The Translations Trap


“For among my people are found wicked men: they lay wait, as he that setteth snares; they set a trap, they catch men.” (Jeremiah 5:26)

In our day it seems that a new translation comes out just about every day. I am not greatly concerned with the effect this has on contemporary religion nor am I overly concerned about which translation is used in pulpits and churches where the verbal inspiration of the Scripture is not believed. These people will wrest the Scripture to their own destruction anyhow if they are not made to realize the authority and inspiration of the Bible.

What I am very concerned about is a trap that some godly, Bible-believing men are falling into. I think I see them sniffing the cheese when I hear such phrases as “The King James Bible has a poor translation here.” or “A better rendering is found in the so-and-so translation.” or “This should read…” or “The correct translation would be…” or “The true meaning of this passage is lost in translation.” and on and on we go in the name of scholarship. But what is the effect of this “scholarship?” It may well make the speaker sound intelligent to his congregation. It will probably make them feel that they need to go to him for advice in interpreting the Bible. These things may inflate his ego, but they, in fact, tend to defeat his ministry for they undermine the very authority of it. Whereas he should be saying in words discernible to even the simple, “Thus sayeth the Lord,” he is, in object lesson, saying, “Has the Lord spoken at all, and if so where are His words, and if we have them, to whom must we go for an explanation of them?” The true effect of this is the destruction of his congregation’s over-all faith in the Word of God.


In this short message I will not list words and verses which are omitted from the modern versions, nor will I compare and expound Greek meanings where words have been changed, though both of these would certainly add to my argument. What I intend to do is to simply show that translation hopping, or hunting better translations is a trap into which one may fall, and in which his Bible will be taken away from him.


In Psalm 12:6-7 we read, “The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” According to this statement God has before committed Himself to the preservation of His words. If there has ever been any such thing as the words of God, they are yet preserved today and shall be forever. The Lord made this statement irrefutable as far as any true Christian is concerned, when He said in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” So we must conclude that the Word is preserved for us today, but where and in what form? Is it in little bits and pieces of many differing translations scattered among error, mistranslation, and ecclesiastical trickery? Is it written on lost scrolls or unexcavated rocks, or in a million Chinese fortune cookies?


Our faith in Christ, our confidence in the very existence of God, all our understanding of His character and intent toward man, and our hope of salvation, all lays upon the foundation of what we call the Bible. Destroy it and all the claims of Christianity are absolutely baseless. The pertinent question then is, what is the Bible?

The confidence of preservation of Scripture has to lay on the conclusion that God has preserved His Word through translation for few Christian people today read either Greek or Hebrew, the languages in which almost all the Bible was originally written. The originals are certainly not in existence, so God obviously preserved it through men whom He moved upon to faithfully copy and translate it. If He could move upon men to write it in the first place, this should be no problem.


I think most of my readers will agree with me this far, so I will proceed and hence address myself to those “versions” or “translations” written in the English language. I am not critical of the study of the Greek language. It can be very helpful. However, if it is a necessity we are hard put to prove that God has preserved His Word for any large segment of His people. We have taken it out of print and put it into the hands of men, “scholars,” who will tell us what to believe. I believe though that we can read an English Bible and thus read the very Word and words of God. Be sure you work out the implications of the denial of this statement before you disagree. When we have agreed on this as Bible believers do, we must then ask, which English Bible?


As I sit in my study I can see the A.S.V., the R.S.V., the Twentieth Century New Testament, the T.E.V., the Phillips New Testament, the New World Translation, the New English Bible, and I suppose that when someone else comes to give away trash, I’ll have some of the others. I’ve never spent a dime on any translation except the King James Bible, the Holy Bible. By now you are saying, “Do you put it in a category different from all the others?” I answer emphatically, yes. I think it stands in a class totally different from all the rest for English speaking people.

When we compare it to the T.E.V., A.S.V., R.S.V., the New English Bible or the New World Translation we are absolutely forced to the conclusion that they are all different from the King James Translation. They are not all the same, but they are all obviously kin to each other and obviously none of them is kin to the King James Bible.

An illustration of this basic difference can be seen in the R.S.V. The book of Mark concludes with chapter 16 verse 8, and is followed by the note, “Other texts and versions add as 16:9-20 the following passage.” then they complete verses 9-20 in italics. It is thus the claim of the A.S.V., the R.S.V., the New World Translation, the J. B. Phillips Translation, the T.E.V., the New English Bible, etc., that Mark 16:9-20 is not part of “God’s Word,” but an “addition.” This portion of Scripture is not alone in getting the “scholarship axe.” It happens again and again in literally dozens of places.


The question we must ask here is simply, which of these two Bibles is the Bible? It is obvious that the several which agree in these changes and omissions are not the same as the King James Bible. It stands alone and the others stand together. Whatever differences you may find in them, you will surely find them much more in unity with each other than you find any one of them in unity with the King James Bible.


Scholars understand that the reason for this is that the King James Bible was translated from manuscripts different from the others. The King James Translation (the Holy Bible) was translated from the Textus Receptus (New Testament), while the others came, for the most part, from the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus texts through the “scholarship” of two men named Wesscott and Hort, neither of whom accepted many basic fundamentals of the faith, but let’s not cloud the issue with this fact. When one group of translations has omitted dozens of passages, while another translation has included them, either they (the other versions) have been tampered with or it (the King James Version) has been added to. Both cannot possibly be God’s perfectly preserved Word. In Deuteronomy 4:2 and Revelation 22:18-19, we find stern warnings against tampering with God’s Word. We are warned neither to add to, nor to take away from God’s Word. “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you” (Deuteronomy 4:2). “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19). Anyone with enough sense to tell a rat from a rhinoceros can see that these so-called Bibles have done that which Scripture forbids. It is my honest opinion that any man who can credit the other translations mentioned with being the Bible is morally obligated to put away his King James Bible and brand it a hoax that has been polluted and thus destroyed by having had something added to it that is not God’s Word. If, on the other hand, they claim that the King James translation is the Bible, they must put away all the others for they are polluted and thus destroyed by having had a part of the Word of God taken from them, something added to them and many things changed.


To imagine that we can accept part of it, and part of them, is folly of the plainest sort and leads to all kinds of inconsistency. It would imply that I can take the part of one that I count the best translation and the part of the others that I count best and most scholarly and thus I, compositely, have the Bible. Of course, this would give every man a different Bible, convictions and doctrinal opinion according to his own taste. You have thus mounted your horse and ridden off in all directions. We have a definite Word of God perfectly preserved or we don’t have the Word of God at all. You cannot possibly say it is preserved in part in all these translations. That would be about as preserved as having the summer’s crop of fruit preserved in all the neighbors’ garbage cans.


You may say, “I’ll take something in contemporary English and phraseology that I can more readily understand.” If that is the only basis of reasoning, why not take the funny papers instead? They are in contemporary English and you can probably even understand it, but it won’t be God’s Word, and it won’t make you wise unto salvation, and it won’t throughly furnish you unto every good work.

We aren’t talking about personal taste, we are talking about the identity of the supernaturally and eternally preserved Word of God. Brother, I’ll go with the King James Bible, the Holy Bible, the only one that God has blessed in evangelistic work among English speaking people in the last three hundred and fifty years. It stands for the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, the pre-existence of Christ, and on and on we could go, while the others deny, neglect, or omit these things in a great many places.

It is my honest opinion that to move into the area of quoting, crediting or sanctioning the other “translations” just because they may state some particular verse more beautifully than the King James Version is a trap. To fall into it will cause people to question and then to logically and reasonably reject the faith that we do, in fact, have the Word of God at all.

Brethren, be not deceived. The King James Bible is a masterful translation directed by God. All the men working on it were believers. This can’t be said of the others. It is, indeed, very scholarly and is written in a beautiful and precise language. Any believer who will read it can understand it with time and study, and when he does he has understood God’s Holy Word. Beware that you don’t let “scholarship” lure you into the “Translation Trap.”