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FAITH: The Translation Craze

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(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column of those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Augusta Press.) 

Recently, while browsing in a Christian bookstore, I suddenly became fully aware of the number of translations of the Bible which are offered to the public today.  Since the Bible is the most often read book in the world one would assume that it would require a number of translations or versions in order to satisfy the buying public.  Certainly, it is not hard to see that the demand has been met.  While many people might think that this is good in every aspect, I would like to direct the readers attention to something which I think it would be to our advantage to consider.

As a Christian and a long time Pastor of a local church, I understand the presence of different versions.  In fact, I use several different translations when I am doing my research and study for a sermon.  They are valuable sources for understanding what a particular passage is saying. I personally use the King James Version in the New Schofield version for my study, preaching and reading.  I know Pastors who employ the New International Version and others who prefer the Revised Standard Version.  The presence of different translations does not bother me because I understand that they are translations of the original Greek manuscripts and I go to the original language to straighten out any questions about a translation.  However, as I was browsing that day, I noticed something which, upon further reflection disturbs me.  The list of versions and editions is growing at a quantum pace.  Listed below are some of the offerings:

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The King James Bible, the New King James Edition, the Amplified Bible, Today’s English Version (Good News for Modern Man), the New Jerusalem Bible, The Living Bible, the New American Standard Version, the New Century Bible, the NIV, the Revised Standard Version, the New Revised Standard Version, the Revised English Bible and the New Living Bible, were all for sale along with some others.  In addition to those versions, there were a number of editions available.  Those included: the International Inductive Study Bible, the Cambridge Annotated, the Woman’s Study Bible, the Spirit Filled Bible (I didn’t know there could be any other kind), the Prophecy Study Bible, the Experiencing God Study Bible, the Life Application Bible, the Nelson Study Bible, Thompson’s Chain Reference Bible, the Quest Study Bible, the NIV Rainbow Study Bible and the Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible.

There are many others not included in the list above, but as one can readily see, a person has no problem when it comes to finding a Bible to suit his needs.  I think, however, that the unsaved people of the world are confused as are the less than dedicated people who claim Christianity. Let’s make no mistake about it.  Most of those issuing new Bible versions are driven by the profit motive, and I believe that the wrong message is being sent to those who are looking for answers to life’s questions.  Let me explain.  People are told that the Bible is God’s Word and that it is unchanging and stable.  They can depend on it.  It will guide their lives and lead then to salvation.  But, the unsaved people of the world, and the carnal Christians look at all the versions and editions offered, and they begin to see the Bible as nothing more than another book offered in different garb.  Which one, they ask, should I believe? Which one has the right answers?  Which one is the best one?  Who is the best editor or publisher? I believe that the rush to profit in marketing the Bible is producing confusion, even among some Christians, about the utter truthfulness of the most trusted translations.

The mad rush to put yet another translation on the shelves is resulting in a product which is supposed to meet the “felt needs” of every little niche of society.  People need to understand that the Bible meets ALL needs and does not have to be wrapped in a beautiful cover designed for a certain market segment in order to do so. God’s Word should stand above all of these marketing schemes.  In the eyes of many people is casts doubt on the seriousness of God’s Word if it can be manipulated in such a way.  It is hard to explain to a lost person that the Bible is the Bible, and if the translation is a reliable one, it does not matter about all the accompanying hype. I simply feel that people must be careful in how they handle God’s Word.  It is not given to us to market like some new line of clothes or some popular brand of automobile.  And, if we allow this to happen, then people will pay less attention to what is on the inside and more attention to how it was marketed.  This is a dangerous situation because someone with an inferior translation or one which serves a particular cult just might be very successful in getting their erroneous material into the hands of a lot of people who would, all along, be thinking that it was perfectly all right because it is “God’s Word.”

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In addition, church people are confused about what to use.  Many of them can hardly keep up with the Pastor as he reads scripture or preaches an expository sermon because so many of them have bought a Bible which is of a different translation.  Scripture memorization is also suffering.  No version can match the King James for its beautiful language.  It lends itself so easily to memorization.  For many years the KJV was the “Bible of the people” in the SBC, but that is now changing rapidly.  At the same time fewer and fewer of our people can quote scripture.  I am not a KJV only advocate but it sure is hard to beat when it comes to teaching your people the Bible.

We have gone translation crazy, and it now seems almost impossible to do anything about it because those driven by the profit motive will not stop since their primary concern is sales and not the Bible itself.

Since the rush to new translations and editions is not likely to stop, it must be left up to the Pastors to guide their people through the maze.  Our people will trust us to give them the proper guidance and we must not fail to do so.  It is up to us, by and large, not to fall into the current popular frame of mind concerning translations but to guide our people properly. Christians should be very careful about The Translation Craze.

Reverend William (Bill) Harrell has been in ministry 48 years. He served as the pastor of Abilene Baptist Church in Martinez, GA for over 30 of those years. He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also check out his blog at www.williamfharrell.com 

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