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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

On Bible Translations

There are many people who have no use for a modern language Bible translation.  I am not in their camp and if you will be patient with me I will tell you why.  In my father's last couple years of life he was in and out of the hospital and the nursing homes (for rehab) frequently.  He was at home when he could be but often that was not possible.  The pattern would be the hospital, the nursing home, and then back home where we would start the whole process all over again.  One day when Dad was in the nursing home I asked him if I could bring him some reading material as it would help him pass the time.  His response was he would not know the words and would not know what they meant.  It was an honest answer.  While my father was a great math student he was a horrible English student and his grades in school reflected that.  Reading was very difficult for him.

My grandfather on my Dad's side was born in 1879 and all my other grandparents were born in the 1880's.  My grandfather on my mother's side was off on his own when he was 13 working for one farmer and then another in the state of Illinois.  His education ended, I believe, at the 5th grade and one must also remember the school year back then was very abbreviated compared to today.

None of my grandparents got past the 8th grade.  I know the family purchased for my grandfather on my mother's side a Revised Standard Version of the Bible just because of the reading difficulty issue with the King James Version with one of so little education.  This purchase was made way back in the 50's or early 60's when for all practical purposes there were only 3 translations available to most people—the KJV, the ASV, and the RSV.  (I apologize about the line spacing in this paragraph after the second and fourth lines.  Since I do not know what caused it or how to fix it I will just have to leave it as is.) 

As for today I spent nearly 40 years in classrooms either as a full time teacher or as a substitute teacher.  I can assure you that even to this day many kids, and I am talking about high school kids, cannot read satisfactorily.  Reading is very, very difficult for many of them and reading with comprehension even more so.

My experiences with my own family and with kids in school has led me to have sympathy for those who have difficulty reading and understanding what they read.  I will never forget the words of my Dad that he could not understand the words.  Are we to deny people the opportunity to read a modern day language Bible that they just might have a chance of understanding versus the King James Bible where chances are they just give it up as hopeless?

I personally gave up the King James Version when I came across the phrase "evil concupiscence" (Col. 3:5) one day in my reading.  I felt like there was probably not more than 1 person in 1,000 of ordinary everyday Americans who knew what the word "concupiscence" meant.  I switched over to the New King James Version which I have now used for years.  (I might add that the NKJV and the NASU translate the Greek in Col. 3:5 as "evil desire" which even I could understand).

Is making the Bible easier to read a sin?  Which translation, if one would learn its teaching and follow it out in his life, is so bad that it would lead one to hell?  Would it be the New King James Version, the New American Standard Version, the English Standard Version, the New Revised Standard Version, the New International Version, the Holman Christian Standard Version, which one would it be?  Yes, they all have passages they have not translated well but so does the King James Version.

My plea would be to have sympathy for those who find reading to be difficult.  Don't judge a man by the translation he carries and uses but by the life he lives.  "By their fruits you will know them" (Matt. 7:20 NKJV) and not by the Bible translation they carry.  Let me offer you a challenge.  Read the book of Job in the King James Version and then read it in say the New International Version and then tell me which one you got the most out of.  I'd say you already know but try it and see.

[For those interested in reading up on the subject of Bible translations I can recommend the following books which I suspect are all on Amazon but you will have to check and see:  (1) How We Got The Bible by Neil R. Lightfoot, (2) King James Only?:  A Guide To Bible Translations by Dr. Robert A. Joyner, (3) The King James Version Debate:  A Plea for Realism by D. A. Carson, and (4) The King James Only Controversy:  Can You Trust the Modern Translations by James R. White.]