Is There a Right and Wrong Translation of the Bible?

Jason Dulle


I've read some of your website about how we get our Bible and the whole King James Controversy. It looks to me when I compare modern translations to older translations that there is a considerable difference in them. Some things have been taken out and other things added. In the book of Revelation it speaks negatively about taking away from and adding to the Bible. Taking this into consideration wouldn't someone have to be wrong? God only wrote one Bible and wouldn't it make sense for Satan to attack our only weapon against him? Would you agree that one or maybe more of these translations has to be wrong or right?



Most definitely some of the translations are wrong. They cannot all be right. From the evidence I would argue that no translation is perfect. They are all flawed in one respect or another. But there are several ways they can be flawed. The first respect in which they can be flawed is in what they consider to have been the actual Hebrew or Greek wording as it was originally penned by the prophets and apostles. We no longer have the original documents, and of the copies that exist, there are no two manuscripts that read exactly alike. Each one differs from the rest no matter how small the discrepancy may be. Some discrepancies are minor, such as spelling or punctuation mistakes, and thus it is easy to know which one of the readings is the correct one. However, at other times there are different words used, or entire phrases inserted or missing. In these cases it is not as easy to determine which is the original reading, although in many cases there is enough evidence to be fairly certain. Be certain that determining the original wording of the Bible is not a big guess. Nearly 99% of the wording of the New Testament is certain. Very little is disputed, yet it is that 1% which accounts for many of the differences you see among the English versions. Different versions have decidedly differently on what they believe was the original Hebrew and Greek text. For the most part the versions follow two different texts. The King James and New King James versions follow what is called the Byzantine text of the New Testament, whereas most all other English versions follow what is called the Alexandrian text of the New Testament.

The second way in which translations can be flawed, and which will account for some of the differences you notice among the different translations, has to do with the translational theory behind the translation. For example, the King James Version tends to be a very literal translation of the original language, whereas the New Internation Version is less literal (trying rather to translate the thought of the original rather than the words where a literal translation of the words might confuse English readers rather than enlighten them as to what God's Word actually says), and whereas the Living Bible is a paraphrase of the original, not a translation at all. The translational theory determines how their translations will read, and how accurately they will convey God's Word to today's English readers.

So what do we do with these issues? Do we say that all the Bibles must be right? No. I believe that the the Hebrew and Greek texts used for translation by some versions is more accurate than others. I also believe that some translations add too much human interpretation in the process so that God's Word is not accurately conveyed, while other translations are so literal that they actually cause English speakers to misunderstand the meaning of God's Word (because it is impossible to translate any language word for word without missing or distorting the meaning). I certainly have my opinion on which Hebrew and Greek text is closest to the original and which Bible's translational theory most accurately conveys the meaning of God's Word to English speakers, and so should you. Coming to such an opinion takes research. All Christians should embark on a journey to determine which English Bible most accurately reflects God's Word.

I hope I had not said anything in my articles that led you to believe that I was saying all Bibles are equally valid, because they most assuredly are not. I will say, however, that no English version on the market is distorted enough that the essential truths necessary to know for salvation (which truths we have come to know from reading the best translations) cannot shine through to the individual reading an inferior translation. The truth necessary for salvation can be found in all English translations. Truth can even be found in the New World Translation used by the Jehovah Witnesses, and that is the worst of all Bibles in my book! So while this is a very important issue we should not take the position that one cannot be saved if they use a particular version that does not most accurately convey the Word of God as originally penned by the prophets and apostles. At the same time, however, this does not mean that we should or can put this issue into the "it doesn't matter" category. It most assuredly matters!

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