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.