“THE NIV HAS REMOVED VERSES AND ENTIRE PASSAGES FROM THE BIBLE!”
It’s true (even if the sixteenth president of the United States didn’t say it). That even means not everything shared on Facebook is true. Some of it is wrong. Ever experienced that?
This is week three in a four-week overview of the accusations constantly made against modern Bible translations. These blogs are this pastor’s attempt to offer answers without writing a dissertation’s worth of a response. Admittedly, I’m barely skipping across the surface of the answer, but I hope it inspires you to either realize not every “panic post” in Christianity is true or to research these “panic posts” for yourself before you share them.
As a “Bible nerd”, there’s a mix of rolling my eyes and frustration at these posts about “the evil of modern translations”. Usually it’s all directed at the NIV because of its popularity (we love beating up on those at the top of the pack—just look at the attacks American presidents endure), but the accusations against the NIV are true for virtually ALL modern translations.
Last week, I remarked that translation is hardly an exact science but is a mix of a technical science and creative art form undertaken by Biblical scholars. It’s no small feat and if the Internet is any consideration, not without peril to the translations.
What technical science or creative art form gives a bunch of scholars the right to take verses out of the Bible?!?
And what will blow your paradigm is this (brace yourself): they didn’t remove one single verse.
Since all translations are based on the Bible in Greek and Hebrew (and a touch of Aramaic), every translation from the King James Version through the English Standard Version and beyond is based on Greek and Hebrew texts. There are two broad categories of Biblical texts: the Majority Text and the Textus Receptus (or “Received Text”).
The Textus Receptus was named thusly because, at the time, it was what that part of Europe had access to and this was the basis for the King James Version.
Four hundred years of Biblical archeology and research revealed a whole other family of texts. These texts were far older and greater in number than those grouped together as the Textus Receptus and they’ve since been called the Majority Text. This family of Biblical texts is the basis for modern translations.
The irony: modern translations use the most ancient and reliable texts.
The accusations of verses and passages being “removed” in modern translations actually highlights the unreliability of Bible translations based on the Textus Receptus. That’s right: modern translations didn’t remove anything; the King James Version added them. Because the issue is not an English one, but a Hebrew and Greek one.
I’m not saying the King James Version translators were acting on behalf of the devil in using a Biblical text that was defective; they used what they were told to use and lacked the ability to compare it to others. It didn’t help that back in the early 1600s, England had isolated itself because of the actions of King James himself. The information was available but not to them at that time.
Again, this is just skipping across the surface of the answer, but it’s meant to show you there is an answer to the accusation.
As I wrote in the first week of this study: neither the NIV translators nor any other modern English Bible translators would want to “translate” from the King James Version. And now you know why.
In the words of Abraham Lincoln on July 3, 1861 in a message to Congress, “And having thus chosen our course, without guile, and with pure purpose, let us renew our trust in God, and go forward without fear, and with manly hearts.”
And as the Apostle Paul put it in Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV), “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Next week, we finish this four-part study with looking more in-depth at the art of translation itself, including the English “controversy” of gender-inclusive language.