Which Translation Should I Read?


Repeal, replace, revise? The health care debate is pressing us to rethink the options and their pros and cons.  I wonder if such a review would prove helpful in deciding on a translation of the Bible?  Should the King James Version be the only valid option?  Maybe this interaction will prepare us for the opening of the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. in about four years.

After the year 1611 and before 1881, you could read any translation of the Bible you wanted, as long as it was the King James Version.  As the song goes, "Breaking up is hard to do."  Ma Bell did it, creating a glut of long distance phone companies almost as numerous as brands of deodorant.  The Bible did it, too.  Numerous versions now exist.   

How did the King James get dethroned?  Was there the need to repeal of revise it? 

The 1631 KJV edition, called the 'Wicked Bible,' wrote the seventh of the ten commandments as "thou shalt commit adultery."  This embarrassment was ordered burned by the Archbishop and the printer was fined 300 pounds, a large sum in those day.  Repeal or revise? 

A 1716 KJV had Jesus saying in John 5:14, "Sin on more" instead of  "sin no more."  Repeal or revise? 

The very first edition of the Authorized Version is labeled the 'Basketball Bible' because it spoke of 'hoopes' instead of 'hookes' used in the construction of the Tabernacle.  Repeal or revise?

In the famous 'Vinegar Bible,' the chapter title to Luke 20 (KJV) was "the parable of the vinegar" instead of the "parable of the vineyard."  A needed revision took place.  

In 1792, Philip, rather than Peter, denied his Lord three times in Luke 22:34 (KJV).

1795 saw the 'Murder's Bible' which read in Mark 7:27 (KJV) of the Syro-Phoenician woman, "Let the children first be killed" instead of "let the children first be filled."  Repeal or revise?  

These examples explain the 1611 KJV's two major  overhauls in 1629 and 1638.  In 1762 and 1769 the KJV was revised for a third and fourth time.  In the first three years, the 1611 KJV translation went through fourteen minor editions in an attempt to correct the translation and printing errors.  Nearly 100,000 spelling and punctuation changes have been made, beginning in the first year ( A.D. 1611).  

The KJV still stands in need of revision.  Some 1611 printing errors were never corrected.  For example, in both Acts 7:45 and Hebrews 4:8 the name "Jesus" appears in today's KJV when Joshua is actually meant. 

All of this is to say that no one translation is perfect.  Human printing errors find there way in.  May we resist the labeling of one another as heretics or idiots in this matter of a preferred version of the Bible.  Personally, I'm an avid user of the KJV, but not to the exclusion of other translations.

 So, when asking about the best translation, there can be no singular answer.   Bibles that are accurate on the teaching of the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and the fact that genuine salvation is by faith alone and grace alone, are all the product of some process of revision. 

Granted, after 400 years, the English language has changed. The King's English does require that we take the time to compare a reading with another revised translation (the NIV, NASB, NEB, ESV, etc.) for the sake of accuracy in our understanding.   But maybe Winston Churchill had it right when he said of the KJV, "Must everything in our age be predigested?  Does the Bible have to be reduced to pablum?  I refuse to believe that modern man, who split the atom and is exploring space, is unable to cope with the grandeur and glory of the King James Version."

Oh - and be sure to read regularly your Bible of choice.