All those versions

So I met a guy the other day while working.  After he heard  I went to bible college got a degree in theology and had a master’s from seminary he informed me that while he wasn’t spiritual he did take some philosophy from different religions such as Buddhism and from Christianity and even some from Satanism. He had told me that he came from a very strict southern Baptist church that wanted to control everything.  He was an interesting guy.  Later I don’t if he was trying to poke me a bit or what, but he asked me what my specialization was and I told him New Testament and he proceeded to ask of which version of the bible.

Now I have seen this question and seen this statement to mean there are many bibles out there and they keep changing over time because it is just a man-made book. I was happy to explain to him that I studied the original Greek and that our translations were actually quite accurate, but it reminded me of this common objection to the bible itself.

It is actually a good objection in the sense that if you can undermine the Word then you can dismiss the content and the religion tied to it, if that were the case.  So let’s look at this objection, let’s do some apologetics.

Aren’t all the different versions a testimony that the Bible is unreliable?

Well a similar questions could be don’t all those different denominations mean the Bible isn’t clear or maybe even they are all serving a different God?  The denominations questions first because it is really quite simple. This has to do with flavor. Some like their bodies to be traditional with hymns and deeply exegetical preaching and some like the worship to be more contemporary and the message to contain smaller words easier to digest. Some like to baptize after conversion with immersion and some prefer simply sprinkling or baby baptism. But these are all preferences that allow us to worship together without always breaking off to have a debate. Some like Calvin a lot and some like Arminius. We can agree to disagree on certain things and thus continue in unity in Christ. This is why Christianity can have many denominations.

So is that how the Bible versions work? Well yes and no. Yes in that they do meet people where they are and no because they do not give different doctrine. The different versions are actually about readability not content. When a Bible does change core doctrine it absolutely does become just another book written by man. This is why the Jehovah’s Witness for example are not considered Christian.  They tamper with key passages and make them out to say something completely different, they specifically undermine the deity of Christ.

Other religions such as Islam and Mormonism borrow a lot of ideas from the Bible but in the end their message contradicts, which is why they have they own books. By the way, both of these religions pay lip-service to the Bible while undermining it, they both were delivered to them by “angels”.  This is specifically pointed out by Paul in Galatians 1 as something that would still not validate the message as it undermines Christ.

8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

Paul again reminds that Satan deceives in 2 Corinthians 11.

12 And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

So Yes there are some bad books out there but the various versions of the Bible are different. They are written in such a way as to grant access to the reader’s understanding. The NIV for example is what is called a dynamic equivalent to the original Greek. In other words it gives the thought for thought account of the Greek and Hebrew and communicates in a more understandable fashion to our post modern world. An ASV in a more direct translation a formal equivalence it focuses on word for word translations, it keeps all the difficult phrasing and abruptness in the language and is this more of a challenge to read but highly accurate. But these are examples of communicating mostly for accessibility not content. They will not be at odds in reflection to the original Greek. 

This is the point: we have so many of the original Greek papyrus that we can simply go back and check if our translations are reliable or not.  This is why I studied Greek in seminary to be able to work out the original text and see for myself. And our translations are quite good. I personally use the ESV as it combines the most current Greek manuscripts with a nice sounding verbiage similar to the NKJV.  So Thees and Thous aside, this is not something that the church needs to divide over and certainly no reason to decide that one version is the only one to read.  The Message and the New Living are more of a paraphrase than a true version for the purpose of putting it into the modern-day vernacular. I feel that because of this we may miss out on the nuance of the 1st century message because of language barrier and cultural differences. I have a preference but I would want anyone to read what actually gets you into the Word. 

I would also add the more accurate translation the better simply to be as close to the original intent as possible, but that may be something that one needs to work up to.  If an ASV is too difficult then start with an NIV if that is too difficult start with the Living. I would hope we would work towards the ones that have the closest to the original as possible so as to not have the challenge be in our wording but in the actual commands of God. 

Here are some useful testimonies:
Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

2 Tim 3:16-17
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work

Psalm 119:105
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

So to answer this line of attack one simple says “I have all the reasons I need to believe the reliability of the scriptures, but good sir, have you exhausted all the reasons to simply not engage? It seems to me that you run the bigger risk at being wrong among the two options. To accidentally attempt to live a life of virtue is better than to accidentally live a life that ends in hell.”



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