WHICH BIBLE SHOULD I TRUST AS THE WORD OF GOD?
By: Gary L. Rodgers
It’s mind boggling when you go to purchase a Bible today with all of the various translations of scripture that you find available. And for a new born believer in Christ this could become a little overwhelming when pouring over all the arguments presented on the internet about which translation is the more accurate while trying to be careful to select the pure and simple truth of God’s Holy Word. My concern is the shadow of confusion that is planted in the minds of precious souls after having been bombarded with such a barrage of information. What evidences are out there to help one to decide which Bible version they should select? How do they know if what they read in the Bible that they chose is true and accurate?
WORD FOR WORD
Some people want a word for word translation from the Hebrew and Greek into a word for word exact equivalent in English. What they don’t realize is that unless you have an understanding of the Hebrew and Greek Syntax (Syntax – word order and sentence structure), that you would still have a Bible that would be difficult to read and understand even though you would recognize and read each word in our language. It is like some of the expressions of the Pennsylvania Dutch that we have read which appear funny to us. (Ex: “Throw Father down the stairs his hat.” And, “throw the cow over the fence some hay.”) The meaning is there, it’s just that the Syntax from one language to the other differs and that is where the interpreters come in and provide an expression that we can understand. In short you cannot apply our rules of Grammar to other languages; it simply doesn’t work that way: not to mention that there are words in the Greek and Hebrew that our English words would fail to translate on an equal par. That is why the translators of the KJV provided words or phrases in italics or parentheses to indicate that the words given to us are not in the original manuscripts; but rather they are presented as the best use of words in our language to provide a clear and precise expression behind what the writers were saying.
In addition to the various translations there are many archeological discoveries that have presented scientific evidence that the Word of God is geographically and historically accurate. The Dead Sea scrolls that were uncovered during a ten year period from 1946 – 1956 has helped to provided accuracy to time and events that are presented in scripture. The scrolls date back to approximately 400 BCE and have brought a fresh excitement to the study and affirmation of scripture accuracy.
There have been countless arguments (textual criticism) among scholars regarding which ancient documents are considered to be the most reliable manuscripts (MSS) that should be used to interpret The Bible. Most of what I have read seems to focus their attention around the Byzantine MSS which gave us the Textus Receptus and the Alexandrian MSS of the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, A,C, and D. In addition to these arguments there are other questions that arise when searching through the information highway regarding what passages were used or left out at various stages of manuscript history to produce the translations of yester-year and those of today. I find that most of the criticisms on the internet are claims that often produce a disheartening and confusing sway of thoughts and theories. And not everyone is truthful about what they call reliable and accurate MSS. It is easy to be swayed into the arguments for a particular version of the Bible when you have a tendency to lean in that direction to begin with. All of this makes it even more difficult for those of us that have been saved for a period of time to be open to giving audience to some of the claims by various scholars. That doesn’t mean that we necessarily need to be agreeable to what they say but rather that we should look into what they are saying to determine if accusations and claims are truthful.
SETTLING THE MATTER
For my own peace of mind I have had to settle this matter of which version was right for me regardless of all arguments in favor for or against it. No doubt that these textual criticisms have caused a great deal of confusion and concern when it comes to which version of scripture is accurate; even to the point of causing some to become discouraged and losing faith. A very sad reality but none the less it does happen. The arguments over scripture accuracy will continue until the day that we get to Heaven. What all of the Scholars need to be ever mindful of is what the bible says about adding to or taking away from the Word of God. (Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32, Revelation 22:19)
For myself I can only express the comfort that I have in the version of scripture that I chose as being the authority for my life. The LORD has spoken to me countless times through the conviction of The Holy Spirit while reading and studying His word; therefore I will stick with what has become so very dear and near to my heart. I have never felt the need or desire to change from that. I have looked at other versions of scripture at times while studying a particular matter or subject to see how they interpret the passages, but I always come back to what I have chosen as my final authority trusting that the LORD will guide me into all truth.
I have read many arguments on both sides of textual criticism that favor one version over another and I have tried to research the support information that they offer to their claims. I have found that some of what they say can be verified and some of the websites that they listed were no longer available. I can only speculate as to why that is. The one thing that I am certain of is that “GOD is not the author of confusion” according to 1 Corinthians 14:33; so my dependence is fully upon Him to guide me into all truth. We all need to walk cautiously “because our adversary the devil as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) So no matter which version of scripture I use there will always be those that will disagree with me, and that’s fine; “every one of us shall give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:12) My goal is not to please man, but to please God and He will give me the ability to do that.
While I feel that it is important for me to understand what textual criticism is, I cannot allow myself to get so bogged down in the argument that I lose sight of what I am called to do. I have read several in-depth essays on the manuscripts that were used to write both the older and more modern versions of scripture and I feel for myself that I must support the claims that the Byzantine MSS, also known as the Majority Text that they are favorably in line with the authentic Greek texts of scripture. I therefore do not accept for myself any translations from the Alexandrian MSS from which the Westcott/Hort, and the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus interpretations of scripture are used to translate the more modern versions of our day.
STUDY, STUDY, STUDY
I am thankful that there are learned men in our day that still follow the command to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” (2 Timothy 2:15) It is a curious thing to me that some versions of the Bible appear to present this verse with the emphasis being that you do your best to present yourself approved, which to me negates any command to study, rather than showing yourself approved because you have obeyed GOD’S directive to study. To me it sounds too much like self approval rather than GOD approval. If my study of God’s Word under my own efforts is what presents me as being approved then I have to confess that I am a failure for several reasons. First of all I don’t understand everything that I read. Secondly there are days when I simply read without meditating and earnestly delving into the deep meanings of God’s Word. And thirdly there are days when I do not rightly divide the Word of Truth through word study and cross referencing of scriptures.
God’s Word was never given for us to clearly grasp everything apart from the leading of the Holy Spirit. That is how I see that we show ourselves approved, through the guidance and teaching of the Holy Spirit, not through our own self taught wisdom. Maybe that’s why in my version of the Bible that the word success is only found one time throughout the whole Bible; and it has to deal with the meditation and observance (through the study of scripture) to all that is written therein; then we will be prosperous and have good success. (Joshua 1:8)
While I am not versed in the languages of the past it became necessary for me to search for a solution to settle this matter in my own mind as to what Bible I should be using for my study and devotions. The whole plethora of arguments which still persists among scholars appears to have caused within Christendom a great deal of harm when it comes down to encouraging people to trust the inerrant, verbally inspired Word of God.
For my own peace of mind I decided to begin looking up differences between two widely used versions of scripture. The most heated argument of textual criticisms seem to center around 1 John 5:7, also called the Johannine Comma, with a notation in the footnotes of some of the modern versions to say that this passage was not found in any Greek manuscripts before the fourteenth century; yet I have read arguments with references to show that it was. Sadly for the sake of the argument the seed of doubt is planted in peoples mind as to whether or not they can trust any Bible as being the Word of GOD. It seems to me that the only one who is benefiting from this argument is the one who started the criticism with Eve when he said “Yea, hath God said,” (Genesis 3:1) and he is still actively asking that same question today.
My suggestion for people when looking for a Bible is to pray about it and let the Holy Spirit guide you to the book that He wants you to use. He was sent here to be your comforter and guide and He will do that if we let Him. After all He had a hand in giving us the Word of God and I would think that He would know which translation God wants you to study. (2 Peter 1:20 & 21)
It’s sad to say that many Bibles in our country sit and collect dust when they should be read to strengthen us in this crazy world of sin. People need to stop and realize the privilege that we have here in our homeland to freely purchase and read a Bible; it is a freedom that many before us have given their lives for. Many countries do not share this same freedom that we have and they read and study under the threat of death or imprisonment.
THE KJV AND THE TRANSLATORS
The following notes were copied from a website regarding the Translators of the KJV of 1611.
Translated from the majority MSS which numbered a little over 5,000
Fifty four Scholars worked on this project. Set up in six committees. Two committees at Oxford, two at Cambridge and two at Westminster Abbey
An invitation was extended to “all principally learned men of the kingdom” to participate as consultants or advisors.
The character and credentials of the translators were impeccable. Lancelot Andrewes, while a young student at Cambridge, learned a new language each year during Easter break. After several years, he had mastered most of the languages of Europe. Andrewes spoke Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, Arabic and at least fifteen other languages. It was said of him that he could have been “interpreter general” at the Tower of Babel! He was also reputed to have spent an average of five hours each day in prayer. Among the Christians of his day he was known as “the star of preachers.” It was said that “those who stole his sermons could never steal his preaching.”
John Bois read through the Hebrew Bible by age five, and by age six was writing Hebrew legibly. He was often found studying Greek at the Cambridge library from four a.m. until 8 p.m. (sixteen hours a day!). Bois tutored many of his fellow students at the University in Greek, and his class was also attended by many of his Greek professors! John Bois served as pastor of St. John’s Church before, during, and after his work as Bible translator. He preached without notes, but not without much prayer and study. He had the entire Greek New Testament committed to memory. He practiced fasting twice a week, and often gave to help the poor until he had no more to give himself.
Dr. Miles Smith was known as “a walking library.” He was called by his contemporaries “an incomparable theologist.” He had studied all of the writings of the Latin and Greek church fathers, and was as well versed in Arabic, Chaldee and Syriac as he was in English. It was said of Smith that he “had Hebrew at his fingers’ ends.”
At age 23, John Reynolds was made a Greek lecturer at Corpus Christi College. He gave himself to the study of the Scriptures in the original languages, and was an “able and successful preacher of God’s Word.” He had read all the Greek and Latin fathers, and all the records of the ancient church. He was known as “a living library” and “a third university” (Oxford, Cambridge, and John Reynolds!).
Of the fifty-four translators, four were college presidents, six were bishops, five were deans, thirty held PhD’s, thirty-nine held Masters degrees, there were forty-one university professors, thirteen were masters of the Hebrew language, and ten had mastered Greek. Every man involved in the King James Bible translation believed in the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures, all believed in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and all were men of prayer. Many were not only Biblical scholars and master linguists, but also God-called, Spirit-filled preachers. Yet the translators considered themselves “poor instruments to make God’s holy truth to be yet more and more known unto the people.”
In the final analysis, the translators of the King James Bible believed that what they had spent nearly seven years of their lives producing was an “exact translation of the holy Scriptures into the English tongue.”
Each of the six groups had been given certain portions of the Bible to translate into the English language. Upon completion of their assigned task and with all members of their individual groups agreeing to the accuracy of their selections and interpretations; their final work was passed onto another of the six groups to be reviewed and approved by each member in that group before being passed on to another of the six groups. This process continued on until all members of the entire work reviewed and acknowledged that the translation of the entire Bible was complete and accurate.
WHEN TEXTUAL CRITICS ARGUE
When textual critics argue the validity of 1 John 5:7 – 8 and other scriptures I often wonder how these 54 learned God fearing scholars of 1611 who held such a high standard toward manuscript selection and scripture translation; men who spent hours in prayer and much of their life in the study of languages and scripture: how could they be so negligent to insert certain verses that today are being labeled as not being reliable? Why would they take such great care elsewhere and not place these verses in question in italics or parentheses to show that they were not part of any ancient manuscript as was their common practice throughout the translation? Apparently all 54 of them either made a mistake, or conspired to insert something that was not true thus bringing themselves under the condemnation of GOD or all of them had cause to believe that the verses were properly selected and translated from ancient manuscripts. And if these men were so immersed into prayer and scripture study then why were they not under conviction through the Holy Spirit regarding these matters if they were wrong? They were all dependent upon each other to be honest and forthright to the task set at hand. I am not so inclined to accept any implications that the work of 1611 was done in gross negligence or as a part of any conspiracy. Nor am I so quick to believe that today’s scholars are more knowledgeable and spiritually more capable than those learned men of yesterday. Unless The Holy Spirit so convicts me otherwise, I will remain faithful to the book that has brought me to the foot of the cross where I have placed my whole being by faith into the Trinitarian God of creation, salvation and all comfort.
The KJV of 1611 has undergone several revisions since its first printing. The primary reasons for the revisions were due to spelling errors, grammatical errors, typeset errors and a change from the Gothic font type to an easier to read Roman type font. In the Gothic font the letter “v” looked more like a “u” and the letter “s” looked more like an “f”. However, the very first English-language book to make a clear distinction between the sound of “I” and the sound of “J” was not written until 1634. It wasn’t until then, after the 1611 Bible was published, that the English language officially accepted the shape and sound of the letter “J” as “jay” and no longer the “yuh” “Y” sound. These changes not only brought a revision to the KJV of 1611 but I’m sure to other documents as well. Even with our modern day Word Document Programs, errors are made in spelling and grammar in spite of the spelling and grammar checks built into the systems. So with printing still undergoing changes back in 1611 I suppose that there would be errors in anything that was printed, not just the Bible. Some of the old English words still remain in some of today’s KJV’s. A good example of that is the word “shew” which is found to be different in two different KJV’s that I currently have. In my Open Bible by Thomas Nelson Publishers the word is spelled s-h-o-w throughout the book, while in my Thompson Chain – Reference Bible of the KJV it is spelled s-h-e-w throughout that book. So it depends upon the printer and their revision date as to how things were spelled, which should not reflect upon the integrity of the translations.
In either case it is still pronounced as show Why there was never a revision to these and some other words is beyond me, I have no answer. But that still does not give me reason to doubt nor dismiss the work of the Translators when the Printers have made many of the errors that called for some of the revisions to be made. One often made error was in the typesetting of the letters “q, p, b and d.” So what we are talking about here is two different groups of people, Translators and Printers. A typographical error found in Ruth 3:15 where the word “he” was printed instead of the word “she” labeled some of the first editions to be known as the “He” Bibles, and others as “She” Bibles. So it really came down to the printing company and the typesetters on most of the revision changes.
In addition to this there were pronunciation and spelling changes to some words in our English language also. An example of this I found while studying 2 Timothy 3:17, in my KJV of the Open Bible by Thomas Nelson Publishers it reads “thoroughly furnished” while in my Thompson Chain – Reference Bible of the KJV I find this verse to read “throughly furnished. The difference from one version to the other is the added or missing “o”; however you wish to look at it. I have never questioned either publisher on the difference but when I look at a dictionary definition of these two words this is what I got.
continuing in time toward completion of (a process or period).
- so as to complete (a particular stage or trial) successfully.
- from beginning to end of (an experience or activity, typically a tedious or stressful one).
ˈ complete with regard to every detail; not superficial or partial.
- performed or written with great care and completeness.
- taking pains to do something carefully and completely.
So the argument comes down to this in my opinion, have modern day scholars presented themselves as being throughly or thoroughly furnished unto all good works? For myself I don’t know how to answer that question; but I find it hard for me to dismiss the integrity and ability of the translators of the 1611 Authorized Version of scripture. Their hard work and dedication speaks volumes with regard to their capabilities. Just because something is newer does not necessarily mean that it is better.
While I am not able to go toe to toe with any Bible Scholar on which version of scripture is the best. I do know that through God’s leading and the conviction of the Holy Spirit I firmly believe that I have what He wants me to use. This is what I believe and this is how I have settled the matter for myself.
Is GOD able? My faith tells me that He is!!!!
 Textual Criticism is the science of studying ancient manuscripts to determine the authentic text of the Bible. It is sometimes called Lower Criticism.
 The syntax of this verse (2 Timothy 2:15) begins with an imperative (command) with an infinitive as it’s object.
Syntax – grammar, sentence structure, language rules
Infinitive – a form of a verb with no specific tense, person, or subject.
This is an aorist active imperative (command)
aorist – a verb tense used to express a past action in an unqualified way, without specifying whether that action was repeated, continuing, or completed or how long it lasted, found especially in classical Greek.
Imperative – very important, crucial, essential, urgent, commanding, necessity, law, rule