When Is a Bible Translation Not the Word of God?


Thomas Jefferson, author of The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth

My concern is the departure from the truths of God’s Word. There are many paths away from God. The confusion caused by mistranslating His Word is only one. This blog is about only one heresy; Deliberately mistranslating the word of God.

Poor translations are not limited to Bible translations. President Jimmy Carter fired a translator while he was in Eastern Europe for doing such a poor job. The difference with Bible translation is that many poor Bible translations, such as Thomas Jefferson’s dishonest translation, are deliberate.

We must check to see if a particular translation is accurate and faithful to the original. For example, the Thomas Jefferson translation deletes material simply because Thomas Jefferson did not like it. That is not an honest translation. The Living Bible is not a translation because the author, Kenneth Taylor, paraphrased what he read in English without translating from the original languages. That does not mean that the Living Bible is not useful. It means that it is one man’s opinion. It is a commentary and not the Word of God itself.

So why are there over 400 translations of the Bible into English? A translation take time, money and effort, and each new translation has a purpose. I stand by my statement concluding the blog “What Bible Translation Do You Use?” Satan has used the many Bible translations to cause confusion among the children of God.

The purpose of any passage in the word of God has only one, or possibly two, correct teachings. In a few passages, there are double references. The Holy Spirit can apply the same passage in different ways to different people, but that is application, not the teaching of the passage. When a translation brings out a different flavor or shade of meaning it can benefit and bless the Church of God. But that is certainly not the result of many translations.

There just are not that many legitimate reasons for additional translations. For a conservative, the differences between a dynamic and literal translation are important and easily justify several attempts at each as well as the Holman attempt at a “crossover.” Expanded translations such as the Amplified are also valuable. There are also about a dozen historic translations such as the Geneva, Wycliffe and Tyndale. What is the purpose of the other 350 or so translations?

The New World Translation was made to remove every reference to the Deity of Christ. There are “gender neutral” translations, translations promoting homosexuality, translations which add books such as the epistle of Barnabas, translations which delete books of the Bible.

The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, as Thomas Jefferson called his New Testament, cuts out everything Thomas Jefferson disagreed with. There are no miracles, no virgin birth, no resurrection and no future hope of a resurrection. What is left is words found in the Bible, but completely inaccurate. Thomas Jefferson had no qualms about deleting phrases in the middle of sentences if he did not like them.

The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, as edited by Thomas Jefferson is clearly not the Word of God. It is a counterfeit. The problem with this counterfeit is that it is a very poor counterfeit. Counterfeit Bible Translations have become more difficult to identify.

John 1:1 in several different translations;
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. KJV

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. Holman Chistian Standard Bible

The New American Standard Bible, the English Standard Version, the New International Standard Version and many others are word for word the same. The underlying Greek is simple and straightforward. These are both literal and dynamic translations. Yet the New World Translation has the last phrase of John 1:1 “the Word was a god.” This is a very simple mistranslation. It is in the tradition of Thomas Jefferson, denying the Deity of Jesus the Messiah.

At what point is the translation no longer faithful to the original? At what point is it a counterfeit? This issue came up when people answered the question “What Bible Translation do you use?” Some people were simply being flippant. But others legitimately meant that one translation is as good as any other.

Since every translation from one language to another is incomplete, what does the word “counterfeit” mean to a Bible translation?

At the beginning God expressed himself. That personal expression, that word, was with God, and was God… J.B.Phillips New Testament

That personal expression is not directly supported by the Koine Greek. However, it is supported by the idea of the verb “to be” which in this case means the same in English as Greek. Is That personal expression a good translation? No. Is it a deliberate counterfeit, like the New World Translation “a god?” No, it is not. While it is confusing and difficult to understand, it is not, at least for the average reader, teaching a doctrine that contradicts other doctrines clearly taught in the rest of the Word of God.

A clear doctrine would be to deliberately translate the word virgin in the virgin shall conceive Matthew 1:23 as something other than virgin. But rarely are the issues so easy to detect. The issues are not as clear as counterfeit money. With counterfeit money, the money is either genuine or it is not. While we might be deceived, the fact is that it is either genuine or counterfeit. The Bible can be translated correctly or incorrectly. And incorrect translations can be subtle.

God commands us to study His Word, directed by His Spirit. This is not a simple or easy job. But we should not be deceived by our hope that the Word of God will touch more lives, and have a greater influence, just because someone claims to have made a new English translation.

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