By Dudley Ross Spears
Recently a swarm of new translations and versions of the Bible have become available to the Bible reader. Added to these are some older translations and versions that have never been what you might consider real popular. Some of them have made a real contribution to easier reading, better comprehension and clearer exposition of Bible truth. Some of them are dangerous and misleading. It is the purpose of this article to give a brief statement about each, that this writer has found through personal investigation, hoping to help those who may be curious about new translations but do not have the time to wade through each one.
It has been very difficult for many Christians to leave the beauty of the King James Version (KJV) for translations that modernize the language. Although difficult, it could be a very profitable step in the right direction to at least read a reliable translation that has been given in the modern language. The language from which our New Testament was translated was “street language.” It was not classical or formal speech. The letters of the Apostles were written in the speech in common use at the time they were written. We will profit from reading the same letters, faithfully translated, in our everyday speech.
Fortunately there are quite a few very reliable translations of the Bible in present day English. There are some that are totally unreliable and even dangerous. It does not take long to determine whether a modern-day language edition of the Bible is reliable or not. Please understand what I am about to say before you turn me off as a “wild-eyed’ liberal” in reference to modern translations. There is no translation of the Bible or version of the Bible that is totally acceptable to-everyone. If I had not had some help, I could have been misled by the KJV on a few things like “Easter” (Acts 12:4) and similar things. This is not to say that the KJV is unreliable, but to admit that nearly every acceptable translation to some is not acceptable totally to others.
Here are some I recommend. I recommend them because they are reliable in translation (as far as my limited knowledge of original languages go) and easy to read and understand. I have no misgiving that everyone who will read these words will agree with me. I write them only to help those who may be interested in reading a Bible in upto-date language and not fearing they are reading some ridiculous perversion of God’s Word. 1 will give the initials by which these are commonly identified after the title of each.
1. The New King James Version (NKJV). All of the archaic pronouns and verbs have been modernized. The “Thou, Thee, Thine, doeth, sayest, lovest,” are all gone. This does not mean there is a lack of reverence for God and Christ reflected in the NKJV. Somehow, the idea has developed among people that saying “Thee” in addressing God shows more reverence than saying “You.” I confess readily to having been among that number formerly – but no more. The same Greek text from which the King James Version of 1611 was translated was used for the NKJV. Thus, the continuing debate over the “Textus Receptus” and the Wescott-Hort Text, will be preserved, at least in part, by the presence of the NKJV. I like it and read it and profit from it, because it continues the thought order of the KJV in language that is true to the Greek text and understandable in English.
2. The New American Standard Bible (NASB). This version is essentially a revision of the American Standard Version (ASV). It has no connection with what is called the Revised Standard Version. In order to preserve the great work accomplished by the tranlators of the ASV, the Lockman Foundation in California determined to retain the accuracy of the ASV and revise it to modern day language. Special attention was also given to the tenses of verbs with particular emphasis on what we would call “past progressive” tense in English grammar. It is a good one and you will profit from reading it.
3. The Berkley Version (TBV). This one comes from the efforts of those who style themselves as “evangelicals.” That has come to mean (to me) that they fundamentally believe the word of God is true and that the Bible is verbally inspired. Dr. Garritt Verhuyl began the work and with the help of others, all professing to believe the verbal inspiration of Scripture, produced a literal translation as far as is possible. This came out in 1959. You may find some border-line instances where one can detect a smattering of Calvinism, so with that in mind I recommend it also.
4. The New International Version (HIV). Were it not for the use of “sinful nature” for the word “flesh” in several instances, this translation would be very good. There is another instance that I want to check on in which the word “messenger” in the KJV and ASV is translated “representative” in 2 Car. 8:23. On the whole you will find it readable and informative.
Here are a few you might be able to buy still, but you may have to find them in a used book store; they are worth the money you will pay for them.
1. Charles B. Williams Translation. Like the HIV, this translation gives “human nature” or “lower nature” rather than the word “body” or “flesh” but, other than that, it is excellent. Particularly is it good in reference to the truth on the purpose of water baptism – and Williams is a Baptist. Like the NASB, Williams stresses the correct translation of Greek tenses. Example: Matt. 16:19 and 18:18, “Whatever you forbid on earth must be what is already forbidden in heaven.” He translated correctly 1 John 3:8, 9, “Whoever practices sin belongs to the devil, because the devil has practiced sin from the beginning . . . . No one who is born of God makes a practice of sinning (my ephasis, DRS) because the God-given life-principle continues to live in him, and so he cannot practice sinning.” It is easy to read and a good translation.
2. The Twentieth Century New Testament. This one was published to be a most reliable translation of the Westcott-Hort text. It came out around 1898-1901. Identical passages were translated identically. The translators (unknown to me at this writing) pledged themselves to “examine every Greek word carefully and to translate directly from the Greek text.” It is not a revision of another version or a paraphrase. You might need time to get used to the order of the books of the NT in it because they did change that, but it is good to read – if you can find one in a used book store somewhere.
There are some that are completely unreliale and need exposure as outright error. They include The New English Bible. Anything a man called C.H. Dodd has anything to do with cannot completely be trusted. He is (if he lives now) from Cambridge, England and does not believe in verbal inspiration, the resurrection of Christ and far too many more things to mention. The NEB does not attempt to give a literal meaning to words – it intended to convey the idea, but the idea it conveyed was more the possession of the translators and the supervisor than the idea of God. There are numerous words that have no equivalent Greek word from which they were translated. Do not waste your time or money – unless you are wealthy and need some diversion.
The same can be said for Good News for Modern Man, The Living Bible, The Amplified Bible, and some more of these “jazzed-up” perversions. They are not translations and most of those who published them have never seen the Greek text.
I probably did not include one that you would like to know about – assuming you read this far – but these are some I have examined and read. There are others. One of the best things to do is talk with the elders where you worship or with the local preacher before you take what some of the modern language editions say. I hope what has been said in this article has been of some little profit to you.
Truth Magazine XXIV: 5, pp. 90-91
January 31, 1980