Bible Versions

Q. Which interpretation is most accurate? They all convey different meanings:
• NIV Has not the one God made you? You belong to Him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring.
• ESV Did He not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring.
• KJV And did not He make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That He might seek a godly seed.

A. I studied only very little Hebrew, not enough to do proper translation. Using an interlinear does not help much as the word-for-word translation does not give you the word order in English sentences. Having said that, I would first take a look at the Amplified or Expanded Bible to see the range of possible meanings allowed by the text:

• Amplified Bible, Classic Ed. And did not God make [you and your wife] one [flesh]? Did not One make you and preserve your spirit alive? And why [did God make you two] one? Because He sought a godly offspring [from your union]. Therefore take heed to yourselves, and let no one deal treacherously and be faithless to the wife of his youth.
• Expanded Bible. God made [ Did not God make…?] husbands and wives to become one body and one spirit for His purpose—so they would have children who are true to God [godly offspring]. So be careful [ guard yourself in your spirit], and do not break your promise [be unfaithful] to the wife you married when you were young [ of your youth].

Language is not like numbers, with only one meaning within our decimal system. In translating, which possible meaning to use is the choice of the translators, subject to the context. With that as background, I would look at the 3 translations again and offer the following comments:

• NIV. In English, “you” can be either singular or plural. Does it mean the man who has been unfaithful to his wife (singular), or the husband and wife collectively (plural)? Mal 2:14-15 read, “You ask, “Why?” It is because the LORD is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. 15 Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth. So the NIV context indicates singular, the man who hates and divorces his wife.

• ESV. The ESV, on the other hand, says, “But you say, “Why does He not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did He not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. The ESV chose the plural, the man and his wife.

Which is more accurate? I can offer you only my opinion – I prefer the ESV. Of course the man is the guilty party in divorcing his wife, but the nature of his sin is in breaking the marriage covenant, where God joined two together to become one. For the man to divorce his wife not only does violence to her, but is an affront to God who joined them; hence my preference.

• KJV. While some are “KJV Only” as they believe all contemporary versions are less accurate, I feel they are too narrowly focused. I hold a conservative position, but I believe textual criticism has value in getting closer to the original meaning. As a minimum, I suggest using the NKJV instead of the KJV to avoid the burden of old English. Mal 2:15 in the NKJV reads, “But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.” The word “them” is not in the original Hebrew, but interpolated by the translators as the best meaning. As such, it is essentially the same as the ESV.

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War on the Bible

bible under attack 1

Recently I received a WhatsApp message from which I quote the following:
“Covert war on changing the Bible now becomes overt. The NIV was published by Zondervan but is now owned by Harper Collins, who also publishes the Satanic Bible and The Joy of Gay Sex. The NIV and ESV has now removed 64,575 words from the Bible including Jehovah, Calvary, Holy Ghost and omnipotent, to name but a few … The NIV and ESV has also now removed 45 complete verses. … Try and find these scriptures in NIV and ESV on your computer, phone or device right now if you are in doubt: Mt 17:21, 18:11, 23:14; Mk 7:16, 9:44, 9:46; Lk 17:36, 23:17; Jn 5:4; Acts 8:37 … you will not believe your eyes. …”
The message then went on other subjects such as the rapture, the mark of the beast etc., warning Christians to be vigilant.

I myself use the NASB most of the time, but supplements it with the NIV, ESV, and NKJV as the need arises. I do not like any publisher distributing books that corrupt society, but I also believe the message’s author, in criticizing the NIV and the ESV above, is over-reacting in his/her assertions.

I know the progressive attempts in revising Bible versions to make it more politically correct, such as the use of gender-inclusive language, and the downplaying of certain doctrines to make it more palatable to those who find the truth “offensive” e.g. hell, prohibition on homosexuality. When translators select language according to their own theological biases, they are no longer translating but interpreting. That is not being true to Scripture, and not acceptable.

However, language does evolve with usage and changes over time. The KJV, for example, was very modern 500 years ago, but with the passage of time became archaic and hard to understand. This necessitates fresh translations into the language of the common people, so that the reader can understand God’s word in his native tongue and cultural setting. This is not only acceptable but in fact needed if we want people to follow what the Bible teaches.

The NIV and ESV have their flaws, but not in the manner described. When the message said “64,575 words have been removed from the Bible”, I assume it was comparing both versions the KJV, which “KJV only” supporters hold to be the only reliable translation. But the examples cited are really using different words to translate the Hebrew or Greek words into English:
• Jehovah = LORD
• Calvary = The Skull
• Holy Ghost = Holy Spirit
• Omnipotent = Almighty
These are not really removal as such, but substitution. 64,575 words is a lot, representing 8.2% of the 788,258 words in the KJV. Could it be using fewer words to translate more concisely, and dropping old words no longer used in current English? Without a complete list we cannot tell, so a sweeping statement like this leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

“The NIV and ESV has removed 45 complete verses.” I tried looking them up on my online Bible as suggested. Indeed they are not there, but each has a footnote explaining why. For example, Mt 17:21’s note says “Some manuscripts include here words similar to Mk 9:29.” In other words, these words are dropped because they are in some manuscripts but not in the one on which the translation is based. This is not censorship, but consistency to the manuscript.

For that matter, the sample verses removed from but footnoted in the NIV and ESV, are quoted below from the NASB:

Mt 17:21 But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.
• Mt 18:11 For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.
• Mt 23:14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.
• Mk 7:16 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.
• Mk 9:44 where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.
• Mk 9:46 where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.
• Lk 17:36 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left.
• Lk 23:17 Now he was obliged to release to them at the feast one prisoner.
• Jn 5:4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.
• Acts 8:37 And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

Am I concerned about left-wing liberal translations watering down the Bible? Most definitely yes. But I am just as concerned about ultra-right-wing proponents finding offence when they are not called for. Hope we can discern and know the difference.