WHY NEW VERSIONS ARE NEEDED
By Robert A. Joyner
From Tyndale’s Bible in 1525 until today, there is a history of growth and improvement by means of repeated Bible revisions. Tyndale revised his translation several times. The English versions which followed are but revisions and improvements of Tyndale’s first English Bible, until we come to the Bishops’ Bible in 1568. The 1611 KJV is one of the best proofs of the value of Bible revision, being a revision of the Bishops’ version. The KJV has been revised about 5 times, the last in 1769, which is the one we use today.
Revisions and new translations will always be needed because language changes, and it needs to be updated. Today we have a treasury of ancient manuscripts, versions and quotations that the KJV translators never dreamed of. The science of textual criticism has improved drastically. Scholars today have a better understanding of the original languages. This kind of knowledge has accumulated considerably in the almost 400 years since 1611.
William Tyndale said in the preface of his first English New Testament that if anyone could find an inaccuracy that did not give the exact sense of the original language, he should correct it. Tyndale said, “remembering that so is their duty to do so.”
Some people seem to think the KJV translators were an elect group inspired by God in a special way to produce a perfect translation. When, in fact, every Christian has as much right to translate as any other. Every Christian can check the meaning of words in the original language. It is his obligation to do so. The Bible says, “Study to show yourself approved unto God.”
Remember the KJV translators criticized their own version and corrected it in many places. Then they came out with new editions, in 1613 and 1629. Some people accuse me of blasphemy when I point out errors in the KJV. I am doing the same thing the KJV translators did when they corrected their own version. Also, people condemn the NASB or the NIV for revising and correcting, just like the KJV translators did.
IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT BIBLE TRANSLATION
Inspiration refers to the original writings. Over and over the prophets claimed, “The word of the Lord came unto me” or “God spoke to me saying.” (Ezek. 1:3;Jere. 11:1) The apostle Paul claimed that the words he was speaking to the Corinthians were not his own but words the Spirit of God was giving him. (I Cor. 12:13) These Bible writers were claiming Divine inspiration. They were the original writers. When Revelation chapter 22 was completed, inspiration stopped. (Rev. 22:18-19) To claim inspiration for anything since is to add to the Scriptures and bring a curse upon yourself.
The KJV Only group is doing the same thing as the Mormons do when they add the Book of Mormon to the Scripture. They are doing the same thing the Charismatics do when they get a “new revelation” through tongues. When the KJV Only advocates claim inspiration for the KJV or say it is God’s perfectly preserved word, they are doing the same thing. Asserting perfection for the KJV Bible is the same as saying it is inspired. This is dangerous. (I have read all the explanations and arguments the KJV advocates give about the difference between inspiration and preservation. I understand them. I still stick with my statement above.)
All translations teach the same thing because no Bible doctrine depends on one verse or the proper translation of a word. Every Bible doctrine is mentioned over and over. Therefore it cannot be destroyed by mistranslation. For example: The word “Lord” is mentioned 749 times. The word “hell” is mentioned 51 times (plus the terms like lake of fire, furnace of fire, eternal punishment, etc). You can easily see that if “hell” was left out in one place or several places, it would not change the Bible teaching on the subject.
There is no Bible doctrine at stake regardless of what translation you use or which family of manuscripts you use. In other words, any Bible doctrine you mention is in all translations. Every Bible doctrine is in the Textus Receptus manuscripts. They are also in the Alexandrian manuscripts. There are some differences, but all doctrines are in both families of manuscripts. A doctrine may be adversely affected in a certain passage of a particular translation, but it is still mentioned over and over in all families of manuscripts.
Today, even though we do not possess the original manuscripts and even though there are variant readings, we can be sure we have the word of God. Because the copies taken together, give us 100 percent of the original manuscripts. This means nothing has been lost that God inspired.
There is less than 2% variation between the 5,300 Greek manuscripts that we have today. Textual scholars tell us that even the manuscripts that vary the most would not affect fundamentally the message of the Scriptures. In the small area where word differences among copies do exist, textual scholars attempt to determine the most probable original reading. This way they can establish the original text close to 99% of the time. This means that all translators are translating the same Greek text about 99% of the time.
A. T. Robertson was probably the greatest American Greek Scholar ever. He was familiar with the most minute details of the Greek text. He said the textual variants amounted to only “a thousandth part of the entire text.” Westcott and Hort estimated the New Testament text was 98.33% pure whether or not one used the TEXTUS RECEPTUS or their own Greek text. Philip Schaff estimated there were only 400 variants that affected the sense of a passage, and only 50 were actually important and none affected any article of faith or Christian duty. Most scholars believe that 90% of the varying readings have been resolved. So this leaves only 10% of 1%, not enough to be greatly concerned about.
B. B. Warfield said, “the great bulk of the New Testament has been transmitted to us without, or almost without, any variations. It can be asserted with confidence that the sacred text is exact and valid and that no article of faith and no moral precept in it has been distorted or lost.” The great Old Testament scholar Dr. Robert Dick Wilson said, “I can affirm that there is not a page of the Old Testament concerning which we need have any doubt.”
All this means that Christians can trust their Bibles today. Since the extant copies of manuscripts can be shown to be 99% like the original and the remaining inconsequential 1% still contains the original among the variants, then there is no reason to doubt that we have the same inerrant Word of God that the prophets and apostles delivered to us.
John Ankerberg commented about all the exaggerated concern the KJV Only groups show over the 1% of the text, when this one percent does not deal in important matters, is like risking your life to save a million dollars which is safely in the bank.
LET US BE THANKFUL
We are blessed to have the Word of God today. In most places in the world, the Bible is hard to get. Throughout history the vast majority of people have not had a complete Bible. Noah and Abraham did not have a Bible. Moses and Israel only had the first few books. David had less than half of the Old Testament. The early Christians and Paul had only the Old Testament. In the first few centuries of Christianity, there were few copies of the Bible. Not until the invention of the printing press did the Bible become affordable and widespread. Many times governments have outlawed and persecuted people for possessing a copy of the Word of God.
We should be thanking and praising God for all the Bibles we have today, for the KJV and the other reliable versions. We are rich. We are blessed. We should be on our faces worshipping, instead of being in each others faces bickering over the relatively minor differences in translations.