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Obsessed with Bible Versions?
Part Two

By Gary F. Zeolla


The following discussion is continued from Obsessed with Bible Versions? - Part One. Again, the e-mailer's comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.

>Gary, Thanks for answering my previous e mail. In your first correspondence with me, you cited Acts 20:28 as an example of a passage that is compromised in modern versions. Can you cite other examples? In ratio to the numerous passages I previously mentioned to you, using only one example to back your argument seems a tad incomplete.<

I mentioned Acts 20:28 simply because it was a verse that I recently had a question on so it was on my mind. Also, I did not mention it in the article on the NRSV that I referred you to. I guess I "missed" it when I originally wrote that article. However, I do discuss in that article eight other verses that "compromise" the doctrine of the Trinity in the NRSV.

In addition, in various articles on my site I discuss other verses from various versions which compromise various Christian doctrines and ethics. I will not take the time to repeat myself here.

For much longer discussion of problem verses in many versions, I would refer you to a couple of items written by J.P. Green. The first is The Gnostics, the New Versions, and the Deity of Christ. In it he discusses dozens of verse that compromise Christ’s deity in various new versions.

An even more in depth treatment is seen in his book Unholy Hands on the Bible. In it he discuss how many other Christian doctrines are compromised in many new versions.

I will qualify by saying that I do think that Green goes "overboard" at times, seeing problems where I would not. But still, his writings are very useful. And a comparison of his methods with mine might prove enlightening.

In any case, to me the main essential doctrine that is assaulted in most new versions is that of verbal inspiration. To be clear, "Verbal Inspiration" is, "A reference to the doctrine that the Holy Spirit so guided the writers of Scripture that even their choice of words conformed to God’s intention" (Millard J. Erickson. Concise Dictionary of Christian Theology, p. 178).

If the very "choice of words" was inspired by the Holy Spirit then I simply so not see how most new versions can leave literally thousands of these "choice" words untranslated while adding thousands of their own words.

For instance, one kind of word that is often deemed "unnecessary" by the new versions are conjunctions. But conjunctions have an important purpose. They show there is a relationship between the statement to come and the preceding one and what this relationship entails.

I personally believe that one of the reasons for the propensity for verses to be taken out of context today is this practice. When I am studying a verse and I see it begins with a conjunction, then I know that I must read the preceding verse as they are related. Also, if the next verse begins with a conjunction then I must also consider it too. But this important "key" in properly interpreting a particular verse is "missing" in most new versions.

Consider, for instance, Isaiah 55:1-13. Verses 9 and 11 in this passage are often, IMO, misapplied. One reason they are is because the conjunctions throughout this chapter are often not translated in the new versions. For instance the "For" at the beginning of verses 9 and 12 is "missing" in the NIV. So readers of this version will not know that verse 9 must be interpreted in light of the preceding verse and verse 11 in light of the following one.

There is a reason Jesus said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by EVERY WORD that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matt 4:4). And "every word" includes the conjunctions (see also Deut 4:2; Prov 8:8,9; 30:5,6; Jer 23:30,31; Rev 22:18,19). I discuss this subject further in the following article: Translation Principles.

>Gary, you also used Acts 20:27 as a proof text in order to validate addressing the issue of translation(s) & modern versions of the Bible? Correct me if I'm wrong, Gary, but in the process of using Acts 20:27 to back your argument, you committed Isogeses (Isogesis?). You are putting something into Acts 20:27 that isn't connected. Bible translations (or versions for that matter) were not even an issue during the 1st Century! So how can you use Acts 20:27 to back up your argument that part of the "whole counsel of God" includes the topic of addressing Bible translations and modern Bible versions? If you reread the Acts passage, you will see the "whole counsel of God" refers to repentance toward God & faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ (v.21); it refers to Paul's testifying about "the gospel of the grace of God" (v.24b); and it refers to Paul's preaching the kingdom of God (v. 25). Acts 20:27 has nothing to do with the issue of Bible translations and modern versions, so please, don't use this passage as a "proof text."<

[Note: The word Mike is thinking of is "eisegesis" from the Greek word eis meaning "into." Erickson defines it as, "The practice of reading a meaning into a Biblical text, as opposed to the practice of drawing out the meaning that is already there (exegesis)" (Concise Dictionary, p. 48).]

Yes, you are correct that in context Paul could not have been specifically referring to Bible versions in his comment. However, please note how the conjunctions and long sentences take you back to verse 20.

All of that is to say, that verse 20 is important to interpreting verse 27. It reads, "how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house" (NKJV).

So Paul "kept back NOTHING that was helpful" - this is what he means by the full counsel of God. It cannot be limited to just repentance and faith (though these points are included). Moreover, note this is the Ephesian elders he is talking to (v.17). And when we look at the letter he wrote to the church at Ephesus we a better idea of all that Paul taught them. In that letter Paul addressed such controversial topics as predestination and eternal security (Eph 1:3-14).

So my point in referring to Acts 20:27 is that there is a principle involved: a Christian teacher is duty bound to teach on all subjects he thinks would be helpful and he must not avoid a subject just because it is controversial.

BTW, the above connection of verse 27 to verse 20 would not have been apparent in the NIV. The flow of the passage in the NKJV is as follows: verse 27 begins with "For" - verse 26 with "Therefore" - verse 25 with "And" - verse 24 with "But" - verse 23 is the second half of a sentence - verse 22 with begins "And" - verse 21 is the ending to the lengthy sentence of verses 18-21 which begins with "And" - and finally, verse 17 begins the section.

In the NIV, the one sentence of verses 22 and 23 is broken into two by adding the words "I only know" which are not in the Greek. The lengthy sentence of verses 18-21 is again broken up into three sentences, with again, the words at the beginning of the sentences being added in order to enable the break-up. The "And" at the beginning of verse 18 is omitted. So the flow of the passage is lost in the NIV.

Now, I will admit there is one thing I like about the NIV over the NKJV. The NIV formats the verses into regular paragraphs while the NKJV begins each verse as a new line. The latter could also lead to verses being more easily taken out of context.

However, this advantage of the NIV is lost when using a Bible program. In both my "PC Study Bible" and my "Online Bible" each verse from all versions begin on new lines. So the importance of including the conjunctions and not breaking up sentences is even greater.

> In response to some of your other previous comments, I never said that you said someone is sinning because they are reading the NIV or another modern version. My point is that a new convert could interpret your article(s) addressing Bible translations/modern versions in the wrong way, and thus, they could stumble. This is a potential, Gary, that seems to go right over your head. Remember, we are talking about babes in Christ, they are not mature, and they have a great potential to make hasty, incorrect assumptions which can prove to be harmful. Unfortunately, you misunderstood what I was trying to point out.<

Peter wrote, "… our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures" (2 Pet 3:15b-16).

So it would appear that even Peter knew that Paul could be mis-understood in what he wrote. But that did not keep Paul from writing, even about controversial and complicated subjects.

In my writings I try to be as clear as I can be. And I include an e-mail link, along with the "snail address" of my ministry, at the bottom of every page on my site. So if someone wants clarification they can contact me. And I try as best as I can to respond to each letter I receive. And I post many such e-mail exchanges so that I can clarify what I say for others who may have the same concerns.

But you are right; I can be understood. That is a problem any writer must face. But the same could be said about any and every subject I write on, not just Bible versions. So following your logic, I should stop writing altogether, or at least on controversial subjects. But, as I indicate above, I do not believe I would be following the apostolic example if I did so.

> You also made the comment that "Christians can't avoid the subject of Bible versions," this is true (to a degree). Although we can't avoid the topic of Bible versions, it does not mean that we have to get stuck on it, nor does it mean we have to focus on it. Gail Riplinger, really seemed to have opened up a can of worms a number of years ago, and the stench seems to linger on.<

First off, I do hope you are not trying to compare me to Gail Riplinger. If you have actually read her book "New Age Bible Versions" you would know that my teachings and methods differ greatly from hers. I discuss my attitude towards her book on the following page of my site: New Age Bible Versions?

See also the second and third reviews on the following page (these were not written by me but, of course, I am the one who decided to post them): KJV Only Reviews.

Second, it was not Riplinger who "opened up this can of worms." The debate over Bible translations has been around for a long time.

For instance, "This [the Geneva Bible] was the Bible which the Pilgrims took with them to the new world in 1620; to them the King James Version was a compromise and an inferior production’ (from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary; Copyright 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers).

More recently, it was the publication of the Revised Version in 1881 that opened up the can of worms. The reason being, it was based on Westcott and Hort’s new Greek text. The significant differences between their text and the Textus Receptus is what began "the stench."

Third, as I said before, I do get somewhat frustrated that I have been "forced" to focus on this subject so much. I would like to spend more time on other subjects. For instance, this week I have been trying to work on what will be a two-part article on Mormonism. But between answering your two e-mails, and several others I have received which have mostly been on Bible versions, I have not gotten much done on the article!

So what am I supposed to do? Start ignoring all mail and e-mail I receive on this subject so I can concentrate on others? I am not sure. It is a struggle and judgement call on my part. I have very limited time and energy. And where to focus it is and always has been a struggle.

It is now almost eight years that I have been publishing my newsletter, first in hardcopy and now in both hardcopy and e-mail versions, and almost two years I have had a Web site. My initial articles in my newsletter focused on the essentials of the faith. Then I began to write on more controversial topics, while still from time to time writing on the essentials. All of these articles are now posted on my Web site.

What to write on through the years has always been a struggle. It has been determined by what I have considered important or interesting at the time and by subjects suggested and asked about in letters and now e-mail that I receive. Currently, the bulk of the e-mail I receive has concerned Bible versions, so that is why I have "focused" on that subject of late. But, as I said before, you are right in that I would like to address other subjects as I am able.

> Gary, you also previously mentioned - "I have yet to receive an e mail from anyone who has been 'caused to stumble' " (concerning the articles addressing the controversy over modern Bible versions). Gary, since when was an argument from silence ever valid? An argument from silence is just that - an argument from silence - it proves or accomplishes nothing. If a new convert or weak brother or sister happened to get confused & stumble over the issue of Bible versions articles, do you really think they would e mail you? Come on now, they would (more than likely in most cases) pull away rather than establish contact. Your assumption (in this) I fell is wrong.<

It is also an argument from silence to suppose people have been "caused to stumble" by my articles but have not e-mailed me as a result. Neither of us know what people are thinking who do not write me. And I can not let suppositions about what people might be thinking to determine what I write about.

> You've missed the point. Gary, I am sure many, many people have been built up by your site, and I am sure many will be built up in the future, however, that is not the point. Let's not count the notches on our gospel guns. Hopefully, you will realize my heart is not for those that are mature or "built up," my heart is for those who are weak, hurt, or incomplete; and my heart will always be for these people - the 1 (not the 99). Could it be Gary, that sometimes we can get so busy "doing something" for God that we overlook the fact that we can (unknowingly or unintentionally) side swipe babes in Christ? The debate over the issue of modern Bible versions, in my opinion, is irrelevant and misleading. I still maintain it is divisive, sectarian, and this issue causes damage & a loss of focus, rather than creating righteousness.<

When I first became a Christian on of the first things I learned was the importance of not taking verses out of context. However, since I started on the NIV I did not realize that I was not really able to fully follow this advice. It was not until I purchased an interlinear that I realized how the NIV was misleading me. It was after much struggle that I learned why the NIV deviated so much from the word for word translation in the interlinear.

How much better if I had been told from the start why there were differences between Bible versions and given a Bible which I could trust to show me the relationship between verses by including the conjunctions and not breaking sentences and adding words.

So I would hope that the "babe" in Christ would read my articles so that they could be spared the struggle I went through in trying to properly interpret the Bible while using an unreliable version. And being able to properly interpret the Bible is very "relevant."

> Could it be that the 20th Century Christian Church in America has become full of Biblealoters (worshipping and idolizing the Bible)? Would the written word be anything without the living Word behind it? Do we get so caught up in the letter of the law that we miss the spirit of the law? Didn't Jesus address that? Concerning translations like the New World Translation or the Lamsa translation I understand raising objections. However, concerning the debate over modern translations I do not understand. Yes, I read, use, and like the NKJV & KJV; I also read, use, and like the modern translations (especially the NIV and NAS). I am thankful for the modern translations as well as the KJV and the NKJV, but even beyond that, I am thankful for Jesus. Maybe we all need to be reminded of Heb. 12:1-2a?! In your previous response, Gary, you mentioned truth a lot. That's good, but don't you think there's more? Truth without love is incomplete (Eph. 4:15; 1 Cor. 13:2). Do you really think that the issue and controversy over modern Bible versions couples truth and love? Truth and academia - yes. Truth and love - Hmmm. <

I try as much as I am able to present the truth in love in my articles, on Bible versions and other topics. You may not understand the debate over Bible versions but many do. I have tried to express some reasons why it is important above and elsewhere on my site. If you have read all this info and still consider it to be "irrelevant" then that is your choice. But, IMO, properly translating and consequently properly interpreting the Word of God is very relevant.

>This is something worth meditating on Gary, don't you think? You do have my permission to post my previous e mail on one condition - which is - posting this e mail also. I am curious to see if you will post just selections or if you post it all in it's original context.

God Bless.

The entire contents of both of your e-mails will be posted, along with my responses. Now I am curious to see what reaction I get.

This discussion is concluded at: Obsessed with Bible Versions? - Part Three.

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

The above e-mail exchange was posted on this Web site May 23, 1998.

Bible Versions Controversy: General Comments
Bible Versions Controversy

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