Some Debates Aren’t Worth Winning
By Jack Kinsella
The Old Testament was written almost entirely in classical Hebrew in the dialect scholars believed flourished around the 6th century BC during the Babylonian Exile. Almost entirely.
By the time the Babylonian Captivity had ended seventy years later, the first language of most of the Babylonian captives and their descendants had become the language of their captors, Aramaic.
The Books of Daniel and Ezra were originally inspired and composed in Aramaic.
Alexander the Great outlawed the languages of the peoples he conquered and compelled them to learn and use Greek in all their dealings. But by then, Hebrew was largely extinct as spoken language, replaced by Aramaic and later by Greek.
The New Testament was inspired and composed in both Aramaic and Greek. Jesus spoke Aramaic, not Greek. His words were translated from Aramaic into Greek, with certain Aramaic words being specifically identified as translations.
Interestingly, those parts of the Old Testament not inspired and composed in Hebrew were inspired and composed in Greek.
And the Septuagint is the Hebrew Old Testament as translated by the rabbis into Koine Greek in the 3rd century BC. So by the time the Apostles were writing the New Testament Epistles, much the Old Testament was already a translation of a translation.
By the middle of the second century, the major writings of the canon of Scripture were accepted by almost all Christian authorities. St Jerome translated them all into Latin in the 3rd century.
So by the fourth century, the Old Testament was a translation of a translation of a translation and the New Testament was merely a translation of a translation.
Twelve hundred years later, Wycliffe, Hus, Linacre, Colet and Erasmus were all busily engaged in translating the various translations of translations into their own translations of English.
One hundred years after John Hus was burned at the stake kindled with pages from Wycliffe’s Bible translation, King James of England ordered his translators to come up with a new English translation using the existing Greek and Hebrew translations, themselves recopied translations of Aramaic and Latin and classical Hebrew.
The oldest existing Textus Receptus manuscript used by the translators of the King James 1611 Bible dated to the 12th century. In the book of Revelation, a missing page had to be translated from the Latin Vulgate back into Greek so it could be translated back into English.
Finally, I have a photocopy of an original 1611 Bible and a page taken from an original 1611 Bible. Both are in English, but I can barely read it.
I say all this knowing that I am going to get hammered by the King James-onlyists, which is ironic, really. I personally am a King James-only guy, in the sense that I prefer it above all other translations and is the only one I trust as the final authority on matters of doctrine.
But it is a matter of preference.
Nobody is saved according to which version of the Bible they study from. Nobody is saved by a Bible. They are saved by the Gospel message, a message so simple it can be conveyed without a Bible being present.
A child can lead another child to Christ on a playground. A drunk can lead another drunk to Christ on a barstool.
I’ve seen both happen.
I’ve heard all of the King James-only arguments, and have made many of them myself. I am aware of the flaws in the other translations, (particularly the NIV) and I have on more than one occasion, taken great satisfaction in systematically destroying the NIV as a perversion of the Bible.
But there are just as many flaws and doctrinal errors in the NASB, AV, ASV, etc., etc. Or so I am told. I confess that I have not personally ferreted out the flaws in the various translations. I admit that I am simply using somebody else’s list.
While I am at it, I also confess that I do not know much about the actual translators of the KJV. Or much about the translation process. I probably know more than the average guy, but that isn’t saying much.
I’ve said it previously, but it bears repeating here. I can’t read the original languages. And if I could, I don’t have the original manuscripts used by the translators.
And if I did, I wouldn’t know if they were 1st century Greek or if they were later Greek translations of the Latin translations of the Greek translations of the original Aramaic.
The quickest way I can think of to shake somebody’s confidence in their salvation is to attack their preferred Bible version. The Bible that leads you to Christ takes on a very special, personal meaning. If you came to Christ via the NIV, then the NIV is the Word of God whereby you were saved.
The same applies to all the other versions, including the KJV, which is the version whereby I came to know Christ.
Ever wonder why there are so many Christians that don’t go to church? It is because there are two kinds of Christianity in this world. There is the theoretical kind and there is the living kind.
In the theoretical kind, everybody is the same at church as they are at home when nobody is looking.
Saved people always act saved and always looked saved. Saved people never have doubts – that would be faithlessness. And when somebody falls, it is because they probably were never really saved in the first place.
In the living kind, people are different at church than they are at home when nobody is looking. Saved people don’t always act like it. Some don’t ever go to church. Everybody has doubts.
And it is only when others fall that we question if they were really saved.
When a person is young in the Lord, he is somewhere between the theoretical and reality – all he has is his Bible. And along comes some grizzled old veteran Christian who, preaching theoretical Christianity convinces the new Christian that he can’t trust his Bible.
No matter which position you take on the Bible translations issue, what happens if you prevail in the debate? Assuming your opponent is already saved, he can’t get more saved by agreeing with you.
If you have won the debate, then he has lost. Now let’s return to the topic under discussion. “Can you trust your Bible?” And his answer is “no.”
Some debates aren’t worth winning.
Do we have the Word of God? Of course we do. What about when there are conflicts between versions? God only wrote ONE Bible – but He didn’t write it in English.
He wrote it in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.
So how do you know that the version that you use, whether KJV, NIV, NASB, etc, is really the Word of God? Did you get saved from it? Is that an enemy action?
How do you know that is the one God wants you to use? I don’t know. But you do. It is because that is the version God speaks to you from.
Or you would be looking for the version that does.
Originally Published: December 11, 2010.