Recently, I have been getting asked, or more correctly, challenged by readers using the variations in translations to defend their position that the Bible does not present a consistent, systematic theology and is therefore, a man-made book, like any other. Below is my admittedly shallow attempt at answering that objection. In the end, of all back-and-forth on the subject, Biblical Christians believe on Faith and a conviction of the Holy Spirit.
The Importance of the Bible based on Scripture
I recognize that using Scripture to justify Scripture is an absurd cop-out for the unbeliever. However, for the born-again believer, the verses below are comforting, at the very least.
- John 17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
- 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.
- Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
- Psalms 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
- Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
- Mark 13:31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
- Matthew 5:18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
- Luke 24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
Fundamental to the Biblical Christian is the theological position that the Bible, in its original writings, was without error. Our view is that God wrote the original and, since we believe God is omniscient (all knowing) and omnipotent (all powerful), to write anything that is not perfect would be to suggest God does not have these attributes. The question then becomes, why are there so many English Bible translations if a perfect God wrote the original.
To begin, no translation is inerrant. God, wrote the original autographs of the Bible, which were penned by man. Most Christian theologians believe that what we hold today is 99.9% of those original writings. From the original Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew, the major translations are all slightly different for three main reasons.
First, some of the older translations, such as the Authorized KJV do not have the advantage of later manuscripts which many believe added clarity to the context. This was the reason for the NKJV (New King James Version).
Second, there is a continuum in the way translations are performed, ranging from word-for-word to thought-for-thought and finally, paraphrase. As examples, most Christian theologians believe the NASB is the most -word-for-word translation, while the NLT is the most thought-for-thought translation of the 12 or so major versions. Here are some links that provide some background and examples of that range of English Bibles.
- A guide to the range of translations.
- A quick list of multiple translations.
- A detailed view of the rational for multiple translations.
- An overview of the most popular translations.
Third, different translators have different agendas in their renderings. For example, the NIV of 1978 was considered an excellent translation for many years by Christians. However, in 2011, the translators decided to capitulate to the changing views in America and made their revised edition gender neutral. (Actually, the NIV translation history is much more complex than that.) I personally find the ESV to be my primary translation, for what it is worth.
So, to sum up, the reason for different translations is not because there is no consensus on the major points of Biblical Christian theology. Differing translations are largely do to the range of objectives on the part of the translation group as to how contemporary (easy to read with current terminology) or how traditional (from the original languages on a word for word basis) readers wish to understand and apply God’s Word.
Further, no translation is without error, just the original. And, of course, there are many who strongly feel that the Bible in general is full of discrepancies and therefore all Scripture was written by man and unreliable. The view of a Biblical Christian is that most apparent discrepancies are explainable and defendable if one approaches the question from an inerrant predisposition (which I recognize is a cop-out). Those differences which are not easily explainable, to mankind, are still defendable if one believes (by faith) that the Originator of the Bible, the Creator of the universe, is omniscient and omnipotent and we are not.