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New Age Bible Versions?

Below are several e-mails from the same person, along with my replies. The e-mailers’ comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.

Exchange #1

>Hello: I guess you can add my name to the Bible versions controversy(?). My favorite version was the NKJV. It may not be any more if what I'm reading is true.

There is a book which may cause a lot of controversy which I am just beginning to read (New Age Bible Versions).<

I have not read New Age Bible Versions so I can not give a specific review on it. However, I can explain why I have never read it. From what I read about the book, I saw no reason to waste my time or money on it.

I first heard about it when I received an ad in the mail for it. The ad was an immediate turn-off. First off, the ad claimed that "computer analysis" had shown that the KJV was the easiest Bible version to read.

My immediate reaction was, I don’t care what a "computer" says. I have read the KJV and found it to be very difficult to read; meanwhile I have read several other versions and every one of them was much easier to read. Kind of like the Excedrin ad on TV. The man in the ad says he switched to Excedrin because it is better at relieving headaches. He asks, "Did I read all the clinical studies showing that Excedrin works best? No, I just tried it on myself and it worked better at relieving my headache."

Having said that, I also had seen charts "grading" different Bible versions as to their "Reading Grade Level." And in every one of them, the KJV was always listed at a higher "grade level" than any of the other versions (meaning it is the most difficult to read).

In addition, I have never been one for "conspiracy" theories. And it was obvious from the ad that that was the viewpoint that Riplinger was coming from.

Lastly, in the list of "New Age Bible Versions" in the ad, she included the NKJV. Having studied the NKJV in depth I knew that there was nothing "New Age" about it. Also, with including the NKJV, I figured she must be coming from a "KJV Only" viewpoint. I had studied that view at length previously and knew it was faulty.

Given all of the above, I had no intents of wasting my money and ordering the book. My suspicions about the book were later confirmed when I read several reviews of the book, all negative. Now most of these were written by people who approved of the NIV and similar versions; but even J.P. Green, a strong Majority Text advocate and no lover of the NIV to say the least, gave it a very negative review in his magazine Christian Literature World.

I tried digging out Green’s review but could not find it. CLW is just now starting to post its reviews on its Web site. You might want to wait awhile and then check their site to see if the review of "New Age Bible Versions" is posted. CLW’s Web site is located at: http://www.chrlitworld.com/

In any case, I was able to find a review of the book that appeared in Cornerstone magazine (Vol. 23; issue 104; pages 37-42). The review was titled "New Age Bible Versions: A Critical Review" and was written by cult researchers Bob and Gretchen Passantino.

Now Cornerstone (and apparently the Passantino’s) approves of and uses such versions as the NIV and NRSV; so there are some statements in the review that I would disagree with.

But the article does accurately presents the MT text viewpoint:
So while there are textual scholars who prefer the Majority Text, scholars such as the late Dr. Harry Sturz (The Byzantine Text-type and New Testament Textual Criticism, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984) or Zane Hodges and A. Farstad (eds. The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982) would not support Riplinger’s outlandish claim that the King James Bible is God’s only English version.

Note, Farstad was also the NT editor for the NKJV and the author of a book on Bible versions that you should try reading. The title is: The New King James Version in the Great Tradition. It is available from: The Majority Text Society ~ PO Box 141289 ~ Dallas, TX 75214. Someone told me that it is also available from "Amazon.Com." I just finished reading it and it is an excellent book.

Back to the Cornerstone review. What it has to say about Riplinger herself is very disturbing, "Gayle Riplinger does not have any advanced degrees in Bible, theology, linguistics, textual criticism, or any other academic subject related to the subject matter of the book." Even worse, "On a radio program she admitted she could not read Greek or Hebrew."

Now, let me say in as strong terms as I possible, someone who can not even read the original languages that the Bible was written in has no business whatsoever writing a book about Bible versions. Until someone has learned enough Hebrew and Greek to actual do some translating of their own, they simply cannot understand the intricacies involved in Bible translating. It would also make it hard to understand the difficulties involved in textual criticism. So for me, if this information is true, it alone is enough to render the book less than worthwhile, to say the least.

Next, the review states, "Riplinger argues that all new translations and version corrupt the preserved translation of the King James Version, which she says is based on the ‘true’ Majority Text, which she equates with the Textus Receptus."

If Riplinger thinks that the TR is identical to the MT, then she simply does not know what she is talking about. The two texts are similar in their readings; but they are not identical texts and have considerable different histories. I discuss the particulars on these differences on the following page on my site: Questions on Greek Texts.

Now, to quote from the review in regards to my comments above about the "readability" of the KJV:
For example, chapter eleven argues that the King James Version is the easiest version for children to learn based on a Grade Level indicator literacy text developed by the Flesch-Kincaid research company. Riplinger reports that the "KJV ranks easier to read in 23 out of 26 comparison." However, the majority of this testing involve the total number of vocabulary words used and the percentage of multi-syllabic words uses, not the contemporary familiarity of the vocabulary. Riplinger admits this, saying, "Why is the KJV easier to read? The KJV uses one or two syllable words while new versions substitute complex multi-syllable words and phrases."

To illustrate, a wile ago, my ten-year old niece was given a KJV NT at Sunday School. I sat down to read it with her. She began reading but stopped at the word, "ye." Now you cannot get any shorter than a one-syllable, two letter word. But she had no idea what the word meant. When I told her that it meant "you" she just shrugged her shoulders in a "That’s stupid" manner and continued to struggle to read the text.

So the length of words is only one criteria to judge a translation as to its "readability." Again, as stated above, using more full-orbed testing procedures, the KJV is clearly shown to be the hardest to read Bible version.

For instance, the above mentioned book by Farstad has chart in it "grading" Bible versions. In it, grade levels for different versions are: KJV: 12; NKJV: 8, NASB: 11, NIV: 7.8. To arrive at these grades, three different reading test were applied (not just one like Riplinger). They were the Dale-Chall Formula, the Fry Formula, and the Ragor Formula (pp.3-4).

With all of that out of the way, now to return to your letter.

>I haven't gotten to their criticism of the NKJV yet, but they hit very hard against the NASB and NIV versions. A couple of quotes:

"New versions (and the 'new' church they are producing) owe their occult bend to their underlying Greek text, a novelty produced in the 1870's by B.F. Westcott, a London Spiritualist."<

The Cornerstone review states in this regard, "… a careful search of reliable resources on nineteenth-century English occultism fails to turn up ANY association of Westcott with occultism. What is Riplinger’s strongest ‘proof’ that B.F. Westcott’s was an occultist? It’s buried at the end of her book, in footnote 128 of chapter 30 (pages 676-677)" (emphasis in original).

Basically Riplinger says that B.F. Westcott is the same person as W.W. Westcott "a well-known London occultist." But even Riplinger admits in the footnote, "The connection between B.F. Westcott and the activities attributed to the possible allonym of W.W. Westcott are speculation on my part."

So she is basing all of her statements about Westcott being an occultist on her own admitted, though buried in a footnote, speculation. Now, I am no fan of Westcott. I disagree strongly with his textual theories. But it is simply wrong and dishonest scholarship to level such a heated charge on him based on a "speculation."

>"Zondervan, the world's largest publisher of the NIV, has just been taken over by the secular publisher Harper Collins. The American Bible Society now titles and seals bibles for worldwide with the insignia - Good News for a New Age or 'God's Word for a New Age'."<

This is the type of extremism that really turns me off. To see the words "New Age" and immediately think "New Age Movement" is simply silly. "New Age" can have a wide variety of connotations, to be determined based on the context. In this case, Zondervan and The American Bible Society are probably using the term to refer to the idea that their Bible versions utilized "New" or modern day language, i.e. the language used in this day and "age."

Now again, I am no fan of the NIV and the Bible versions generally distributed by the American Bible Society. But I can disagree with the translation principles and Greek text that their versions utilize without leveling unfounded charges against them.

>According to the book, J.B. Phillips is another Spiritualist.<

I would guess that her "proof" for this charge is about as strong as that for Westcott.

>I am not a KJV only advocate, and all this is new to me. As I said in previous letters to you, I've been trying to get it right with God this time around - and now this. I like Green's Literal Translation and the Revised Webster Bible (from my Online Bible software). I am very much disturbed about the news I might be reading about the NKJV. As I said, it was my favorite.<

Since this is all new to you, again I would recommend you abandon reading this book and find one that is more sound on the subject. Again, I recommend Farstad’s book. And, of course, I would recommend that you check out my various articles on the subject. I try as best as I am able to present why I agree with versions like the NKJV, and disagree with versions like the NIV, in a straightforward manner, without any of the unfounded charges that Riplinger appears to need to make her point.

See my Bible Versions Controversy pages and especially the items listed under "KJV vs. NKJV."

BTW, the 1833 version by Noah Webster (of dictionary fame) was intended to be the FIFTH revision of the KJV. But, unfortunately, it never gained popularity. What did become popular was the FOURTH revision of 1769. This version is the KJV in general use today.

I mention this just in case Riplinger makes the common mistake of saying she only uses the 1611 KJV. If she does, then again, she does not know what she is talking about. See Farstad’s book and my Bible versions book for more on the different versions of the KJV.

>An on-line version of New Age Bible Versions can be found here.

I couldn't use it because I have a Macintosh computer, so I ordered the book.

AV Publications
Box 280
Ararat, Virginia 24053

I will check out the Web site; but as I said, I really don’t; see much reason to waste my time on it. Personally, I think it is a shame that you wasted your money on this book when there are so many other worthwhile books that you could have been reading.

>I'm also enclosing a list of deletions from most modern versions. I did a small comparison and was astonished. Even though the NKJV included the verses, their notes indicated that they are not in some manuscripts (Westcott-Hort?). I've never tried sending a copy of an html file as an attachment. I hope this works.<

I was able to open the file; but only by adding ".htm" to the file name. I was also able to open it as a "text" file. The list of "deletions" are mostly examples of where the TR differs from the Critical Text, which I abbreviate CT in my articles. The symbol for CT in the NKJV footnotes is "NU" for Nestle/ Aland-United Bible Societies, which are the two main organizations that produce a CT-type of text today. Their text is similar to, but not identical with, W-H’s text.

But note, as indicated above, in your footnotes you will see the symbol "M" which is used for the Majority Text (I use "MT" for this text). You will note that these "M" footnotes are nowhere as numerous as the "NU’ footnotes. But they are there. Again, the MT is very similar to, but not identical with the TR. In my articles I argue for the trustworthiness of the MT.

Now, some have criticized the NKJV for the inclusion of these textual footnotes (and the supposed "credence’ they give to the CT); but I agree with F.F. Bruce when he states, "… the textual notes are specially helpful, indicating not only where the wording differs from that of the generally accepted critical text but also where it differs from the majority text. These notes make no value judgments but enable the reader to see at a glance what the textual situation is and to assess it in the light of the context" (quoted in Farstad, p.111).

>If you already have the book and are familiar with the deletions, I guess I wasted your time. Sorry if that's true.


Not a waste of time if I can "save" you from being mislead by Riplinger.

Exchange #2

>Thank you very much for taking the time and making the effort to help me out. Believe me, I was in desperate need of some feedback - and encouragement.<

You’re welcome.

>I read only three chapters of the book and became somewhat mind-numbed. I'm telling you the truth, I couldn't read any more of it. I had no plans to read the rest of it. SOMETHING about it was turning ME off although I would never have been able to give a specific reason why. Good grief! There was one point where I thought I might have been guilty of becoming a blasphemer because I referred to Jesus Christ as "the only One who could (or can)" in something I wrote because, according to her, "One" or "The One" is a New Age term!<

Incredible! BTW, in John 15:21 and 16:5 Jesus refers to the Father as "the One sending Me" (using a literal translation of the Greek substantival participle; or see the LITV version which renders it, "the One who sent Me"). And in John 16:13,14 Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as "that One" (literal translation of the demonstrative pronoun ekeivos - see the LITV).

>Okay, I confess. I like listening to some New Age music. Does that mean I'm a new age Christian heretic or apostate if someone puts 2+2 together and comes up with 22? God knows I have no intention of trying to make Him into some "new age" icon!!! Can I say "Him" or is that borderline "new age"? Maybe that's why I put the book down, but I felt (perhaps based on a very real concern to be right with God) reluctant to go back to my favorite version, the NKJV. I was simply afraid to make a wrong move based on a lot of past mistakes and bad attitudes, so I tried reading from the KJV.<

This is what really bothers me about books like Riplinger’s. They prey on a person’s "very real concern to be right with God." See my article "Judge Not …" for what I think about this brand of legalism.

>Based on Riplinger's "study" which concluded the KJV to be the easiest version to read(?), I felt as if I must be at the level of a moron because I had quite a bit of difficulty.<

I guess that makes me a "moron" too, along with many other people who have written me and told me how difficult the KJV is for them to read.

>I liked the RWB version from my Online Bible (I don't mind "thee's" and "thou's", but it's bumping into a word like "froward" [which would be "wicked" in an easier to read version for a dummy like me] that caused some confusion. And that was only the beginning of my attempt!). The RWB updated some of those words which would have me running to a dictionary - or a modern version.<

I have the Online Bible but I have never really checked out the 1833 Webster Bible and the 1955 Revised Webster Bible on it. As I said before, the 1833 Webster’s was intended to be a revision of the 1769 KJV. But I am not familiar with who "revised" Webster’s in 1995. But I will take a closer look at them.

>Someone at work told me the New Scofield Bible had an even better update of those ancient words. I bought a copy and I am finding it not too bad a version to read - easier to handle than I thought it would be. I think I can get used to this one. But...the thought crossed my mind - what if THIS version is corrupt? I was just about to throw up my hands in despair and leave everything alone. After all, who has the original manuscripts to read from? Now, that would be the REAL Bible! Quite frankly, I felt sick, as if someone was robbing me of my growing sense of peace with God. All I wanted to do was to have some good quiet times with Him. I am also sick of all these factions and controversies. We seem to have an incredible ability to make the simple complicated, and I'm including myself in that one. I regretted ever having poked around the Internet (I've backed off from it). Anyway, I didn't toss out my NKJV, but I'm going to try staying with the Scofield. It has some handy notes.<

Riplinger and her like really have a way of causing unnecessary distress.

>Maybe I haven't covered all the bases in response to your letter, but it's getting late and I have to get some sleep. I hope this is sufficient. I will say this much. I wouldn't trust the NIV no matter what anyone says. Any version that appears to blur the distinction between Jesus Christ and Satan (check out Isaiah 14:12 & Revelation 22:16 and compare the NIV with NKJV or KJV), among other things, missing verses (the verse numbers are there with a blank space), is not worth reading.<

I would agree with you here. I have long since stopped using the NIV.

>Go ahead and use the previous letter, but I hope you include portions of this one too because what I've said is true. The only reason I didn't write again was because I didn't want to be a nuisance. If someone doesn't respond to a first letter, I'll leave it be. I came to the above conclusions on my own, but your letter helped me to express a few of the concerns I had. I am not a highly educated man but sometimes I have a sense about things that I can't articulate. I've been right quite often without the aid of book knowledge. On the other hand, I've been very, very wrong, and I'll be the first to admit it. Mr. Zeolla, I was wrong. I shouldn't have been so hasty. But...if I hadn't been, I never would have received the encouragement you provided. Thank you.<

No reason to apologize. And my apologies to you for taking so long to respond to your first letter. But it is getting increasing difficult for me to keep up with answering my mail and e-mail. In any case, it was probably best that you realized on your own there was "something" wrong with Riplinger’s book.

>God bless you.

God bless you too.

Exchange #3

>Hello again: Don't want to be a big bother about this, but I am so glad I didn't throw out my other Bibles. Wuest's Expanded Translation came in real handy tonight. Just trying to share a little bit of good news.


I quoted a verse from Wuest in an e-mail letter I just sent out. It is a rather helpful as a secondary version. But, unfortunately, it is based on the same type of "Critical Text" as the NIV is. So you will see some of the same verses and phrases missing in it as in the NIV.

It would be nice if someone came out with an "emphasized" or "amplified" type of version based on the Textus Receptus or Majority Text. If I was up to it, I might be tempted to produce such a version myself.

Exchange #4

>Thanks for the e-mail response. I'll try to keep this one short because of your situation. First, I'll send you my copy of New Age Bible Versions if you would like to have it for research. I don't want it anymore.<

It would be appreciated. If I get any more questions on it I would be better prepared to answer them. Send it to:

Darkness to Light
PO Box 138
Natrona Heights, PA 15065

>I'm disappointed to hear about Wuest's Expanded Translation and the NIV connection. I'll still keep it as a Bible study tool. I don't want to throw out the baby with the bath water.<

As I said, I do use it some; just be sure to compare it with a version based on the Textus Receptus/ Majority Text so you’ll pick up any missing material. These would include the KJV, NKJV, MKJV, LITV, and the Webster versions and Young’s Literal Translation on your Online Bible.

>As far as "the One" is concerned. Thanks for that bit of insight. I guess that would make Jesus Christ a "new ager" too! I hope, someday, to learn how to study the Bible so I can also clarify things like you have. Right now it's more meditative reading through prayer than anything else. My notes are a result of this type of reading. At this stage, they are very personal self-exhorting messages to myself.<

God bless you in your Bible studies.

>Its a bit curious about the timing of all this - just when I'm looking forward to consistently reading my Bible for the first time in what seems a very long time. Then I bump into this.<

You’re not the only one to be side-tracked by "KJV Only" types. Although Riplinger is even more extreme than most.

>I'm not familiar the Webster Bibles. Never heard of them until I found them on the OLB, but I'm staying with the New Scofield. I'm getting comfortable with it.

By the way, there is a very interesting critique of the New Age Bible Versions that is written by a Fundamentalist (David W. Cloud - Way of Life Literature). He may be a King James only advocate, but he doesn't think Riplinger's book is very dependable, even though he thinks there are some good points.

Some of the topic headings: Misquoting and poor documentation; Errors of fact; Faulty logic; Unproven statements; Mrs. Riplinger's amazing statements; Endorsements which are not endorsements. If you have the time and/or inclination the address for the article (17 printed pages) is here.

I am not a Fundamentalist or whatever else. I simply want to be a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, depending on Him and His word. I feel very uncomfortable with labels. I have found good things from various sites on the web, and I just happened to find that article a couple of days ago. (I wasn't really looking for anything like it. Just poking around again like I said I didn't want to do!) I don't make distinctions as long as I find what I perceive to be God-honoring and Christ-centered material. (I felt a small disclaimer was in order, I guess.)<

I did check out the article. Of course, I disagreed with the reviewer’s KJV Only views; but it was interesting that even someone with this viewpoint still found problems with Riplinger’s "research." As I said, she is even more extreme than most KJV Only people.

>Thanks again for everything. I will be checking the articles you've mentioned. Sorry this wasn't as short as I had hoped it would be.

No problem. And God bless.

For a follow-up to this exchange, see NT Greek: An Unknown Tongue?

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

The above e-mail exchanges were posted on this Web site during March 1998.

Bible Versions Controversy: KJV-Onlyism
Bible Versions Controversy

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