Monday, February 20, 2012

WHY Are There So Many Versions and Translations of the Bible?

So a Facebook debate ensued when a friend of mine posted a question on a good version (other than the KJV). It was an intriguing debate of which my own curiosity has been piqued. One point brought up on the pro KJV (King James Version) was that modern versions rely heavily on something called the Critical Texts and thus have a lot of omissions and make God impersonal. Of course, this is debatable based on some of the out-of-context verses that were being used as a defense. And I need to do more research on the matter as well as ask my pastors and other friends who have seminary degrees to help explain things. The pro modern version (NIV, ESV, NASB, HSCB, etc.) side of the debate concentrated on the antiquity of the language used in the KJV, which if you think about when it was written (1600s) as opposed to now (text talk and more of a street language), really this is a good point. In the Westminster Confession, the group that wrote it believed the Scriptures should be made available to ALL people in THEIR language. The history of the KJV centers on how it came about in an attempt to put God's Word into the hands of the everyday, common person who was not necessarily educated in the Hebrew, Greek and Latin. But today, no one I know uses "thee" or "thou," thus making the KJV, in all its poetic beauty, quite antiquated. Not to say it's irrelevant, just that it's old.

In this debate, I learned that even the modern language versions are different. The NIV is more contemporary and topical. The ESV is very literal.

Let me clarify though that I am referring to versions as opposed to translations (NLT, The Message). Not that translations are bad in themselves, but they are more like a writer's interpretation rather than a language translation.

Another thing the Confession points out is that ONLY THE ORIGINAL manuscripts are the actual God-inspired Word. All versions, as a result of differences in interpretation, typos, not having EXACT translatable words, etc., have potential for error. BUT, this does not detract from the deeper, most crucial message of the Gospel and the need for salvation.

So if you are looking to take the message of the Bible to everyone, you use a version that is in the language of the majority of the people in a given area. Sort of like how you adapt a message to fit the majority of the audience. A pastor might speak on a child's terms if his audience is mostly children. He might take the same message and use more details if talking before a lot of doctors and attorneys and other pastors. Or he might shorten his sermon if he has a lot of youth and college students. Or use a simpler message for homeless people who might not have a lot of education.

Which version do I like? Well, ESV is what my church uses and my pastor stands behind. And it's very easy to understand.

And if anyone reading this has gone through seminary, I need to hear from you. What is your view and insight on this area?

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