Bible Version Controversy

Is the King James Version of the Bible the only one we can trust as some contend?bibles

This is becoming a serious concern for some Christians which can lead to anxiety in others.  I find that as I read on the internet that one person says one version is best and then others state the opposite, that just leaves me feeling confused!!

You can go from the vehement King James Version Onlyists to the those who are happy with the Message translation (per) version.  Then there are hundreds of other versions too.  Are some more trustworthy than others?  Are any the “inerrant word of God,” as some claim?  Are some actually dangerous to our faith, as others strongly contend?

I was a while ago, looking into the differing texts and methods that bible translators use.  I was attempting to understand things that really felt rather complex.  In order for me to satisfy myself that I could, at the very least, trust the Bible in my hands I ended up doing a parallel, line-by-line reading of my preferred version, a New King James Version Bible (NKJV) with a King James Version Bible (KJV). I read the letters James, Peter, John & Jude in both and found these two versions to be pretty much the same.  I found no discrepancies of particular concern between them at all.  Where the KJV differed, I would just write a note in my bible to this effect, so I could consider the differing renderings of the words and phrases as I read my bible.

I was trying to relate this to a blogger who stated that he wasn’t a King James Onlyist but a ‘Greek Textus Receptus / Majority Text onlyist’.  But as I do not have such manuscripts at my disposal, nor could I read and understand them, even if I did possess them, I must instead choose which “translation” is the best one for me to read.

I discovered that there are some vital points of concern regarding missing and strange renderings of some passages of scripture in some Bible versions.  And so due to the anxiety this caused me and pressure to attempt to conform to such KJV-Only-ists I had bought and tried to read such a Bible.  If I am honest with you, I frequently ended up not understanding the meaning of what I had just read as well as I did with my NKJV – it was a struggle.  It reached a head on the day I read a sentence in the KJV Bible that was completely archaic, and I had absolutely NO concept of what it was talking about!  End of experiment and back to my NKJV with joy!

Now let me make clear at the outset, I am not knocking the KJV Bible.  I am just saying that I have not “grown up” with it, as some folk have, and that as it is written in 16th century archaic English I struggle to understand some of its meanings.  As words and phrases have become obsolete or even changed to a different meaning in the intervening centuries it is difficult to read and to fully understand what you are reading.  So as there are about fifty other English translations to choose from it makes sense for me to use one of those.

King James Version Only?

I have just found the following on another blog which has got me thinking about the Bible versions controversy once again.  Here is what the writer says about the matter.

Bible KJV -“Satan wants to convince you that there is only one translation of the Bible that is inspired, and the rest are erroneous.  If Satan can’t stop you from reading the Bible, he will convince you to read the hardest one to keep you from truly grasping the full meaning of the text. He will say that it doesn’t matter if you can’t understand the English words, God will still use you.

No, my friends, God’s purpose is to get you His Word in your language for your understanding so that you may do what it says.  In the English speaking world we are blessed with various Bible translations that cover any reading level, so no one is without excuse for not reading His Word.”

It was such a blessing to me to read this today, as it confirmed what I had concluded over a year ago; that is that God wants us to understand what we read.  I feel that the above blogger was correct in comparing those who want to force believers to read translations that are too difficult for some readers (due to their archaic language) to being caged-up, away from the life the Lord wants us living.  If I am honest, that is what it felt like to me during the time of my considering the KJVists claims that I ought to read that version only.  Some of these advocates appear to deny the NKJV’s benefits but simply seemed to keep banging the same old drum, which was feeling like a straight-jacket of constraint to my faith.

I have learnt a lot during the time of consideration about the Bible translation methods which I will outline for you very briefly here.  In the end, most disagreements come down to what you believe about:-

(1) translation philosophy, or techniques and

(2) which printed, Greek New Testament text is the best.

Translation Techniques

Here is a simplistic outline of those basics that are up for discussion in the world of Bible translations.

  • Formal equivalence – a word-for-word translation method that translates the meanings of words and phrases more literally; attempting to retain the original word order of the Greek and Hebrew.
  • Dynamic equivalence – a sense-for-sense translation that translates the meanings of phrases or whole sentences to render the overall meaning clearer to the modern reader.
  •               Paraphrases – a thought for thought method.  Examples are The Living Bible (TLB), the Contemporary English Version (CEV) & the Message version.

You can read Wikipedia here – a bit more about where your preferred version lies on the scale of these translation techniques.

It seems to me that if you wanted to do deeper Bible study and wanted to get into the meaning of words then perhaps you ought to choose a version that followed the “formal equivalence” translation method.  And yes, the KJV is on the list of such versions, but so is Young’s Literal Translation, the 21st Century King James Version (KJ21), and the NKJV and others too.

Below the Line of Acceptability

The Message version, however, is entirely composed of extensive paraphrasing and as such I personally feel that it ought not even to be termed as a Holy Bible.  I have just looked up a couple of Amazon reviews of The Message for you.

“I will stick to the Bible’s that don’t dilute and confuse some of the core truths of the Bible…

Another said: “If you ONLY read The Message, you’re not reading the Bible.

Another blogger calls this book, “an incubator for heresy and foolishness”!

I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that this paraphrase also appears to have an occult phrase in the Lord’s Prayer which I have highlighted for you in bold below.  I have checked this out and discovered this to very sadly be true.

“Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are.
Set the world right; Do what’s best — as above, so below.” !!!!

(The Message (per) version of Matthew 6:9-13)

OK, so I won’t be reading that one.  I do believe that such a “version” could actually be dangerous to your faith beliefs!

Now to The Other Issue – The Manuscripts or Textsscroll

There was another issue, however, that those contending for the KJV-only brought to my attention; and that is the manuscripts that are used as the basis for the texts.  Some Bibles use Textus Receptus (Latin for “received text”), which is the name given to the succession of printed Greek texts of the New Testament.  Then others use the 19th century Westcott / Hort Revised Greek Text (based upon the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus) and this appears to be where the problems really get deep.

The KJV onlyists contend that the “modern Bible versions” are full of partially or totally missing verses and verses altered into completely different meanings, primarily due to using this latter, revised text.

help-153094_1280This assertion was exceedingly alarming to me!  Could this be true?  I went into a bit of a tail-spin, reaching for the “panic button”, as I read more and more into this matter!  Help?  Who and what was I to believe?  Could I trust my Bible?

I understand that the Bible publishers can only produce “new versions” if they are substantially different from all that have gone before due to copyright legislation, and that this is one reason for the differing renderings of words and phrases that we find in the Bibles.  But also I found that the original words don’t always have one exact English word equivalent to translate into.

In the end, I decided to do the parallel reading of my NKJV Bible against a KJV Bible, as I have mentioned above.  And that is how I have settled the matter for myself.  I  concluded that the NKJV, is trustworthy enough; more to the point it is both readable and understandable for me.

I read in the front notes of my NKJV Bible (1982);

“…the editors decided to retain the traditional text in the body of the New Testament and to indicate major Critical and Majority Text variant readings in the translator’s notes.”

So I finally felt free to continue to read with confidence my NKJV Bible.  It was such a relief to come to this conclusion.  It truly felt like being set free from a stressful cage of constraint.  It seems to me that not only was the “enemy of my soul” at work to some extent, in the Bible translating and printing industry, but he was also at work to fill me with fear and mistrust in God’s Word in my hands!  But what else can be expect from such an adversary of all truth!

How Logical is the KJV-Only Logic?

brain-2062055_1280It seemed to me that when attempting to discuss things with those of the KJV-Only type camp that the logic in their responses becomes rather confusing.  They may say that they would be happy to accept any Bible version that follows the Textus Receptus, but pay no heed to the 21st Century King James Version (KJ21), for instance.  This version was published in 1994 apparently, and is a KJV with minimal changes to update obsolete words.  Why are they not recommending this version?

It seems to me that the KJV-Only camp seems to intimate that if there are any errors in the Bible then you can not trust anything that it says, because you will not know what is error and what is truth.  This seems to be the key to being set free from this debate as this is not true at all!

Let’s think about that for a moment.  If these people have been through the different versions with a fine-tooth comb (and some claim to have done that for us) then the listed differences could simply be written into the margins of your own Bible translation, for you to consider.  If you felt that the word/phrase rendering of one translation was better than the one you currently read, then just get a biro and cross out what you feel to be inaccurate or misleading and write the new word or phrase nearby.  That would save you money in having to buy another Bible and it would give you freedom and confidence to continue reading your own Bible.  Simple really!

Some even state that “reading tests” show that the KJV is easier to read than X, Y, Z versions.  Yet common sense tells you that the KJV is difficult to fully comprehend, and no “supposedly scientific” reading test is going to alter this fact!  Then when you say this to them, you are just told to go away and learn all the archaic words and phrases, man-up, and stop whingeing!  They tell you that someone who could hardly read has learnt to read the KJV Bible, so what’s your problem?!

Bible Truth

I will just add a quote from Richard Wurmbrand that helps us to remember that regardless of where we each end up in this matter, that it is the Lord God Almighty who will speak to us, as He is The Word and The Truth.  He is well able to teach and lead me, even though there may be some translation-type issues with the Bible in my hands.

“God is the Truth. The Bible is the truth about the Truth. Theology is the truth about the truth about the Truth. A good sermon is the truth about the truth about the truth, about the Truth.  It is not the Truth.  The Truth is God alone. Around this Truth there is a scaffolding of words, of theologies, and of exposition. None of these is of any help in times of suffering. It is only the Truth Himself Who is of help, and we have to penetrate through sermons, through theological books, through everything which is ‘words’ and be bound up with the reality of God Himself.”

book-1293414_1280
Help, I can’t understand this Bible

I am glad to be able to walk away from the KJV and the Greek Textus Receptus/Majority Text onlyist controversy and to enjoy reading and understanding my NKJV Bible in my own language.  I thank God indeed that such Bibles exists for me.  I am very blessed to no longer be entangled by the fear tactics of the enemy of my soul that would bind me up in a heavy burden of reading a book that I could not fully understand.  I praise the Lord for such liberty indeed.  Praise the Lord that we are blessed with various Bible translations that cover all reading levels, so that everyone can read and understand His Word.

I hope that this brief look at these matters has been of some help to you.  If it sets you into a tail-spin, as it did me, then please do remember to keep praying as the Lord will lead you into all truth, as He has promised.

May God bless you,

Helen

PS – added July 2019 – I just want to add that I strongly caution about reliance upon Study Bibles.  If you do not know the doctrines of those who have created them, you can be assimilating falsehoods into your own understanding of the scriptures.

I want to particularly warn against the Schofield Bible – This has false dispensational teaching interwoven throughout & it has been an instrument to intoduce many into this false teaching.

I would really welcome your input so if you would like to share any comments please feel free to do so in the section below. 

You can find my full Comments Policy here .  Link Disclaimer: inclusion of links to other blogs/websites is not necessarily an endorsement of all content posted in those sites.

15 comments

  1. I felt exactly as you do and for 28 years I held fast to my easy read Bibles, so I understand what you are saying.

    The problem is that the new versions all come from the gnostic school in Alexandria Egypt, and then were edited further by Rome and two absolutely wicked men who didn’t even believe in the miracles of Jesus or his blood atonement. Thus, there are hundreds of doctrinal omissions and changes in the new versions, many of which I have documented on my blog. Repentance and the blood of Christ are deleted in key spots, hell is watered down, the divinity of Jesus is edited out in several places(making it more difficult to debate JW’s and Muslims, Jesus is a liar in John 7, and is danger of hell for being angry at his brother in Mathew. Warnings about false science, studying the Bible for your self and the dangers of those who equate godliness with financial gain are all missing from
    Your new versions. The fall of Lucifer, his identity with music….gone. Confessing sins to Jesus only, and believers baptism…gone. I could go on and on.

    Each of us has a choice to make regarding God’s voice to mankind. Do we do what’s easy (like I did for 28 years) or do we study the history of the Greek that underpins our bibles and realize that the score is 5,321 to 45-and really only 2 of those 46 matter. Do we see Rome’s hand all over the New critical Greek text and wonder how that could possibly be good. Do we look at the deletions and realize that someone, in 1881, changed the Bible in 100’s of places in order to delete our sound doctrine. Or, do we just not care because, well pastors I like say it’s okay and there are books trashing the KJV.

    We are all individually accountable for how we handle God’s voice to us. I wouldn’t want to be the one encouraging people to take the easy, edited route, especially when you have now seen some of the deletions and must know that only Satan would want repentance, hell, the blood, Christ’s divinity, etc. weakened. It’s on you and me both to test and prove everything.

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    • I think that you are perhaps lumping all “the new versions” together. I have really only compared the NKJV with the KJV. I found that was a big enough thing for me to do and it is all that is necessary for me to do. I have concluded, as I have just written above, that the NKJV is fit for purpose for my edification in the Lord.

      I have found that I do not need to go into greater depth about the other versions presently, as that is too difficult and heavy a burden for me.

      In the comparison of the two versions that I have mentioned, I have learnt much along the way. I now take the footnotes in the NKJV with much greater caution, but the main body of the text I am presently satisfied with. I have also moved to using a Young’s Literal Translation when I want a deeper meaning of words and phrases.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for allowing my comment.

        What you might not understand is that all of the new versions…all of them, were translated from the critical Greek text which has the omissions I noted. None of them claim to be from the Textus Receptus except the NKJV. But Satan is more subtle than all of the creatures and in your NKJV the saving doctrine of repentance is deleted 44 times. 44, even though it’s in the TR each of those 44 times. The blood of Christ is deleted 23 times. These are huge omissions that probably don’t affect you as a long time Christian but could affect a young believer.

        Below is a link that shows the deletions in the NKJV, and I honestly suggest you read my short article on the Bible version issue so that you truly understand the two paths of manuscripts. It’s a huge deal and one that I think is very important to the Lord. Thanks again for allowing my dissent to be published. I respect that a lot. 😀

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      • Hi there,

        I have no problem in publishing others views (though I may not publish multiple links). I have learnt some things from your blog too.

        I have appreciated looking into the Bible versions issue a little. But I have balanced the readability and thus understandability of a version against the translation issues and thus far, landed on the side that the NKJV is good enough for me and I believe, good enough also for a young believer.

        Both you & I started off reading the New International Version Bibles and both of us have grown in the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and that is a weaker version than the NKJV. I am just glad that it is the Lord Himself who teaches us and fills us with His very presence whichever Bible version we are happy with.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed your post, did know where it was going after I started reading it but glad that I continued. I am thankful that we have been given the Holy Spirit to help us understand and I am also thankful for the many resources and bibles we have here in Australia as well.

    I guess the biggest problem is not so much which is the best or right translation but more how much time do Christians actually invest in reading and studying the Word.

    Thanks for posting

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Helen, reading about your own experience with this was a blessing. I read different versions to get help understanding what God’s Word says too, such as, Young’s Literal version. The NIV was really helpful to me in reading Leviticus. Yes, the Lord wants us to understand His Word and to not be afraid. Also He doesn’t want us to jump on board with slandering translators who may be being misrepresented. This post is instructive and edifying. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Maria,
    Thanks for your comment.
    I agree that we should be careful not to slander translators unecessarily or without evidence. I am sure that most have worked very hard and prayerfully to give us the bible’s that we treasure and benefit from.
    I read solely from the NIV Bible for about 20 years and I grew in my faith, knowledge and relationship with God. I then moved to a NKJV Bible, due to the fact that the church I attended was using that version.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have stopped debating the KJV-Onlyists and many of the “tainted-texts” people. I will say that I find most have their idiosyncrasies and it is best to let the scripture define the scripture. In saying that I will use the LXX and the Septuagint as well as Strongs to cross reference and get multiple definition options. After that it is praying that the Holy Spirit refines my thoughts. In the end I believe YHVH delivers His message to me. Praying that our ‘iron’ sharpens each other!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Your article is very well thought out and written, way more intense than my own of the same ilk. But then the article I recently wrote ,and you commented on, is a totally different message. I was defending the KJV against a recent book that was published that actually brings some doubt against the text. In that regard I find some caution must be observed.

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    • Thank you for your kind comment. I agree that we must be cautious with all the various and differing ways that the Bible is attacked or undermined. I will be taking a brief look at the book you referred to, in order to keep myself informed. I certainly appreciate your warnings. Both on this topic, as on many others.
      God bless
      Helen

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  7. I’ve just come across your blog via Phyllis Nisilla in Oregon with whom I am in regular contact.
    I am very impressed with your output. This particular subject is of great interest to me.
    I have looked closely at a number of modern translations and found that all of them have something to irritate. However, I can’t cope with the archaic language of the King James Bible, beautiful though it may sound in places.
    The English Standard Version (2000) is a decent re-presentation in the KJV family of Bibles. I have a NKJV which I will look at again in the light of your observations. Despite its flaws, I love the readability of the Jerusalem Bible (1966). The word of God flows along in a very inspirational way. The NIV is quite good too.
    The other controversy surrounds the gender-inclusive amendments one finds in most modern translations published after 1980, and that justifies a separate post. The JB, ESV and NKJV are all (or mostly) free of gender-inclusive language.

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    • Thanks for you comment. It sounds like you have taken a look at more versions than I – though I do own a few versions. I think this is a topic that most who love the Bible will eventually need to grapple with.
      In my time of looking into this issue, I did feel rather alarmed at some of the “missing and changed verses” though. I found that the NIV had many similarities to the JW, Watchtower bible! And that in itself was of grave concern to me.

      Anyway, you are quite right in your comment regarding the controversy about “gender-inclusive” bibles. They are another step to far for me.

      Blessings to you
      Helen

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  8. Hi, Helen,

    I am continuing to read your blog posts and so appreciate your thoughtfulness.

    On this topic: when I study or cite Scriptures on my blog, I use several versions, mostly NIV, but for greatest accuracy when I reference them in a blog post, here is my go-to referencing technique that brings me as close to original language meaning as I can get, not being an actual Bible scholar:
    1. I locate and read a verse of interest in the Interlinear Bible which is easy to do online at https://biblehub.com/interlinear/ (remembering that Hebrew reads from right to left),
    2. I scan the verse for the specific word I am focusing on,
    3. I click on the word in the Hebrew or the Greek,
    4. I scan the verses in which the word is used for the specific nuance of meaning in the verse I am citing.

    From there, I select a Bible version that most accurately reflects the nuance. I also often define specific words as I write.

    I may read the several commentaries also available for a given verse as well. Matthew Henry is my all time favorite for the beauty of his literary style, but others are also of use.

    I have a sister who has been a Hebrew student for several years, so she can take me further in that language, particularly when it comes to the metaphor of, say, paleo-Hebrew in which the metaphor embedded in one of the oldest alphabets used in the Bible helps to further unpack more specific levels of meaning.

    It’s such a pleasure to search like this as well as being very edifying!

    Cheers and blessings,
    Phyllis

    Like

    • Hi Phyllis,

      Thanks for your kind comment.

      Thank you also for the info re the Interlinear Bible online. I hadn’t even thought to use something like that. You have opened up the world for me with that tip. Cheers.

      I have tended to use my actual paper copy of a Strong’s Concordance to get word meanings, as well as looking up the different versions on Bible Gateway. For getting a better check on word meanings, I still currently have a preference for the Young’s Literal Translation, as it seems to be what it says on the tin – pretty literal on word translation.

      My latest Bible purchase, is a Chronological One Year NKJV Bible. That is interesting and helpful when studying too.

      I agree with you that it is both pleasurable and edifying to delve into word meanings, to try to get more of the original meaning.

      Bless you,
      Helen

      Liked by 1 person

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