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No Salvation by Non-literal Bible Versions?

The following e-mail is commenting on the items listed at Bible Versions Controversy. The e-mailers’ comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.


> I have read with interest several of your articles on the Bible Versions controversy. I appreciate all the research you have done. The question I have is, are some of the versions so bad that they cannot find Christ nor accept Him in truth?<

I have been asked variations on this question many times. Yes, God could save someone while they are reading just about any Bible version (the NWT might be an exception!). However, God could also save someone through a sermon, book, Web site, a commentary on the Bible, or a variety of other methods where little or no Scripture is actually being quoted.

In other words, the Gospel message can be presented in a variety of methods. I would place most Bible versions being produced today in the category of commentaries. In other words, they are not translations of what God said, but the opinion of the translator/ commentator as to what the Scriptures mean. And God can use the reading of the "meaning" of Scripture, if it is accurate, to lead people to Himself.

But does this then mean such a translation is proper? Or does it simply mean God can utilize anything that presents His message? In other words, if God saved someone through the reading of one of the articles on my Web site, does that then elevate the article to the level of Scripture? I think not!

However, if someone is saved by the reading of one of my articles, I would immediately recommend they begin reading the Bible, and an accurate translation of it. Similarly, if someone was saved by reading say the New Living Translation (NLT) I would recommend they get themselves a "real" Bible like the New King James Version (NKJV) and begin to read it. I would view the NLT in the same category as one of my articles, an exposition of Scriptural ideas, but by no means a translation of the Scriptures.

> If a person is led to Christ through one of these other versions do we not accept them as Christians?<

Of course. I would not judge the method by which someone is saved, but I would be sure they accurately understood what "salvation" meant.

> I have to believe in several principles; we are human and as such we stumble and fall and there are things we will not understand until we meet Jesus Himself. I have never been a KJV only type of person only because the Lord Himself was a Jew and spoke Hebrew and not the King's English. Having traveled with a gospel quartet for several years we have visited many denominations and what I have learned from that is that we believe in the basics: virgin birth, death , burial and resurrection , and that we are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ through grace of the Father.

Mark 9:40 For he that is not against us is on our part.

Tommy
6/17/1999<

To respond to the verse you quote, I am not "forbidding" people from reading non-literal Bible versions, but I am trying to help people understand the difference between literal and non-literal versions, and the importance thereof.

Many non-literal, Bible versions fail to translate thousands of words from the Hebrew and Greek texts, while adding thousands of words that have no basis in the Hebrew and Greek. What does this teach the new Christian? That God's exact words are not that important? What about verbal inspiration? Can it be upheld if the adding and omitting of thousands of words is considered proper? And what about verses like Rev 22:18,19? Are we teaching the new Christians that such verses are simply irrelevant?

My point is, the Bible is not just a sermon. God can use a sermon to bring someone to Himself. But when it comes to the Bible, it is unique; every word of it is the very word of God. It is our final authority. These basic Christian principles cannot, IMHO, be taught using most modern versions.


> I apologize if you thought I was being negative in the one line of Scripture I quoted from. I agree with you have had to say and I thank you for your answer.

May God bless you and your ministry.
Tommy
6/21/1999<

Apology not really needed as I wasn't offended, but thanks anyway. May God bless you also!


Appendix: Galatians 3:20

As evidence that the NLT is a "an exposition of Scriptural ideas, but by no means a translation of the Scriptures" (as I say above), consider Galatians 3:20.

A strictly literal translation of this verse would be, "But the mediator is not of one, but the God is one."

But the NLT renders this verse, "Now a mediator is needed if two people enter into an agreement, but God acted on his own when he made his promise to Abraham."

Now you do not have to be a Greek scholar to see the difference between these two renderings. The literal translation has only 12 words whereas the NLT has 26 words. Now admittedly, especially when taken out of context, the literal translation is rather difficult to understand. A.T. Robertson says, "Over 400 interpretations of this verse have been made!"

So what has the NLT done? It has picked from among these over 400 possible interpretations and given what it believes is the one correct INTERPRETATION. But it most definitely has not TRANSLATED this verse.

Now if the name of the book was the New Living Commentary then this would be fine. Commentators have the right to present their opinions on the meaning of verses in any words they should choose. But to call this book a "Translation" defies the meaning of the word "translation."

In other words, the NLT is mis-named. It is NOT a translation, it is a commentary, and should be viewed as such. Unfortunately, that is not how it is titled and sold. It is being sold as if it were a translation of what God actually said: it simply is not. I would call this false advertising. The word "Translation" simply does not belong on the cover of this book.

If the NLT was a food product, the Food and Drug Administration would be prosecuting the publisher for putting on its "label" an "ingredient" that simply is not contained in the product.

But is the NLT correct in its interpretation of this verse? Maybe, maybe not. That is not the point. The point is, the purpose of a translation is to translate the Hebrew and Greek text into English. It is not the job of a translation to interpret the text.

By way of comparison, below is how some other versions handle this verse:
KJV: Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.
NKJV: Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one.
DBY: But a mediator is not of one, but God is one.
YLT: and the mediator is not of one, and God is one --
NAS95: Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one.

Now each of these versions has added some words to the literal translation to try to make it easier to understand. However, they have italicized the added words so the reader knows that the words have in fact been added.

Note also, instead of "of one" these versions have "for one." Though slightly less literal, this is a possible way of rendering the Greek genitive. Also, the "the" before "God" has been omitted. This is standard, translation practice; the definitive article is generally omitted before proper nouns. But these minor additions and changes are a far cry from what the NLT has done to this verse.

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

Bibliography:
Darby, John Nelson. The English Darby Bible (DBY). Public Domain, 1890.
King James Version (KJV).
New American Standard Bible (NAS95). Copyright 1960-1995. La Biblia de Las Americas. The Lockman Foundation.
New King James Version (NKJV). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publisher, 1982.
New Living Translation (NLT). Tyndale Charitable Trust. 1996.
Robertson, A.T. Word Pictures in the Greek New Testament. Broadman Press, 1934.
Young, Robert. Young's Literal Translation of the Holy Bible (YLT). Public Domain, 1898.

All verses and Robertson quote copied from: BibleWorks for Windows™. Copyright 1992-1999 BibleWorks, L.C.C. Big Fork, MT: Hermeneutika. Programmed by Michael S. Bushell and Michael D. Tan.

Bible Versions Controversy: Translation Principles
Bible Versions Controversy

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