Why Bible translations?

The purpose of this presentation is to put into layman’s language a clear and logical presentation of why we need and accept new “Bible Translations”. It does not infer the new translations are a correction or improved translation from the original text. Rather it is to help us understand clearly the meaning of the Word of God in our generation.

FIRST: Every Bible you have is a translation. A translation is an attempt by people to put into the current vernacular the Word of God as it was recorded in the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. We must understand there is a difference between a translation and someone who paraphrases the Scripture. In essences a pastor or Bible teacher in his message is paraphrasing the Bible in that he is putting into his words what the Bible says to help you understand. Certainly we would not call that a translation of the Scriptures but it is helpful and a necessity to teach us what God’s Word says. A translation is done by people who take the words from the available manuscripts and attempt to translate them into the language of the people.

SECOND: The original Scriptures that were recorded in a direct revelation from God are not in existence. We believe the reason God removed them was so we would not find ourselves worshiping those manuscripts and miss the message God gave us. It would be as if we had the crown of thorns that Jesus wore, or the Shroud that was so popular recently or the cross on which Christ died. The world would make them an idol. They would worship the object and forget the God who made them and brought redemption through these things.

THIRD: the Word of God is settled in heaven not on earth. “For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven” Ps. 119:89. “The Word of our God shall stand forever” Isa. 40:8 “The words of the Lord are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace on earth, refined seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, from this generation for ever” Ps. 12:6-7, “But the Word of the Lord abides forever” I Pet. 1:25, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away” Matt. 24:35..

We may debate manuscripts, denounce translations, divide the body of Christ all to no avail. God’s Word is settled in Heaven, not on earth. It is His Word, not ours. The phrase “My Word” “Word of the Lord”, “Word of God” and others are used through out the Bible. How can we as mortal man believe we can protect His eternal Word? We can preach it, memorize it, study it, love it, defend it, deny it but not destroy it. The preservation of its purity and protection of its contents are in His hands.

God has been the protector of His Word, and for some six thousand years He has handled it well. He has personally taken the responsibility for the preservation and inspiration of His Word. He has not invited us to do this for Him. He is silent on how He protects His Word. He just does it. It is a little silly for us to fight over something so completely out of our control.

Believe me, if the devil could destroy the Bible, he would have done so long ago. One of the great testimonies of the Bible that cannot be explained by the enemy is its preservation. Kings, armies, atheists, philosophers, humanists, liberal theologians, and governments, (including our own), have tried to remove and destroy the Bible. It is still the world’s best seller each year. Again, God is the protector of His Word.

FOURTH: Dr. Warren Wiersbe says in his book, “Be Determined” that “We need new translations of the Bible, not because the Bible Changes, but because our language changes. Suppose you had to use John Wycliffe’s Version of the Bible, the oldest version in English. How much of this passage would you understand if you did not already know it from another version”

“Alle ye that traueilen & ben chargid come to me & I schal fulfille you. Take ye my yok on you & lerne ye of me for I am mylde and meke in herte: and ye schulen finde rest to youre soulis/ for my you for my yok is softe & my charge liyt.”

Listed below is another example using the same passage of Scripture from three early translations and two later translations? The first three translations were completed within a time span of about seventy years. There have been numerous other translations but these are well known and will show us why men see the need of new translations.

The Geneva Bible, 1560 AD. was the Bible used by John Bunyan, Oliver Cromwell, Shakespeare, and the Puritans. It was designated “The Peoples Book”. It held preeminence among English versions for about a century. It was also the Bible brought over on the Mayflower and it laid the spiritual foundations for America.

The Bishops’ Bible, 1558-1606 AD. There are fewer differences between the Bishops’ Bible and the King James Version than any other preceding translation

The King James Version 1611 AD. “It was designated the Authorized Version by King James of England however no Parliament ever approved this designation… For the first time, England was reading one Bible at home and hearing the same Bible read in church. It stilled all controversy and became so accepted that some said there was no distinction between it and the original text…Almost nine tenths of the New Testament is word for word from the Geneva Bible. This version has been revised several times but is a good and time honored translation that has impacted several generations.

These three versions are much alike. Again the reason we need updated translations is that languages change. Words and phrases that had one meaning years ago now have a different meaning. To illustrate these changes we have quoted the same passage of Scripture from three translations, II Corinthians 6:11-13, and it shows how the English language has changed

King James Version
V. 11. O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged,
V. 12. Ye are not straitened in us but ye are straitened in your own bowels.
V. 13. Now for recompense in the same, (I speak as unto my children) be ye also enlarged.

American Standard Version, 1901 AD now updated to the New American Standard Version translates the passage as follows:

V. 11 Our mouth has spoken freely to you, O Corinthians, our heart is opened wide.
V. 12 You are not restrained by us but you are restrained in your own affections.
V. 13 Now in a like exchange-I speak as to children-Open wide to us also.

New International Version 1973 AD translation renders the passage as follows:

V. 11. We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you.
V. 12. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us.
V. 13. As a fair exchange-I speak as to my children-open wide your hearts also.

Which was easiest for you to read? Which was easiest to understand? Did it change the meaning of the passage? Did it clarify the meaning of the passage?

The words used at the time of the translations were correct and clearly understood. However words change their meaning as they are passed from generation to generation. Consider the sample of words used in the King James Translation listed below. Some we do not understand today. Some have changed meaning. Some mean the opposite of their original use and change the meaning of Scripture. As you read the passages you will understand why men see the need for a new translation.

Here are a few examples:

peradventure-Rom. 5:7, concupiscence-Col. 3:5, conversation -I Pet. 3:1, straitly-Acts 4:7, gay-James. 2:3, privy-Acts 5:2 , bowels- II Cor. 6:12, concision-Phi. 3:2, cleave- Rom. 12:9, nought -Rom., 14:10, charitably-Rom. 14:15, swellings-II Cor. 12:20 lasciviousness-II Cor. 12:21, apace-Ps. 68:12, agone-I Sam. 30:13, cometh-Rom. 10:17, Charity, I Cor. 13.

Dr. McGee in his Bible teaching used a familiar cliché, “Where the rubber meets the road”. We understand this because we use rubber tires on so many vehicles. In parts of the world they have no idea what he is talking about. It must be translated into the language of the people. One translation of this is “Where the turtle crosses the road”. In their culture they understand this. It makes little sense to us in America. This is putting the translation into the language of the people. This is the objective of the translator.

FIFTH: Along with this you must consider that there are hundreds of translations in the world today. The Wycliffe Bible translators have done an excellent job of translating the Bible into many languages. We have heard many missionaries tell of trying to find a right word for such terms as nail, cross, sheep, sword, helmet, etc. to express the meaning of the Scriptures so the people of various cultures would understand.

BBN and its affiliates broadcast in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, German and Russian. We use 8 different translations of the Bible. All of these translations are compiled using the Greek and Hebrew text available to them, but the bottom line is you must put the Bible into the language of the people. Would everybody agree on every word the translators use? No. But again, God protects His Word and the message is clearly given to draw people to the Lord Jesus Christ. The missionary enterprise of the world depends on the Holy Spirit (the interpreter, revealer, teacher, and persuader) to draw people to Christ. The Holy Spirit has the ability to properly interpret every translation for the seeking person who wants to know God. “Him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out”.

Men of God have devoted a great portion of their lives and many have been killed trying to accomplish this feat of translating the Bible into the contemporary languages that you and I may understand in our tongue the unchanging message God communicated to us. We are privileged to have the whole Bible in our language. Is it not a little ridiculous for us to fight over a certain translation and theologians debate and preachers and teachers divide the body of Christ, while much of the world has little or no Scriptures in their language? Paul said, “Preach the Word”. Often it is easier to defend the Bible within our comfort zone, fighting other Christians, rather than to declare it in a hostile world in darkness and rebellion. In defending and declaring His Word we want peace surrounding rather than war. However this is not our option. As believers we are in a war zone, or are we? Today much of the Church is an army of occupation rather than an army of conquest. Eph. 6: 8-10.

Recently a preacher called me about a statement we had made. We said, “that in the translations of this century no major doctrine has been perverted.” He reminded me of a controversial translation a few years ago that translated verses in Isa. 7:14 “Virgin” into “Young Lady”. It was properly translated “Virgin” in Matt. 1:23. I asked him where that translation was today. He agreed that it has basically disappeared. We said, “Why?” Has not God again protected His Word?

Some would rather you not read the Bible at all if you are not going to read “their” translation. Most of America is ignorant of what the Bible really says. Surveys show that it is seldom read except on Sunday while at church. I would say, “Read the translation that you are comfortable with. But what ever you do, make it a habit to read, meditate and memorize it every day. Then share it with someone else. It is the source of your spiritual food to help you grow.” Take some time and read Psalm 119. You will really begin to sense the value of the Word to you.

SIXTH: The devil’s tactic is to divide and cause dissention to eventually destroy us. “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” I Peter 5:8. It is time to focus on the declaration of His Word and let God defend it. Let’s share the most important message with a world that is starving to know Truth. We have it in our possession. We are therefore responsible to carry it to the World. How would we answer this question on judgement day if the Lord should ask? “I gave you My Word. Why didn’t you take it to the world?” Bottom line; In that day all that will matter will be whether we absorbed the Word of God into our lives and shared it with a lost world for whom Christ died. Matt. 28:19-20

SEVENTH: The commitment of the Bible Broadcasting Network is to take the whole Word to the whole world through radio. Will you join us in this venture of faith? As Rom. 10:17 says, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God”.

The ultimate questions that demand answers are these. “How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the glad tidings of good things.” Rom. 10”14-15

Our mission statement at BBN is found in Acts 26:18. “To open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in me”. Will you join us in this mission of taking the whole Word to the whole world via radio and any other means available to us? At the end of the road we will all say, to God be the glory, great things He has done!

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