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Thoughts on Bible Versions

By Gary F. Zeolla


Below are several e-mails from the same person commenting on articles listed at Bible Versions Controversy, along with my replies. The e-mailer’s comments are in black and and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.

> Dear Gary, Hello again and God bless.

MT/TR critics are always quick to point out that the MT versions contain "errors" like 1 John 5:7,8 and Mark 16:9-20. While I will not dispute the error of 1 John 5:7,8 (I believe Mark 16:9-20 to be original and correct)<

Actually, 1 John 5:7,8 is in the TR but not in the MT. I discuss this variant on the following page on my site: Significant Textual Variants - TR vs. MT.

We are in agreement on Mark 16:9-10 though.

> it is interesting to see that there are similar errors in the CT. The most notable of these is Mark 1:2. Despite the fact that this is a known error, even by CT advocates, it is defended as being original, since it is in the oldest Alexandrian MSS [manuscripts]. I have a high degree of respect for the people at Dallas Theological Seminary, and also for Professor Daniel Wallace, but check out the article here.

Professor Wallace performs written gymnastics in defending this text as original yet incorrect, while discarding the MT correct version as corrupt. He says the earliest and best versions give the incorrect reading, ad tries to reconcile this! It seems impossible for CT advocates to ever admit that the MT might be better. He also, in footnote 1, virtually admits that textual critics may not embrace inerrancy of scripture. Interesting.

His Servant,

I checked the article out. I also took a quick look at the textual evidence. I would say it is definitely in favor of the TR/ MT reading.

Thanks for your comments.

>Praise God for your Website! I have been searching the Web for some intelligent Bible literature, and have either only gotten Zondervan with their NIV marketing, or The Lockman Foundation pushing the new updated NASB. (which is actually quite good.) also I have come across all of the KJV only madness; almost cultic to be sure. Then behold, I found you. I was beginning to think I was the only NKJV adherent out there. It is truly the version I love the best!<

Thank you for the kind comments.

>My search for an accurate Bible version is not too dissimilar from yours. Actually, when I first became a Christian and was told to buy a Bible, I was told to purchase the NASB as this is the unofficial - official Bible of my church. When I got to the store I forgot what version I was told to get, but I did remember it had new in it. So I "guessed" and purchased the New KJV. I immediately fell in love with it.<

Good "guess" considering all the other versions out there with the word "New" in their titles. I would say that the providence of God was at work.

>I [am] a former catholic who never read a Bible verse before I opened up my NKJV. I used this faithfully for my first year of Bible study. Unfortunately, I quickly fell into the influence of the NIV people, who said that this was the best new version. I purchased the NIV Life Application Bible, and proceeded to use it effectively, yet I found two things occurring. Firstly, I found myself reading the Life application footnotes more than the Bible text, and found myself allowing the editors to interpret scripture application for me instead of relying on the leading of the Spirit, and secondly, I was just not that impressed with the NIV text. I found it much less inspiring and emotive than the NKJV or the KJV.

After using this Bible for some time, I went back to the NKJV, although I heard frequent criticism form some that it was not as scholarly (up to date) in its translation methods. I then purchased the Ryrie NASB update, and it is really very good, with exceptional notes, but I still find the text less inspirational than the NKJV. For study I use the Ryrie NASB alongside the NKJV Open Bible, which has become my Bible of choice.<

I also have a Ryrie NASB Study Bible. I used it for several years. I also had a NKJV Open Bible. I read through it once and then gave it to my pastor who needed a copy of the NKJV. It was alright; but I much prefer the New Geneva Study Bible for a study Bible based on the NKJV.

>One question: one of the biggest criticisms against the NKJV (and the KJV) is the inclusion of 1 John 5:7 which seems to not appear in the oldest mss. How do I answer this criticism and why is this verse left in the NKJV if it was added by Erasmus?<

The NKJV includes the passage as it is in the Textus Receptus (TR), the Greek text that both the NKJV and KJV are based on. But if you read the textual footnotes in your NKJV (which I believe are in the Open Bible) you will see that the NKJV indicates that the passage is not in the Majority Text (MT) or the Critical Text (CT).

In the NKJV footnotes the CT is indicated by "NU" for Nestle-Aland/ United Bible Societies, the two organizations that publish CT-type Greek texts. This is the type of Greek text that the NIV and most other modern versions is based on. The MT is indicated simply by "M" in the footnotes.

In any case, I discuss the differences between these Greek texts, along with 1John 5:7,8 on the following page on my site: Significant Textual Variants.

>Keep up the great Web page and God bless,
His Servant,

Thank you again. And God bless you also.

>Hi Gary, Three more questions:

1. Why do you prefer the New Geneva Study Bible?<

The New Geneva Study Bible is the only study Bible that I know of in which the study notes are written from a Reformed perspective, which is the doctrinal stance that I ascribe to.

Also, the study noes in general are very helpful, without being too much as to overwhelm the actual Biblical text. And there are also occasional, short theological articles scattered throughout the text that are also very helpful. It is edited by R. C. Sproul, whose writings I would whole-heartedly recommend.

>2. Which in your opinion is better: for a person of limited reading ability (adult or child) to use an easier version (NIV) and understand it, or to use a better version like the NKJV and struggle with some of the difficulties?<

This is a difficult one. First off, I personally do not think that the NIV is really that much easier to read than the NKJV. According to a chart that I have, the NIV is rated at 7th grade reading level and the NKJV at 8th grade ("How to pick the Right Bible" by Spring Arbor Distributors, pp. 6-7).

But still, if someone simply finds the NKJV too difficult to read, then grudgingly I would recommend a less literal version; but with being sure that they realized that for serious Bible study they should at least compare a more literal version.

>3. What is your opinion of parallel Bibles that use a literal text compared to a dynamic text, like the KJV/NIV or KJV/NLT Bibles? Is it ever acceptable to use a dynamic version as a commentary?<

I personally would not bother with such a parallel Bible. But I could see where they would have a use in helping people to see the difference between versions. Also, for the type of person you describe in question two, using a such parallel Bible would enable them to read the easier text while having a more literal version right on hand to compare.

As for using a dynamic equivalence version as a commentary, personally I think that is how they should be advertised in the first place! But still, they would make for rather poor commentaries.

I would prefer to use real commentaries, study Bibles, and other study aids. I give a list of such aids at: Recommended Bible Study Aids.

>Thanks again and God bless,

I hope the above is helpful.

>Hi Gary, Thanks for all of the info on your site on Bible translations.<

You’re welcome.

>After considerable inquiry into translation methods, I really believe that translations based on the MT/TR are best. Without going into all of the details, the main reason I believe in the MT/TR is that it is the text that was used for the majority of the life of the church.

Those who support the CT always seem to me to less than completely believe that God can providentially maintain His word through the years. There is no reason to believe that some minority text used for the last 100 years is better than the text the church used for the previous 1800 years! I also believe that the Bible should not always be approached from a textual criticism standpoint like any other ancient MSS that was not inspired by God.<

Agreed on all points.

>One area I disagree with when it comes to textual criticism is the principle that the shortest, hardest text should be considered best. Am I wrong when I say that CT advocates seem to discount that fact that there were heretical Gnostic translations in the early years, which tried to de-deify Christ?<

You are correct. The CT people do seem to discount this fact.

>Why were these aberrant texts discarded by the church?<

A rhetorical question I assume. The answer, of course, is because the scribes knew they were corrupted.

>It is also assumed that when scribes were transcribing text, they added text to some MSS. While this is a possibility, isn't it more humanly likely that someone would eliminate text when transcribing it, rather than adding?<

The CT position is that the scribes to so afraid of leaving anything out of the text, that when faced with two possible readings, they just included them both to be sure not to miss the correct one. But this assumes that they were more afraid of omitting God’s words than adding to them. Yet the Scriptures gives similar dire warning about both (Rev 22:18,19).

However, if you are talking about accidental changes, then I would have to agree. Deletions would seem to me to be more likely than additions. But again, I am basing this opinion on my own experience in re-typing stuff. I seem much more likely to omit something from the original than to add to it.

Gordon Clark says similarly, "But the critics are wedded to the idea that the shorter reading must nearly always be the originals. Having suffered at the hands or fingers of various typists, I cannot accept this criterion. They more often omit words and phrases than make additions" ("Logical Criticisms of Textual Criticisms", p. 23).

>It is clear to me that the NKJV is best, although I am also interested in the LITV and plan on purchasing it. Although the KJV is a scholarly, literal translation, I do not believe any one needs to use it anymore, other than for historical reference.

I have a Nelson King James Study Bible, which is wonderful and has some of the best notes and tables I have seen, but I spent some considerable time red-lining the archaic words in the text and replacing them (writing in) with the literal interpretations in the center column references. What results is a Bible that probably closely resembles the MKJV or the LITV! The KJV is simply too hard to work with.<


>While I do not agree with the KJV Only cults about the inspiration of the KJ ("you changed Thou to You, you apostate!") and do not believe all of the modern translations to be from demons disguised as Bible translators, I do believe that all of the multiple translations may be devil-inspired.

No, I do not mean that the devil has been busy publishing translation after translation, but I wonder, what is the purpose of all of the multiple translations? Why are they necessary? It is true that the proliferation of translations have caused confusion in the Christian church, and have even caused splits in churches.

Isn't it ego (my translation is best) and a desire for profit that drives the need to constantly update to the Bible "Modern English"? An update from the KJV was obviously needed, but how often has the English language changed since 1900?<

I would agree for the most part with you here. Yes, ego and profit are probably the motive behind many, or even most, modern-day versions; but not all. Some produce a new Bible version out of the honest belief that they can offer a new version that is somehow "unique" or better than previous versions; and thus, it would be a service to modern-day Christians.

J.P. Green and his MKJV and LITV come to mind. As far I know, Green does not profit financially from his efforts. And though in my correspondence with him, he does seem to have a rather strong "ego" I do think his Bible translation efforts are the result of a heart-felt desire to serve God and not to glorify himself.

>In an age of dumbing-down education, does God's word need to be brought down to the lowest common denominator? Whether intentionally or not, some very important theological concepts have been lost in modern translations such as justification, sanctification and propitiation. While the meaning of these terms are certainly implied in these versions, I think we are too often talking down to the church instead of lifting them up to God's word.<

Agreed. The loss of these important theological terms in many modern versions will eventually lead to a theological illiterate "Christian" population.

>My 9 year old daughter was using an NIV Bible, but I recently purchased a NKJV for her, and she has no trouble reading this at all!<

Glad to hear it turned out that the NKJV is appreciate for children also. Since I do not have children myself I wasn’t sure.

>I am beginning to ramble, but I would be interested in your thoughts. Thanks again, and God bless.


Your "ramblings" are interesting and insightful. And I hope my "thoughts" are helpful.

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