It would be remiss to write on Bible translations, and not discuss textual criticism. It sounds fancy, but really it just refers to comparing different Bible manuscripts, to try and figure out which is the most accurate rendition of the text, in its original language. For example, if you have 3 manuscripts which write: cros, criss, and coss, a textual critic will determine that the original word in the original manuscript was cross.
It’s a noble pursuit and very important in order for us to best understand the Bible and have the best translation possible. Ironically, many KJV Onlyists reject this practice, when in fact the original KJV translators themselves used textual criticism to develop the King James Version. These translators used multiple manuscripts of the Bible, to find the most accurate and original reading of the text, when they created the 1611 Bible.
In fact, we should recognise this as the enormous accomplishment that it is, while also recognising that it was imperfect, as every Bible translation must be. However, newer translations have the advantage of more reliable manuscripts than the KJV translators did not yet have access to. For example, textual criticism has determined that 1 John 5:7-8 was not in the original text, and therefore, newer translations do not have this discrepancy.
For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one. KJV
For there are three that testify: 8 The Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. NASB
Furthermore, textual criticism has revealed to us that the entire ending of Mark 16:9-20 was a later addition to the Gospel, and was not originally written by Mark. John 7:53-8:11 is also considered to be later addition to the text and to not be originally composed by John. That is incredibly important information to understanding the intent of both Mark and John in their gospels. Thus, textual criticism when properly done, helps us gain a better understanding of the Bible, and in fact has helped us create more reliable and accurate translations of the Bible, based on better manuscript evidence, which surpass that of the KJV.
The final reason many revere the KJV, is largely based on conjecture and conspiracy. These conspiracies range from Satan intentionally corrupting manuscript evidence, Jesuit priests and secret societies diminishing the divinity of Christ in newer translations, and textual criticism being an academic excuse to remove spiritual truths from Scripture. The only problem? There is no evidence. One can speculate and theorise as to the controversy surrounding Bible translations, but I am yet to have been presented any undeniable truth that such conspiracies are completely true.
In fact, the one conspiracy we have evidence for is often neglected by the KJV Only group. The Bible is the world’s best selling book of all time, and so every publishing house wants a bit of that money. The only catch? They have to change up to 50% of the material in order to not violate copyright laws. Make no mistake, Christianity has an overabundance of Bible translations, many of which do not meet the standard of conveying the intended meaning of the original author. But this article is not a defense of every new translation, rather it is the admission that every translation is imperfect, and here is yet another reason why.
I addressed the topic of conspiracy last, because to me it is the least important and most unfounded of the KJV arguments. It is my belief, that Christians need to stop basing their theology, which has real world applications, on conspiracies created by fallible human beings. Rather, the argument against the perfection of the KJV translation can be proven with Scripture itself and a proper theology of inspiration and revelation.
THE PURPOSE OF SCRIPTURE
So, if every Bible translation is imperfect and that’s okay, what are the implications for our daily spiritual lives?
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for [a]instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 1 Timothy 3:16,17
The purpose of Scripture is to guide our lives and grow us in our spiritual maturity. This can only be achieved when we can comprehend what we are reading. So, if every translation has its advantages and disadvantages, why not just read the one you enjoy and connect with? Better yet, why not read from multiple translations to get the best understanding possible?
It may surprise you, but my preferred translation to read from in my personal devotions, is the New King James Version. Ironic right? I enjoy how it attempts to capture the word for word dynamic of the original manuscript, and I can get a feel of the original language. But when that becomes too difficult to understand, I open myself up to other translations too, which make passages easier to understand in more contemporary English. God wants to connect with us, and to do that, we should feel free to use the best tools we have available.
The topic of Bible translations is not one which any church congregation should divide over. In many regards, it is a non-issue. A perfect translation of the Bible is impossible to achieve, and as demonstrated through the concepts of revelation and inspiration, God is preoccupied with his people understanding the truths of Scripture, rather than them having a word-for-word translation of Scripture. With the aid of textual criticism, we have such an abundance of translations to choose from, to help us best connect with God. It is thus our responsibility to find those which do meet the standard of a good translation, as well as can be easily understood by the individual reader.