Bible Translations
Addendum 2 to "Unity & The Body" (Available here)
(by Chris Long)

There are specific issues within the Body of Christ that some people just seem to gravitate towards making major dividing blocks. I mentioned several within the main "Unity & The Body" article.

But one that I didn't mention was Bible translations. This can be a BIGGIE with some people, so it seems worthy to address. Although it seems like in the last few years it's died down some, there is a whole group of Christians that believe the King James Version of the Bible is the only "true" Bible and that all who don't feel the same way might not really be Christians. I've run across these people multiple times over the years (both on the Internet and real-life) - for a while there they seemed to be everywhere. And I believe without exception that I can say that there was a strong "Pharisee-like" presence with each - their total attitude & words seemed to be all about trying to start (and win) an argument, rather than having even any hint of Chrisian love. Seemingly just people getting their pleasure off of creating division with others.

Now, look, most every believer has a Bible translation preference. As you know, there are no shortage of different English translations out there. Sometimes its based on factors such as readability - some people just can't get past the old King James English. Which just as an aside, for a person for whom that's a hindering block, it really doesn't matter how "accurate" the translation is if they can't understand it! (and as a further aside, there are plenty of people who don't think the KJV is the "most accurate" anyway). Sometimes the choice of translation is based on which they believe to be - or have been told is - the most accurate. Some people like ones such as the NASB that are more a literal translation. Others like ones that are more thought-for-thought based. Some people (like myself) prefer to try to get a mix of it all. :)

And then there's the paraphrases (or "paraphrase translations" if you prefer) like The Message, which are often seen by people as translations in the same vein as translations like the KJV, NIV, ESV, and so forth, even though they are not. They are most definitely a different critter.

The point is that it can all get quite murky. :)

If you've been on Laugh & Lift for any substantial length of time, although I don't think I've ever actually said it, you could probably have figured out what my "favorite" translation was. I say "was" for a reason, which I shall expand on in a moment to make a point. Most all of my personal articles have used the NIV and although Lift items in Laugh & Lift have always used a variety of translations, the majority have been the NIV as well.

Someone who was very astute might have noticed that I've made a change recently. The Scripture in "Unity & The Body" was the NASB, and for now I've pretty much switched from the NIV to the ESV as my "default" translation, with the NASB and NKJV as my "backups".


I'm glad you asked, because although I'm going to get detailed here, I am mentioning all of this for a reason, so stick with me. :)

If you are not aware, the NIV (which if you don't know is the most popular translation) has been recently updated. It's still called the NIV, but it's not the same NIV that existed a year ago. In fact, what was the NIV is now called the NIV 1984 and I don't believe you can buy it anymore in retail stores. You may have noticed this "NIV 1984" designator in some Lifts. When I have kept the NIV Scriptures, I've often changed the designator from NIV to NIV 1984, to at least try to avoid confusion.

It wouldn't be such a big deal to me except they largely created a new version that is quite a bit different from the old version, but still called it the same as the old version, then discontinued selling the old version.

Most people that haven't taken the time to examine the differences between the new NIV and the old NIV would just assume they were the same or nearly identical, since they are continuing to call the new version the NIV. They would be wrong.

I've always loved the NIV - it's what I grew up with so there's always been a "familiarity" with it that I just haven't found with others. I've always personally found it to be easily readable, yet generally faithful (with exceptions). The new NIV makes a number of changes that as I really got into analyzing, I found downright concerned me to such a degree that I felt I personally could no longer continue with the NIV because their "foundation" seemed to me to be faulty. They've made a slew of language changes to make things "gender neutral", but that in-and-of itself doesn't concern me as much as what, combined with their other changes, it represents.

There are some very subtle, and some not so subtle, changes that across-the-board seem to be geared towards adopting the Scripture to our culture, rather than holding high the Scriptures despite the culture. In other words, it seems to me that they compromised things - and even downright changed certain texts - key texts that most believers know such as Phillipians 4:13, to fit in with their theological worldview, which again seems to be more based on culture and translator idealogy then a committment to being faithful to the Word of God. I also discovered that the supposedly diverse "translation committee" that worked on the new NIV was QUITE small, and not really that diverse. In other words, the chance for the personal idealogy of the translators to have crept into the text not only seems to be quite high, but they actually seem to want to showcase this and celebrate it.

For instance, they take pride in their change of Phillipians 4:13 - they go out of their way to mention it in the new NIV introduction - which changes the text from "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." to "I can do all this through him who gives me strength." Did you catch the difference? The "this" refers to the preceeding verses where Paul mentions that he has learned to be content in every situation. With one word change, they just changed the meaning of that Scripture that most of us have memorized, from meaning in essence that "in & through Jesus Christ, we have the ability to do all things" to now being "in & through Jesus Christ, we can learn to be content in all situations." Did they make that change because they studied the Greek and really believed it to definitively be what Paul was saying? No (at least not based on what I've seen them say about it). They seemed to have made the change because the translators felt that some people were using Phillipans 4:13 as a "cop out" verse to do whatever they wanted and claim they could do anything because they were in Christ. That in essence is the reason they give for why they made the change. Now, of course, they are right that some people have mis-applied that verse. No argument from me - I've actually written about that before in Laugh & Lift. But just because some people have mis-applied it, is that a reason to change the meaning?

As I was writing the previous paragraph, I was going to tell you that we know the theology is sound because the Bible tells us the same thing elsewhere. Off the top of my head, I knew that in Luke 1 (Luke 1:37), there's a similar verse that tells us "For nothing is impossible with God." Again, most other translations render both Phillipians 4:13 and Luke 1:37 along these lines. Guess what the new NIV renders Luke 1:37 as? "For no word from God will ever fail.” That's not even a little different, that's quite a bit different.

In other words, because the translators don't seem to theologically like the theme that with God on our side and through Him nothing is impossible to us and we can do all things (which implies "all things" that He calls us to do, not our own "wishes"), they have seemingly tried to erase that theme out of the Bible - at least with the clear verses (you can't erase the theme as it is a theme in much of the Bible!). I don't know about you, but that scares me. By the way, although it's been awhile since I looked into it, I remember discovering changes in a variety of other key areas that seemed to be more about being culturally relevant, then Biblically correct. This includes notable Scriptures on hot-button issues such as divorce (hint: if you thought the Bible says that God hates divorce, have no fear because in the new NIV, God doesn't hate divorce after all).

Anyway, it all just painted a picture for me that made me uncomfortable enough in the underpinnings of the new translation to be able to support it. I do still use the old NIV 1984 in my personal devotional time, but I may end up shifting even from that simply because as I memorize Scriptures and even just becoming more familiar with the Word, I am memorizing them in a translation that you can't even buy anymore - which makes it difficult and a little awkward for ministry use.

So...I just took what seemed like a major sidetrip in telling you all about my thoughts and concerns with the NIV, right?


But I did so with a purpose.

You can clearly see from the above that I feel fairly strongly about what I've just said regarding the NIV. I've reached certain conclusions (either rightly or wrongly) based on what I believe I've found and seen.

But here's my point: If you want to go read the new NIV and you like it, I'm not going to say you're not a true Christian or break fellowship with you or in any way make you feel like a "lesser Christian" than I am. That won't change my concerns about it and I would think you're not doing what I would do, but I can still love you just the same as my brother or sister in the Lord, recognizing that your choice of Bible translation is not going to make or break our fellowship. It might produce some interesting discussions say if we get together and talk about divorce :), but the choice of translation isn't going to be a wedge between us.

Now, yes, I suppose if a person really was getting completely diametrical theology because they were reading say, TSVOTB (The Satan Version Of the Bible) ;) then I guess we'd have a problem. But not because of your translation as much as that we couldn't be united in the Truth since what you read, understand, and put your faith in, wasn't even in the ballpark of what I read, understand, and put my faith in. Same thing goes with some of those "made up to fit an idealogy" translations such as the NWT.

Outside of that, most English translations I have found actually are quite similar. All things considered, although there are definite differences between translations, with most of them, the clear basic meaning usually comes out pretty much the same. There might be nuance differences (and even occasionally some bigger ones), but the general meaning usually is very similar. At least that's been my experience. I routinely have gone to churches or Bible studies that were using a different translation than I was, and rarely have I seen anything different of note. In fact, if anything, it's just helped provide a different perspective or fuller understanding to see the same Scripture rendered slightly differently. It's gotten to where I actually PREFER not to be using the same version the pastor or leader is teaching out of.

Now, I personally, because I know the basic principle that us human beings are flawed in-and-of ourselves, the more something seems to depend on man to "cleverly" try to communicate God's Word, the more nervous I get. This would include things like the Amplified (not to mention that it takes an hour to read 1 verse...:) ) but just because I get a bit nervous doesn't mean I don't see some value - indeed I do see the value in something like the Amplified. It's just that I get a bit more nervous when I see a bunch of extra words that someone has added to try to tell me what the text says.

And I get REALLY nervous with the so-called paraphrases, such as "The Message." I'm not comfortable at least where I'm at criticizing them or saying that there's no value in them. But paraphrases are not translations of God's Word like you typically think of a translation; they are more one person's opinion on what God is saying as they try to put it in modern English (in the case of "The Message" specifically, the waters get a tad murkier as original sources were used, but it's so far extreme in its "thought-for-thought" style that it's really hard to consider it a translation like you think of say the NASB or ESV where teams of translators worked on it - calling it a "paraphrase translation" might be the best way to refer to it). With translations such as those done with a committee of translators, although translator bias (their opinions) can creep in (as portrayed above), with a paraphrase translation like "The Message", you're practically begging to read the Word through a "thicker filter" of a man or woman and what they think God is saying or meant, rather than you actually reading directly what the Word says.

Now, if you like the Amplified Bible, am I going to break fellowship with you? NO! While, to be blunt, for me personally, the Amplified tends to grate on me a bit, I have known some wonderful friends in the Lord for whom that was their version of choice. And I know of at least one major ministry leader that speaks to millions that primarily uses the Amplified, and I'm still able to "receive" from them just fine. Not a problem.

And if you want to snuggle up and read "The Message" because it's the only way you can seem to get anything that the Bible is saying, I'm not going to knock it! I won't say you're not a Christian or are majorly deceived, or whatever else some might say.

And that's my point today.

It is so easy to get so hung up on these kinds of things. We've drawn our conclusions about what translation we like or think is best, and then we want to expect everyone else to feel the same. And they aren't all going to. Which means we have a choice. We either become prideful and treat them as "lesser Christians", or as is the case with some, "no Christians" for their choice, or we agree that this is not a make-it-or-break-it issue of unity. I'm camping with the latter.

With love,
Chris Long
Laugh & Lift Ministries

This article is Copyright by Chris Long 2011-2012. You may use this article for free for any purpose, whether commercial or non-commercial, as long as you use the entire text and that all text, including this notice, is not modified or removed in any fashion. For any other usage, you must obtain written permission from the author. Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation.
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This is version 1.1 of this document (April 26, 2012).
Previous versions: v1.0 (August 2, 2011)
This document is provided as a ministry outreach via Laugh & Lift.

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