It’s scary when the Bible you use gets attacked by other Christians.
And as a pastor, I want to bring certainty to weary saints about their Bibles. Last week, we started seeing an answer to the accusations against modern translations. The New International Version (NIV) is the popular one to talk against, but most of the allegations made against the NIV would also be true for any modern English translation.
Here are a few of the modern English translations sharing mostly the same set of allegations:
- English Standard Version (ESV)
- Holman Christian Standard Version (HCSB)
- New American Standard Bible (NASB)
- New English Translation (NET)
- New Living Translation (NLT)
- New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
- Revised Standard Version (RSV)
Although the NIV is picked on because it’s the “big kid on the block”, all modern English translations are attacked in these posts and warnings.
Interesting. What do these English translations all have in common?
Here are some of the popular “reports” we see in our inboxes and newsfeeds:
- “The NIV bible is a translated version of the Bible from the original King James Version.”
- “NIV Bible has left out words like Calvary, Jehovah, and Omnipotent” (and the list gets longer in some articles)
- “The new owner of NIV, Harper Collins, has also published the controversial Satanic Bible and The Joy of Gay Sex.”
- “There are verses completely omitted from the NIV that are vitally important to our belief about Jesus. Look for Matthew 17:21, 18:11, 23:14, Mark 7:16, 9:44, 9:46, Luke 17:36, 23:17, John 5:4 and John 8:1-11.”
Last week, we examined the NIV as a translation of the King James version. Now, let’s look at this one because it’s a very common one: The NIV Bible has left out words like Calvary, Jehovah, and Omnipotent. Although the list is longer here and there, the explanations below will be helpful no matter the length of the list.
Again, the allegations aren’t limited to the NIV; they’re true (to a greater or lesser degree) of all modern English translations. So have modern English translations “left out words like Calvary, Jehovah, and Omnipotent” along with entire passages of Scripture?
As stated last week, unless you read Biblical Hebrew (and a smattering of Aramaic) and Greek, you’re stuck reading the Bible in translation and translation is hardly an exact science. Both technical science and creative art form, translation attempts to bring words, syntax, grammar, and meaning from one language and culture into another. Read that sentence again; it’s huge. I’ll wait here for you.
The “omissions” of words like Calvary, Jehovah, and Omnipotent (and many of the other words these articles cite) are based entirely on this technical science and creative art form of translating. Here are the answers (without getting too technical):
- “Calvary” – an English version of a Latin word. It’s not Greek or Hebrew and isn’t part of the Biblical text. It’s in the (Latin) Vulgate. When the King James Version translators saw the word appropriately translated “Golgatha,” they used an Anglicized version of the Greek word from the (Latin) Vulgate and—poof—the English word “Calvary” was born. Welcome to the language!
- “Jehovah” – an unfortunate transliteration of God’s name: YHVH or YHWH (there’s debate in Biblical Hebrew about the “w” or “v”). There’s no “j” in Biblical Hebrew. God’s name is most definitely not, nor was it ever pronounced, “Jehovah”. The reality is this: we don’t know how to pronounce God’s name; because, we don’t know the vowels. Modern English Translations alert us to God’s name by using “LORD” (it’s small caps but many browsers struggle to show it correctly) to show us when the Hebrew text uses God’s Name, YHVH.
- “Omnipotent” – a term referring to God being all-powerful. This English word is only found in Revelation 19:6 in the King James Version. The translators chose to translate it as “omnipotent” instead of “Almighty”. Truly, semantics (“almighty” means “all might” or “all powerful”—the same thing as “omnipotent”).
So…we’ve learned thus far the NIV (or any other modern translation) isn’t a translation of the King James and these modern versions didn’t remove words. Next week, we’ll expand this out and look at those verses and passages that have completely disappeared from modern English translations. Warning: it’s gonna rattle your paradigm.
Rest in the power of the Word of God to challenge, transform, and give us life. Let us live out the praise in Heaven declaring: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns” (Revelation 19:6, NIV).