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Modern Versions and Perversions

by Joe R. Price

There are over 450 versions of the Bible in English alone.  New versions continue to be published, not all of which have as their primary interest that of being a precise translation of the ancient manuscripts.  In fact, very few have that as their intended purpose.  The September 25, 1995 issue of U. S. News & World Report carried an article entitled “Street Talk, Simplicity and PC” which reported the aim of many of the modern-day versions of the Bible is to make the “ancient scriptures more relevant and comprehensible to modern readers than the standard King James Version.”  I am all for comprehending the Biblical text and for using understandable translations that help us understand it.  Current language rather than archaic words and expressions can be very helpful toward that end.  At the same time we must recognize there are Bible “translations” that do not faithfully translate the ancient text.  Rather than producing faithful translations, such versions are “thought” translations, offering us interpretations of the text rather than translations of it.  These will not help us arrive at an accurate understanding of God’s word since their objective is not a word for word translation.  Such versions cannot be confidently relied on as God’s word. 

Some attempts at modern language Bibles are nothing short of blasphemous.  The New Testament and Psalms: An Inclusive Version, published by Oxford University Press, uses gender-neutral language and other departures from the original text.  God the Father is now the “Father-Mother” and the Son of Man is “the human one.”  So as not offend left-handed people, God’s right hand is now His “mighty hand,” and to avoid racial overtones, “darkness” is not used to depict evil.  Ah yes, politically correct scriptures yet woefully corrupt translations.

Then there is the Black Bible Chronicles, a paraphrase by P. K. McCary, a Houston educator.  She has used slang to “liven up” Biblical narratives for African-American teenagers.  Here is her treatment of creation from Genesis One:  “Now when the Almighty was first down with his program, He made the heavens and the earth.  The earth was a fashion misfit, being so uncool and dark, but the Spirit of the Almighty came down real tough, so that He simply said, ‘Lighten up!’ And that light was right on time.”  McCary also offers a paraphrase of the gospel called Rapping With Jesus.

We can learn at least two things from this.  First, when we are not convinced the Bible is the verbally inspired word of God we begin to take more and more license with it.  We fail to respect it as we should.  We begin to shape it and mold it into what we want it to be, instead of conforming ourselves to it.  The Bible calls such manipulation of the scriptures sin that leads to destruction (II Peter 3:16).  Man has become the standard by which the Bible is judged instead of the other way around.

Second, could it be that we have become so lazy in our reading and study of the Bible that we simply do not want to exert the energy and effort required to know and properly use it?  (II Timothy 2:15)  We want all the work done for us.  We have become comfortable with mediocre Bible knowledge.  We should remember that Israel was destroyed for her lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).

God’s word is “living and active” and “abides forever” (Hebrews 4:12; I Peter 1:23-25).  We should use a translation of the Bible we can easily read and that is faithful to the Hebrew and Greek text.  But we must not alter the text and meaning of God’s inspired word with “modern versions” that are really perversions (Galatians 1:6-9).