Monday, October 24, 2011

Can I Trust My Translation (Part 1)

Biblegems # 59

Question: I use the NIV, along with the KJV and other translations. How can I be sure if the translations I use are accurate, according to the original Greek and Hebrew?

My first word of advice is to avoid all those angry posts and websites on the internet (as well as books, tracts and print articles) that condemn modern Bible translations because they may not conform to the KJV. Bible translations flourished and accurately conveyed the Word of God long before the KJV was published in 1611.

I thank God for the King James Bible. It is beautiful in its style and has been used by God for generations in leading people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, it uses 17th century English, and cannot speak to the Chinese, the French or Russian speaking people. Language is fluid and changes over time; archaic English is increasingly difficult for modern English speaking people to understand.

The real issue is one of integrity. Does the translation you use accurately convey the meaning of the original languages of the Old and New Testaments? For the average Bible reader, the answer can usually be found in the “Introduction” pages in the front of your Bible. If your paperback edition does not have an Introduction, find a hard back or leather bound edition. The Introduction should tell you Who did the translation, Why they believed a new translation was needed, What Greek and Hebrew manuscripts they relied upon the most, and How they decided to translate difficult or unclear words or concepts.

All of the above affect the way your Bible version reads and how accurate it is. But the most important factors are What Hebrew and Greek manuscripts the translators used and How they decided to translate difficult passages.

For example, look at Mark 2:9 in three translations, compared to a literal, word for word translation of the Greek:

Literal Greek Translation1: And they, hearing the king, went and — Look! — a star, which they had seen in the east, went ahead of them until it came to the place over where the child was.

KJV:         When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

NIV         After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.

CEV         The wise men listened to what the king said and then left. And the star they had seen in the east went on ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.

Each of these translations aimed at bringing the Greek into the English language in a way that preserves accuracy and at the same time reads and sounds like the English language spoken at the time of the translation.

(Next week will be part 2 of this article)

Resources: 1 Nestle-Aland 26 at

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