In relation to Bible version selection, the popular wisdom that Christians follow is based on readability, understandability, style and preference. Accuracy seems to be an afterthought.
If it’s given any thought at all.
It is just assumed by most Christians that, if a version exists, it has gone through some form of rigorous testing and approval by the scholarly powers that be. Because, how could any version be accepted without an extreme and exhaustive level of scrutiny?
After all, why would the Christian magazines carry ads selling a version.? Why would Christian universities and seminaries push a version? Why would famous authors, professors, preachers, evangelists and pastors push a version that they have not investigated in depth?
Validating the Authenticity of the Text
By validation, we are speaking of confirming the authenticity of the text that underlies a specific translation, understanding the translation process applied to that text, investigating the qualifications of the translators, and researching the theology of the translators.
I would venture to say that a very small percentage of those leaders who recommend a translation have the slightest clue about the underlying authenticity of that translation. Yet, in spite of their limited knowledge, they make glowing recommendations for a particular version.
Which gives encouragement to multitudes of believers to accept a specific translation as the word of God
Much of what these recommenders do is based upon a deference that they give to the popular scholarship of the day. Giving reverence to the scholars that are accepted within the Evangelical community as a whole. Those that are in good fellowship with the academic fellowships and media outlets guiding popular Evangelical thinking.
The problem for them, and for most of us, is that we are dependent upon someone else for our information. Most of us are not expert in languages, textual history or translation. Such expertise takes decades — even a lifetime — to develop. Such was the case for those early scholars that translated the original KJV. They held academic pedigrees that make modern academics pale in comparison.
The point being, most of us are left with a version decision to make based on the limited understanding that we have.
Which means, we seem to be limited by whatever the scholars tell us to think.
Or so it seems.
Unless God has given us another way to know which version is true.
The New Priesthood?
I don’t believe that God has left the decision regarding translation authority to the scholars. We are not left, as the Catholic system dictates, with our faith determined by a Magesterium or Council. Where absolute truth is handed down to us from men.
It is not God’s design for us to defer to the superiority of the intelligentsia. Whether they are Catholic, Evangelical, Fundamental or whatever.
The scholars are not our masters. They are not to be regarded as the New Priesthood of this age. As much as they might desire that lofty position.
Yet, most Christians today, regard them as exactly that. They are treated as High Priests who tell us what we must believe. What is acceptable. What is good. What is best. What is intelligent.
Now, I have great respect for people that know their stuff. For men who have studied deeply and who know the word of God. And for those whose education, whether formal or self taught, is based upon placing the word of God above all other authority. And who have clearly chosen to accept it as literal truth — from the beginning.
Surprisingly, that narrows the field of scholars considerably. Fewer and fewer of such men and women are leaving the halls of Christian academia accepting biblical truth as their first authority.
Which brings us back to our basic consideration.
Has God left us another way to determine the biblical authenticity of a text or translation that is not dependent on the whims and preferences of the popular scholars?
The Other Way
This other way has to do with the doctrinal basis of Bible Preservation.
This means that we can look to the scriptures to understand the promises that God made to perfectly preserve His word. And we can look at the scriptures to see how he actually preserved His word from the Old Testament to the New.
The facts from the scriptures are these:
- God made a promise to Preserve His word to all generations.
- God said He would preserve that word perfectly. Every word and every punctuation mark kept intact.
- God perfectly preserved His word in written form.
Therefore, we can study whether the history of a specific text or a specific translation lines up with the promises and teachings of scripture.
These considerations include the origin of the text, the translator’s technique and the translator’s theology.
Regarding the Translator: That the translator respects the word of God and does not seek to change it or interpret it; that he chooses to use the Formal-Equivalence Method. Which is a word-for-word and form-for-form technique to move from one language to the next.
That he leaves the job of interpretation to the Holy Spirit. Allowing the Lord Himself to open His word to us individually.
We must also know if the translator has adopted some form of Higher or even Lower Criticism in his theology. This theology demeans the word of God. It treats the Bible as any other book or work of literature — basically, rejecting the supernatural, providential influence of God in the Preservation process.
This causes these translators to make determinations of textual origin and accuracy based upon a complex and convoluted mess of presumptuous philosophical rules. Rules created by secular scholars and even religious scholars who deny the perfect, inerrant inspiration of scripture.
Practically, this last idea is at the heart of all our translation problems today. If an individual does not accept the Bible as fully and divinely inspired and inerrant, then we should not waste a second of our time with the translations of that man or woman. Period.
Regardless of the intellectual and scholarly accolades he has received.
In the most practical sense, we must have confidence that God has always maintained His perfect word among His people throughout all history. That it has not been lost or polluted.
Otherwise, we are left with some vague and unending Restoration process. A process that denies God’s sovereign protection of His word. And makes us, once again, dependent on those few intelligent men to tell us what or when the word of God is complete!
Please, see Part 2 of this post, soon to come. Thank the Lord, that today, we can rest in the completeness and accuracy of His Preserved word!
TO BE CONTINUED