Bishop. Until recently, all Catholic Bibles were also translated from the (Catholic-approved) Latin Vulgate. (The Latin Vulgate uses different text sources to those used by other Bibles.) While some Catholic Bibles contain ‘Catholic’ teachings and footnotes, not all do. For example, Genesis 3:15 in the Douay-Rheims (Martin 1582-1610 and Challoner 1752) versions both recognise the seed of the woman being a “she” (eg Mary). However, versions such as the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition render the seed (“offspring”) as a “he”. Whilst the doctrine of the Trinity is of Catholic origin, renditions of passages such as Philippians 2:6 are not necessarily Trinitarian in bias. Both the Douay-Rheims Challoner and the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition renditions for example, are almost identical in this verse to the King James. It is the non-Catholic contemporary versions that have led the trend in their promotion of the Trinity doctrine.

The 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland New Testament text (mentioned in the previous article) had five editors. One editor was Carlo Maria Martini (1927-2012) also known as Cardinal Martini SJ, one time Archbishop of Milan (1980-2002). The suffix ‘SJ’ stands for Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits! In his lifetime he was a prominent Catholic ‘Bible Scholar’ and a member since 1962 of the Pontifical Bible Institute (6). Because of his textual expertise he was invited to join the Nestle-Aland editorial board in 1967. Presumably, he would have needed the approval of his Superior-General and/or the Pope. Since then, Nestle-Aland editions (26th onwards) can be regarded as having Martini’s Imprimatur. Both the Catholic Editions of the New Revised Version and the Good News Bible are based on the NA26/UBS3 text.Both have the necessary Imprimatur. There are no Catholic-approved New Testaments translated from the Received Text (as used by the KJV and NKJV).

The New Revised Standard Version was first published in 1989. Another editorial board member for the 26th (1979) and 27th (1992) editions was Bruce M Metzger of Princetown eological Seminary (NJ, USA). Metzger was also on the committee for the translation of the New Revised Standard Version. He wrote the ‘To the Reader’ for its 1989 edition. Metzger was not only a textual critic, he was also an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church (USA). He presented the NRSV Catholic Edition to Pope John Paul II (7). One wonders what that church’s founder, John Knox (1514-1572), would have thought. The time may well come when future Bible versions will automatically include the Apocryphra/Deuterocanonicals plus an Imprimatur. From a commercial marketing viewpoint that would make sense. The rationale: no-one is forcing you to read the Apocrypha. We are well on our way to having ecumenical Bibles!

Gender Inclusion

A feature of more recent contemporary versions is to use ‘gender neutral’ terminology. For example “humanity” replaces “man” or even “mankind”. Most readers would be aware that ‘gender neutral’ language is now a workplace requirement in both the written and spoken word.

The preface to the Good News Bible Catholic Edition (GNBCE) states, “…many Bible readers have become sensitive to the negative effects of exclusive language; that is to the ways in which the built in linguistic biases of the ancient languages and the English language towards the masculine gender have led some readers to feel excluded from being addressed by the scriptural Word.” The admission is therefore that the Hebrew and Greek original inspired texts are supposedly ‘gender biased’. Significantly, the preface says nothing about the ‘ancient languages’ being inspired. The choice has to be made between faithful translation of the inspired Scriptures versus a conformity to ‘gender neutrality’ (read ‘political correctness’).

That is not a problem for those translators dedicated to dynamic equivalence (discussed in article 2) where an expression of ideas (usually the translators’ ideas) are given in lieu of a word-for-word literal or formal equivalence translation (such as the King James). To retain accuracy of translation, translators cannot avoid expressions deemed masculine. That is the way the Hebrew and Greek languages are.

Where accuracy of translation is considered an imperative (and it should be), it is far better to use a literal translation with italics included where the expected English words are missing. That is the case with the King James Version. It then becomes the duty of the expositor (not the translator) to explain the meaning of the text using the context, word meanings and other Scriptures, as we have always done! For example:

  • Genesis 1:26: “Let us make man in our own image” (KJV) versus “…we will make human beings; they will be like us and resemble us” (GNBCE). Bearing in mind that “Adam was first created then Eve” (1Tim 2:13), verse 27 explains the meaning of “man”: “male and female created he them”. “Man” is therefore generic for both man and woman.
  • Galatians 3:26: “For ye are the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (KJV). “Children” (Greek huioi) is better translated as “sons” (RV, ESV). The GNBCE reverts to “children”. Does “sons” exclude women? By no means! Verse 28 (KJV): “there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus”. “Sons” is therefore generic for both men and women.
  • In the Hebrew Old Testament, ach translates as “brother” and its plural form achim “brethren”. Both are masculine nouns; both refer to either males singular, or males plural. “Brethren” (achim) may refer to either male or female, depending on the context. “Sister” is translated from achoth, a derivative of ach, but may also cover males, as in Jeremiah and Ezekiel (speaking of Israel/Judah as a wife). The Hebrew words moledeth and mishpachah are both translated “kindred” and generically cover both males and females. The English translation from all these Hebrew words is as they are rendered in the KJV.
  • The New Testament Greek adelphos is a masculine noun translated in the KJV as “brethren” or “brothers”, depending on the context. Does the term “brethren” always refer to males? Consider the following verses:

Ephesians 6:10-18: are the sisters exempt from the need to be “strong in the Lord”?

Philippians 3:1, 17: are sisters not required to “rejoice in the Lord”, or be followers of Paul?

Philippians 4:8: are sisters exempt from the “whatsoevers”?

Colossians 1:2: were there no faithful sisters at Colosse?

James 1:2: “my brethren” belonged to the twelve tribes (v1) of whom 50% would have been women.

James 1:6: are sisters allowed to err?

James 2:1 are sisters allowed to respect persons?

The list goes on. The (obvious) rule is to look at the context. A little Bible study helps.

1 Timothy 3:11 reads in part, “Even so must their wives be grave”(KJV). The New International Version (1983) gives a similar rendition with a footnote under “wives”: “or deaconesses” (see also NIV Study Bible 2002). Never mind the fact that “deacons” is not in the Greek text of verse 11! Whilst Phoebe for example was a deacon (Rom 16:1), it is obvious in the light of 1 Timothy 2:12 that this office for women was a non-teaching role. Nevertheless it is possible that many NIV readers would be unaware of this (or ignore the prohibition altogether) and would use the verse footnote as a licence for women to teach.

The New International Version Inclusive Language Edition (termed by its publisher as NIVI) was first published in 1996, presumably to meet the commercial competition coming from the ‘gender neutral’ New Revised Standard Version (1989). It was deliberately ‘gender neutral’ (or more precisely gender inaccurate!). However, the ‘gender neutrality’ attracted controversy even amongst NIV supporters, who called it the “Stealth Bible”. Its publishers failed to realise the irony in its acronym and it became known to some King James supporters as NIVILE!(8) It was quietly replaced by a toned down Today’s New International Version (TNIV) in 2001–2005. Even so, its ‘gender neutrality’ continued to create controversy even in theologically liberal NIV-supporting circles (such as the US Southern Baptist Convention). It too was taken out of publication(9) Presumably, a rebadged TNIV or NI-VILE will be republished when the time is ‘right’. In the meantime, there is the 2011 NIV, where “wives” becomes “women” and the phrase “women who are deacons” is placed as a footnote in 1 Timothy 3:11. Who knows if eventually “deaconesses” may at some time find its way into the text of a future NIV?

The differences discussed in this and the previous article do matter. They are as important as those between a genuine and a counterfeit banknote! Counterfeit currency needs to be as close to the genuine article as possible; detection needs discernment. “The devil (or should we say the evil) is in the detail”.

Whilst we have identified the textual, doctrinal and ‘politically correct’ problems posed by the more contemporary versions, there is (for Christadelphians) more bad news. This relates to the part or complete deletion of various words used in the King James Version, words that have become part of our Christadelphian vocabulary. The significance of these words and their attempted substitution will be the subject of the next contribution.

(To be continued)

References

  1. The NIV: The Making of a Contemporary Translation, “Contributions” and “Preface”, Zondervan, 1986.
  2. The King James Only Controversy, JR White, p. 271, Bethany House, 2009 edition.
  3. The Facts on the King James Only Debate, J Ankerburg & J Weldon, Harvest House Publishers, 1996 edition.
  4. The King James Version Debate, DA Carson, p.64, Baker Book House, 2005 printing. The four (alleged) KJV verses: John 1:1; Acts 20:28; Rom 9:5; Heb 1:8.
  5. Wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Bible for a list of Catholic-approved English translations (16). The King James Version is not on the list, not even the 1611 edition which, although it contains the Apocrypha, lacks a Catholic Imprimatur!
  6. Wikipedia, Art. Carlo M Martini.
  7. Wikipedia, Art. Bruce M Metzger.
  8. NI-VILE: A Brief Analysis of the NIV Inclusive Language Edition, DA Waite, 2002 edition.
  9. A more detailed account of the NIV inclusive language controversy from a pro NIV perspective may be found on the website of the Detroit Baptist theological Seminary at: www.dbts.edu/journals/2012/NIVCombs.pdf