Thoughts on the NIV2011 (Volume 1)

December 8, 2011 at 9:45 am | Posted in English Bible Translations, Questions for Pastor Glenn | 2 Comments

I made some comments about the NIV2011 translation in church on Sunday, and I want to relate those here and clear up some confusion about what was said.  Some of what I say here might sound negative, so let me begin by stating that I am absolutely thrilled that we can even have this discussion in America.  There are many people in the world without God’s Word in their language, and there are hundreds of languages that have only one translation of the Bible.  Men like William Tyndale paid a great price to give us that opportunity, and in the midst of this debate, we should not forget it.

First, I wanted to warn the congregation that if they purchase an NIV they will not be buying the same Bible they’ve used for years.  When the NIV2011 recently came out, Zondervan, or maybe the translators, opted to give no indication in the packaging that this is a completely redone translation.  This is not a minor update, like the one in 1984, as there are differences everywhere, yet the cover and the box give no indication that this is an updated version.  The only way I could tell I was purchasing a 2011 version was to open the box and read the small print on the copyright page.  This appears to me to be a shady marketing scheme.  The publishers seem to be riding on the popularity of the NIV1984 while being afraid of the failure of the TNIV, and they are hoping to sell lots of Bibles without the purchasers realizing what they are buying.  Some people in the congregation have already told me they’ve done that.  The shelf at the Christian bookstore was full of NIVs and everyone I opened to look at was the 2011 edition, yet not one gave any indication of that fact.  The NASB made a major update in 1995, but for years after the cover of the NASB said ‘NASB Updated Edition” so the buyers would know what they were getting.  I understand that languages change and that Bible translations need occasional revisions, but when the changes are this dramatic, the reader needs to know.  I praise Christian Book Distributers since they indicate in the catalog which NIV they are selling under each catalog number.  If you want to find an NIV1984, look there.

Second, and I don’t think I made this point clear on Sunday, the NIV1984 is now out of print.  So the readers, and the preachers are forced to switch translations.  I said I would be deciding in the next year what Bible to preach from, and some people asked me why I would switch at all.  It is because we are being forced to switch by those who have decided not to print the NIV1984 any longer.  If the changes made in 2011 were small changes it wouldn’t matter, but because they are so abundant, everyone in the pew using a 1984 edition and following a preacher with a 2011 edition (or visa-versa) will notice and wonder why the differences.

Third, I let the congregation know that I will be reading through the NIV2011 for my devotions and private reading in 2012, and, sometime during that year, deciding whether to switch to that version for preaching or to the ESV.  I have been reading the ESV for the past two years, and am getting quite fond of it.  As someone who grew up on the NASB, the ESV, at least in places, feels somewhat like coming home, without all the archaic language.  I know many exegetical preachers with Reformed leanings, like me, have switched to the ESV in recent years.  This is not a decision I will take lightly.  I have been preaching out of the NIV for about 24 years and have memorized thousands of verses out of it, so any switch I make will be difficult for me too.  However, I want to give the congregation plenty of warning, so the y don’t just show up one week and find I’m using an unfamiliar Bible.  I will keep them (and you) posted as I read, and will tell them weeks in advance before the switch, so they can choose to purchase a new Bible if they wish.

Fourth, I told the congregation that I am currently leaning toward the ESV for two reasons.  The worldly marketing scheme that Zondervan seems to be following is one I don’t want to support with my congregation’s dollars.  And the NIV2011 translators opted to use the plural pronouns “they” and “them” for singular nouns in some cases.  I understand the argument of common usage and see why they chose to go that direction, but that usage has always grated on my nerves, regardless of how common it might be, and personally, I would have a hard time with it.

The NIV has been a great translation.  It does a marvelous job of balancing literalness with the need to clarify some meanings, and it captured the language of my generation better than any other attempt at Bible translation.  It’s no wonder that it’s been so popular.  I have been a fan for years; I even got on the waiting list to get a first print, first edition 1978 NIV; it was the first Bible I ever read all the way through; the NIV had a profound influence on my Christian walk; but, alas, all good things must come to an end.  I hope to publish some of my thoughts over the next months on theses pages, so you can keep up with my travels in this regard.

For my conclusions on NIV vs ESV check out my post called Grieving the NIV

Scribal Variances and Bible Errors

July 18, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Posted in English Bible Translations, Questions for Pastor Glenn | 1 Comment

Moore to ponder asked a question in the comments section of the previous post, and the lengthy answer, which is still too brief to be a great explanation, requires more than another comment.


Thanks again for reading and for your comments.  I see now I should have preferenced the previous post with some things that might have kept your kinds of questions from coming up.  The post is directed to a very small target group, and some who haven’t studied these matters could understand them to say there are errors in the Bible.  I am not addressing those who prefer the KJV because they like the poetic language or because they grew up with it, but at a group that believes only the KJV should be read in English and that all others are simply wrong.  One look at your posted devotions tells one you are not in that camp; if you were you wouldn’t quote so many different versions.

However, there is a small group that believes all versions other than the KJV are heretical, and they are very vocal about it.  They base their argument on the manuscripts that the KJV was translated from.  And that opens up a whole new world of issues that could be discussed.

Have you ever heard someone say, “You can’t trust the Bible because it has thousands of errors;” or “The Bible has been translated and retranslated so many times that we really don’t know what it says.”?  These types of criticisms are addressed in the Manuscript Game to help people see that we really can trust the Bible.  There are thousands of scribal errors in the manuscripts of the New Testament; we have over 5,000 manuscripts, and no two are exactly alike.  But scribal errors in the manuscripts are not the same thing as errors in the Bible.  Without a printing press, everything had to be copied by hand over and over for centuries, and scribes, as careful as they were, sometimes made mistakes.  Read the italicized sentence again; it is very important but often ignored by liberal critics.

However, the vast majority of the scribal errors are absolutely inconsequential when it comes to the meaning of the Bible.  They are spelling variations, which were common in the old world; slight word order changes, which are meaningless in Greek; and common name and title substitutions, like substituting Jesus, Christ Jesus, Jesus Christ, Jesus our Lord, or Jesus Christ our Lord for one of the others.  Even with these differences, it is easy to determine the original wording in most of these cases.  The vast majority of scholars who do this kind of work are in agreement on what the original words of the New Testament were.

In answer to your question about errors in the passages you quote.  There are not any in the passages or in their meaning, but there may be some in the different manuscript copies of those passages.  A quick glance at my references tells me that there are none in Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy 2:15 and Matthew 4:4.  However, there are some variances amongst the manuscripts of Romans 10:9.  Some say “confess with your mouth lord Jesus;” some “confess with your mouth lord Jesus Christ;” and a few “confess the word with your mouth that Jesus (is) lord.”  This is typical of the kind of variances there can be.  Not one of them has significance, and the meaning is perfectly clear.

By the way, variances of this type are in every piece of ancient literature.  This is not just a Bible issue.  The Bible has more of these scribal errors simply because we have so many more ancient manuscripts of the Bible.  But, even with those, is better attested than any other piece of ancient literature.  We can have more confidence in it than anything else we read from the old world.

In the few places where the meaning of a specific passage is at stake, the meaning and message of the Bible never is.  One can prove all the fundamental doctrines of Christianity from most any reputable translation of the New Testament, or from almost any ancient manuscript of the New Testament (if they can read it!), because the meaning of the Bible is clear.  I say “reputable” because there are a few translation with unchristian biases that influenced the translator’s work.  I’ve never seen you quote one of those; you may not even own one.

When I study the NT I read as much in the Greek as possible, and I refer to the ESV, NIV, NASB and NET most often.  However, since I have an interest in the history of the Bible in English, I have collected over 50 different English translations of the NT or parts of it, and sometimes I refer to all of them!  Most people have no idea there are that many.

We can have great confidence that God has clearly spoken in the Bible, and we that know what it says.  If these matters are interesting enough that someone wants to do more study, there are some books that could be read to help clarify the matter.  The New Testament Documents, Are They Reliable? by F.F. Bruce is probably the most well known.  And a really good presentation that requires no language understanding is How We Got the Bible by Neil Lightfoot.

P. S.  Thanks again for reading.  I have enjoyed your comments and posts since we first connected.  You’ve never heard of the Manuscript Game, because it has only been used here in our church, but some here are trying to find a way to market it on a broader scale.  It is a fun educational tool.

Questions for KJV Only Advocates

July 14, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Posted in English Bible Translations, Questions for Pastor Glenn | 2 Comments

I lead “The Manuscript Game” with some people from my nephew’s small group.  This game is designed to give participants confidence that we know what the original documents of God’s Word say, in spite of how often it has been copied and recopied; in spite of what critics say about not being able to know because our copies are so many generations removed from the originals.  It is a great exercise, and if you are interested in the game, let me know.  I might be able to lead it for you too.

One of the guys playing the game had been influenced by the King James Version Only (KJVO) teaching.  I’ve lead this game with some who had been influenced by that teaching before, but never to this extent.  David wasn’t a sold out KJVO advocate, but he did know the arguments they use.  The Manuscript Game reveals some of the fallacies of their thinking.  I even try to convince the people playing that the majority manuscript is the correct one, and have only been successful convincing one person of the roughly 50 who’ve played it, and even that  was a temporary convincing for one round of the game.   Even David argued strongly that the oldest manuscript should be way more authoritative than the majority.

After leading the game I was thinking about the arguments for the KJVO philosophy and have some questions you can ask someone who thinks that way.  I don’t consider myself an expert on this matter, but I have read some of the KJVO material, and these questions address the arguments used in that material.

1. Why do you say that the KJV was translated from manuscripts “closer to” the original rather than manuscripts that “are identical” to the original?  This question is important because KJVO advocates are so adamant that God would never allow his Word to be corrupted, yet every manuscript is unique with its scribal errors; no two are alike.  If God wouldn’t allow his Word to be corrupted through scribal transmission, then we should have a manuscript that is “identical to” not “closer to” the original.  Can you actually make that claim?

2. If God will not allow his Word to be corrupted, then why did he allow so many different manuscripts to be out there?  Of the over 5,000 existing manuscripts of the New Testament, only one at most can be identical to the original.  The KJVO advocates I’ve heard proclaim they are certain they have God’s Word because they use the majority text.  They play the same game of looking at the textual evidence and deciding which variants are correct, they just eliminate a big chunk of evidence before they play, for even the “majority text” is an eclectic edition of many other variants.

3. What hard evidence do you have that Textus Receptus (or majority text) is closer to the original than any other manuscript or textual family?  This question points out that KJVO advocates eliminate a huge amount of evidence – the very evidence that destroys their dearly held theory.  Unless they can give a solid reason why this evidence should be eliminated, then this question proves they are using circular reasoning.  If they argue that the best manuscripts haven’t survived as well as the corrupt ones, then, once again, they deny their own dearly held belief about God’s Word never being corrupted, because God allowed only the corrupt versions to remain.

4. Does your argument that Textus Receptus is closer to the original, when there is so little evidence to support it, play directly into the hands of the critics who say we can’t know the original because the Bible has been copied and recopied so many times?  They, just like you, want to ignore the hard evidence that gives a level of certainty about the original in favor of an all-or-nothing theory.  They use the same methods as you, they just opt for the nothing side of the conclusion.

5. Have you ever read the preface to the 1611 KJV?  The translators of the KJV admit that there were good translations before theirs and that other good ones would follow.  They go so far as to say that “varietie of Translations is profitable for the finding out of the sense of the Scriptures,” and “We affirme and auow that the very meanest translation of the Bible in English containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God.”  Why do your claims about their translation work go way beyond their own?  And how can you say there is only one English translation, when they recognized so many others?  Even when they quote scripture in the preface to the KJV they quote other translations, usually the Geneva Bible!

Bible Downloads: NET, ESV, etc.

May 9, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Posted in English Bible Translations, Questions for Pastor Glenn | 4 Comments

Pastor Glenn,

Hi!  What are your thoughts on the NET version of the Bible?  I’m a little trepid about randomly choosing new translations of the Bible to read, simply because some translations come from unhealthy origins, and sometimes these origins are purposefully obscured.

I remember reading a very positive markup of the New World Translation on Wikipedia, only to discover later that the page had been modified to remove a lot of the critical sections. They have since been restored, and I discovered that the NWT takes a lot of liberties with the deity of Christ.  Because things like this can so easily slip under the radar, I figured I’d better ask, rather than just take Wikipedia’s word for it.

I haven’t read a whole lot of it, but I did find the inclusion of such vast translation notes to be an interesting facet.  One interesting point they raise is that “Elohim” is plural because it can also mean “God of gods”, which means it is an honorary term for God, saying that he is above all of the “little ‘g’ gods.”  At least, according to their translation notes – I am none the wiser.

Dear ____________

The NET was translated by a team of evangelicals to be specifically a digital Bible, the first translated with that in mind.  Their translation philosophy was similar to that of the NIV (which is another huge discussion in itself).  They use gender neutral pronouns in places, which is a negative in the minds of some.  I don’t care for it in many contexts, but it gets the point across in many others, and is probably more true to the original thought.  Jesus said, “I will make you fishers of people.”  It gets the original thought across, but loses so much of its punch.  1 Timothy 2:1-8 is a passage I always check to see how it is translated in this regard.  It is a passage pretty-near impossible to translate into English clearly and consistently.

I have a print copy of the NET text on my shelf and refer to their website often – not to check the translation so much as to refer to their notes – probably the best collection of footnotes ever put together.  There are three kinds of notes:  tn translator’s notes for those who are missionary translators or who want to know more about the translators reasoning;  sn study notes for more depth or background;  tc for those interested in textual criticism, though it seems they kept these to a minimum compared to the other kinds of notes.  Those interested in textual criticism studies will usually have a Greek NT with those notes in it.

The list of endorsements for the NET is long and impressive, including pastoral names like Charles Swindoll and theologians like Wayne Grudem.  But a quick scan of their endorsements mentions the notes more than the translation itself.

I read the NET NT a few years ago and have a few notes on translation dislikes.  Here are a few examples, remembering that I usually don’t write anything down unless it is a negative in my mind; that doesn’t mean all my thoughts are negative:  First, there seems to be some inconsistency in translation.  Sometimes this is done for literary purposes to avoid the feel of redundancy in English, which is common in Greek, but when two identical phrases or passages are translated differently for no apparent reason, that seems to me to be inconsistent.  Matthew 4:23 says Jesus was “preaching the gospel of the kingdom,” and 9:35 says he was “preaching the good news of the kingdom.”  Why the change?  You can see a similar thing in Mathew 24:23-24 and Mark 13:21-22, where Messiah and Christ are unnecessarily interchanged within each passage (in my mind this is confusing at best).  Second, there are a few times when the NET says saved “by the faithfulness of Christ,” rather than “by faith in Christ,” which is true and can be a valid translation, but seems to miss the point of the passage (Galatians 2:15-21 for example.  However, I admit I would have to do more study to understand their reasoning on this.)

For a reading translation, I still like the NIV better.  For a more literal English study version, I prefer the NASB(1995) or the ESV.  However, like I said, the study notes of the NET are unmatched anywhere.  There should be no theological worries about the NET Bible, as there are with the New World Translation.

The New World Translation was translated by the founder of the Jehovah Witness, who had no formal Greek background and is definitely biased against the deity of Jesus.  I would say it was translated specifically with that idea in mind, though JWs certainly deny that.

I hope this helps, Pastor Glenn

 Dear Pastor Glenn,

Yeah, this helps a lot.  In other news, I’ve found some free Bible downloads for smartphones.  Unfortunately, I can’t get the NIV, since it’s not offered.  They do offer a number of other translations, so I went and grabbed the NET, and the Amplified, along with the NASB, and ESV, like you suggested.  Do you have a favorite Bible for “just reading” other than the NIV?

Dear ____________

Copyright rules make some newer Bible versions difficult to find for free download.  I’m surprised the ESV was available for you.  Though it is considered a mostly literal translation, you might find it is easily readable (more so than the NASB).  It has been growing in popularity with conservative churches, and I am reading the NT through for devotions this year.  BTW which NASB did you get 1971 or 1995?  The newer version thankfully dropped all the ancient pronouns in reference to God.  That change alone makes the newer much more readable.  The TNIV is being replaced, so it might be available.  It has it’s problems in a few places, but reads identical to the NIV almost everywhere.

If you can find some older, out of print versions, here are two you might like for reading purposes:  The New Testament in the Language of the People, by Charles B. Williams, Moody Press, 1937.  Williams is known for bringing out the nuances of the Greek verb tenses.  The Holy Bible in the Language of Today, William F. Beck, Holman, 1976, (though I believe it is at least a decade older than that date).  It is also known as The Holy Bible, an American Translation.  Beck was a Greek and Hebrew scholar whose passion was to make the Bible clear to everyone.  I guess these two depend on how “modern” you consider the American English of the 30s or the 60s.

Happy reading!

Delight in God’s Word

November 17, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, English Bible Translations, Worship | Leave a comment

Psalm 119.  I have always loved this long, long chapter, by far the longest in the Bible, because it’s all about God’s Word.  These past two days, while reading through it in my devotions, I was struck by how much we should delight in God’s Word.  I marked everything the author says we do, or should do, with God’s Word.  Not surprisingly, the author says we should “keep,” “obey” or “observe” it 38 times.  Two examples include the famous verse 9, “How can young man keep his way pure?  By keeping it according to Your word,” and verse 166, “I hope for Your salvation, O Lord, and do Your commandments.”   The author says he “knows,” “meditates” or “learns” the Word of God, or wants to, 15 times.  One example is verse 27, “Make me understand the way of Your precepts, so I will meditate on Your wonders.”  My surprise was that he claims to “believe,” “trust” or “hope in” the Word only four times!  But, what spoke to me this week is how often he “delights in,” “loves,” “longs for” or “treasures” the Word of God; 24 times!  Add to that the 11 times he asks God to “revive” or “strengthen” him by the Word, and that’s a lot of delight and revival!  Here is a small sampling of those:  “Your Word I have treasured in my heart.” (11)  “Your testimonies are my delight.” (24)  “I shall delight in Your commandments, which I Love.” (48)  “O how I love Your law!  It is my meditation all the day.” (97)  This guy even “anticipates” the lonely night watches so that he can meditate on the word! (148)

          O that I might delight in God’s Word like this author did!  As a preaching pastor, I am able to spend much time studying and meditating on God’s Word, but sometimes that becomes routine and I’m just making sermons.  I am thankful and honored to have the job I have, and I love my job.  I am praying that I don’t just preach the Word but that I also always delight in the Word.  May I love Your word and may it be my meditation all the day!

          I saw a great video related to this today — sent to me on the day I’m thinking about such things in my devotions — an accident of God’s timing!  It is the celebration of a tribal people when they get their first copies of the New Testament in their native language.  O that we would appreciate it so much!  Often for us, the availability of God’s Word in English, like some of my sermon preparation, is routine.  Let’s love and delight in God’s wonderful word, available in our native language.  Here is a link to the video:

Our Great God and Savior

June 18, 2009 at 5:36 pm | Posted in English Bible Translations, False teaching, Theology | Leave a comment

                Who’s the savior in Titus?  The OT prophet proclaims “I, even I, am the LORD (Yahweh), and apart from me there is no savior.” (Isaiah 43:11)  When Paul wrote this letter to Titus, he would have had an understanding that there was no savior other than Yahweh God.  Yet once in each chapter he applies the title to God and to Jesus.  Note the introduction of the book:  God “brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior.”  And just one line later, “Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.” (1:3-4)  Then in the second chapter, slaves should be subject to their masters, so that “in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.”  And just a few sentences later, “we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (2:10-13)  And finally in the third chapter, Paul puts in this marvelous statement about grace:  “When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.” (3:4-6)

                Could there be a stronger statement of the deity of Jesus?  God is our savior; Jesus is our savior; and each said three times.  In fact, Jesus is our great God and savior!  Paul wasn’t confused; he knew exactly what he was saying, and only the Trinity doctrine explains it without contradiction.  By the way, with this line of reasoning, one can prove the deity of Jesus even in the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses – a bible translation (not a Bible!) which goes to great length to remove any reference to Jesus’ diety.  Though they change the wording of “our great God and savior,” the argument still holds.  This is such a compelling statement of deity that even that translation couldn’t get it out!

John Piper on the TNIV

March 2, 2009 at 2:33 pm | Posted in English Bible Translations | Leave a comment

          I read John Piper’s blog on a regular basis.  I found this interesting article by him on the TNIV translation this morning.  The fascinating title is “Barak Obama and the TNIV.”  Though arriving at the same conclusion I came to while reading through it, Piper has a different appraoch that deserves a hearing.  I find it hard to disagree with his argument.  Piper’s article is here.

          My thoughts were at the end of this miscellaneous article.

Angel in the Whirlwind

February 12, 2009 at 5:40 pm | Posted in Books and Movies, English Bible Translations | Leave a comment

For the last few weeks I have been reading Benson Bobrick’s book, Angel in the Whirlwind:  The Triumph of the American Revolution.  Because of my interest in English Bible history and translation, I had previously read his Wide as the Waters: The Story of the English Bible and the Revolution It Inspired.  I was so fascinated by that work, that I had to read this one as well.  This one is no less fascinating, though it is not a quick read.  My reading time has been limited the past few weeks and I am only 110 pages into a 500 page book, but every page and detail has been intriguing.  Here is just one of many great quotes so far:

From time to time, the religious life of America was shaken by evangelicals, most notably in the mid-1730s and 1740s, when a fundamentalist revival – marked by prayer meetings, confessions, repentances, and hysterical conversions – swept through the colonies north and south.  .  .  . 

Perhaps the most charismatic of the “New Light” evangelicals was George Whitefield, a follower of John Wesley, who challenged his listeners to awake to the requirements of a spiritual life.  He emphasized personal accountability as well as a more passionate communion with God.  .  .  . 

Even the worldly wise Benjamin Franklin was so moved by Whitefield’s oratory on one occasion that, he tells us in his Autobiography, “I emptied my pocket wholly, gold and all, into the collector’s dish.”  .  .  .  The Great Awakening helped bind Americans together with a shared sense of their spirituality as a people and, perhaps, “prepared them,” in the words of one historian, “for the coming ordeal of sacrifice and war.”

Franklin and his compatriots were not so moved when, in the mid-1760s, the king and Parliament began to preach their own requirements and to pass the collection plate around for themselves.  (pages 59-61)

The Virgin Birth and Biblical Authority

January 6, 2009 at 9:41 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, English Bible Translations, Theology | Leave a comment

For my devotions this year I will be reading through the New Testament twice.  The first time through I am reading the NET Bible.  This translation was developed as a digital Bible from the outset, as it was designed to be a freely-available on-line English Bible.  You can find it at   The translators included thousands of footnotes, which are a great wealth of information for translation and study.

Matthew 1:18-25.  There are many who would discount the virgin birth of Jesus as myth added to the story later.  These pundits will point to the famous virgin passage in Isaiah and remind us that the Hebrew word translated as virgin could mean any young woman, not necessarily a sexual virgin.  But that argument ignores the New Testament evidence from Luke and Matthew.  This passage in the very beginning of Matthew not only supports the virgin birth, but actually emphasizes it.  Notice how often Matthew makes note of it:  1) The very first thing we learn about Mary’s pregnancy is that it happened “before they came together.”   2) In fact, she was “found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.”  3) Joseph “intended to divorce her”  for the very reason that he knew he wasn’t the father of this mysterious baby.  4) However, the angel told him in a dream that the child conceived in Mary “was from the Holy Spirit.”   5) This all happened to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah, “The virgin will conceive and bear a son.”   Matthew’s quotation of the prophecy contains the Greek word which can only mean a sexual virgin, and he applies it to this particular situation for that reason.  6) Even after they were married, Joseph “did not have marital relations with”  Mary until after the child was born.  And finally, 7) Matthew makes it clear in the genealogy that Joseph is the adopted father of Jesus when he says Jacob was “the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born.” (v16)  “Whom” in this verse is the feminine form of the word, so there is no confusion as to Matthew’s meaning.

Matthew clearly teaches the virgin birth and does so emphatically.  The debate over whether Jesus was virgin-born is not a matter of what the Bible says; it is a matter of whether one believes the Bible or not.  It is not a matter of biblical interpretation, but one of biblical authority.  Those who teach the virgin birth as myth simply choose not to believe the clear meaning of the text.

How Much Paraphrase?

December 4, 2008 at 10:52 am | Posted in English Bible Translations, Questions for Pastor Glenn | Leave a comment

The following is a letter I sent to my nephews and nieces after a fun discussion of Bible translations:


Here is a chart I made a few years ago concerning how much paraphrase and how much word-for-word literalness was used by various translations.  I considered the Cotton Patch version as the most liberal paraphrase of all and assigned it a score of 100; and I considered an interlinear NT (a book where the English equivalents are typed between the lines of the Greek, with no concern for English sentence structure or word order) as a score of zero.  Everything else would fall between those.  Of course, this was a very subjective process, and I, in all my depravity, was the subject!  Other readers might assign the scores in a completely different way than I did, and I might do the numbers different today, but this will give you an idea of where I place various versions of the Bible.  Even if I changed the numbers, I would still keep the versions in the same order.

A couple of notes to remember:  First, we must consider what a translation team was trying to accomplish, whether they came near to accomplishing that goal, and whether that goal is legitimate for our purposes.  In that light, I find the NASB (1995 edition) and NIV as the ones that best accomplished their stated goals.  Whether those goals are legitimate depends on one’s perspective about translation theories and one’s purpose.  Here your pastor and I might not fully agree; that’s why I preach out of the NIV and he out of the NASB.  Though I like the NASB for study, I find the NIV captured our modern language better, is more widely read, and is thus preferred for preaching (another very subjective judgment).  And even though I read out of it, I usually begin my study with the Greek, and I’m not afraid to state when I disagree with the NIV.

Second, remember that more literal does not necessarily mean more accurate.  Every “translation” has to have some “paraphrase” in it due to literary context, social context,  figures of speech, etc.  We talked about this on Sunday.  At the same time remember that we believe in “verbal-plenary inspiration.”  That means all the words of the original are inspired.

And third, the fact that we can even consider such things makes us a very blessed people indeed!  Christians in the majority of languages and through most eras of church history would consider themselves fortunate to have one copy of the Bible in their native tongue.  Yet I have fifty different versions of the NT in English – and multiple copies of some of those!  Let’s not forget the price people like William Tyndale paid to allow us that privilege!

Blessings to all,

Uncle Glenn


Anyway, for what it’s worth after all those qualifications, here’s that subjective chart:



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