Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Thoughts on Bible Translations, Mostly the KJV

I was going to send the following message to a couple of friends of mine. We're working on starting a "Do Hard Things" (think Alex and Brett Harris) group under the premise that the world has enough groups that just sit and talk about things (including churches!) and very few that actually go and do stuff. So we hope to have a group that goes out and shares the good news of Jesus Christ, memorizes Scripture, and does service projects.

I was going to send this to my friends, but it's a bit long and rant-like, so I thought I would just post it here, on my blog, my thinking space and give them a merciful condensed version. These are just a few of my thoughts on Bible translations and especially the KJV. I edited it and expanded it a great deal. I wasn't actually going to send them all the Greek stuff!

As far as what translation of the Bible to use, I think we should use a modern translation, although be a bit careful in that respect, because a lot of modern translations are very off-base and liberal. I'm not a KJV-er, though, for various reasons.

First of all, I don't consider the KJV to be an English translation, because you have to understand Old English to read it. The point of a translation is to make things understandable to the reader, and the KJV isn't good for many readers, including me, since I grew up with the NIV. I can understand the Old English fine, but the extra step of deciphering it keeps me distracted from the actual content of the Bible. Of course, I am OK with the KJV, and I know those who have grown up with it and don't have a problem with it because they can understand it well. But if we're witnessing we will most likely encounter people like me who aren't so well-grounded in Old English, so we might not want to go KJV.

Secondly, I'm a little bit wary of the cult-like following the KJV has gotten. I know of many people who hold that the KJV isthe literal, inerrant Word of God. They believe it's an inspired translation. I simply don't believe that, and if you need examples of translation errors I can provide them . I think there is no substitute for studying the original Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic manuscripts to truly understand the Bible. At the very least I don't think the KJV is an inspired translation.

Let's take, for instance, the famous verse, John 3:16. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

The KJV-ers are quite pleased with the use of "only begotten" in this text. This phrase comes from two Greek words. You will probably recognize both!

mono - one, only
genesis - beginning, creation

So the KJV translators translated "monogenesis", a compound Greek word, into "only begotten". Good, right?

No, because like in English, compound words in Greek can mean something completely different than if the words were separate! For instance, "firefly" is very, very different from "fire fly". "Firefly" means a little flying lightup insect. "Fire fly" means flying fire! And so monogenesis means something very different than mono genesis!

I think there's a serious theological error here too. "Begotten" insinuates that Christ was created, which isn't indicated anywhere in the Bible. If He's part of the Trinity, then He couldn't have been created. Also, Christ was involved in the creation process, as the book of John tells us. How could He create if He was in fact created?

If I'm correct the actual translation of monogenesis is a lot closer to "unique" or "precious", which is how it is translated in the Psalms. It also carries with it some of the meaning of the birthright - the rights of a son to the power of the father, or something along those lines.

I use the NIV, which I definitely think has several serious translation errors, probably easily as bad as the KJV. I don't consider either translation more superior to the other, I'm just used to modern English and also a bit put off by those who insist that the KJV is inspired. I don't think there is an inspired English translation of the Bible, and if there is, I haven't run into it yet. KJV, NKJV, NASB, and NIV alike all have their share of translation errors.

But I believe the last statistic I heard is that English translations such as the ones above are 99% free of error, so we should be fine. I just prefer not to throw Old English at someone! But NKJV, NASB, and NIV are all fine by me for witnessing. If anyone has any comments or disagreements, please don't hesitate! Hopefully you two won't mind that I went on something of a rant concerning this subject.

1 comment:

  1. well i'm not sure what i think about the "begotten" subject. you know, its all deap theory...which hurts my brain. LoL

    but i agree, i usually don't perfer the KJV or even the NKJV. i've always used the New Century Version. i like it. and the New Living Translation. NIV is good too. Though there's a few verses that i think are best said in the KJV. I like poetic verses, sometimes i'll search different translations for the same verse and see which one i like the best. :)