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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Which Bible is the Right Bible?

Why is there such a debate over Bible versions?

If you ask a new Christian acquaintance what versions of the bible they use, you may get an answer anywhere from "I don't know" or "Whatever is handy" to "The only authorized version of the KJV" and "The one God wrote". What is the issue over Bible versions, and why does it divide so many in the world church?

The history of the Bible is long (and varied, depending on whose writings you come across). What we can agree on as to the origin of the Bible is that the books that we now know as our Old Testament were originally the Hebrew scrolls, written in their language, on rolls of papyrus (papyri) or skins. These scrolls could not last forever, not only because of their delicate nature, but also because they were used so frequently. If we think about it, even today with our printing presses and bounded papers books, nothing lasts forever. It was necessary, then, to make copies to pass down so that the scriptures would continue. The people who were entrusted with the job of copying these scrolls were called scribes.

Sometimes in the process of copying the scriptures, scribes would make mistakes. A word would be spelled wrong or written twice, and when these mistakes were found they were often deleted by having a line drawn through them (they did not have the luxuries of erasers or spell check). Sometimes, though, changes were made intentionally. People had different ideas about how to interpret the scriptures, and a scribe might chance the wording to support his own beliefs. One of the safety measures built in to the copying method was that there would be several other manuscripts, some of them older, that would have the wording as it should have been. It is a pretty reasonable argument that if two copies of the same thing are found, the newer one has been changed, right? If we found a newer copy of the Declaration of Independence somewhere and the words were different, we would hold the older version to be the true version based largely on the ages. The same would seem to be true of the scriptures that became our Bible, but often scholars made the decision that the newer scrolls are accurate. This is where the meat of the debate over Bible versions comes from.

As Christians, we believe that the Bible is God's inspired word for us, infallible, unchanging, and inspired. We find scriptures where God promises to preserve His word for us (Isaiah 40:8, 1 Peter 1:23, Psalm 12:6-7). If He didn't, what would we have to base our faith upon? The words of others? Traditions of men? These things are changeable, fallible, and inspired by sinful man. That is not a very strong foundation for the crux of our eternal salvation. But God did not leave us to try and figure it out by ourselves. He left His word (Romans 10:17). Jesus also reaffirmed the truth of the scriptures, their eternal strength, and their inspiration from the father. If we believe the Bible is only part of the foundation for the church, then it is a book of lies. Just as we cannot believe Jesus was 'a good man, or a prophet' but not the Son of God. If He were not who He claimed to be, then He was a liar, and we cannot trust anything He said. We know that He was the Son of God, and therefore what He says has to be true, and He said,

"For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." Matthew 5:18.

"Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away." Mark 13:31

When the King James Bible was published in 1611, there were other translations of the Bible in circulation. Most of what had existed before this century were parts of Bibles, or incomplete canons. The Bishop's Bible, the Geneva Bible, and the translation by Tyndale were popular within specific groups or denominations. Much of the reason for this was that the translations were peppered with theological influence and explanations within the scriptures, whether it be in footnotes or in the word choice itself during translation. What many of the Puritans desired, though, was a Bible that did not contain influences or theologies. They wanted a Bible that was translated as close to the originals as possible and in English. King James was new to the throne, and desired to see the kingdom settled and loyal to the throne. The easiest way to see to it was to allow Rome to continue to take control of the Church of England. But he also feared the ever-growing number of people who desired a pure religion and a "poor man's" Bible. These puritans desired the right to read and understand the scriptures for themselves. As part of a great compromise, King James allowed the translation of a common Bible to occur, with some very interesting guidelines.

The men who translated the Bible were from a variety of backgrounds theologically. The use of men from different faiths, who had to check their translations with one another over and over, secured the reputation of a pure Bible without influence. The translators also used many different Bible translations as a basis, and checked those against the originals to see where the wording came closest to the Hebrew and Greek. The apocryphal books were included, but not as authoritative scripture. The decision that they were not authoritative did not come form the translators, but from thousands of years of Jewish history which did not claim them to be inspired or part of the 'scriptures' either, but rather supplemental readings. Thus was born the most popular translation of the Bible in history.

Eventually some had the idea to write a version of the Bible that used modern language and was easier to understand. Others decided to write their own interpretations in a story-type setting, making a Bible that could be read more fluidly. These two words are important to remember as they are not widely understood by many looking for a Bible. A version, or translation, is a taking of one set of writings and re-translating them. This is done both through the use of the re-copied scrolls, and through the use of other translations. A paraphrase, or story Bible, is someone's thoughts or understanding of the Bible in a different wording. The goal of a paraphrase is not to translate the Bible, but to explain it. With both of these new approaches, there was a great deal of controversy. Some of the new translations based their work on scrolls that many saw as flawed (both accidentally and intentionally) by scribes. These scrolls were missing some verses from the Bible that many had felt were key to understanding Christianity. There was also a problem with people reading a paraphrased Bible and believing it was scripture instead of literature. The conservative Christians saw this as a way of leading people astray by confusing them. Many churches were divided over which version of the Bible to use, and as a result, new churches emerged from the fractious church groups. Many believed that it was impossible to have so many versions of the Bible and call them all the Word of God. If God promised to preserve His word for us, which version was His word?

Then in 1947 a shepherd looking for his lost sheep found a collection of scrolls in a cave in Qumran, near the Dead Sea (thus the name Dead Sea Scrolls). These scrolls turned out to be a vast Jewish library, and in one cave in particular were found the entire contents of the Old Testament (excluding the book of Esther). These manuscripts were written before 68 AD, when the Romans destroyed the village (the scrolls were probably hidden in the caves as the people fled). The climate and remote location were ideal to preserving the scrolls, and results of studies on these scrolls were amazing:

"The scholars discovered that the Hebrew manuscript copies of the most authoritative Hebrew text, Textus Recepticus, used by the King James translators in 1611, were virtually identical to these ancient Dead Sea Scrolls. After carefully comparing the manuscripts they discovered that, aside from a tiny number of spelling variations, not a single word was altered from the original scrolls in the caves from the much copied A.D. 1100 manuscripts used by the Authorized King James Version translators in 1611."

With the discovery of this evidence came a great deal of controversy as well. Many argued that the Dead Sea Scrolls were based on flawed scrolls as well, and therefore proved nothing other than the accurate copying of false scripture for thousands of years. Because the 'originals' do not exist, the debate will never be settled until God himself gives humanity the answer. Yet with this glimpse into the power of God to preserve something for so long, we can see the importance of the debate over Bible versions. If newer translations are based on different manuscripts than the King James Bible, leaving out verses and changing meanings, can both be considered THE word of God? These versions rarely agree with one another, so which is based on the correct scrolls anyway? I believe the King James Bible is the Bible God intended for His church to follow. It has not changed. God does not change. He promised to preserve His words forever, and here is evidence of that preservation.

The following is a chart of different Bible translations and the verses contained in them that we consider foundational in Christianity. Note the differences in wording that either weakens a verse's meaning, or the complete absence of these verses altogether!

1. Jeffrey, Grant R. Ministries. "Extraordinary Evidence About Jesus in the Dead Sea Scrolls" Found at


a soldier's wife said...

Hi Amy,
I was wondering if you could give me the direct link to where "Bible Translations" goes. I've tried clicking on it several times, but I can't seem to get it to go anywhere, and I'd like to finish reading ;-)

ps. I haven't forgotten about the apron pictures, as soon as I get my camera working or get a new one!

Kelly said...

I've been working on a defense of Sacred Tradition (as opposed to "traditions of men") for you in my spare time, and this seems a good place to post it. I'm interested in your thoughts. :)

As Christians, we believe that the Bible is God's inspired word for us, infallible, unchanging, and inspired. We find scriptures where God promises to preserve His word for us (Isaiah 40:8, 1 Peter 1:23, Psalm 12:6-7).

Catholics also believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. We believe that the Bible is authoritative, but that Sacred Tradition is authoritative, and can help us to interpret (not contradict) scripture, in cases where the words of scripture may be able to have more than one meaning.

Let us journey back to the first time God gave his Word to his people. God gave the Law to Moses. But God gave Moses the Law in two forms, both written and oral. The oral Law was eventually written down, as the Talmud, in the two parts of the Mishna and Gemara.

Jews consider both the oral and the written Law as authoritative. From
"When did the Jewish People receive the "Oral Torah?" They received it at Sinai, along with the Written Torah. What else do you think Moshe Rabbeinu, Moses our Teacher, was doing up there for forty days and forty nights, neither "eating bread nor drinking water" according to the testimony of the Bible. If not studying the "Oral" Part of the Torah from the Master Teacher, G-d Himself? The Oral Torah is required because without it, its counterpart, the Written Torah, would be incomprehensible."

This is why Jews interpret a prohibition on cooking a calf in its mother's milk to refer to a prohibition on any mixing of meat and dairy products.

Jesus studied the Talmud with the Rabbis in the Temple. The Jews of his time, as the Jews today, would have considered Sacred Tradition as authoritative as the written Scripture. To say that the Bible alone (Sola Scriptura) was authoritative is a serious breech with Judaism.

Now, Christianity departs from Judaism in many ways. But we see in the New Testament that any serious changes are discussed. We read in the New Testament that we are no longer bound to obey the Law, including the dietary restrictions. Men are no longer bound to be circumcised. But no where in the New Testament is it written that ONLY the written Scripture is to be considered authoritative. On the contrary Paul writes in 2 Thess. 2:15 that we are to stand firm and hold to the traditions which we were taught, either by word of mouth or letter. If Paul wants us to stand fast to traditions which we have been taught, then clearly not all traditions are "traditions of men."

If He didn't, what would we have to base our faith upon? The words of others? Traditions of men? These things are changeable, fallible, and inspired by sinful man. That is not a very strong foundation for the crux of our eternal salvation. But God did not leave us to try and figure it out by ourselves. He left His word (Romans 10:17).

If Jesus meant to build a foundation on Scripture alone, then why did he not command his apostles to immediately write down his Word, as Moses did upon leaving the mountain? Over and over you read in the New Testament that Jesus commanded his apostles to preach, and preach they did. Only three apostles wrote any scripture. Most were written by disciples of the apostles, which means that they were writing down oral tradition, not the words that they heard from Jesus himself. Thus the authority of the written New Testament is based on oral tradition. Sacred Tradition is not reliance on the words of others or the traditions of men, but on the Word of God, and the traditions left to us by the apostles, who certainly did not leave an abundance of written words behind.

The New Testament does not claim to be complete of itself. John 20:30; 21:25 writes that Jesus did many other things not written in the Scriptures.

Sola Scriptura claims that the Bible is complete, and that every man can interpret scripture for himself. There is to be no other authority, including oral tradition, to help in interpreting scripture. If that were the case, then why would you have so many books published to help you to understand scripture? Why do you have sermons at Church to help you to interpret scripture? Shouldn't Church then consist of one person reading aloud from scripture, then everyone adjoining to share a meal because everyone exactly agrees on what that scripture meant?

If the Holy Spirit will help us all to interpret Scripture correctly, then why is there not one united protestant church against the Catholic and Orthodox churches? The early reformers could not even achieve unity, but quickly broke into groups, which have broken into more and more groups with each generation.

Acts 8:30-31: And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?
And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.

Why didn't Philip explain to the Eunuch that all he had to do was pray to the Holy Spirit to help him interpret the Bible, and he would receive the correct meaning?

If we believe the Bible is only part of the foundation for the church, then it is a book of lies.

Why does this have to be the case? John wrote that there was more to the Word of Jesus than what was written. Paul tells

1 Tim 3:15 says that the Church is "the pillar and ground of the truth," not scripture.

Col. 4:16 shows that a prior letter written to Laodicea is equally authoritative but not part of the New Testament canon.

The apocryphal books were included, but not as authoritative scripture. The decision that they were not authoritative did not come form the translators, but from thousands of years of Jewish history which did not claim them to be inspired or part of the 'scriptures' either, but rather supplemental readings.

If the Jews did not consider them to be inspired, then why do they celebrate Hannukkah, which comes from the Book of Maccabees?

Jude 14-15 quotes from the Book of Enoch, which is also not included in the Jewish canon.

There are many, many places in the New Testament that show that Sacred Tradition exists, and that we should not rely on the Bible alone. I have quoted several, but I strongly suggest you go to and read through the seconds on Scripture Alone and Oral Tradition to read them all. Feel free to pick out particular verses that are quoted there, and give me your interpretation of those verses. But I simply can't quote them all in this space.

I am out of time for now, but I will check back to see if you have any questions, and to read your comments. :)

Kelly said...

This is a second part to my defense of Sacred Tradition.

So, how does considering Tradition authoritative work out in practice? As in Judaism, oral tradition was written down, usually in a defense against a rising heresy, in order to articulate the orthodox position. Let us consider the case of St. Ignatius of Antioch. St. Luke, author of a gospel, and the book of Acts, was the disciple of St. Paul. He did not know Jesus personally, but all that he relates was presumably learned from St. Paul, whose knowledge is due to personal revelation, rather than Jesus' earthly ministry. St. Luke, therefore, is a second hand account of oral tradition from an apostle.

St. Ignatius, likewise, was a disciple of St. John. He wrote too late for his writing to be considered for the New Testament canon, so he does not have the same authority as St. Luke. However, he represents tradition because his writings represent what he learned from St. John. They also give us an accurate picture of the beliefs of the early Christians. He wrote well before the council of Nicea in 314, the point where many feel that after that date, the Catholic Church fell into error.

Why are St. Ignatius' writings important? Here are some quotations:

'Follow the bishop, all of you, as Jesus Christ follows his Father, and the presbyterium as the Apostles. As for the deacons, respect them as the Law of God. Let no one do anything with reference to the Church without the bishop. Only that Eucharist may be regarded as legitimate which is celebrated with the bishop or his delegate presiding. Where the bishop is, there let the community be, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.' Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Symyrnaens 8 (c. A.D. 110)

"They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again." Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to Smyrnaeans, 7,1 (c. A.D. 110).

“There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first possible and then impossible, even Jesus Christ our Lord." Ignatius, To the Ephesians, 7 (c. A.D. 110).

"And do ye also reverence your bishop as Christ Himself, according as the blessed apostles have enjoined you. He that is within the altar is pure, wherefore also he is obedient to the bishop and presbyters: but he that is without is one that does anything apart from the bishop, the presbyters, and the deacons. Such a person is defiled in his conscience, and is worse than an infidel. For what is the bishop but one who beyond all others possesses all power and authority, so far as it is possible for a man to possess it, who according to his ability has been made an imitator of the Christ Of God? And what is the presbytery but a sacred assembly, the counselors and assessors of the bishop? And what are the deacons but imitators of the angelic powers, fulfilling a pure and blameless ministry unto him, as the holy Stephen did to the blessed James, Timothy and Linus to Paul, Anencletus and Clement to Peter? He, therefore, that will not yield obedience to such, must needs be one utterly without God, an impious man who despises Christ, and depreciates His appointments." Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Trallians, 7 (c. A.D. 110)

Also consider the writings of St. Clement of Rome, who was a disciple of St. Peter:

"Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry." Clement of Rome, Pope, 1st Epistle to the Corinthians, 44:1-2 (c. A.D. 96)

"The church of God which sojourns at Rome to the church of God which sojourns at Corinth ... But if any disobey the words spoken by him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and in no small danger." Clement of Rome, Pope, 1st Epistle to the Corinthians, 1,59:1 (c. A.D. 96)

If you consider tradition and scripture both to be authoritative, what do you do when they contradict each other? Tradition is only considered authoritative when it does not contradict scripture. A good example of this is the early church father Tertullian. He wrote several works against heresy, but became a Monanist later in life. His early works are considered authoritative, but not his later works for this reason. No one had any trouble telling when he parted with the true Church.

The early Church fathers often all agreed with each other, saying the same thing in person after person. This is how we know that they are all following the teaching of the apostles, which was handed down to them. It is when they speak in union that they are authoritative.

The translators of the King James Bible seemed to consider the early church fathers to be authoritative because they quoted them in their defense. Note that Tertullian is one among the quotations:

And St. Jerome: "Love the Scriptures, and wisdom will love thee." And St. Cyril against Julian: "Even boys that are bred up in the Scriptures, become most religious . . . ." But what mention we three or four verses of the Scripture, whereas whatsoever is to be believed or practised, or hoped for, is contained in them? or three or four sentences of the Fathers, since whosoever is worthy the name of a Father, from Christ's time downward, hath likewise written not only of the riches, but also of the perfection of the Scripture? "I adore the fulness of the Scripture," saith Tertullian against Hermogenes. And again, to Apelles an Heretic of the like stamp, he saith; "I do not admit that which thou bringest in [or concludest] of thine own [head or store] without Scripture." So Saint Justin Martyr before him; "We must know by all means," saith he, "that it is not lawful [or possible] to learn [anything] of God or of right piety, save only out of the Prophets, who teach us by divine inspiration." So St. Basil after Tertullian, "It is a manifest falling away from the Faith, and a fault of presumption, either to reject any of those things that are written, or to bring in [upon the head of them] any of those things that are not written." We omit to cite to the same effect, St. Cyril B. of Jerusalem in his Fourth Cataches. Saint Jerome against Helvidas, Saint Augustine in his third book against the letters of Petilian, and in very many other places of his works. Also we forbear to descend to later Fathers, because we will not weary the reader.

All of these Fathers that they quote in support of Sola Scriptura were actually opposed to it.

Tertullian appeals to apostolic succession:
“To this test, therefore will they be submitted for proof by those churches, who, although they derive not their founder from apostles or apostolic men (as being of much later date, for they are in fact being founded daily), yet, since they agree in the same faith, they are accounted as not less apostolic because they are akin in doctrine. Then let all the heresies, when challenged to these two tests by our apostolic church, offer their proof of how they deem themselves to be apostolic. But in truth they neither are so, nor are they able to prove themselves to be what they are not. Nor are they admitted to peaceful relations and communion by such churches as are in any way connected with apostles, inasmuch as they are in no sense themselves apostolic because of their diversity as to the mysteries of the faith." Tertullian, On Prescription against the Heretics, 32 (c. A.D. 200).

"To refuse to follow the Fathers, not holding their declaration of more authority than one's own opinion, is conduct worthy of blame, as being brimful of self-sufficiency." Basil, EpistleTo the Canonicae, 52:1 (A.D. 370).

Tradition helps us to correctly interpret scripture. It protects against heresy. It is Tradition which helps us to defend dogmas such as the Trinity, which are not clearly articulated in scripture. As new heresies sprung up, "being founded daily" as Tertullian said, the orthodox position was defended. As these new churches denied the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, this doctrine was defended by the early Church fathers, appealing both to Scripture, and to Tradition, modeling how the Catholic Church still works today.

motherofmany said...

HI everyone! I am going to get back to you all, but I am currently getting stuff ready for VBS and my computer has a 'cold' or something. The link is to a chart I made, and I thought I had succeeded in making a hyperlink to it, but it doesn't come up when clicked, so I must have done it wrong.

Be back soon!

Swylv said...

HI, Heather at Running2theCross said I could ask about wheat-free cooking/baking...that you have some experience...can I cook with just oat flour for instance?

ok thanks


motherofmany said...


What are you wanting to make? Breads are often easier with wheat flours because they have a higher gluten content, which is what puffs it up, but you can make anything with any flour as long as you understand the different results should be expected.

For cookies or cakes, I would recommend coconut flour as it is a bit sweeter and has a higher moisture content. Though oat flour will work just fine. It is really about what end you want to come to.

Let me know what kinds fo things you are hoping to make and I can give you some of the tips handed down to me. Are you allergic to wheat, or all gluten, or just want something different?