(February 02, 2021) Dr Jim McClure, straight shooting theologian, shares…
Recently I was asked to give an evaluation of the KJV and NIV Bibles.
Firstly, we do not have a handwritten original portion of any part of the Bible.
At best we have handwritten copies of copies of copies (and so on) of the texts that have been handed down to us. Thus, neither the KJV nor the NIV nor any other translation is perfect as the underlying texts are not perfect for a variety of reasons. The best translation is, at best, only a translation!
Nevertheless KJV-only proponents strongly argue that the only reliable translation of the Bible is the KJV and that all modern ones set out to deceive. However, there is no conspiracy among authentic Bible translators to delete words and phrases or to modify the test with the intention to dishonour God and corrupt his words or mislead Christians.
The translators of the NIV, for example, have attempted to express the original Hebrew and Greek of the Bible into contemporary English that accurately reflects the meaning of the original languages.
Furthermore, it must be recognised that the manuscripts used by the translators of the KJV were based on very late manuscripts. For example, the KJV translators did not have the benefit of ancient copies of many Old Testament books.
Indeed, the earliest version of many of the Hebrew texts before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947, (which were written around the 2nd century BC), was the Masoretic Aleppo Codex dated A.D. 935 AD. Likewise the earliest Greek texts used to translate the New Testament were largely based on 12th century AD (and later) manuscripts.
- Since the translation of the KJV took place in 1611, many thousands (and significantly older) manuscripts have been found which modern translators rightly have considered.
- Also, since the first version of the KJV was published in 1611 it has been revised several times (eg 1629, 1638, 1657, 1762, 1769) and over 100,000 changes have been made to the 1611 version! So, one must question which KJV version is considered the truly inspired version!
2. Significantly changed 1611 words
It is also noted that some words used in 1611 have significantly changed their meaning, such as:
- Psalm 59:10: KJV
‘The God of my mercy shall prevent’ The Hebrew word here translated as ‘prevent’ means ‘goes before’ and the verse is accurately translated in the NIV as ‘my loving God. God will go before me.’
- Matthew 19:14: KJV
‘Suffer little children…to come unto me’. The Greek word translated here as ‘suffer’ has nothing to do with suffering as we understand the word today and so the words of Jesus are better translated today as in the NIV, ‘Let the little children come to me.’
- 2 Timothy 2:15: KJV
‘Study to shew thyself approved unto God.’ The Greek word translated here as ‘study’ today actually means ‘make the effort’, therefore the NIV more meaningfully translates the Greek as follows, ‘Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved.’
As one could give a few hundred more examples of this, it is obvious that it is better to use a modern verse which uses modern meaning to translate accurately the original Hebrew and Greek words.
3. Other examples of where the NIV rightly differs from the KJV
- Proverbs 28:8
The KJV includes the word ‘unjust’ that is not found in the Hebrew original.
- Isaiah 14:12
The Hebrew actually reads הֵילֵל בֶּן־שָׁחַר which, by transliteration is ‘halal ben shachar’ which is literally translated into English as, ‘Halal son of Shachar.’ Bible scholars believe that the phrase refers to the morning star, that is, the star that appears just before dawn.
The name ‘Lucifer’ in Isaiah 14:12 presents a problem to those who want a ‘literal’ interpretation of the Bible. (It is not possible to have a truly literal word-for-word’ translation of the Bible – not even the KJV can boast that).
In Roman astronomy the morning star (Venus) was called Lucifer. The name ‘Lucifer’ comes from the Latin term lucem ferr which mean ‘bringer, or bearer, of light.’ It was first used by Jerome in the late 4th century AD when he produced his Latin Vulgate version of the Bible. The Latin word ‘Lucifer’ then found its way into English translations. Thus, the KJV use of ‘Lucifer’ is a more inadequate translation of the Hebrew than most of the modern translations, including the NIV.
- 1 John 5: 7-8
Consider the KJV of this verse: ‘7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.’ The NIV of these verses is representative of a modern translation: ‘7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.’
Why does the NIV (and many other modern versions) omit so many words and change the meaning of these verses? The answer is simple, yet it is ignored by ‘KJV-only’ advocates – the words ‘in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth’ do not appear in any ancient Greek manuscripts (1 John, like all the other books of the New Testament, was written originally in Greek).
The additional words, which were originally written in Latin, were added to some Latin manuscripts between the 3rd and 6th century. The earliest known manuscript in which the words were written in Greek is dated 1516.
As they were not part of the original text, they have no place in any translation! Consequently, the KJV is quite wrong in including them.
- Acts 8:37
This verse is missing (or included within brackets) from modern translations because no ancient manuscript contains it! During around 1500 years, some words, phrases, and even sentences were added to the Bible (either intentionally or accidentally) and because of the limitations of the manuscripts with which the KJV worked, they included such words and phrases which were not part of the original. The verse mentioned above is simply not found in any of the oldest and most reliable manuscripts.
While modern translations do not include such verses, many do place them in footnotes to indicate that some later manuscripts contain them. (Note also that the verse is missing in the Syriac version which was produced around the end of the 3rd century AD)
- Romans 16:24
Despite the argument of KJV-only proponents that the only reliable translation of the Bible is the KJV and that all modern ones set out to deceive, there is no conspiracy among Bible translators to delete words and phrases with the intention to dishonour God and corrupt his words or mislead Christians.
Consider Romans 16:24 which is omitted from the RSV (and bracketed in the NIV: [May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you. Amen].
The argument of the KJV-only people is that the NIV translators deliberately deleted this verse that contains Paul’s prayer for God’s grace to his readers; however, the same the words are found in verse 20 of the same chapter! Verse 24 has not been translated simply because it is not present in the earliest manuscripts. The omission of this verse does not in any way detract from what Paul wrote.
- Luke 11:2-4
There are some advocates of the KJV-only theory who comment that the ‘NIV or derived modern translations have perverted it (that is, the ‘Lord’s Prayer’) into a prayer to Satan.’
On what basis is this comment made? While Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer in the NIV omits the phrases ‘Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth’ and ‘deliver us from evil’, those phrases are not omitted in the NIV in Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13).
The NIV translators were not following some demonic plot! They simply did not include those words in Luke’s version because they are not present in earlier and better manuscripts.
4. Some comments on the texts behind the KJV
Erasmus, who edited the Greek text that lies behind the KJV, was a Catholic priest and humanist. In the early 1500s he translated from the available manuscripts that read ‘There are three witnesses in heaven, the Spirit and the water and the blood.’
However, this translation did not please some people in the Catholic Church who wanted him to use these words, ‘There are three witnesses in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit.’ Erasmus argued that he did not translate the text in that way because he had not come across any Greek MSS in which that form of words is found. Eventually the church authorities ‘won’, and later editions of his work included the words that no early Greek manuscript contained. The genuineness of the translation in the KJV has long been questioned.
The texts behind the KJV are the Byzantine/Majority Text/Textus Receptus. It is noted that there are variations in these texts. When one examines the differences between these texts and the principal text behind many modern translations, they are seen to be trivial and do not change the theology of the Bible one iota!
5. Assumption rather than facts
- Those who are the most vitriolic against modern translation are mainly people who know neither the biblical languages, nor the principles of translation nor even the true facts behind the differences in translation. Their arguments are mainly based on misguided and misinformed emotion and a deluded desire to ‘protect the Bible.’
- There is an unwarranted assumption that only the Majority text that underlies the KJV is God’s approved text while all others have been deliberately corrupted.
- The belief in the integrity and supremacy of the KJV is based on assumption rather than facts.
- There is no grand conspiracy theory to deceive Christendom by promoting a deceiving or devil-inspired translation.
6. Relevance to present day readers
There has been no plot to corrupt an ‘infallible KJV’ but the desire to produce translations that are closer to the original tests, that use modern words that replace ancient words whose meaning has often radically changed, and to make the Word of God more intelligible to the modern reader.
No one, or group of scholarly translators, has set out to misrepresent the Bible. On the contrary they have tried to bring the truth and relevance of the scriptures to present day people.
The bottom line is that no Christian doctrine is threatened by the passages and words that have been challenged.
7. Reading meaningfully… and applying
And finally… There are some modern versions of the Bible that I would steer people away from reading as they are more personal, subjective interpretations than sound translations!
Nevertheless, we are so greatly blessed today to have available to us some great contemporary translations (including the NIV).
We thank God for the discoveries of so many ancient manuscripts and for the gifted Hebrew and Greek scholars whose skills help us to read God’s word meaningfully today – and thereby apply its teaching to our lives.
Dr Jim McClure, author of several books such as the enlightening Grace Revisited and Bible study series, welcomes questions from Christians seeking enlightenment on biblical perspectives.
All of Dr Jim’s writings are highly recommended – such as Looking for Answers in a Confusing World, Overview of the Old and New Testaments, Love, Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage, The Masonic Deception, Word of Life in the Old and New Testaments, Interpreting the Letter of James, and Faith Works – A Commentary on the Letter of James. All are available in electronic version in EPUB, Kindle and PDF formats with hyperlinks and offered free. Link for orders and questions: firstname.lastname@example.org