Translations:

Tools to Truth or
New Age Conspiracy?

We have received several requests for an article addressing a book that has been making the rounds of religious groups throughout the country for some time called "New Age Bible Versions" by Mrs. Gail Riplinger. Recently, a video on the same topic has become available.

This book and video contain startling allegations that all of the so-called modern translations of the Bible have been created as part of a concerted conspiracy by evil men—inspired by Satan—to deliberately undermine the truths of scripture by falsely translating the Hebrew and Greek texts. Mrs. Riplinger contends that the King James Bible of 1611 is the only English translation to date that is untainted by this conspiracy.

Mrs. Riplinger is only one of a number of writers and teachers who hold this view. Usually dubbed the "King James Only" movement, this teaching has been around for some time. Three other well-known staunch supporters of this view are Texe Marrs, Peter Drucker and William Grady. Whole congregations of Protestant fundamentalist churches have adopted this position, and pointedly note in advertisements in phone books and elsewhere that they are "King James 1611" fellowships.

Although some might assume these accusations are limited to more recent translations such as the NIV or NASB, that is not the case. Accusations are levelled at all other translations, including the Revised Standard Version and the New King James Version.

During the last few months, these ideas have been accepted by a number of Sabbath-keeping individuals and groups. It is understandable that people desire to have one single book that could be relied upon to be the single source of inspired Scripture. As people make the transition from believing what "their minister" tells them to believing what the Bible and holy spirit teach them, the great variety of variant translations can be intimidating. It would be much easier if there were one single translation that was always right—but desire does not make truth.

There are verses where the King James is translated better than any other version that we know of, but we believe other translations are better than the KJVin some cases. Some of the verses about which the "King James Only" movement seems to be most adamant are verses that Sabbatarians would consider to be wrong. For example, Mrs. Riplinger was quite adamant about the following three topics:

1. Passages in the modern translations, they say, water down the doctrine of the Trinity. Virtually all translations besides the KJV leave out part of 1 John 5:7-8, or at least make note that it is a doubtful text:

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

"King James Only" advocates tend to make inclusion of this passage a "test" of the orthodoxy of a translation! Whether or not those words were written by John is irrelevant because they believe the King James translation process was "inspired." Yet most Sabbatarians who do not believe in the doctrine of the Trinity have long since made a note in the margins of their King James Bibles that this passage was "not in the original text."

2. The modern translations, they say, present a system of "works-salvation" in the way certain passages are rendered. In fact, some of these passages are ones that Sabbatarians would use to show that "faith without works is dead."

We have included a table below from page 256 of Mrs. Riplinger's book. Under each "New Version" word choice is her comment [in brackets] on how this implies an "active" salvation by works. Under the KJV word choice is her comment on how "passive" the KJV makes the role of the believer. While we believe that salvation is a gift, we believe the "New Versions" do a much better job of translating the Greek to show the active role of the believer.

New Version Passage KJV

persevere Rom 5:4; patience

[work] 2Cor 12:12 [wait]

endurance Heb 10:36 patience

[endurance] 2Cor 6:4 [patience]

steadfast Col 1:23 settled

[don't mess up] [resting]

if we endure 2Tim 2:12 suffer

[if we made it] [if we suffer]

to remain true Acts 11:23 cleave unto

[don't mess up] [rely on Him]

are protected by the 1Pet 1:5 are kept...

power of God [God keeps you]

[Is God a body guard?]

confidence of our hope Heb 10:23 profession of our faith

[I 'hope' I make it!]

3. The "King James Only" movement also claims that modern translations pervert the "orthodoxy" of the King James Bible put there by the "orthodox" translators of 1611. They claim modern translators are "heretics," some of them even homosexuals who were secretly accepted into translation teams and who thus "watered down" the Biblical injunctions against homosexuality.

Yet the Anglican translators of the KJV 1611 held many beliefs considered unbiblical by most Sabbatarians. They rejected the Sabbath! They also believed in a hierarchical church system, infant baptism and an ever-burning hell. They considered most Sabbatarians heretics and put them out of their church, which often meant the loss of one's job and friends in those days!

In addition, King James laid down several "stipulations" to the translation team. One of them was that the old ecclesiastical words were to be kept. Hence we find the Catholic term "bishop" where "overseer" would be a better translation; "church" where "congregation" would be more accurate; and "deacon", "minister" and "servant" from a single Greek word that should be rendered "servant."

Another one of King James' stipulations was that there would be no notes or variant readings. His main reason for producing the "Authorized Version" was to reduce the amount of controversy over what the scriptures said. Unfortunately, if the translators were uncertain about a meaning, they had no way to convey alternate meanings to the readers. (Notes found in KJVBibles today have been added well after 1611). All of this indicates that the translators of 1611, no matter how noble in their purpose, were not completely unfettered in their translation.

As for the issue of homosexuality, we have seen comments by a spokesman of the translation committee of the NIV that one scholar, consulted about English style during the writing process, later revealed her sexual orientation as a lesbian. But we have seen no evidence that this individual had any part in translating passages dealing with homosexuality. And, in fact, it would be difficult to see how the NIV could be considered "soft" on homosexuality. The passage in Leviticus that prescribes the death penalty for homosexual acts is fully intact in the NIV.

These accusations that the homosexuality of someone connected with a modern translation might influence the translation are also a bit surprising because many historical sources present a convincing argument that King James I of England, the one who "commissioned" the 1611 edition, was himself a homosexual! This charge is levelled not only by modern writers. Even the 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, noted for it's historical accuracy, put it discreetly:

His undignified appearance was against him, and so were his garrulity, his Scottish accent, his slovenliness and his toleration of disorders in the court, but above all, his favour for handsome male favourites, whom he loaded with gifts and caressed with demonstrations of affection which laid him open to vile suspicions.

In spite of this, it doesn't seem that the KJV translators watered down the passages condemning homosexuality either. Just as in the modern translations, the Levitical condemnation of homosexual acts is clear and uncompromising.

The writings of Mrs. Riplinger and others of the "King James Only" movement rely on particularly "sensationalized" claims. The word "conspiracy" sells books now-a-days in the same way "natural" on the label of food appeals to many shoppers. But, just as much that is labeled "natural" in the grocery is not very natural, some things that are labeled "conspiracy" may need much closer inspection to determine the truth of the allegations.

Part of the reason books like Mrs. Riplinger's are accepted as well as they are is because too many people know very little about how Bible translation is done. In their popular writings, the "King James Only" folks set up the King James Bible, not the Greek or Hebrew texts from which the translations were made, as the standard of comparison. Thus, they can show a chart in which a KJV passage is posted on one side and a modern translation of the passage on the other. This can make it appear that the modern translation has "left out" key words or passages from "the Bible." For example, Matthew 17:21 is not in the NIV or NRSV. That sounds sinister. But when we realize that this verse is not found in most ancient manuscripts, but was apparently later copied from Mark 9:29, then its deletion makes sense. Most new versions will note this in a foot-note.

Many sincere Christians are under the false impression that somewhere there is one perfect copy of "the original Hebrew and Greek Biblical writings" from which the KJV and the other translations are produced. And thus whatever shows up in the KJV, should also show up in all other translations.

But this "single document" assumption is totally in error. All Biblical translators must work with a collection of a number of ancient manuscript (hand-written) copies—copies of copies—of the original writings of the Bible. If you have ever tried to copy a long document by hand, perhaps you can understand how, over a period of thousands of years, variations have crept into these copies. No two are exactly alike. Thus, Bible translators must compare and contrast all the available documents at their disposal, and try to discern which variation of a particular word or passage most likely represents the original document.

These variations are, in most cases, extremely minor—the equivalent of a misplaced comma or a transposed pair of letters in a modern document. But in a limited number of cases, there are passages that are debatable. It is in these areas that the KJV and many modern translations are in disagreement. Some of these disagreements may be because archaeology in the past 350 years has provided more ancient texts to consider. Some may be because studies of ancient languages have changed the opinion of scholars on what certain Greek or Hebrew expressions really meant. And some disagreements may be caused just by the basic assumptions each translation team decided to adopt.

For instance, each team must decide whether to "go with" the rendering of a passage that shows up in the largest number of manuscripts they have to work from, regardless of the age of those manuscripts. Another team may decided to "go with" the rendering of a passage as it appears in the most ancient of the manuscripts, even if those are in the minority.

After translators have decided which Greek or Hebrew words they will use to translate from, they must decide how to render expressions or words that can have multiple meanings. Look up the word "run" in an English dictionary. Would a foreign language have a single word that encompasses the dozens of definitions given for this word? No. A person translating "run" to another language would have to determine the meaning of "run" from its context and decide which of many foreign language words to use. Similarly, Bible translators must choose an English word to represent Greek and Hebrew words with multiple meanings. Sometimes, translators do make decisions on how to render a word based on their overall understanding of the Bible—on their perception of doctrine. Translations made by a single individual or organization, have a high tendency to reflect that individual's or organization's doctrines. Translations made by large groups of people from many religious backgrounds (like the NIV) tend to be more doctrinally neutral.

When selecting a Bible to study, one of the most helpful things you can find are Bibles that include translator's notes on alternate textual readings or possible alternate meanings. Some modern translations are very good in this regard. Some translations have a "study" edition which contains far more notes than their standard edition—well worth the extra cost for the serious Bible student.

If you would like to know more about the process of translation, and how it affects this controversy regarding the "King James Only" arguments, we recommend you obtain a copy of the book:

The King James Only Controversy—Can You Trust Those Modern Translations? by James R. White; © 1995; Bethany House Publishers; Minneapolis MN 55438.

We have found it a helpful introduction to the topic. If you have read Mrs. Riplinger's book, and have found her arguments persuasive, we particularly hope you will give this book serious consideration before you make conclusions about the issue. Mr. White writes in the introduction to this book:

It is very important to understand the motivation behind this book. This book is not being written to push one particular translation of the Bible over another. There is no desire to get everyone to read the NASB, or the NIV, or the NKJV, or the RSV, or any other "modern" translation. On the other hand, I am not in any way seeking to stop those who use the KJV from reading that venerable translation. This book is not against the KJV. I know many fine Christian people who use the KJV and for whom the translation works just fine. However, I do oppose those who would force others to use the KJV or risk God's wrath for allegedly questioning His Word. I oppose KJV Onlyism, not the KJV itself.

We at Servants' News are in agreement with Mr. White's final conclusion regarding the matter:

We strongly encourage Christians to purchase and use multiple translations of the Bible so that comparison can be made between translations. It is best not to be limited to just one translation when studying scripture. Cross-reference between such fine translations as the New King James Version, the NASB and the NIV will allow the student of the Bible to get a firm grasp upon the meaning of any passage.

We hope that no one will throw up their hands and be discouraged because there is no "certain" Bible translation. The fundamental principles of the rewarding of good, the punishment of evil, the ten commandments, the sermon on the mount, and salvation through our Savior, are clear in any major translation.

—Pam Dewey & Norman Edwards


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