3 August 2010 (Shleshi/Bikkurim)|
Day #141, 5934 AM
Wipe the Dishes!
Taking Care with Bible Versions
Every now and then I meet a 'King James Version Only' believer. These people believe that the King James translation of 1611 is not only the only truly inspired English translation of the Holy Scriptures but the only inspired translation in any language. As a result they trust their translation to be verbally inerrant in the face of the overwhelming evidence that it is not and contrary to what the KJV translators themselves believed and claimed.
As an illustration of the folly of taking such a position an argument once took place between a husband and his wife in the kitchen one day. She demanded that he do the dishes, claiming it to be his duty because of what her King James Bible says. She proceeded to quote a passage from Kings:
Since the husband was a KJV-Only advocate and had taught his family to yield to this version in all matters of doctrine and practice, he had no option but to yield to his wife's demand, or be judged a hypocrite and a liar. The truth of the matter is this passage of Scripture neither says that a "man" is wiping the dishes nor is it in fact about domestic duties at all.
"And I will wipe Jerusalem as [a man] wipeth a dish, wiping [it] and turning [it] upside down" (2 Ki.21:13, KJV).
If the husband had paid attention to his KJV edition he would have noticed that "a man" and the two instances of the usage of "it" are not in the original Hebrew but have been added by the translators for clarity - in other words, they interpreted the text to say what they thought it was saying. Modern translators do a better job, rendering the orginal sense more accurately, as the New King James Version does and as copied by most modern versions:
In other words, what Yahweh is describing here is not who wipes the dish but the process of wiping a dish, because it is by this same process that Jerusalem will be 'wiped' by Yahweh. Or as the NIV interprets this text, Yahweh will "wipe out" Jerusalem...which He did.
"I will wipe Jerusalem as [one] wipes a dish, wiping [it] and turning [it] upside down" (2 Kings 21:13, NKJV).
I use this trivial example to illustrate a point: all translations of the Bible from one language to another involve a certain amount of interpretation, making no translation verbally inerrant. Very wisely most Protestant apologists have traditionally insisted that the inspiration of the text of the Bible can only be in the 'original autographs', that is, the 'First Edition' by the original authors in the original language.
For this reason, I would be very cautious of any individual, group, church or ministry who insist that you only use one version of the Bible. The KJV translators themselves insisted that there was advantage in using many translations, and they were right. The KJV, excellent a translation though it is, does have biases and errors, as is inevitable, both because the translators were fallible human beings (however brilliant) and also because the maniscripts they used (the Masoretic Tanakh and Byzantine Received Text of the New Testament) were themselves not the original autographs, but later copies with many variant readings, some of them deliberately altered by those with a doctrinal agenda.
This does not mean that all Bible versions are equally valid. Clearly some are better (more faithful to the original) than others. Some have unabashed biases (NWT, RSTNE, JST, etc.) and some, like paraphrases (GNB, TEV, CES, etc.) take enormous liberties with the texts. The serious student (which includes Pastors and Teachers) must be prepared to invest a lot of time and effort - usually a lifetime's work - in getting to know their Bibles through multiple translations, concordances and (if they are able) learning a little Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.
I own dozens of Bible translations in many languages and I am still learning. I was also fortunate to have learned some rudimentary Hebrew under the Senior Tutor of Wycliffe Hall, and Chaplain of Queens' College, Oxford, England, Peter Southwell. I am kicking myself that I did not learn biblical Greek when I was given the opportunity at school in the 6th form. Like most of us, I have to use the experience and knowledge of trained theologians and scholars, recognising that even these too have their biases, but at least most of them know the original languages. The bottom line is always the inspiration of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) who keeps many things hidden that even the learned cannot see (2 Pet.1:20). If we don't have inspiration, we will never see the whole picture or get to the heart of Yahweh.
For recommendations on which versions you might like to use, please see Messianic Evangelicals Network Ning Archive: Bible Versions. And if you have recommendations of your own to make, please be sure to join the Bible Versions group of our online discussion network.