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“Holding forth the Word of Life” Philippians 2:16
“Holding fast the Faithful Word” Titus 1:9
Text: Psalm 12:6–7
The Lord has not only inspired His Holy Word—absolutely perfect and completely without error—through His prophets and apostles during biblical times, He has also preserved it for His people down through the ages. There is no single time in history that the church did not have the Word of God. Although originally written in Hebrew and Greek, the Lord has raised faithful men to translate His Word into English so that we may know Him and make Him known.
Now in terms of English Bibles, there are at least half a dozen English versions of the Bible to choose from—besides the KJV, you have the NKJV, NASB, NIV, RSV, TEV, TLB, NEB, CEV etc. Can all these versions without exception be regarded as the Word of God? Imprinted on the front cover in all these versions are the words “Holy Bible.” Now the question we want to ask this morning is: With so many modern versions available to us? Why do we only use the KJV? Some of you here may not be using the KJV. For non-KJV users you must ask yourself: Is the English version I am using the Word of God? How can I know whether my English Bible is God’s Word. Ask these 2 questions and put your version to the test: (1) Does it faithfully and accurately translate the original Hebrew and Greek Bible, and (2) Does it promote or demote our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ?
For our discussion, let us put 3 modern versions to the test, comparing them with the KJV. We will see how these popular versions (1) are unreliable translations of the Bible, and (2) have demoted the person and work of Christ. We will also see how the KJV is reliable and accurate in its translation of God’s Word.
How may a sinner be cleansed of sin? Only by the blood of Jesus Christ shed for us on the cross. For without the shedding of blood “there is no remission” (Heb 9:22). We are redeemed by “the precious blood of Christ” (1 Pet 1:19).
Yet the TEV (or Good News Bible) replaced the word “blood” with “death,” or “sacrifice.” This has occurred in these 10 places in the NT (Acts 20:28; Rom 3:25, 5:9; Eph 1:7, 2:13; Col 1:14, 20; 1 Pet 1:19; Rev 1:5, 5:9).
What is the problem with this? (1) The TEV has changed the Word of God. The word for “blood” found in all the above occurrences with reference to the blood of Christ is the Greek haima (English: haemo—“blood”). The word for death is a totally different word in the Greek—thanatos (English: euthanasia—literally “good death;” or mercy killing). By rendering the word haima as “death” instead of its actual meaning “blood,” the TEV has changed the Word of God. A translation must be a translation. You cannot in translating change the meaning of the original word. When you read your English Bible, you want to be sure that you are reading in English what the original Greek and Hebrew say. But the TEV prevents you from doing that. (2) The TEV has twisted the doctrine of the atoning work of Christ. It is important for us to understand that we are not simply saved by the death of Christ, but the death of Christ which involves the shedding of His precious blood. If Jesus were to die by drowning or had gone to the gallows (death by being hung on a rope or noose) without shedding of blood, His death would not have saved us. For without the shedding of blood is no remission. The blood is very important. “There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins, and sinner plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains.” There is power in the blood of Jesus Christ. So by mistranslating the word blood, the TEV has robbed us of the significance of the blood of Christ for our salvation.
The eternal generation of the second person of the Holy Trinity (i.e. Jesus is the eternally begotten Son of God) is an important doctrine of the Christian Faith. The 4th century Athanasian and Nicene Creeds state that Jesus is both Son and God “only-begotten, . . . of the Father before all the ages.” The Westminster Confession of Faith likewise followed the ancient creeds in describing the relationship that exists within the Godhead: “In the unity of the Godhead, there be three persons, of one substance, power and eternity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son” (II.3).
All 3 ancient creeds describe Christ as only begotten, or eternally begotten. Now you know that every doctrine must be based on the Bible. Where in the Bible do we find Jesus being described as only begotten Son of God? If you have the KJV you will find it in John 1:14, and 3:16. But if you are using the NIV, you will have a hard time finding this doctrine in the Bible. The term “only begotten” with reference to Christ has been conveniently removed by the NIV. It mistranslates the Greek monogenes as “one and only.” Problem is monogenes does not just mean “one and only.” The Greek monogenes comes from 2 words: monos meaning “only” and gennao meaning “to beget” or “to generate.” The KJV translates it literally and accurately as “only begotten.”
Do you now see why we as Bible-Presbyterians cannot use the NIV? The WCF teaches according to the Scriptures that Jesus “the Son is eternally begotten of the Father.” Now if I were to teach a class on the WCF, we come to this point on the eternal generation of the Son, and one of you were to ask me this very good question: “In which verse of the Bible is Jesus described as the only begotten Son of God?” If I have the NIV as my Bible, I will no Biblical proof. The NIV has removed this important doctrine of the person of Christ from the Scriptures. It has subtracted from God’s Word; a very dangerous thing to do (Rev 22:19). That is why we cannot trust the NIV. Why? Because instead of telling us what God says, it tells us what man thinks God is saying. The NIV becomes an interpretation, and not translation of the Bible.
The precious prophecy of the Virgin Birth of Christ is found in Isa 7:14. The incarnation demands an extraordinary birth. This is indicated by the word “sign” in v14. The virgin birth was to be a miraculous sign.
But the RSV renders the Hebrew ’almah as “young woman.” This does violence to the text. How can it be a “sign” when it is a “young woman” who conceives? It is a God-given miracle only if a virgin conceives. Moreover, the angel Gabriel quoting Isa 7:14 in Matt 1:23 translates the Hebrew word ’almah with the Greek parthenos which in no uncertain terms means “virgin.” So, multiple choice question: Which translator would you trust: (a) RSV or (b) Gabriel? If you answer (a) you get a big zero, if you choose (b) A+. Matt 1:18, and 25 tell us very clearly and emphatically that Mary was a virgin from the time she conceived Jesus till the time she gave birth to Him—a virgin conception and a virgin birth. The RSV has not only (1) corrupted the Word of God by making the prophecy of Isa 7:14 non-miraculous, it has also (2) attacked the virgin birth of Christ.
Rabbi Israel Bettan, professor of Hebrew Union College, was asked of his opinion of the RSV. He said, “The Revised Standard Version is not a faithful translation, and in some places the revisers do violence to the original Hebrew. It is a good book on the Bible, but it is not the Bible. When asked to compare the King James Version with various translations, the rabbi said that of the English versions mentioned the King James Version was, in his opinion, the most faithful to the original.”
The KJV is accurate in its translation of the Holy Scriptures, and faithful in exalting the Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot say the same for the TEV, NIV, and RSV. At various points they have corrupted the Word of God, and attacked the person of Jesus Christ. How can we use and promote these modernistic versions?
We thank the Lord for the good old version—the KJV. Let us stick to it, for we have full confidence that when we read it, we are reading the Word of God. And it is only when we read the Word of God in its purity and accuracy, not a diluted or corrupted version, that God will bless and stir our hearts to greater heights of spirituality and service.
Dr Jeffrey Khoo is academic dean of the Far Eastern Bible College.