About the King James Version:

A Conversation

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 )

Not too long ago, I wrote an article I called About the King James Version. In the opening paragraphs of the article, the main thrust of which was an examination of the Textus Receptus upon which the KJV is based, I wrote:

In my contacts with folks, offline and on the Internet, I frequently encounter people who have a special fondness for the King James Version (KJV) of the English Bible. Some profess to take pleasure from the almost poetic use of 17th century English, as I do. Others like the fact that so many aids to study and interpretation are based on the KJV, as I do. Some believe the KJV, also known as the Authorized Version (AV), to be an inspired translation, as I do not.

There is a body of professing Christians who claim that the AV is the only English version and I have met a few who claim it is the only version in any language that truly preserves God's written revelation to mankind as set down in the original autographs.. Within this latter group are to be found some who assess the eternal state of others by their choice of Bible version; if they're not using the KJV exclusively, then they're not truly saved.

When confronted concerning their excessive zeal for this translation, it is not uncommon for those who hold to KJV-Onlyism to charge that their antagonists are being divisive. Often, they will claim that this alleged divisiveness is caused by the other versions of the English Bible.

When I publish an article of a controversial nature, and most of what I write falls into that category, I anticipate that a few people will wish to communicate to me their reactions to what they had read. As anyone who has ever witnessed, or been involved in, a discussion concerning Bible versions must know, those who defend the KJV-Only position are a committed and outspoken group. In that I had shown the text upon which the KJV New Testament was based to be somewhat less than a perfect preservation of the inspired autographs, I had anticipated a strong reaction from those who cling to the KJV-Only position. I was surprised that, with only one exception, all those who contacted me concerning the article were strongly supportive of its content.

The lone exception was from a man I am convinced is a God-fearing, blood-bought follower of the risen Christ. A dear friend, I knew him to be convinced of the superiority of the KJV over all other versions of the Bible, though he was gracious in his attitude toward those who prefer those other versions. My friend is eloquent in his Scripture-based defense of the KJV. He is also a quite competent theologian and honest student of the Scriptures. I anticipated that he had examined what I had written and was now presenting his defense of the King James Version. I figured that my scholarship was about to be put to a severe test.

The opening words of his email stunned me:

Now that you have taken my security blanket away, what am I supposed to base my faith on?

With these humble words, this warrior for the faith, this outspoken evangelist and patient counselor to so many who were struggling in their walk, seemed to be confessing a broken heart. The Bible, the version that he had come to consider the very foundation upon which his faith was built, is not perfectly faithful to the ancient texts, as he had long supposed. His faith was momentarily shaken.

I responded to his plaint:

Oh, what are you saying here? I know you, and I know your faith is not based on a book, not even a book called the Bible. Your faith was a gift from God and not something you obtained through intellectual exercise.

Sure, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God, as Paul wrote in Romans 10:17. But scroll up a few verses and read verse 14:

How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? (Romans 10:14, KJV)

Who told you about God? Who first mentioned Christ to you? Was it your Catholic mother? Did you first hear Christ preached in a Catholic Church? Sure, Catholic theology is seriously flawed, but there is truth buried in it and, just maybe, God used some pagan Catholic to first teach you of the Savior. You know the words, Catholics are saying them all the time. To the Catholic those words don't mean what they mean to a believer, but you weren't a believer when you first heard them and, just maybe, a seed was planted. So it took years for God to cause that seed to sprout, it doesn't matter. God works at His pace, not ours.

You've said hundreds of times that we are saved by faith alone and that saving faith is a free and unmerited gift from God. Are you suggesting, perhaps, that the gift of faith isn't really available except through the KJV?

Something to think about.

My friend, evangelist and apologist, was concerned that, because it had been shown that his beloved King James Version was translated from a less-than-perfect text, he would no longer be able to stand on the Scriptures when defending the basic doctrines of our Christian faith.

How do I "Scripturally" prove the virgin birth, that one believes before being baptized, that God was manifested in the flesh as the Three in heaven testify?

By this question, my friend made clear that his concern was not so much for himself, but for others who were new to the faith. How could he convince them, drawing support from the sacred texts, of the foundational doctrines upon which Christian faith is built? How could he prove to them, from the one source he had thought to be unimpeachable, that the ancient messianic prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth?

Perhaps, however, there was another issue behind his question; an issue that he may not have been unaware of, and so I wrote:

My first question, I suppose, should be to ask why you feel that YOU have to prove the virgin birth, scripturally or otherwise? I see head knowledge and, just maybe, a bit of pride, in conflict with faith. Is not the Holy Spirit able to make this clear to the believer without help from you and your KJV? Read again how the inspired writer of Hebrews defined faith:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1, NASB)

Do YOU believe in the virgin birth because someone proved it forensically by using the KJV? Or do you believe in the virgin birth by faith?

Are you suggesting that the virgin birth of Christ cannot be proved "scripturally" except through the KJV? I just have to tell you this: the virgin birth cannot be proved at all; not by appeals to the Scriptures, not by appeals to forensics. No court in the world would find for the virgin birth on the basis of available evidence. The fact is, there is no available evidence. Only one human being who ever lived, the God/man Jesus of Nazareth, could know for certain whether young Miriam of Nazareth was a virgin when she conceived. Joseph could know that he had not had relations with her, but he could not know for certain that no other man or boy had been with her.

Sure, we have the testimony of Scripture that Mary was a virgin when the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and she conceived, but that would be considered hearsay evidence in a court of law. Pagans don't read the Bible, but they surely do hear about the virgin birth during the Christmas and Easter seasons. Do they believe in the virgin birth? Did I believe in the virgin birth before my regeneration? No. I did not, and I had read it in the Bible and been taught it and heard it often during my life as a Catholic.

When did I come to sincerely believe that Jesus of Nazareth was conceived by God the Holy Spirit in the virgin womb of Mary? Only after I believed that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah, the Redeemer, my Savior. When I believed that, all the rest followed close behind. I believed by faith, just as you do.

What is the message that you, and I, are charged to take to the ends of the earth? It is stone-ax simple: Jesus Christ died according to prophecy, was buried and rose again according to prophecy. Paul spelled it all out in the first four verses of the 15th chapter of his first letter to the Church in Corinth.

We can't save anyone, not with the KJV, not with the NIV, not with anything. We can't even make anyone believe that Jesus is the Christ or, for that matter, that He even lived. All we can do is plant the seeds, God will call whom He chooses and the Holy Spirit will take care of the rest.

I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. (1 Corinthians 3:6-9, KJV)

We speak to people of God. We read to people from the Bible. We tell folks all they will listen to concerning the Lord God, our Savior, and the history of God's relationship with mankind. But we cannot prove the virgin birth. Does that make sense. I believe that, when we believe we can do what only God can do, we are deceiving ourselves. You are too honest with yourself and too near to God to not at least think on these things.

My friend was concerned that he no longer could trust the Bible, for he had believed that God's word had been preserved only in the King James Version. If the KJV were truly based on manuscripts that were not completely faithful to the autographs, then how could he identify the truly scriptural parts?

If the KJV is not the preserved Word of God in English then it just contains it but which parts?

My answer once again dealt with the differences between head knowledge and faith.

Is any part of any Bible version the preserved word of God? You can't prove that any passage in any text is the preserved word of God, not a single one. Why? Because, again, it is a matter of faith. Not one of the inspired writers of Scripture is alive to answer questions concerning his inspiration. And even if they were, who could support their claim that they were guided by the Holy Spirit? No one. Not then. Not now. All we have is their word and the testimony of the Scriptures themselves, but if the Scriptures aren't God-breathed, then their testimony is not valid. We can't know from historical evidence that the prophecies ascribed to Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc., were not backed into the sacred writings of the Hebrew people in order to "validate" a cultish claim that Yeshua of Nazareth was the promised Messiah. Why do we believe the Scriptures are God-breathed? By faith. Not by reading about it in the KJV.

KJV-Only people believe the KJV is the preserved word of God. How do they know? Not a single autograph exists against which they might compare the Textus Receptus in order to authenticate it as a perfect word for word copy of the books of the New Testament canon. How could they be? The books of the New Testament were written mostly in Greek, a language that is grammatically different from English. To verify that the KJV is not a word for word translation of the Greek, check out an interlineal Greek/English Bible and see for yourself.

The KJV-Only folks have no verifiable basis for their belief that the KJV perfectly preserves the word of God. As I explained in my article, that cannot be, for it can be shown that Erasmus inserted some of his own words into the Greek New Text that evolved into the Textus Receptus, assuming that all the differences between his first GNT sent to the printer and the manuscripts he copied from are authentic. And I did not even address the Masoretic Text, from which the Old Testament was translated, which is a 15th century manuscript. Consider this:

"...the history of the Biblical text shows that without special pleading it is practically inconceivable that this text [1962 Koren], or any other known text of the Torah, is identical to the original text, letter for letter. While there was an ideal of an unchanging text, identical in all copies, this ideal was not achieved in practice as far back as manuscripts and other evidence enable us to see.

"It is not that we lack good texts. All forms of the Tanakh used today are forms of what is known as the Masoretic Text, abbreviated "MT," named after the medieval scholars (the Masoretes) who labored for several centuries to produce the most accurate text they could. The MT in use today is based on Masoretic manuscripts of the ninth and tenth centuries C.E., themselves based on older manuscripts. It has been largely unchanged since late Second Temple times (ca. the third century B.C.E., as reflected in the earliest of the Dead Sea scrolls from Qumran). But although the text has been largely unchanged, there is a large number of variant readings, most of which do not materially change the meaning of the text, but drastically affect the number of letters it contains. In fact, in the oldest complete manuscript of the entire Bible, Leningrad Codex B19A which was finished in 1009 C.E., the Torah has some 45 letters more than the 304,805 of the Koren edition. Furthermore, the text of the 3rd century B.C.E. was itself several centuries younger than the original, which was composed over the preceding several centuries -- mostly between the thirteenth and seventh centuries B.C.E., though some books of the Bible were composed a few centuries later. In the centuries between the composition of the Biblical books and the early Masoretic text of the third century, many changes had befallen the text."--Jeffrey H. Tigay, The Bible "Codes": A Textual Perspective, (C) 1999

The above is taken from a site that deals with Bible codes, but the critical data appear sound.

I believe that God's word is preserved in the hearts of the Body of Christ. We see it in our Bibles, whether based on the Majority Text, the Textus Receptus or the Minority Text, so long as the translators were faithful to the texts they worked from. When we read in the Scriptures, we are reading God's word passed down through the ages, filtered through many hands. Is that not why the Holy Spirit indwells us? To illuminate our studies and help us to know the truth?

Once again, I believe that it is a matter of faith, not being able to win a Bible trivia game.

Some in the KJV-Only camp look to the Scriptures for support of their claims concerning the KJV. A favored passage, taken out of context, is Psalm 12:6-7:

6. The words of the Lord are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times.

7. Thou, O Lord, wilt keep them; Thou wilt preserve him from this generation forever. (NASB)

They say these verses, taken out of context, prove that God intends to preserve His word for all time in the Bible; the English Bible. As I demonstrated in my earlier article, this has not happened; certainly not in the KJV. If the interpretation of some KJVO folks is true, then the Scriptures have lied.

When the above passage is considered in context, its true intent becomes clear. Look to verse 5:

5. Because of the devastation of the afflicted, because of the groaning of the needing, now I will arise," says the LORD; "I will set him in the safety for which he longs. (NASB)

In this Psalm, David contrasts the treachery of man with the constancy of God. The Psalm opens with David's cry to the Lord for help. The numbers of godly men are diminishing due to a falling away from righteousness. David is concerned that, unless the Lord intervenes, soon there will be none left but carnal, unregenerate, ungodly, and unfaithful men.

In verse 5, Almighty God responds to David's plea, promising to have mercy on the poor and needy, and to avenge them on their oppressors, and free them. And this the Lord promises to do "now", not in some vague future time. God's words are truth, more precious than silver or gold. He has kept every word of promise He ever made, even as He has kept and preserved the sacred writings. The doctrines of the Gospel will continue through the generations, but the sense of this verse relates to the promises in verse 5. God will preserve every one of the poor and needy from the wicked generation of men in which they live. He will keep them from being corrupted or intimidated by those who are described in the beginning of the psalm.

Still, my friend was concerned because he had been shown that his beloved KJV was not translated from manuscripts that were perfectly in accord with the inspired autographs. He still was convinced that he could not "prove" the virgin birth, particularly to someone who was using a Bible version based on the Minority Text.

I can't hold up my KJV and say, "This is the Bible." Someone will hold up the NIV and say, "This is the Bible too and it says a young maiden, doesn't have that verse on believing, simply says He came in a body and doesn't have the heavenly witness."

I did not attempt to meet that emotional concern with theology or history of Bible texts. I simply drew on my own experiences and personal opinion.

I have held my NASB "church" Bible up and claimed "This is the Bible," and I have never been challenged on that. Honestly, the only people who make an issue of versions seem to be the KJV-Only people. I imagine the rest of us do a bit of textual criticism - as much as we are able, being restricted to comparing English translations. That is part of our study.

I think it interesting that so many who hold the King James Version in such high esteem seem to be unaware that the modern KJV edition they are likely to be using is not the 1611 edition. Most likely, it is the Blayney edition of 1769. Very few of those who hold to the KJV-Only school of thought that I have encountered were aware that the original 1611 edition was changed in 1613, 1629, 1638, 1762 and 1769. The later editions primarily were concerned with correcting typographical errors and with modernizing the language. Were such changes really necessary? Judge for yourself by reading this passage from the 1611 edition:

"Betooke themselues vnto praier, and besought him that the sinne committed, might wholy bee put out of remembrance. Besides, that noble Iudas exhorted the people to keep themselues from sinne. Forsomuch as they saw before their eyes the things that came to passe, for the sinne of those y were slaine. . . . And also in that he perceiued that there was great fauour layed vp for those that died godly. (It was an holy, and good thought) wherupon he made a reconciliation for the dead, that they might be deliuered from sinne" (II Maccabees 12:42,45).

Someone once told me, when challenged concerning the difficulty many people, particularly younger believers, have with the archaic language of the KJV, that some agency had evaluated the KJV for reading difficulty. According to this person, it was determined that the KJV wording was judged to be the sixth grade level.

I would compare this passage from the 1611 KJV with the similar passage from the 1769 Blayney edition, except that the later edition does not include the Apocrypha. Whoa! If the 1611 edition of the KJV, which included the Apocrypha, is considered by some to perfectly preserve God's word, then how could the 1769 edition, which does not include the Apocrypha, also be considered to perfectly preserve God's word?

"The plain truth of the matter is that the version that is so cherished among senior saints who have more or less come to terms with Elizabethan English, is obscure, confusing, and sometimes even incomprehensible to many younger or poorly educated Christians. The words of Edwin H. Palmer are not too strong: 'Do not give them a loaf of bread, covered with an inedible, impenetrable crust, fossilized by three and a half centuries. Give them the Word of God as fresh and warm and clear as the Holy Spirit gave it to the authors of the Bible. . . . For any preacher or theologian who loves God's Word to allow that Word to go on being misunderstood because of the veneration of an archaic, not-understood version of four centuries ago is inexcusable, and almost unconscionable' " (D. A. Carlson, The King James Version Debate: A Plea For Realism, Baker Book House, (1979), pp. 101-02)

My friend seemed to be only half-joking when he called up an image from the days when he was a member of the Roman Catholic Church:

I guess we need a Magisterium to teach us what is the truth.

That idea wasn't difficult to deal with:

We have something far better than the Magisterium. We have saving faith and the indwelling Holy Spirit. We do not need the crutch of faith in a version that does not live up to its billing.

After digesting what we had discussed, my friend cut to the heart of the difficulties he was dealing with by asking:

How do you support your beliefs?

Because we are friends and have many things in common, we have read one another's work and have cooperated on a number of projects. He had seen me defend my faith many times. I did not believe his question truly was directed so much to me as to himself. Now that his beloved KJV had been shown to be imperfect, what would he now use to support his beliefs when engaged with others who did not share his beliefs? In my brief response, I addressed a concern he had raised previously:

You have seen me support my beliefs hundreds of times. I use the Bible; sometimes the KJV, sometimes the NASB, sometimes even the NKJV or RSV. Go to my faith statement and check out the reference for the virgin birth under the first advent.

It works in the RSV, the KJV and the NIV. BTW, the NIV reads thusly in Luke 1:34:

"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"

He ended that series with a plaintive sigh.

Sigh -- I wish you had left me in my ignorance!

To which I replied:

I don't think you really believe that. As I have said before, you are too honest with yourself and with God to truly wish to hold to a flawed understanding.

When I opened my email the following morning, I learned that my friend had wrestled with his concerns well into the night. An honest researcher and theologian, he had checked up on my claims concerning the KJV.

I read last night the preface to the KJV in one of my old Bibles (1794) written by the translators and guess what they said? Basically what you said. (shoot!)

That preface to the KJV said that they were trying to make a modern translation for the people so that they could read it and understand; that they were taking the good translations (Tyndale's, etc.) and making one good one from them.

Another thing that struck me was that it was an ecumenical translation! There were Anglicans and Puritans involved for example.

My friend really is teachable. He is the only dyed-in-the-wool KJV-Only enthusiast I have ever known who truly was willing to emulate the Bereans. He continued:

Okay, you convinced me. I think I expressed my concerns incorrectly. I know that for 1600 years the world got along fine without the KJV. If all translations had the same verses and said basically the same thing then it wouldn't matter as much to me. I know that what I believe, I believe by faith, given to me by God but how do you witness to someone and tell them the Bible says this and then they look in their version and come back with, mine doesn't?

Though he had been convinced by the information I had given him, my friend was still trying to come to terms with his new reality. He appeared to perceive an insurmountable weakness in his witness, now that he felt he no longer could trust the KJV. How to handle a challenge from someone who is using a different version? In my years of experience in apologetics and polemics, that issue had never come up. In fact, the only times version issues had ever come up was when I pointed out "unusual" translations in a Catholic Bible version that varied significantly from the readings in my Young's Literal Translation (Textus Receptus), my New American Standard Bible (Eberhard Nestle) or my New King James Version (Majority Text).

If the issue comes up, and it hasn't in my experience, tell them the truth. You simply say that some modern versions of the Scripture are based on different manuscripts. No need to defend a version. That's an old habit, I dare say, that grew out of your association with KJV-Only folks.

If they insist, and I really can't imagine why they would, explain why translations can differ with the times and the translator. If they persist, give them godly advice: tell them to consider their choice of version and to seek the Lord's guidance in the matter. It IS permitted to be less than perfect, even when witnessing. Look at the guys who tagged along with Jesus for as long as three years. They got their training first hand from the Master, and still screwed up now and then. Even after he was indwelt by the Holy Spirit, Peter had trouble over the circumcision issue, as you recall. Only the truth should be used when witnessing.

I wanted to impress upon my friend that the message to the ends of the earth is the Gospel, not which Bible version to use. I wanted him to understand that, in apologetics, we are supposed to be ever ready to defend our Christian faith, not our choice of Bible version or translation. Such issues are peripheral to apologetics.

More than 5000 manuscripts of the Greek New Testament survive. Some 85% of these agree so closely with one another that they are considered to be a "Majority Text." The other manuscripts contain significant differences from the Majority Text and so are considered Minority Texts. There is a third classification of New Testament Greek texts, the Textus Receptus, compiled from half a dozen miniscule manuscripts dating from the 10th century, upon which the KJV was based.

My friend appeared to be inconsolable. He seemed to believe that the very foundations of his belief system had been destroyed. From where was he to draw support for his theological arguments?

What am I supposed to do? Go to the early church fathers or something? That's my dilemma. If the KJV is not the Word of God, it sort of blows Sola Scriptura right out of the water and strongly supports the Catholic position. I first heard the Gospel message by preaching but what was that preaching based upon?

To my mind, my friend was focusing on the wrong issues, and I told him so:

The preaching is based upon God's revelation to man. Do you doubt your call? I sure don't doubt your call. Everything I've seen from you manifests to the world your saved state.

You keep demanding forensic evidence. Faith is not something that can be broken down into component parts and examined under a microscope. You are trying to find God by looking as the world looks. You won't find Him that way. You have to look by faith.

Does the pagan who receives God's call to salvation challenge the evangelist or preacher who brought him God's word? Does he demand credentials or notarized statements that all that the evangelist speaks is authentic? Of course he doesn't. Why? Because he doesn't need it. God's Word is strong enough to overcome bad preaching, bad witness by preachers and evangelists, bad translations, etc. Think about it. God created everything that exists -- except Himself. Does He really need a version of Scriptures that perfectly conforms to the words written by the inspired writers? After all, we are told that the Holy Spirit inspired these men, not that He merely used them in the role of amanuenses. They wrote the thoughts the Spirit gave them in their own words, not heavenly words. So, the extremist could argue that not even the inspired texts were 100% in conformance with the Revelation given the writers.

And how much in the 66 books of the Bible is really, absolutely necessary to the Gospel message? Only the message in John 3:15-19, plus an account of his death, burial and resurrection -- just as Paul told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. Everything else is peripheral to the Gospel message. How many people who are truly saved knew all the prophecies and could discuss the 70 weeks, or the Great Tribulation, or Mary's genealogy five minutes after they were saved? None, I daresay. We grow in sanctification, with the guidance and illumination of the Holy Spirit and the teaching and counsel of other members of the Body of Christ. Brother, you are thinking of running, when the real issue has to do with creeping.

Throughout this lengthy interaction, I had been seeking the right words to convince my friend that all was not lost simply because I had shown him that the King James Version of the Bible is not a perfect translation of the original autographs. After reading these arguments, which I believe were provided by the Holy Spirit, my friend apparently experienced an epiphany.

Most translations are the word of God and can most certainly be used by Him as the NIV was used with me in the beginning. One needs to make use of these translations and compare them, considering what texts they were translated from, how they were translated etc. If there appears to be a doctrinal difference between translations seek the counsel of the Holy Spirit in prayer and let Him convict you as to what is the truth.

Your point that what Paul stated as the Gospel in just a few words struck me as significant. It's true that is the important thing to believe that Christ died for our sins.

I suppose you are correct that new believers aren't about to get into nit-picky doctrinal discussions. The Holy Spirit will guide them and show them whatever it is they need to understand. A child-like faith is what is really needed for we can have all knowledge and still be lost.

I'm kind of going full circle here because I used to believe that they were all the word of God just using different words. It's when I discovered that not all translations said the same thing that I went to the KJV.

I need to look into this some more but thanks for your insight.

And with this, our two-day conversation ended.

Some closing thoughts:

My purpose in writing this article and the one that triggered it was not to "attack" the King James Version of the Bible, nor any other Christian version or translation. Rather, I was attempting to make clear that the Word of God is preserved in all versions of the Scriptures that are based on honest and thoughtful translation of texts compiled from ancient manuscripts that have been carefully and critically compared in order to develop the most reliable approximation of the autographs as is humanly possible.

When I mentioned to my friend that I would like to publish our conversation in order to provide information to others who may have concerns and questions similar to his, he raised a point that I need to address now. His concern was that Catholic polemists might seize on the information I have provided to develop some argument against the Christian doctrine of Sola Scriptura. My immediate reply was that no Roman Catholic polemist I have encountered needs any provocation to launch an attack against this doctrine. My friend persisted, however, arguing that the RCC spokesman conceivably might attempt to forge a weapon from the fact that non-Catholic Christians use a variety of Bibles, translated from different texts, and that these Bibles do not always read identically in very verse in the 66 books of our Bible. My response was that such a weapon would prove to be of only marginal utility, in that Roman Catholics also use a variety of English translations, based on a variety of texts that do not always read identically in every verse of the 73 books of the Catholic Bible.

When Pope Damasus set Jerome to work on a new translation of the Scriptures in 382, it was because the existing Latin translations that had been cobbled together in piecemeal fashion were drab and sometimes unreliable. Jerome worked 20 years on the project. He produced an entirely new translation of the Old Testament, drawing more from the original Hebrew and Aramaic than from the Septuagint; though he did lift the Psalms from the LXX. In response to the drive for an English Bible, the Douay-Rheims versions were translated directly from the Vulgate and for centuries were the only accepted English versions of the Catholic Scriptures. But English-speaking Catholics have not lagged far behind non-Catholics in developing new translations based on a variety of texts.

Roman Catholic Translations. Roman Catholics have produced their share of modern translations. In 1955, Monsignor Ronald Knox, of Great Britain, published a translation of the Bible from the Latin Vulgate, "in light of the Hebrew and Greek originals." It was a remarkable tour de force and may possibly be the last translation of the Bible into English made by one individual. In 1966, the English version of La Bible de Jerusalem (one-volume edition) was published under the title The Jerusalem Bible; a revised edition, The New Jerusalem Bible, based on the 1973 revised French edition, appeared in 1985. American Roman Catholics began a fresh translation of the Vulgate in 1937, and in 1941 the New Testament was printed. Work was being done on the Old Testament, but with the publication in 1942 of the encyclical Divino afflante spiritu, authorizing vernacular translations made directly from the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts, the translation was begun anew, and in 1970 The New American Bible was published. The first English Bible translated directly from the original texts by American Catholic scholars. The first step for producing a revision of this translation was taken in 1989 with the publication of the revised edition of the New Testament. One of its main purposes was to eliminate exclusive language in passages that are not exclusive in the original text. Somewhat ingenuously, however, the revisers claim that "brothers," which is retained, still has its inclusive sense. Of greater significance is the deliberate return to the principle of formal equivalence in translation, in place of dynamic equivalence. So now Jesus says "Amen, amen, I say to you" (John 3:3) and the obsolete "behold" is found. After the bold step forward in 1970, this revision represents a timorous step backward." (Bruce M. Metzger & Michael D. Coonan, Edd., The Oxford Companion to the Bible, Oxford University Press:New York (1993), p. 763)

I do not anticipate anyone will make a monumental change in his approach to the Scriptures as a consequence of reading the foregoing. My wish is only that people think about how they approach whatever version of the Bible they are using.

Home | Doctrine | Catholic Stuff | PTG Forum