shared from and with BibleTexts.com users
Q&A #107 - KJV and other Bible versions
by Robert Nguyen Cramer
This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.
If you are going to attack the legitimacy of the King James Version, I only ask you do it fair and balanced. In your appendix on your website where you show which "translations or versions" come from the Textus Receptus and which ones come from more reliable texts, there are some questionable books listed. I do not consider those which paraphrase and those which choose to interpret thought for thought and not translate word for word to be accurately called "translations." A translation or version of the bible, I believe, needs to be as close to word for word as possible, or else it is not a translation of the Word of God, it is simply a summary or commentary. Do you not agree? I think you are well aware of which version(s) I am referring to because it seems you have gone to great lengths to provide accurate info on your web page. I believe it is important to preserve the Word as much as possible in it's translation into any vernacular language. It is only fair. Thank you for your research.
Thanks for your thoughtful note. Please understand that I would not consider attacking the legitimacy of the KJV any more than I would consider attacking the legitimacy of the Tyndale, Coverdale, or Geneva Bible. They all have had their special usefulness and have been used by courageous, devoted Christians.
Jesus' words, which were spoken originally mostly in Aramaic, were set down in the canonical gospels in common, everyday Greek. Consistent with the common Greek language of the New Testament, it is appropriate for us today to follow the example of those early Christians and use common English to reach our congregations and our world with the good news. Similarly it is appropriate for common Chinese, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, or Hindi to be used in translations for congregations who read and speak those languages.
In response to your email, I have added the following to http://www.bibletexts.com/kjv-tr.htm#a:
Please note: The listing below provides a comparison of the textual basis for each translation, but it does not describe the relative value, methodology, or accuracy of that translation.
Some of the translations below that are under the heading "New Testament based upon more reliable Greek texts" are mere interpretative paraphrases of other translations. Some were translated from the original languages but without sound methodology to guarantee that the text in English is consistent with the intent of the original author. Some translations are to be avoided, because their translations are theologically biased, sometimes even choosing to translate from Greek readings that are not recognized by the biblical scholarly community as reflecting the original texts but simply supporting their theological biases.
There are, however, translations that do stand the test of sound methodology, theological neutrality, readability, and reverence. Of these, some provide a good word-for-word translation, and others provide an accurate phrase-by-phrase translation. Word-for-word translations are best for word studies and other in depth studies, and the good phrase-by-phrase translations accurately convey the meaning and the nuances of the original text to modern readers. For some recommended Bible versions, see http://www.bibletexts.com/reviews/.
I understand and appreciate your concern for those translations "which paraphrase and those which choose to interpret thought for thought." Many of those translations do not represent the original texts very well. On the other hand, word for word translations also are susceptible of manipulation by readers and even pastors who focus on the English words in ways that are completely out of the context of the verse and even out of context of the phrase in which the word is used.
I believe the best practice is to use two good word-by-word translations (such as the New American Bible [NAB] and the New American Standard Bible [NASB]) along with two good phrase-by-phrase translations (such as the Today's English Version [TEV, a.k.a., Good News Bible] and the Revised English Bible [REB]). If I were to choose one of each, I would choose the NAB and the TEV.
If you have any concerns about the TEV, I would suggest exploring the Tranlator Handbook series produced by the United Bible Societies, available throught the American Bible Society. That series illustrates the impeccable scholarship behind the entire translation. The Handbook series it includes some of the best biblical exegesis of any Bible commentaries in the English language. It explains in meticulous detail the linguistic basis for the translation of each verse of each book of the Bible. I especially recommend the Handbook on John, the Handbook on Genesis, and the Handbook on Psalms.
Since I do not know how much translation you have ever done from one language to another language, I will just mention that from my experience from the several languages that I have studied and from the experience of all my family, friends, church members, and colleagues who are multi-lingual that when translating from one language to another, it is essential to know and translate the idioms and other expressions, and not just the words that make up those idioms and expressions. For instance, instance, "We've got to hit the road now," is meaningless if taken literally. For lots of other examples, browse:
In the case of Bible translation, it is essential to be familiar not only with idioms and expressions but also with the culture and history of the original writer. Most of us have translated only from one language to another language of the same time period and similar cultures. It is a far more difficult task to translate not only from one ancient language to modern English but also from an ancient cultural setting and time-period. This is why methodologically sound translations such as the TEV and REV are invaluable as Bible translations for us today.
Copyright 1996-2003 Robert Nguyen Cramer