What’s Wrong With ‘New’ Bible Translations?
With so many different Bible translations, the obvious question we should ask first is why? Why so many different translations? After all, aren’t all of these translations put together by the most “educated” of this world? In the preface of the New International Version of the Bible you will read how over 100 scholars joined forces to bring us this new version. And the same scenario is probably true for the many other new versions. Why so many different translations? Because scholars simply cannot fully agree with the work of other scholars. Otherwise there would be no need for a new version. With so many versions available, which one is right for you?
First, it must be pointed out that no Bible translation is inspired. They were all put together by men. The only perfect translation of Scripture is what God Himself actually revealed to the apostles and prophets.
But, as most Bible students know, the Old Testament was preserved primarily in Hebrew while the New Testament was preserved in Greek. This presents an obvious opportunity for error when translating from one language, like Greek, to English (or any other language for that matter). But there are also other factors to consider. Much of the cause for mistranslation stems from the fact that most scholars today are basing their translations on faulty Hebrew and Greek manuscripts.
But most people don’t know how to speak Hebrew and Greek. How can we know God preserved His inspired words precisely the way He revealed them thousands of years ago? How can we know which original texts are most accurate? There are, after all, thousands of “original” texts from which we get our translations. We must go to God for the answer. “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God” (Romans 3:1-2). God used the Jews to preserve the Old Testament. That is why it was originally inspired in Hebrew. Likewise, He used the Greeks to preserve the original writings of the New Testament. In preserving these original writings, God saw to it that the Jews and Greeks rejected the spurious manuscripts that have surfaced down through the centuries. Today, it is these same spurious manuscripts that many scholars are using to make these new Bible translations!
Preservation of the Inspired Text
A book titled Hebrew Text of the Old Testament discusses the demanding discipline of transcribers who worked from a.d. 70 to a.d. 500 to preserve the Hebrew text. Notice: “A synagogue roll must be written on the skins of clean animals, the length of each column must not extend less than 48 or more than 80 lines; the breadth must consist of 30 letters. No word or letter, not even a yod [smallest Hebrew consonant], must be written from memory. … Between every consonant the space of a hair or thread must intervene, between every book three lines. Besides this the copyist must sit in full Jewish dress, wash his whole body.”
Notice what the Companion Bible had to say about the Masoretes, those who safe-guarded the text from about a.d. 500 to a.d. 916: “The Massorah is called ‘a fence to the Scriptures’ because it locked all words and letters in their places. It records the number of times the several letters occur in the Bible; the number of words and the middle word; the number of verses and the middle verses, etc., for the set purpose of preventing the loss or misplacement of a single letter or word.” Can you imagine any group of people going through this kind of painstaking experience to preserve the Bible without God inspiring them?
But there still may be questions. If the Masoretic texts date back to a.d. 916, how can we be sure they are accurate since the very latest books in the Old Testament were written 1,300 years prior to that? Other manuscripts that have been used to cross-reference the Masoretic texts include the Targums (sixth century b.c.), the Samaritan Pentateuch (fifth century b.c.), the Mishnah (a.d. 200) and the Midrash (100 b.c.-a.d. 300). Careful comparisons with these works have only solidified the validity of the Masoretic texts, upon which the King James Old Testament is based. Though these different texts were not all exactly alike, the differences proved to be minor.
But there has been more proof, uncovered this century, that has substantiated the accuracy of the Masoretic texts. In 1947, one of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls was found. In it was a complete manuscript of the book of Isaiah which dated back to 125 b.c. (over 1,000 years before the Masoretic texts). Comparing the scroll to the book of Isaiah in the Masoretic text further proved the accuracy. Concerning this discovery, two men who authored General Introduction to the Bible, wrote, “In one chapter of 166 words (Isaiah 53) there is only one word (three letters) in question after a thousand years of transmission—and this word does not significantly change the meaning of the passage.” The book went on to show that when compared to the Dead Sea Scrolls, the King James Bible is “98.33 percent pure.” But because of the near-precise accuracy in the copying of the Masoretic texts, the Dead Sea Scrolls should be evaluated compared to the Masoretic texts, not the other way around.
What About the New Testament?
Finding proof to verify the validity of the New Testament is overwhelming. According to the Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament, “There are some 8,000 manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate and at least 1,000 for other early versions. Add over 4,000 Greek manuscripts (some say 5,000), and we have 13,000 manuscript copies of portions of the New Testament.”
According to The Authority of the Bible, a booklet published by the Worldwide Church of God (wcg) under Herbert W. Armstrong, “The verification of the 27 New Testament books is easier than for any other piece of classical writing.” But while it has been said that no two of these thousands of manuscripts are exactly the same, the overwhelming majority generally agree with each other. This majority of texts has come to be be known simply as the Majority Text (some call it the Common Text or the Traditional Text). And it is from the Majority Text that the King James Version of the Bible was translated. There is abundant proof that God’s words have been inspired and that they have been properly preserved. But that doesn’t mean Satan won’t try to work in his false doctrines along the way.
G.A. Riplinger, author of New Age Bible Versions, wrote: “The variations among the Majority Text are minor, like the varieties of doves. On the other hand, the remaining handful of manuscripts are as diverse as dogs and dragons. This handful, not only disagree with the Majority, as to what the New Testament says, but disagree among themselves.” Riplinger then goes on to show how virtually all the new Bible translations today trace their roots back to a Greek text that was based upon this handful of faulty texts. Riplinger continued, “In 1881 this 1 percent minority text type supplanted the Majority Text with its almost two millennia standing. A ‘New’ Greek Text using the Vatican manuscript (B), was introduced by Westcott and Hort and has been used as the Greek Text for all subsequent versions.”
The two men Riplinger is referring to are Brooke Westcott and Fenton Hort, both of whom were Cambridge scholars in the mid-1800s. Their combined effort changed the world of Bible translations. Here is what the Encyclopedia Britannica (11th edition) wrote about these two men and their famous project: “Their great work was published in 1881 under the title of The New Testament in the Original Greek …. Opinions DIFFER as to the correctness of the results reached by Westcott and Hort [or WH].”
The work of WH proved to be revolutionary because most of the subsequent Greek texts that have surfaced since then are very similar to theirs. And it is from these recent, corrupted texts that all of the new Bible translations have come from today.
Now there are those who may say the changes in WH’s work are minor. In New Age Bible Versions, Riplinger quoted Fenton Hort himself from a book titled Life of Hort. Hort wrote, “I do not think the significance of their existence is generally understood. It is quite impossible to judge the value of what appears to be trifling alterations merely by reading them one after another. Taken together, they have often important bearings which few would think of at first. … The difference between a picture say of Raffaelle and a feeble copy of it is made up of a number of trivial differences. … It is, one can hardly doubt, the beginning of a new period in Church history. So far the angry objectors have reason for their astonishment.”
You may want to read that again. Hort is basically saying, the objectors have reason to be angry because the changes made in WH’s Greek text are so monumental!
Today, over a hundred years later, we find literally dozens of new translations, relying on the work of WH as their main source! What does that mean?
King James Version Recommended
Those familiar with the late Herbert Armstrong know he recommended we use the King James Version, translated in 1611. That is not to say the King James is a perfect translation. No translation is. The King James, however, is approximately 99 percent accurate. The small percentage of error in this translation is primarily due to the lack of understanding of the original meaning of certain Hebrew and Greek words by the translators. Nevertheless, the King James translation comes from accurate Hebrew and Greek texts (the Masorah and the Majority Text), unlike many modern translations.
Mr. Armstrong recommended the use of other translations only to complement the King James. The King James Version was written almost 400 years ago. Over that span of time, the English language has changed somewhat. Some of the awkward and archaic phrases in the King James can be cleared up by checking a few modern translations. Mr. Armstrong often used the Revised Standard Version and Moffatt translation. But he was quick to advise Church members not to use these more modern translations as their main study Bible. It is the King James Version that should be the standard by which these new translations are judged for accuracy. If you find a new translation saying something quite different from the King James, more than likely, the King James is right. The ideal method of personal Bible study should be with the King James as your primary study Bible, along with one or two other translations for quick reference.
After Mr. Armstrong died in 1986, the church he founded, the Worldwide Church of God, underwent a plethora of changes away from the doctrines and traditions established in the church through him. Mr. Armstrong’s recommendation for using the King James Version was no exception. The June 16, 1992, Worldwide News reported: “Pastor General Joseph W. Tkach approved the New International Version of the Bible as the standard for the Church’s English-language publications.” The article then quoted Media Operations director Bernard Schnippert as saying, “We began to examine the versions to find one that is readable and one that is accepted by scholars as well as the general public.” The writer of the article then continued by saying, “The niv, a highly readable, nonsectarian and authoritative translation, is produced by teams of scholars and researchers from around the world.”
Gaining acceptance from scholars, of course, should have no bearing on whether it is a good translation or not. Just because scholars like it does not mean it is a better translation. As you will see, the niv is a very poor translation.
But what about the King James Version? The article continued, “Although the King James Version has been the most popular English-language Bible since its introduction in 1611, it is becoming increasingly difficult to understand as the English language changes.” Absolutely no mention is made of what Herbert Armstrong, the founder of that organization, had to say about the different translations.
Another wcg publication, The Bible—a Guided Tour, recommended the niv as the choice for a person’s first Bible: “It has been called ‘one of the best all-purpose Bibles available to English-speaking Christians.’”
In retrospect, the major doctrinal changes in the wcg explain why they gave such critical acclaim to the niv.
So what is wrong with the niv? Let us take a look at some of the alarming differences between the kjv and the niv.
Faith IN Christ, or Faith OF Christ
Mainstream Christianity would have you think that all you have to do to be saved is believe in Jesus Christ. The Bible indeed teaches that faith in Christ is the first step toward being saved. But it is not the final step. Jesus revealed in Mark 7:7-9 that it is possible to actually worship Christ while doing it all in vain! After repentance and baptism, God gives us His Holy Spirit so that we might go on and develop the faith of Christ—Jesus Christ actually living in us by the power of the Spirit. Therefore, the translation of those two little words, IN and OF, are very important!
With that in mind, let’s look at some crucial scriptures on this issue. These are scriptures Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Tkach BOTH used to prove their opposing beliefs! How could they use the same scriptures as proof when their teachings were virtually the opposite?
Notice the alarming difference.
Romans 3:22 states in the kjv: “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe.” The niv reads: “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”
The kjv of Galations 2:16 says a man “is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, and we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” The niv says a man “is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”
One more. The kjv translates Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God ….” The niv reads: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God ….”
The kjv mentions the faith OF Christ on nine different occasions throughout the New Testament. The niv? Not once. In fact, the niv only uses the words “faith of” four times in its version. It is interesting to note how the niv translated these four verses: Romans 4:16 (faith of Abraham); Philippians 1:27 (faith of the gospel); 2 Timothy 2:18 (faith of some); Titus 1:1 (faith of God’s elect).
Curiously, the niv translators rendered “faith of” exactly the same as the kjv when it didn’t refer to Christ. But when it did refer to Christ, they changed it to “faith in”—every time!
(For more on this, read What Is Faith?)
Born Again, Not Begotten
Mr. Armstrong taught that a true Christian receives a small portion of the Holy Spirit after baptism and at that point becomes a begotten son of God. From that point, one grows and develops to the point of being ready for the birth which will occur at the Second Coming of Christ. (Read Just What Do You Mean … Born Again? for more on this subject.)
The popular Protestant teaching, however, says we can be born again now, once one accepts Jesus Christ as personal Savior. The essential argument raised against Mr. Armstrong was his apparent lack of understanding of the true meaning of the English word begotten. This, critics (and the wcg after his death) feel, led him to misunderstand the meaning of the Greek word gennao (the word that is translated “begotten” or “born” in the kjv). In a nutshell, Mr. Armstrong taught that gennao was an all-inclusive term which covered the whole process of birth—including the begettal by the father, as well as the actual parturition by the mother (check almost any lexicon). And so whether or not gennao is translated “begotten” or “born” in various scriptures depends upon the context.
But the wcg changed that teaching—stating that gennao only refers to the actual birth. And what’s even more ridiculous is they say the English word “begotten” also means “birth.” (Please see Webster’s Dictionary for a concise refutation of this reasoning.)
But using the niv very much supports the wcg and so-called Christianity in this false teaching.
We know that Christ is the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:29). And Romans 1:4 reveals when that birth took place—when He was resurrected from the dead. So prior to that time, when Christ was born of the virgin Mary, He was the begotten Son of God. But not according to the niv. Compare these verses:
John 1:14 (kjv): “And the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) ….” The niv: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father ….”
The famous John 3:16 reads that God gave “his only begotten Son” in the kjv, whereas the niv states that God gave “his one and only Son.”
Other scriptures worth checking in both versions are Psalm 2:7; John 1:18; 3:18 and 1 John 4:9. If scholars can somehow reason that Christ was not begotten of the Father prior to the actual birth, then it only follows suit that neither can we, as Christians, be begotten. This is very much in sync with today’s popular “born again” teaching. In the kjv, the word begat can be found 225 times. The word begotten can be found 24 times—and beget, 10 times. That’s a total of 259 times. In the niv, the words beget and begat cannot be found while begotten appears only once!
In almost every case, the niv translates into “born” where the kjv has “begotten.” The only verse where the niv uses the word begotten is probably the only verse in the Bible where a direct reference is made to both the father’s and the mother’s role in child delivery (Isaiah 45:10). The niv translates it, “Woe to him who says to his father, What have you begotten? or to his mother, What have you brought to birth?” It’s as if the niv is forced into using begotten in this case without completely changing the verse around. How foolish it would sound to ask the father, “What have you brought to birth?” and then the mother, “What have you brought to birth?” However, with every other verse where it should read begotten, with a little word adjustment, it can be altered to born. And that’s exactly what the niv did.
As can be inferred from the above mistranslations of John’s Gospel, we can see where the niv is more in line with the unbiblical and false trinity doctrine. In John 1:14, instead of referring to Christ as the “only begotten of the Father,” the niv translates it, “the One and Only.” Traditional Christianity claims God is three hypostases in one (three in one—the trinity). I won’t take the space here to show it, but there are many instances in which the niv drops the words he and Son in favor of “the One.” For more on disproving the trinity doctrine, please read God Is a Family.
What Is the Gospel?
For over 50 years, Herbert Armstrong made it quite clear that the true gospel was a message about the Kingdom of God—the ruling Family of God. Four years after Mr. Armstrong’s death, his successor said: “The central core and theme of all our commission, all our work and all our lives is Jesus Christ” (Worldwide News, May 21, 1990).
Mr. Armstrong warned against this shift in going from the gospel of Christ to a gospel about Christ in the June 24, 1985, Worldwide News: “By a.d. 51, much of the Church in Galatia had turned to another gospel (Galatians 1:6-7). A violent controversy arose over whether the gospel to be preached was the gospel of Christ or a gospel about Christ. The latter won out.” Sadly, the latter also won out in the wcg. Should we expect any changes concerning the true gospel in these newer Bible translations? It’s only fitting.
In the New Testament, the word “gospel” is found 101 times in the kjv. The same word can be found 96 times in the niv. That’s not a great difference. But with so much reference to the word “gospel” in modern “Christianity,” we shouldn’t expect the word itself to be omitted from these new translations. After all, worldly churches have their many gospels. Where we should expect to find differences is where the gospel is actually defined in Scripture. Many, many times in Scripture (both kjv and niv) it just simply refers to “the gospel”—without really defining it. That makes the very few verses where the true gospel is actually defined very critical!
Notice this blatant error forced into the niv by its “scholarly” translators. Mark 1:1 reads, in the kjv, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ …,” and in the niv, “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ ….” Verse 14 reads (kjv): “… Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.” The niv: “Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.”
These two verses in Mark very clearly define the true gospel as long as you are reading from the kjv. In verse 1, it says it was the “gospel of Christ,” or the message He preached. And what was that message? The Kingdom of God. The niv blatantly changed both of these verses to suit what is more popular today. In verse 14, the niv omitted kingdom and changed gospel to good news. It is true that gospel means good news, but probably very few Protestants even know that. Their word choice is just an all-too-convenient way of hiding the real gospel from the average reader. The word gospel is only used in conjunction with the Kingdom of God in three other verses besides Mark 1:14. They are Matthew 4:23; 9:35; and 24:14. Together, these four verses provide overwhelming proof that the true gospel Jesus preached is about the Kingdom of God. You have already seen how the niv translators changed Mark 1:14. It is also interesting to note that they changed gospel to good news in Matthew 4:23 and 9:35 as well. That leaves Matthew 24:14 as the only scripture left in the niv that accurately reads, “the gospel of the kingdom.” Perhaps that one might even be changed in a future revision of the niv.
Notice one more blatant change in meaning the niv translators slipped in: the subtle change of moving the word glory after gospel. It changes the whole meaning. It went from being a glorious gospel to a gospel about Christ’s glory! (Note: This change also occurred in the New King James Version. That translation, though not as bad as the niv, is not as accurate as the old kjv.) Just as the Apostle Paul and Mr. Armstrong warned, they have subtly changed from the gospel of Christ to a gospel about Christ. It should come as no surprise then that the word Jesus appears 291 more times in the niv than it does in the kjv.
Other Major Changes
The instructions concerning Christian living, especially instruction against breaking God’s law, have become more vague and obscure in the newer translations. For instance, verses that used to warn against fornication in the kjv now warn against sexual immorality in the niv. Notice the following example: Galatians 5:19 says the works of the flesh are “Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness” (kjv). The niv says they are “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery.”
That may seem insignificant until you look at the actual dictionary definition of the two terms. Webster’s defines fornication as: “1) Human sexual intercourse other than between a man and his wife.” So it is very clear then what God’s law does not allow according to the kjv. Here is how Webster’s defines immoral: “broadly: conflicting with generally or traditionally held moral principles.” How deceitful! One Bible version clearly forbids sexual intercourse unless it is between a man and his wife. The other Bible version very unclearly forbids anything that goes against general or traditional “moral principles”!
The word fornication appears 39 times in the kjv while not appearing once in the niv. Conversely, immoral or immorality appear 33 times in the niv while not appearing once in the kjv!
Another alarming change in the niv is the increase of the word pride. It appears 49 times in the kjv and in most every case refers to vanity or conceit—something we do not want! Webster’s defines the word: “1) inordinate self-esteem: conceit. 2) proud or disdainful behavior or treatment: disdain.” In the niv, pride is used 69 times, 20 more than the kjv. Yet, in many niv verses, pride has replaced words like rejoice and glory—a different meaning altogether! (Compare Proverbs 8:13; 16:18; 29:23 and Mark 7:22 in the kjv with 2 Corinthians 5:12; 7:4 and Galatians 6:4 in the niv.) It is quite ironic that hundreds of scholars chose the word pride to be used as a positive thing. Do those scholars not understand the true meaning of the word pride?
Another area of a more watered-down translation is in the omission of several references to fasting. This is a very important part of Christian growth. Yet, it would seem to be not too important to the hundreds of scholars who translated the niv.
Notice Acts 10:30. The kjv translates it: “… Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house ….” The niv reads: “… Four days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon.”
In Mark 9:29, Christ says, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” The niv quotes Christ as saying, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”
Matthew 17:21, which says something very similar to Mark 9:29, is completely omitted from the niv! Hard to believe—but true. If you have an niv, you will notice that it just skips from verse 20 to 22. (Note: There are several other verses that are just simply omitted from the niv, like Matthew 18:11; 23:14; Luke 17:36; and Acts 8:37). Other verses that omit fasting in the niv include 1 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 6:5; and 11:27.
Who Is the Real Culprit?
Much has been said about the many scholars who put together the mistranslation of the niv. But Satan the devil is the one who is actually behind this systematic tearing down of truth. He will do anything he can to suppress and, if possible, completely do away with truth. Rejecting the King James Version of the Bible, which is based on the most accurate Hebrew and Greek texts, in favor of newer translations based upon corrupted texts, is exactly what Satan wants.
Satan has even managed to omit himself from certain passages in these new translations. In Luke 4:8, where Christ is speaking to Satan himself, the kjv says, “And Jesus answered, and said unto him, get thee behind me Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” The niv: “Jesus answered, ‘It is written, “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”‘”
Another glaring omission. But perhaps no omission is as tragic as this one in Isaiah 14:12 which reads: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! …” The niv reads: “How you have fallen from heaven, o morning star, son of the dawn! …”
In many new translations, Satan has successfully omitted the only reference to Lucifer in the entire Bible. But even more amazing is what they replace Lucifer with: morning star, which is what Jesus Christ is referred to in Revelation 22:16. Satan’s goal is to get people to believe that he is God (2 Corinthians 4:4). He wants people to believe he is Jesus Christ. And believe it or not, there is an increasing number of scholars today who believe that the passage in Isaiah 14 does not refer to the one who became Satan. The twisted and perverted beliefs of scholars have very subtly found their way into inspired Scripture.
What Should You Do?
With all of these examples in mind, you should be able to understand why we endorse the King James Version as the main Bible we quote for our publications. We occasionally quote from other translations, but we always specify when we do. We use other Bibles as Herbert W. Armstrong instructed us to: as a supplement to the King James.
Does this mean you should immediately throw away your niv if you own one? No. I have one myself, though I admit, I rarely used it until I wrote this article! The niv, even though a very poor translation in many areas, still has some value, as long as your primary Bible is the King James. It should also be stated that the New American Standard Version, another very popular translation today, is very similar to the niv in its many changes and errors. Be especially careful with these two translations. In addition to those two translations, any Bible version with a “new” in its title is guaranteed to be a less accurate translation than the kjv. The New King James Version is not nearly as full of errors as many other “new” translations. But it still is not nearly as good as the old kjv.
If you are thinking about purchasing a Bible, we recommend you buy a King James first. From there, two good choices to complement the kjv are the Revised Standard Version and the Moffatt. Mr. Armstrong used both of these on occasion. The Revised Standard is a good translation. But even the translators of that version have since come out with a “New” Revised. Stay away from that one.
Be very careful about which Bible you use for your primary study. The changes in the new translations can distort your understanding in many areas without you even realizing it. Used improperly, we can be deceitfully led in the wrong direction. If we use different translations properly, we can enhance and invigorate our Bible study!