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Deciding What is True About Bible Versions
The following e-mail is commenting on the items listed at Bible Versions Controversy. The e-mailers comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.
>Gary F. Zeolla:
How am I (or any average person) supposed to know what is true and what is not? (see below opposing quotes)
"I became convinced the Textus Receptus (TR) Greek text the New Testament of the NKJV is based on is more reliable than the Critical Text (CT) underlying the NASB (and the NIV)." - [Note: from my NAS95 Review].
"The selection of a corrupted text (e.g., Textus Receptus or Majority Text) might reflect badly on a New Testament translator's judgment or integrity" (Herald Mag)<
The answer to your general question is a dilemma we all face in many ways. For instance, one doctor says you need an operation, another says you do not. Do you go under the knife or not?
One mechanic says your car's engine needs a costly repair. Another says it doesn't. Do you spend the money or not?
One nutritionist says to eat a low-fat diet; another says to follow a low-carb diet. What do you eat?
I could go on, but I think you get the point. In every area of life there are "experts" split on important issues. But people without expertise in the respective fields need to make decisions. How do we do that?
For me, I first gather as much information as I can from what seem to be the most reliable sources. Of course, deciding what a reliable source is in itself is a difficult decision. But you can look at someone's qualifications, what type of person they are, how accurate they are in areas you do have knowledge of, and simply if they seem to know what they are talking about.
And especially in Christian matters, I would say how a person goes about presenting their views is important. If they have to do a lot of name calling, "bad-mouthing" those who disagree with them, and simply seem to "shout" a lot, then maybe all their rantings are a way of covering up their lack of sound arguments.
That all said, the reason "I became convinced" the TR, and more so, the MT, are more reliable than the CT is because I read as much as I could on both sides of the debate, and as prayerfully as possible came to a conclusion. It took time and a lot of thinking. But as time has gone on, I am more sure than ever I came to the correct conclusion. So much so that for my own translation I am currently using the TR, and will eventually convert the text to being based on the MT.
That being the case, you have to excuse me if I take offense at the above comment by James Parkinson, the writer of the article your quote comes from. On what basis is he saying my "integrity" is in question because I am using the TR/ MT? He doesn't even know me. But he can make a blanket statement like that about anyone who uses the TR/ MT in translation. Is that Christian?
My point being, such a comment should be a "red flag" that such a writer just might not be able to be trusted. And reading through his article "How To Choose a Bible Translation," I see many more comments that would raise "red flags" for me.
First is his comment in reference to 1John 5:7, "Few twentieth century versions insert it, except for Green and the New King James version (NKM, who simply ignore the ancient manuscripts.)"
Now if you check the NKJV, you will see there is a footnote to this verse reading, "Only four or five very late manuscripts contain these words in Greek." And in the preface to his interlinear, Green writes about this verse, "We have not deleted these from the Greek text as supplied by the Trinitarian Bible Society, though we do not accept them as part of Holy Scripture" (p.xi). The words are then placed in italics in his Literal Translation of the Bible, the marginal reading in the interlinear. Does this sound like these translators "ignored" the textual evidence?
Then in discussing John 1:18, Parkinson uses the following phrase, "The four oldest and best manuscripts of this verse ..." Now, the manuscripts he is referring to might be the "oldest" but on what basis is he saying they are the "best?" Is it simply because they are the oldest? If so, then Parkinson is "ignoring" all of the arguments that MT advocates present as to why "oldest" does not necessarily mean "best" when it comes to manuscripts.
Along these same lines, he states, "" Some others simply refuse to believe the early manuscripts." He states this as if it is an "absolute" that the "early manuscripts" are the best. He seems unaware of or is "ignoring" all of the arguments to the contrary.
My point here is, Parkinson is making a lot of assumptions that he does not substantiate. And in doing so, he is questioning the "integrity" of others without warrant. Does any of this make Parkinson sound like a reliable source?
But worst of all is the following statement of his, "The Jehovah's Witnesses' New World Translation (NWT, 1950) offers a relatively accurate translation from a different theological perspective."
I know of no way to say this except very bluntly: the NWT is the most horrid translation I have ever seen. It is not "from a different theological perspective" but purposely mistranslated to support a particular "theological perspective." And there is a world of difference between the two. And even if I didn't know Hebrew and Greek, knowing how the JWs consistently twist quotations from "experts" in their literature would cause me to question anything they produce.
Along these lines is the following statement about the punctuation of Luke 23:43 (And Jesus said to him [the repentant thief on the cross], "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise" - NKJV) :
Grammatically the comma goes equally well before or after the word "today." Rotherham, the New World Translation, and Concordant place it after. It is preferred to go after "today," because until the third day, according to Acts 2:3 1, Christ went to "hell"--which is not normally considered Paradise.
Note, Parkinson is using his interpretation of another verse to defend the NWT's punctuation of this verse. Meanwhile, in my discussion on this verse, I simply appeal to the consistency of how the opening phrase is punctuated throughout the NT, and simple logic, but not my theology. See Positively, I say to you, today ....
To close, I do not know who Parkinson is. I never heard of him before. And maybe what he writes on other topics is reliable. But putting all of this together, I would say his article is not a reliable "source" for information on "How to choose a Bible translation."
> I really wish to choose a good translation, and I agree with your two main preferences (1-literal, 2-based on good sources) and with your minor preference (modern English). Perhaps until I can know whether the TR or the CT is better, the NKJV would fit well since it has footnotes detailing both as well as the MT.<
That is what I did at first. As I relate in my article *My Bible Versions Experiences when I first began using the NKJV it was not because I was yet convinced the TR/ MT was better than the CT, but because the footnotes let me know where there might be a question on a verse. So yes, this would be a good place to begin.
Otherwise, the best I can recommend is to do some reading on textual criticism. Understand better why CT scholars believe "earlier = better" and why MT proponents do not, along with all the other varying arguments pro and con for each text. And then based on the best information you can find, make a decision. It's what we all have to do in so many areas of life.
> I would really be happy if you could find the time to respond, but I understand if you cannot.
I hope the above is helpful.
It seems that the article by James Parkinson referenced in the correspondence, "Deciding What is True About Bible Versions" should be disqualified from any meaningful commentary due to the following quote: "The Jehovah's Witnesses' New World Translation (NWT, 1950) offers a relatively accurate translation from a different theological perspective."
I know of no evangelical scholar who would call the NWT as "relatively accurate" nor Jehovah's Witnesses a "different theological perspective." Those two strikes put him out of the game; no need waiting for a third.
Here's a good source covering the many errors in the NWT. This really renders the phrase "relatively accurate" as misinformed at best, and deceitful at worst. It turns out, after investigating that the James Parker site is a "Bible Students" site, the bible student conventions were JW meetings conducted in the first half of the 20th century.
All very good points. And Thank you for the info.
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