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Obsessed with Bible Versions?
Part One

In the following e-mail exchange, the e-mailer's comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.


>I don't know what your name is (could you give it to me please),<

Gary F. Zeolla

> but I wanted to write you about the differences in the Bible translations. First of all, I would like to congratulate you for stating your case eloquently and clearly, you are a good writer. I am a Sophomore at Eugene Bible College and my long term goals are to earn Doctorates in Theology and Psychology.<

God bless you in your studies.

> I am not to well versed on the differences between the Critical Text and the Textus Receptus, however, your article has challenged me to find out. I am going to do my own research and I am going to e mail numerous different Christian ministries about the CT and TR to see if what you have claimed is accurate. I am curious because I have heard from others that the CT (compared to the TR) uses manuscripts which are closer to the original autographs. Once again, I am not sure about the differences, I want to do my own research and find out what is true.<

I always encourage people to study both sides of a subject before making a decision (Prov 18:13,15,17). However, one point of clarification, in my site I advocate the Majority Text, not the TR. The two are similar; but not identical. So be sure in your research that arguments you might see against the TR in fact apply to the MT also.

> I do read and use the NIV, but I would say my favorite NT translations are: William Barclay's; the NKJV; the Twentieth Century NT; and Weymouth's translation. However, when I read the various different translations I do not see differences that alter or compromise essentials of the Christian faith. For example, compare the NKJV, the NAS, and the NIV in the following passages:

Matt. 16:16-17; Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 10:45; Jn. 1:1-5, 8-14; Jn. 3:16; Jn. 17:3; Jn. 20:31; Acts 5:30-32; Acts 13: 37-38; Acts 20:21; Rom. 1:16-17; Rom. 5:8-11; Rom. 6:23; 1 Cor. 15:1-8; Gal. 3:23-26; Eph. 2:1-10; Eph. 2:18; Col. 1:15-20; Col. 2:6-10; Titus 2:11-15; Hebrews chapter 1; Heb. 5:13-6:3; Heb. 7:27; Heb. 9:14, 24-28; Heb. 10:17-18; 1 Pet. 2:25; 1 Pet. 3:18; 2 Pet. 3:18.

Although there are some slight variants in some words, the Sovereignty of God; the Deity of Christ; and the Gospel are not compromised in these passages in other translations besides the NKJV, MKJV, or LITV (like the NIV, NAS, etc.), and that's the entire point.<

Yes, it is true that many verses concerning essential and important doctrines are not compromised in most modern versions. However, there are also verses that do compromise such doctrines. Consider, for instance, the reading of the last part of Acts 20:28 in the following two versions:

NKJV: shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
NRSV: shepherd the church of God that He purchased with the blood of his own Son.

In the NKJV this is a proof-text for the deity of Christ. But in the NRSV it is not. Note, this is both a textual variant issue and a translation one. In other words, part of the reason for the difference is that the TR which the NKJV is based on (along with the MT) have one reading while the CT (which the NRSV is based on) has another. In addition, there is a problem with translation. The word "Son" is not in any Greek text.

This last point is important. One essential doctrine that I believe is compromised by most modern versions is verbal inspiration. This problem results from the "dynamic equivalence" translation principle. Literally thousands of words in the original texts are left untranslated while thousands of words are added without any warrant from the Hebrew or Greek texts and without any indication that they have been added. In the above example, "Son" is not in italics, brackets, or in any way set off letting the reader know that the word is not a translation of any word in the Greek text.

That said, for a discussion of the "loss" of additional proof-texts for the deity of Christ and the Trinity in general in the NRSV see the following article on my site: Two NCC Bible Versions.

> It's not about personal preferences (mine or yours) or even the Acts 9 or 1 Jn 5 passage,<

Just so you know, Acts 9:5,6 and 1John 5:7,8 are in the TR but they are not in the MT (or the CT). These two passages are probably the most differences between the TR and MT. As I said, they are similar but not identical. For a discussion of these two passages, see the following page: Significant Textual Variants - TR vs. MT.

> the issue is will a person be able to be saved and discipled using a certain translation. I think you've missed this point.<

There are many issues. But I don’t believe I have ever said a person cannot be saved or grow spiritually by reading the NIV or a similar version. In fact, I am sure there are many people who have only read the NIV that are much better Christians than I. But I do believe there are problems with most modern versions that need to be addressed.

> I don't know how to say the following without giving the impression that I am being harsh, judgmental, or unloving (I apologize in advance if it comes across that way - my point is to challenge you - not to insult you). That being said, I couldn't help but get the impression (while I was reading your article) that you are sectarian, legalistic, and obsessed over an issue that is a non essential of the Christian faith. I think you have lost your focus and that you have become bogged down in academic minutiae.<

First off, I am not sure which article you are referring to as I have many pages on my site addressing Bible versions; and many, many more addressing many other subjects. Second, let me address each point in order.

"sectarian" - Yes I do have strong opinions on this and other subjects. I try to express them as clearly as I can without getting "harsh" in my statements. I do not mean to be divisive; but when I see the Word of God being corrupted, as I believe it is in many versions, then I must speak out.

"legalistic" - This point I would most definitely disagree with. Please see my article "Judge Not …" for my attitude in this regard. My point is, I do not say someone must use one of the versions I recommend to be a Christian or even a "good" Christian. I simply believe these versions are more faithful to the Word of God than others.

"obsessed" - Are you aware that on my site I address many subjects other than Bible versions? Or did you just read this one article? Altogether, there are over 300 pages on my site, and still growing. Meanwhile about forty of these discuss Bible versions.

Now forty out of over 300 may still sound like too high of a percentage to you. But one of the reasons I have so many is I often post e-mails I receive, along with my responses, on my site. And guess what? I receive more e-mail on this subject than other, possibly more than all other subjects combined.

So what does that tell me? This much be a rather "hot" topic among Christians. Furthermore, if you take the time to read the e-mails I have received and posted you will see that most are very appreciative of my efforts in this regard. And note, I have only posted a fraction of the e-mails I have received. So if I write a lot on this subject it is only because I am trying to address the concerns I receive in regards to it (like yours).

"non-essential" - Absolutely. If you have not seen it, please check out my Subject Index page and note as couple of points on it. First, there are five main headings, the first being "Essentials of the Faith." Is my page on Bible versions listed here? No. Nor is it listed in the next two. It is listed unde the fourth main heading which ash the rather nebulous title, "Additional Topics."

Second, there are a total of 30 subjects listed on the index. Bible Versions Controversy" is the eighteenth one listed. So I am not exactly giving "top-billing" to this subject.

Third, as for what is essential to the Christian faith, please see my ministry’s confession of faith and the accompanying article. In the confession I list what I believe are the essentials of "the faith." The subject of Bible versions is no where in sight: Essentials of "the Faith" and Darkness to Light’s Confession of Faith.

Now I would agree with you in one respect. I do get someone frustrated when I have to spend so much time on "in house" issues. I would much rather be reaching out to non-Christians by defending the essentials of the faith. But most of the e-mail I receive is from Christians. So I spend time answering e-mails and sometimes posting E-mail Exchanges on my site. And I try to write articles addressing the concerns people raise.

Moreover, Christian teachers are commanded to proclaim "the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27). And subjects like the proper way to translate the Word of God would fall into this category.

> What about the "weak" brother or sister who reads your article and they stumble because they think they are sinning since they are reading/using Bible translations which you don't recommend? Think about that, you could be causing others to stumble.<

Nowhere on my site do I even hint that someone is "sinning" because they are reading the NIV or similar version (though I do think the TRANSLATORS of such versions may have a thing or two to answer to God for).

Furthermore, there is simply no way a Christian can avoid the subject of Bible versions. When someone becomes a Christian one of the first things (hopefully) he is advised to do is to read his Bible everyday. So he goes to his local Christian bookstore to purchase one and finds probably a dozen or more versions on display. So he must make a choice. But on what basis? Glancing though them it will become obvious that there are differences between them.

What I have done on my site is tried to explain why there are differences between Bible versions. I mention two main topics: translation principle and Greek text type. I try to explain the different principles used in Bible translation and the differences between the Greek texts. I also express that of these two issues the former is the most important. And, of course, I express which method and Greek text I think is most faithful to the Word of God.

Those reading my site, at least those who have e-mailed me, have found this information and the manner in which I have presented it helpful. I have yet to receive an e-mail from anyone who has been "caused to stumble" by my comments on Bible versions.

> I feel the problem with most Apologist is that they focus so much on truth - they forget what truth is for - (freedom and spiritual growth not sectarianism or spiritual jingoism).<

The calling of "Apologists" is to defend the Christian faith, both from attacks from without and corruptions from within the Church (1Tim 4:2-5). I personally do not see a "problem" here at all. "Freedom" and "spiritual growth" and other aspects of the Christian life must be based on truth (John 4:24).

> Please understand, I am not any better than you, nor are you better than me, God loves us both equally, and he has gifted and used both of us, but gee whiz, embrace relevance and stop waltzing with non essentials. Use the gifts God has given you to build up rather than tear down.

Mike<

Again, I write so much on Bible version because, based on the amount of e-mail I receive on the subject, it is a very "relevant" topic to many Christians. Also again, there are many, many articles on the essentials of the faith on my site. As for writing on non-essentials, again, I must proclaim the full counsel of God. And again, based on the e-mail I receive many people are "built up" by my site.

Yes, I also receive much e-mail from people who disagree with me. But that is to be expected when I am expressing what I believe to be the truth.

Lastly, as I stated above, I do try post e-mail exchanges on my site. And I would be very curious to see if anyone else thinks I have "obsessed" on the subject of Bible versions. So unless you object, I will post your e-mail and my response. I will only use your first name.

God bless.

This discussion is continued at: Obsessed with Bible Versions? - Part Two.

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

The above E-mail Exchange was posted on this Web site May 21, 1998.

Bible Versions Controversy: General Comments
Bible Versions Controversy

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