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Watch Out for Faulty Bible Translations
My Reflections
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October 18, 2010

Question/Topic in focus: What version of the Bible should we use?


When selecting a Bible, it's important to remember that Bibles are a profitable enterprise for publishers. For this simple reason, you'll find all sorts of Bibles on the market: there's the Leadership Bible, the Spirit Filled Bible, the John MacArthur Study Bible, to name a few.


Believe it or not, niche commentaries that play into your particular interests is only half of the sales game; new translations are the other half. Privy to just enough of the translation process that goes on between so-called scholars and publishers, let's just say that most of the time it's a less-than-perfect situation.


While I don't have the space to cover all the errors I've found in English versions, the below excerpt is part of an actual email I sent to the translators of the New Living Translation (NLT, 1996 copyright version) after they admitted (in an email to me, not the public) the translation had some significant problems and likely misled readers.



Watch Out for Faulty Bible Translations
Excerpted from an actual email exchange I had with the translators of the New Living Translation

Note: What you're about to read is a response email from me (...and sorry, it's a bit technical). The text in question is Matthew 5:43, 44 (NLT, 1996 copyright): "You have heard that the law of Moses says, 'Love your neighbor' and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies!'" The problem is "law of Moses" isn't found in the Greek manuscripts, thus leading the reader to believe Jesus is overriding the OT. Jesus is not. Instead, he is overriding Oral Torah (i.e., Pharisaical law). The average reader doesn't know the difference between the two, but we must! It's imperative to understanding the Bible.


The text in question reads, "You have heard that the law of Moses says, 'Love your neighbor' and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies!" Dr. [Smith] asserts, "It's irrelevant whether 'of Moses' is there or not, isn't it? What other law could be meant?" Although each of us understands all of Torah was, at one time, oral, there is certainly a recognizable distinction between the written (Books of Moses/ Tanakh) and oral Torahs (later redacted: Mishnah/Gemara and codified in the Talmud). I suppose then, in one sense, Dr. [Smith's] assessment is correct; each "Torah" (written and oral) was a "law of Moses." When the average reader, however, reads "law of Moses," they are unable to make the differentiation. Verses 43 and 44 in the 1996 NLT version are particularly problematic because they lead the reader to believe, firstly, that the OT teaches one to hate their enemy and, secondly, that Jesus overrides the OT. I concur with Dr. [Smith] as he appropriately recognizes, "I think we let the NLT get away with one there."


Here's my grief. When I check the Greek, it does not read "law" or "law of Moses" at all. It merely reads, "You have heard that it has been said...." Even when "of Moses" is absent [post 1996 copyright versions read only "law"), the reader assumes "law" refers to the written Torah. Thus, inserting anything at all only leads the reader astray and, perhaps, to a particular bias (e.g., dispensationalism).



My Reflections

 Magnifying glass
Although the NLT has a nice logo, the text is riddled with significant errors. So the question remains, what version of the Bible should we use? Let's tackle the answer at a few levels.


First, it's important to understand that all English versions are faulty; it's impossible to completely and accurately translate Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic into English. For this reason, I recommend at least one person in your house church have access to an interlinear Bible. An interlinear Bible generally shows the Hebrew or Greek text on a top line, the English equivalent on a second line, and a Strong's Concordance number on a third line. The one I use is on my computer (I use PC Study Bible software, but if I had the moola I'd switch to Logos). Regardless of what you use, don't be afraid. You don't need to be a Hebrew or Greek scholar to say, "Hey, in Matthew 5:43 the words "law of Moses" aren't even in there. What kind of funny business is going on here?" So, in this sense, read any English version you want, just have an interlinear version nearby.


Second, some English translations, though often harder to read, are more accurate than others. Topping the list for accuracy, to the best of my knowledge, is the Revised Standard Version.


I used to tell people, "The best translation is the one you'll read." I was wrong. Why? Because I've come to learn that if a person cares enough to spend time reading the Bible, they generally care enough to read something that's accurate.



As always, The Banqueting Table hopes this was of some benefit to you.


Traver Dougherty
The Banqueting Table

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