By Norman S. Edwards
From SVM – Spring 2014
Although there are some places where the Bible is mistranslated and there are also some outright corruptions, for the most part, God gets His message across.
The Bible is the word of God, though God used imperfect men to translate it. I like the NIV a lot even though some say it is corrupted. One example is Revelation 22:14. The NIV says, “Blessed are those who wash their robes…” and the KJV says “Blessed are they that do his commandments…” We use about 4 different translations for comparison and trust that the Holy Spirit will guide us in our understanding of what God wants us to know. A paraphrase is “okay” to read personally, but I would never recommend teaching from it as it is not “the” inspired word of God. (You have to keep that in mind when reading.) Those well versed in the scriptures are able to do that, but Babes in Christ need “the” Word for a foundation first.
I have never encountered the situation where using the wrong Bible translation caused major difficulties in someone’s life. But I have frequently encountered men and women who created much suffering for themselves and for others by not living by whatever Bible translation they had. While I certainly use many translations and prefer various ones for various purposes, anyone seeking God can learn the basics of truth from almost any translation.
The three big issues for Bible translation are:
Which Hebrew/Greek manuscripts to use?
What does the original language actually mean?
Should the translation be as close to word-for-word as possible or should the translator use paraphrase to best convey the meaning in English?
Sometimes, the Hebrew and Greek use rhymes, puns, alliteration and double-meanings—making it almost impossible to simply convey all of that meaning into English. When translators really understand what God meant, then a paraphrase is best. But if they are not sure, then a literal translation will be more likely to convey the true meaning. I like the NIV as well, though its translators used the “Majority Text” (produced by scholars trying to use the oldest Greek manuscripts or the most common readings) as their basis for translation, whereas the King James translators used the “Received Text” (a set of not as old, but very good Greek manuscripts). The Scripture you mentioned above is a manuscript issue—the Majority Text says “wash their robes”, but the Received Text says “keep the commandments”. It is interesting that the meaning of the two is largely the same.
Revelation 19:8 shows that clean and white linen is the “righteousness of the saints.” Other scriptures tell us God’s commandments are righteousness (Deuteronomy 6:25; Psalm 119:172, Isaiah 48:18). The 144,000 and the innumerable multitude have white robes in Revelation 7:13-14—they were righteous through the tribulation.