Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What is the most accurate Bible translation?

It may surprise you, but this subject is actually top two on searches that yielded my blog as a result. Google loves me. Anyway, you should know, it is a very distant second to subjects relating to to "The Shack" by Paul Young.

Well, I always like to serve my readers some of what they're actually looking for so I decided to delve into this issue once again in a flagrant effort to spread my own beliefs and add some hits to the old ticker. These posts also get some discussion going which I love too. Please don't criticize this paragraph, if you do, you'll see the term "knuckle-dragger" in my reply because this paragraph is said in jest. Remember, that's "knuckle-dragger." If you see it in reply to your post, you done messed up and made your self look foolish. This paragraph is to weed out trolls.

So what is the most accurate Bible translation. Let's start with the easy ones. First, the most accurate is the original. I'd say it has the fewest errors. Unfortunately we don't have the originals. What we have, and what all modern translations are based upon are early copies of the originals, or copies of copies of the originals, or copies of copies of copies of the originals, some translated to other languages, some not, some modified from the originals, some not. We really have to be realistic about this. If God wanted the exact words of the originals passed down, then we wouldn't have things like grammatical, spelling, and copyist errors. But we do have these things. However, we have a backup plan.

You see, there are many many many copies of the very early manuscripts. The more copies there are, the better we can piece together what the originals looked like. They don't each have the same errors. They were copied by different people at different times. If for instance I printed this post out and had 100 people copy it by hand, there would be quite a few errors all summed up. If 100 people copied each of those, there in total would be a whole lot of errors. But not each copy would have the same errors. Some errors would be copied from the first copyists, some obvious ones would be corrected, and some new ones would be introduced in each iteration. But when you gather up a sample of all the copies, it would be quite easy to figure out what the original text was, with perhaps a few questionable wordings that you'd leave a note about and that wouldn't change the meaning of the text.

So that's the Bible we have, but the real question you came here asking was what (brand name) Bible that I can buy off the shelves is the one I should buy because someone came to my door and said theirs was better than mine.

Let me give you a simple test for determining how good a Bible is. First, who translated it? I suggest a group of twenty people or more from diverse backgrounds so that any bias will be filtered out, the bigger the group the better, there's more likely to be people who disagree with a rendering of a verse if there are more people who don't see it from the same perspective. We don't want group think. Secondly, I suggest the translators be experts in their fields, both of translation of the languages in question and of history because we need to understand the meanings of figures of speech, hyperbole, poetry, simile and metaphor of the times in which the texts were written. The translation should be based on the oldest manuscripts available so as to be the most accurate. It should be in a language the reader understands so as to convey the most meaning. And finally, look at what others in the field think about it. Does it stand with little criticism or much? Remember the Bible itself says that wisdom is found in the company of many counselors.

As I've said before, most Bible translations are good ones, however, there are a few that are not, and those are the ones that turn from the suggestions I listed above. I'll delve into two of these today. The first is the King James Version. There are three main problems with the King James Version or KJV. Firstly, though it was translated by nearly fifty scholars, they were nearly all Anglicans. Secondly, the translation was done so long ago that the language is archaic and hard to understand to today's reader, and thirdly because it was translated so long ago, the oldest and best manuscripts were not available which leaves not a small number of inaccuracies in the text, though nothing that really changes doctrine. It is my firm belief that the KJV was actually a step backward in progression of Bible text, and the existence of a more modern language but older Bible, the Geneva Bible offers evidence for this.

A second and I'll go ahead and say worse translation is the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures or NWT. The translation committee of this version was very small, well less than ten people, and they all belonged to the same sect, and were close, and in essence, one employed the others, so right away, there is some question. Secondly, none of the so called scholars was an expert in the field, and at least one testified under oath that he couldn't actually translate much of anything. Third, the translation is often times strangely worded, and I understand that sometimes it's hard to translate and get a good equivalent, but that's no reason to confuse people. Fourth, the document is not based on the oldest manuscripts, it's based on the Wescott and Hort text published in 1881 before many of the manuscripts we have today were discovered. Fifth, it's not really accurate to the original text in several glaring ways. Too vague you say? I'll give you 237 examples. The NT of the NWT inserts the word Jehovah into the text 237 times, and there is not a single piece of evidence that it appeared even once in the original texts. These are 237 errors that a thousand years from now, translators would consider scribal insertions just like translators now consider the Comma Johanneum a scribal insertion from a thousand years ago or more. They both prove a point, but not a point that needs to be proved enough to change the text.

Many good translations are available. The following are good translations though none without at least some criticism. ESV, NIV, NKJV, NASB, and there are some that are much less word for word, and more thought for thought with varying degrees of modernity in the language, you'll have to decide which you are looking for. You should know that each Bible is translated by a group of people that ostensibly agree on a few things and you can read about the translation philosophy usually on the inner cover of the book. For instance, the NIV is an Evangelical Bible because of certain phraseology and because the Apocrypha is not included, but such is the same with most Bibles because most scholars don't consider the Apocrypha to be as well supported as the other books. The ESV might be considered to lean slightly toward Calvinism because of the word propitiation, but I'm not a Calvinist, and I like it, and the word use is not without merit.

So that's about it, I'd love to hear some comments about this, I know there will be a certain group on here complaining and offering all sorts of evidence to bolster their opinion, but you'll notice I didn't mention who that group is. See if you can pick them out.



linz said...

I have a question for you WiredForStereo, Do you believe that the dead sea scrolls hold any value? In your post, you mention the most accurate bible to you would be the earliest, right? So would the dead sea scrolls qualify?

WiredForStereo said...

Yes, the Dead Sea Scrolls have value, they are another piece of evidence in the greater body of evidence. However, they are not the oldest. Nor do they contain the New Testament. Nor do they completely agree 100% with other versions of the manuscripts. They do most substantially support the scripture that exists to us.

They are a good source, but they are no more accurate than any other copy of the original.

Is that what you were looking for?

Anonymous said...

If you my friend are concerned over what you see as 237 mistakes made in the New World Translation from inserting God's name Jehovah(English), you must be dumbfounded and flabbergast at the fact your supposed other "accurate translations" left out almost 7,000 times the name of God the Almighty in the Hebrew scriptures! As proved by ancient texts!
You're going to have to better than that to discount the NWT!

WiredForStereo said...

You make a very valid point, however, I have two counter points for you to consider.

First, you have not answered the challenge. Example: saying my apple tree has no apples does not prove that yours does. You have not disproved or proved anything.

Secondly, I don't claim that any version I read is the "most accurate of any bible translation." You on the other hand do, that is if you support the NWT. The difference is, I know that LORD in the OT means YHVH. There is no change to the text, simply an interpretation of how the text should be rendered considering the word has no pronunciation. There is no equivalent in the 237 instances that Jehovah is inserted into the NT. In the NT, the word is "kurios" or "lord." In the NWT it is rendered as lord, Lord, or Jehovah, based solely on the translators preconceived ideas about what it means. In the OT, YHVH never means anyone but YHVH. The same cannot be said in the NT.

You'll have to do better than that to make the NWT count.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I stumbled on your page after reading up on this: http://www.auburn.edu/~allenkc/openhse/endless.html

I am going to do my own study on it, but found that in reading your posts that I'd like ot hear your thoughts on it as well. Anyway, I'll check back and see if you respond...as I dont see another way to contact you. Thanks!
Chris in Idaho

WiredForStereo said...

Interesting article, I disagree somewhat, but I guess I haven't done a post on what I believe about hell yet. If you like, I could do that.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, that would be interesting. I do find it to be an odd contradiction that the gift of salvation is eternal life, and yet life in hell would be eternal also.

WiredForStereo said...

I can see your point, and I don't mean to start an argument, but why would it be so strange for the punishment to be infinite if the rewards are also?

I do have some great ideas for a post though, look for it forthcoming, after this next one I do which should come some time this evening.

Anonymous said...

Dont worry I dont take it as arguementative. I can't say if it is strange or not. It seems exceedingly harsh however....just as living in Heaven forever would seem exceedingly kind, and undeserving. I just wonder about verses like "this is the second death" Assuming the first is physical death, and the "2nd" being death of the soul. I've been a Christian for about 15 years now (I'm 40) and in groups and stuff hearing people's testimonies most people became believers because they were "scared to go to Hell". Maybe that was true of me also but mainly I wanted freedom from my sin, and a new start. I was really sick of who I was and Jesus was the answer to that...my will power was a horrible failure, every time. A love for God would seem a better reason for coming to Christ than 'fear of hell'. Of course "fear of hell" surely has brought alot of people to Christ.
As for "eternal" perhaps it could mean, you are never coming back. Its interesting to me, because I read verses supporting "eternal death" more than "eternal punishment" Of course if death (of the soul) is the punishment, and it is forever...than in that case it matches. The problem I see is that the belief in "eternal hell" for many seems to be right up there with the Trinity as a basic belief. Though I dont find it that straight forward in the scriptures. (and I'll admit it does give me some relief thinking that my parents and brothers and countless others arent going to be screaming and writhing in hell for all eternity- harsh justice) Anyway, I prefer to have the conversation with a total stranger, if you don't mind. My intention is not to sway you in any way...seems from your writings you can handle looking at things from a different viewpoint. thx! Chris

Already Saved said...

Re: 'Anonymous' saying that the promise of salvation is eternal life, 'yet [the Christian version of] hell is eternal also', note Jesus' words:
"And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." (Jn 17:3, KJV)

Before you have apoplexy that I use the 'worst' (your word) version in English, here it is in the NASB:

3 "This is eternal life; that they may know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (NASB95)

We thus see that Jesus applied eternal life to not just QUANTITY, but QUALITY of life. Those in hell shall have quantity of life, but the quality is truly horrific. Also, I know atheists who have said: "As I'm gonna be destroyed because I'm evil, I'll carry on screwing round; I don't fancy a life standing around on a cloud with a harp!"
The idea of annihilation of the unsaved is unbiblical, and as can be seen above, leads to a blase attitude to sin.

If the unsaved are annihilated, why did Jesus say more about Hell (i.e. the Lake of Fire) than anyone else in the Bible? Hell is ETERNAL TORMENT!

Anonymous said...

I just think that scripture says it all...Genesis 3:19 (KJV)In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

To me it seems that we are all returning to dust with the exception of a few who will be raised up???

Darby Bible & God's Name said...

You mentioned, "The NT of the NWT inserts the word Jehovah into the text 237 times, and there is not a single piece of evidence that it appeared even once in the original texts."

The NWT is not the first publication to address this issue. I thought you'd be interested in this quote from the Darby Bible Wiki.

"In the Old Testament Darby translates the covenant name of God as "Jehovah" instead of rendering it "LORD" or "GOD" (in all capital letters) as most English translations do. Among other widely-used translations only Robert Young's Literal Translation, the American Standard Version (1901), and the Jehovah's Witnesses' New World Translation (1950) have followed this practice (the latter introducing the Name in their New Testament over 200 times, though not occurring in the extant koine Greek text). However even the footnotes of many editions (such as the 1961 Modified Notes Edition) of Darby Bible's New Testament indicate where "Lord" ("Kurios" in Greek) in the scripture text probably refers to Jehovah."

The NWT is not considered an exegensis by most Bible scholars. This is the reason why you may be uncomfortable with the differences. The NWT is considered a literal rendering of the original Hebrew and Greek texts.

For example, the NWT also replaces word cross with "torture stake". The original greek word stauros was first translated into cross by the Roman Catholics in 381 AD. The translation of the word stauros into cross is for political correctness and not necessarily canonical.

It is my understanding that the image of the cross didn't show up in Christian artwork until after the Roman Empire established the Roman Catholic Church as the state religion in 312 AD. The Trinitarian understanding of the roles of God, his son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit were introduced by the Greek philosopher Plato in his work and adopted by then adopted by the Roman Catholics. Plato wasn't a professed Christian by the way.

Afterwards, many of the first English translations all used the Catholic Latin Vulgate as a guide.

The Latin Vulgate also was noted for replacing the Tetragrammaton with Dominus, meaning Lord.

Most of the Gods worshiped by the Greeks had a human form. It is not difficult to understand why the Roman Catholic Church venerated and worshiped the human form, Jesus, the Saints, and Mary. Even the Pope is considered infallible or god-like.

Removing Jehovah from the Bible, whom no man has seen, made idol worship more feasible and less confusing to the Greek converts during Roman Emperor Constantine's major religious reform in the 4th Century. It is understood by Biblical scholars that Plato's philosophy set the foundation for the Trinitarian doctrine which fit well with this reform, and Jesus was promoted from being God's son to being God himself.

Take the passage at John 1:1 where in the NWT it reads “the Word was a god”. It is notable that the Latin Vulgate capitalized Deus, thus giving the impression that the Word was the Almighty God himself.

The actual word order of this passage in John 1:1 is important to consider. Literally translated it should read “a god was the Word”. There are many notable literal translations of the Greek scriptures that use this. The fact that Greek word Theos comes before the subject denotes a condition rather than an association with God the Supreme being.

Also, this passage would have had the Greek definate article “to” inserted before the word “Theos” as it does in all other references to God the Almighty through the rest of the Greek scriptures. Instead the original Greek texts most definitely read, “kai Theos eimi o Logos”.

In all other instances of Theos without the definate articles, we translate “a god” in the Greek scriptures. Compare the original Greek with John 1:18, John 10:34, and Philippians 2:6. John 1:1 should be no exception to this rule.

WiredForStereo said...

You can't call it a rule if there are exceptions. Jesus said "I am the way" and yet you translate "I am" as "I have been" in a different verse that has the exact same word choice. If you are going to apply rules, apply them first to yourself.

It's "AND God was the word." Not "a." I've studied the Greek. Don't try to twist it by comparing it English, it was written in Greek, the order doesn't matter if it appears odd in English. Koine Greek had different grammar.

And please, don't call your "Scholars" "Scholars." They simply are (were) not. Real scholars call the NWT "a woeful mistranslation."

Anonymous said...

"Real Scholars". That's hilarious