“For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God” (2 Cor 2:17).
Christendom is being overwhelmed by a flood of modern bible versions. There are varying claims as to how many English language bibles versions there are – I’ve read numbers ranging from 200 to 900! However, one needs to define what they’re counting – complete bibles, Testaments, portions, paraphrases, etc. – nobody really seems to know.
The various versions are continually being revised, “improved”, and made “more accurate” as soon as sales start to slow down, because they need an injection to boost their flagging sales. What the publishers of their version once billed as “the most accurate version yet” or claims to that effect, has now become dated as “new information” about the underlying text has become available. A new translation committee is formed, with “expert” translators each in their own field of expertise, and within a few years yet another version is born, albeit hidden under the guise of being a revision of an existing version. And the production of new bible versions has become such a successful business, a veritable roaring trade, that every publisher wants to get their slice of the pie; and bible translators have virtually become full-time employees of the bible publishers, working on one translation and then, when it is finished, moving on to the next revision or new version.
The Competing Streams of Bible Versions: a Brief and Incomplete Overview
The “new” Greek manuscripts and the Revised Version stream
The first revision, the New Testament of which was released in 1881, was the Revised Version (RV) or English Revised Version (ERV), and the complete bible was published in 1884. This version, which was supposed to be a mild revision of the King James Bible (KJV), was really a new version based on different Greek NT texts. And soon thereafter an American version of this new English version was produced, and published in 1901, known as the American Standard Version (ASV), thus beginning the first of many streams of bible versions based on the new Westcott and Hort (WH) text.
The WH Greek text consists of manuscripts most of which originate from ancient Alexandria, and most of which were discovered in the 19th century, and they enchanted scholars who trumpeted that greater age means greater accuracy – and the Textus Receptus (TR), along with the KJV, were shunted aside and relegated to quaintness and inaccuracy. Indeed, Fenton Hort, the “H” of the WH text, regarded the TR as “vile” and “villainous” – even though he admitted he was not well acquainted with Greek. The WH text has since morphed into the Nestle-Aland Text (NA) and the United Bible Societies Greek Text (UBS), but they are all essentially the same, being based on the same manuscripts.
The American Standard Version was itself revised, being completed in 1952, and named the Revised Standard Version (RSV); this was updated in 1971 to become more orthodox by restoring the controversial omissions from the 1952 version from the margin back to their rightful place in the text, albeit in italics to distinguish and separate them from the main text; and with comments in the margin to reinforce the doubt already cast on them. The omissions in the 1952 version were so bad that Muslim apologist Ahmed Deedat could savage not only the RSV but the English bible in general and make a mockery of it (Deedat, Ahmed, “Is the Bible God’s Word?” Kindle edition).
David Daniels gives a damning critique of the RSV, writing: “Out of the 40 Bible versions investigated for this book, the Revised Standard Version is the second worst. The English Revised Version and American Standard Version were bad enough, removing God’s words 217 times in my small sample; but the Revised Standard was far worse, removing God’s words in 245 out of 257 selections”. Later in the same chapter, he writes: “So the RSV removed over 10% more words, phrases and verses than Westcott and Hort could convince the Committee to do with the ERV and ASV. The RSV even removed 8 more words than the Jehovah’s Witnesses did in their New World Translation” (Daniels, D.W. 2020, Kindle edition). (emphasis mine). In the chapter “The “International” Bibles“ of the same book, Daniels tells us the worst of all bible versions is the NIV, not only by its omissions but by its undermining of the deity of Christ, these corruptions having been carefully chosen by the translators.
In 1989 it was revised and named the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), a version which is based on the 1971 RSV and which is now the preferred bible of academics, scholars, liberals, theological colleges, and many churches because of its vaunted accuracy and the gender-inclusiveness of its translation. It says of itself in “To the Reader”, it is “As literal as possible, as free as necessary….Paraphrastic renderings have been adopted only sparingly, and then chiefly to compensate for a deficiency in the English language – the lack of a common gender third person singular pronoun”. However, it has been criticised because, in order to achieve gender-inclusive readings, it resorts to adding words, changing the singular to plural, and various other ways of distorting the Greek or Hebrew text. Whereas, Genesis 1:27 in the KJV “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them”,accuratelyshows that the masculine is used for man or humanity in general, and that both male and female are equal. However, the NRSV has confused this and has “them” for both: “So God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (NRSV).
“A three-year process of reviewing and updating the text of the NRSV was announced at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. The update will be managed by the SBL following an agreement with the copyright-holding NCC. The stated focuses of the review are incorporating advances in textual criticism since the 1989 publication of the NRSV, improving the textual notes, and reviewing the style and rendering of the translation. A team of more than fifty scholars, led by an editorial board, is responsible for the review, which goes by the working title of the New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition (NRSV-UE)” (emphasis mine).
So the NRSV-UE is now an update of a revision (NRSV) of a revision (RSV-71) of a revision (RSV-52) of a derivation (ASV) of a counterfeit (ERV) which was disguised as a revision of a translation (KJV) but was in reality a brand new corrupt version, the wellspring of the stream of corrupt English versions flooding the market today.
In response to the appearance of the gender-inclusive NIVI, Evangelicals began a new translation which they based on the 1971 RSV. The result was the English Standard Version (ESV) which was released in 2001. A blog called “Biblical Catholic” tells us: “By contrast, the ESV was conceived as a kind of knee jerk reaction against the publication, in England, of the NIV with Inclusive Language in 1996…..The ESV was first conceived in 1997, the committee was put together in 1998, and the first edition was published in 2001. They didn’t really devote the necessary time and attention to the task that they should have, because they were in a rush to get it out as soon as possible” https://catholicbibles.blogspot.com/2009/01/esv-vs-nrsv.html.
The ESV has subsequently become very popular with Evangelicals. A Catholic edition, ESV-CE, was published in 2018/2019.
Another stream arising from the American Standard Version (ASV) of 1901 was itself a revision which became the New American Standard Bible (NASB) in 1971. It has gone through several “modified editions” – 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and the Updated Edition (1995), commonly known as “Updated NASB” or NASB95. The latest edition is the NASB 2020.
Furthermore, the ASV spawned other versions, namely the Amplified Bible (1965), the Living Bible (1971), Recovery Version (1999), and World English Bible (2000). Two of these also became streams in their own right. The first of these two was the Amplified Bible. This was largely the work of a woman named Frances Siewert. The Amplified Bible has as its base the ASV and it, too, has since been revised with the Expanded Edition in 1987 and more fully in 2015, with its name being changed to Amplified Holy Bible.
The other of these two streams issuing from the ASV was a paraphrase by Kenneth Taylor who created The Living Bible,which also had as its basis the ASV; it was published in 1971. Sales were huge and it was produced in many editions. The publishers saw the lucrative potential and a revision committee was set up to turn the Living Bible paraphrase into a true version.
As a result the New Living Translation was released in 1996. It is a dynamic equivalence translation based on the two major critical texts (UBS and NA), and the first edition saw it start losing its dependence on its forbear, becoming a version in its own right and a very productive cash cow. The second edition was released in 2004 and is sometimes referred to as NLTse. Further editions with minor revisions were released in 2007, 2013 and 2015. But not surprisingly (because that’s where the money is), in a collaborative venture between NLT revisers and Catholic scholars, changes were made to the text which were incorporated into the 2015 revision in order to make it acceptable to the Catholic Church; these changes will be included in all future editions of the NLT. The Catholic edition naturally includes the apocrypha (which are incorporated into the Old Testament as found in Catholic bibles, rather than between the Testaments as a separate entity) and is known as NLTCE.
The NLT fulfilled its potential by becoming No 1 bible seller in July 2008, toppling the NIV, ending its twenty year reign at the top of the sales charts.
The number of new versions, revisions, updates, modified versions etc. arising from the foisting of the English Revised Version and its relatives, and the WH Text, on the churches is eye-watering. The publishers have realised what a golden goose continued bible translations is, and an endless stream of income for them; they will not lightly let go the productive teat of this cash cow. And with each of these versions there is an even greater multitude of concordances, study bibles, and version-specific commentaries. The number of study bibles alone is staggering! One need only turn to Amazon to see endless pages of them. The innovative creation and marketing of these study bibles is genius, with study bibles for every possible niche in a highly lucrative market, to such an extent that the niches actually divide and separate Christian from Christian on the basis of race, colour, gender, age, politics, military, relationship, bible teachers, and so on. It is shameful.
The New International Version stream
But the most confusing stream is the New International Version (NIV). The New Testament was first published in 1973, with the complete bible being released in 1978. It was revised, and then published in 1984 – this revision is still the one preferred by Evangelicals who regard it as the definitive NIV. There were a number of tributaries running off the main NIV stream which, I suspect, although intended to cash in on the popularity of the NIV and broaden its market, actually dissipated the stream.
The first of these was a revision in 1995 by the British publisher Hodder and Stoughton called the New International Version: Inclusive Language Edition (NIVI). “In 1997, an article by World Magazine accused the NIVI of being ‘a feminist seduction of the evangelical church’. This led to a protest in evangelical circles, led by James Dobson. Despite some evangelicals coming to the defense of the NIVI, Zondervan responded by not releasing the NIVI in the United States…..A corrected edition was published in 1999 as the last edition”.
Greek scholar Dr Ann Nyland (2004, p. 15), in her observation of the pressure applied against the publication of the NIVI, writes: “On May 19, 1997, leaders of the Baptist Sunday School Board (Southern Baptist Convention) met with representatives from Zondervan and the International Bible Society (IBS) to apply financial pressure by indicating their intention to stop using the NIV (not an inclusive version, but the actual NIV itself) in their Sunday School curricula and their intention to stop selling the NIV in their Baptist book stores if Zondervan published an inclusive version of the NIV in the US.
Throughout this time, protesters lobbied Zondervan and the IBS, and some churches sent back their NIV pew bibles to Zondervan or the IBS. On May 27th, 1997, IBS issued a press statement stating that ‘it has abandoned all plans for gender-related changes in future editions of the New International Version (NIV)’”.
In 1996 International Bible Society, now known as Biblica, published the New International Reader’s Version (NIrV), which was geared towards those whose native language is not English, and to children; and it is gender-inclusive. It is an NIV written at a third-grade level.
In 2005, Today’s New International Version (TNIV), was introduced to the market and was intended to sell alongside, and probably ultimately replace, the 1984 NIV as a gender inclusive bible (because that’s where the new money is). However, like the NIVI, the TNIV was rejected by Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, the fury and threats of the opposition from some in these groups being undignified, bullying, and coercive.
Nyland (2004, p. 8-9) says, “A number of the same lobbyists were members of the translation committee of the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible, another market competitor to the TNIV Bible”
The latest and current revision in the main flow of the NIV stream was released in 2011. The 2011 NIV is really a re-worked and “softer” TNIV.
So the NIV is now a re-make (NIV 2011) of a perversion (TNIV 2005) of a variation (NIrV 1996) of a perversion (NIVI 1995) of a revision (NIV 1984) of a translation (NIV 1978) of the corrupt NA and UBS Greek texts.
The Holman Christian Standard Bible stream
Lifeway Christian Resources (the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention) is the largest Christian book retailer in the USA, and it refused to sell the TNIV, so the threats made to Zondervan and IBS carried enormous punch. It is also “…the parent of Broadman and Holman Publishers which publishes the Holman Christian Standard Bible” [Nyland, A. 2004, p. 8). One would like to think of them as being “righteously outraged” at the feminising of the bible which opened wide the gate for women to become elders, priests and bishops, and allowing them to preach. Sadly however, such does not appear to be the case. Instead, they resorted to what was effectively extortion to force Zondervan and IBS to do their will.
At the time the TNIV was released, Lifeway Christian Resources was completing their own new bible version, the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), the New Testament appearing on the market in 1999 and the complete bible in 2004; and yet another stream arises. A second edition appeared in 2010 in which the name “Yahweh” replaced “LORD” in another 495 instances (the earlier edition replaced it in 78 instances). The original translation editor of the HCSB, Arthur Farstad, editor of the New King James Version, intended to use his new so-called Majority Greek Text as the basis for a new translation of the bible; however, being compiled from only a few manuscripts, and largely Alexandrian, it can hardly be regarded as a “Majority” text. But Farstad died early in the work and Holman Christian Publishers assembled a team of 100 international scholars and proof-readers from across all denominations to continue what he had begun. This team rejected the Greek “Majority” text which Farstad intended and chose to use instead the abovementioned critical Texts, UBS and NA. The HCSB was revised and updated again in 2017 and renamed Christian Standard Bible (CSB), and all of the instances where “Yahweh” replaced “LORD” were reversed and the traditional readings retained. From:
The Fascinating but Shameful Story Behind the Scenes
It seems that the real motive of these Southern Baptist lobby groups for opposing the TNIV and forcing it off the market was not one of principal, and concern for the accurate translation of the Bible, but to make room for their own proposed new version. The “offence” of a feminist bible was only the pretext; the real motive was all about sales and profit. It seems the truth of scripture had nothing to do with it as far as Holman Publishing and Lifeway Christian Resources were concerned.
How hypocritical, then, that Lifeway Christian Resources and Southern Baptist Convention violently opposed the TNIV for its gender-inclusiveness when at the same time Lifeway Christian Resources were stocking and selling The Message, a (per)version which is even more gender-inclusive than the TNIV, as well as being doctrinally corrupt.
But the crowning hypocrisy is that the Christian Standard Bible, translation of the Southern Baptist Convention, is itself now also gender-inclusive; and they use the same arguments that the translators and publisher of the TNIV used, to justify their own gender-inclusive version. “How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle!” (2 Sam 1:25).
I Can’t Help but Wonder……
If the scholars behind the TNIV translated the text with accuracy and integrity, why did the publisher cave in to extortion? Was the TNIV a good translation or not? Was it dishonest or not? If it was a correct translation, as those behind it claim, then the NIV 2011 is inferior because it has watered down the TNIV which it replaces. Again, if the TNIV is a good and correct translation, then neither can the 1984 NIV be a correct translation, because it has little “gender-inclusiveness”. And why would the publisher run these two versions in parallel (TNIV and 1984 NIV) when they disagree with each other?
Furthermore, the NIV 2011 is not only different to the NIVI and TNIV because of its attempts to present a softer gender-inclusiveness, but to the 1984 NIV which has none. So which of these is correct? Do we trust the translation committee and the publisher and assume that the 1984 NIV is the least correct because they’ve had several attempts at replacing it, before finally succeeding with the 2011 NIV? But didn’t they tell us in 1984 that the NIV was the best bible on the market? And now, blogger Michael Marlowe tells us that Zondervan, which has exclusive rights to publish the NIV, “has moved to suppress the 1984 text, by informing other publishers that it will not allow them to use the text of the 1984 NIV in printed materials after 2012”. http://www.bible-researcher.com/niv.2011.html
If bibles can so easily be revised and changed at will under the guise of giving new and “more accurate” readings in line with “modern scholarship” and by comparing with other ancient versions, what is it that we have as our bible? Have Christians who swear by the NIV been living in a fool’s paradise since 1984 by using an inferior and inaccurate translation when they were assured it was “the best”? If a new and more accurate translation than the 1984 NIV was needed, and the TNIV was produced by highly qualified and capable Evangelical scholars in order to eventually meet that need, why was the TNIV rejected, not only by some groups and influential individuals in the Evangelical/Fundamentalist wing of the Church, but by its own translation committee and publisher?
And what is the 2011 NIV but a compromise bible, customised to meet man’s approval rather than God’s approval, and designed to reinvigorate flagging sales of the 1984 NIV due to market forces and rival versions? With the NLT dethroning the NIV from the top-selling English bible position, and the TNIV, which was meant to maintain the publisher’s hold as No 1, being forced off the market, Zondervan had no answer to the NLT; but they had to come up with something. One can only suspect that accuracy in translation was not the goal – regaining their place as No 1 was. Zondervan’s edge was meant to be a gender-inclusive version – the TNIV – but when this was lost to them, they hastily revamped and toned it down, producing the 2011 NIV. And no doubt the new name intentionally suggests continuity and connection with the popular 1984 NIV but with some gender-inclusiveness from the TNIV in order to keep pace with the trend of other versions’ revisions.
The Catholic Connection
But profit is not the only motivation for the continual production of Bible versions. With Catholics heavily involved in Protestant Bible Societies and on bible translation committees, one should expect that bible versions will be inclined towards the Catholic Church. Indeed, with Protestants and Catholics now using the same Greek and Hebrew texts, all that is required for the bible to be “Catholicised” is to add the books of the Apocrypha and Voila! a Catholic bible. The American Bible Society (ostensibly a Protestant organisation) has its own “Catholic Ministries”, and 50% to 60% of its staff and some of the board members are Catholic. And the late Jesuit Catholic Cardinal Carlo Montini was on the translation committee of the United Bible Societies’ Greek text upon which modern bible versions are based.
With the exception of Trinitarian Bible Society, Protestant Bible Societies are so corrupted that Evangelicals shouldn’t even touch a modern version – any of them – because of their association with the Catholic Church, and the compromise from which they were born.
David Daniels (2013, p. 143-144) writes: “The British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS) opened the door to Roman Catholics soon after its founding in 1804. Protestant money was used to employ former Benedictine priest Leander Van Ess (1722-1847) and help distribute over 500,000 of his Catholic New Testaments and print other Bibles with the Apocrypha. The BFBS let Unitarians (who deny Jesus is God) become members. But they forbad prayers (especially in Jesus’ name) and scripture reading in BFBS meetings for the first 50 years!
The American Bible Society (ABS) invited Roman Catholics to its founding in 1816. And from 1822-1841 the ABS printed and distributed 20,000 Roman Catholic Bibles in Latin America, to prove the ABS’ ‘fraternal purpose’ to Rome…
…It was these two Bible Societies that got togetherto create a new Bible for the Spanish-speaking people. The BFBS and ABS were like two peas in a pod. In 1946 these two Bible societies, plus 11 others, had formed the United Bible Societies (UBS). And Eugene Nida, as we have seen, was a major force, in the UBS.
In June, 1964 the UBS convened the Driebergen conference of Bible societies in the Netherlands.
These goals came out of the Driebergen conference:
- Prepare a ‘common text’ of the ‘original languages’ of the Bible, acceptable to all modern churches (including Roman Catholic)
- Prepare a ‘common translation’ acceptable to all
- Translate and publish the Apocrypha if churches ask for it
This was a watershed event. What was once hidden now became known: they specifically invited Roman Catholic leaders, in order to make their dreams a reality: they wanted to create an ‘interconfessional’ Bible, one that was acceptable to both Protestants and Roman Catholics!
Does that mean that Roman Catholics were willing to approve a Protestant Bible? Not at all! The Council of Trent and Canon Law gave strict rules about what kind of ‘bible’ the Catholics are allowed to read. And anything not endorsed by Catholic leadership is forbidden!
So it wasn’t that Catholics would have to read a preserved text or even a Protestant. No! Instead, the UBS gave Protestants a Roman Catholic Bible, complete with Apocrypha and Catholic-approved notes” (author’s emphases).
Further down, Daniels says: “From 1955-1965, Nida had set up and worked with an international committee of different scholars, to make a single Greek New Testament for everybody. But they left out a huge group: no Catholics were involved.
But in October 1959, Jesuit Walter Abbott (1924-2008) wrote an article called ‘The Bible as a Bond’, for the Jesuit magazine, America. He argued that since Catholics and non-Catholics agreed on the Hebrew and Greek Bible texts, they should have joint Bible translation projects all over the world. He sent a copy to Jesuit Cardinal Augustin Bea (1881-1968) at the Vatican. And suddenly everything changed….
….So in 1967, when Eugene Nida ‘demanded that the very best scholars in the Catholic Church be assigned to work with him’, what sort of Catholic was picked to work with Nida? Another Jesuit, of course – Carlo Maria Montini, the new rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute!….
….In 1967 Nida asked him onto the UBS Greek New Testament Committee. Martini helped create the UBS 2nd – 4th editions, to be ‘the’ Greek text used by both Roman Catholics and Protestants. He was the only Catholic on the committee, but his presence opened up ‘scholarly relations’ between Protestants and Rome. By 1971, the critical Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia text was jointly published at Rome and by the UBS. By 1975, the UBS Greek New Testament was distributed by the Vatican and the UBS….Now most bible translations would come from the same Vatican–approved Hebrew and Greek texts, thanks to the Jesuits” (“Did the Catholic Church Give Us The Bible?” p. 146-147. Permission in writing from the author has been given for these quotations).
King James Bible: Tried, True, and Trustworthy
Despite that the King James Bible is over 400 years old, it is still essentially the same as when it was first published. It has stood the test of time and been used of God in many revivals and missions work, among many other blessings, and been the instrument of salvation for countless souls. And it reflects a long line of faithful translations, some of which are older than the vaunted but corrupt Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. And its so-called revisions were merely corrections of grammar made by printer’s errors and misprints; the text is the same now as it was in 1611. And it has not been tainted by Catholic, Liberal, Unitarian, or Jewish “scholars”, as have the modern bibles.
However, I don’t dispute the right of other Christians to use modern versions; in fact, I know that they are in the majority. In my own church, for example, I’m the only one who uses the KJV; the rest of the congregation use the 1984 NIV; but that can only be obtained 2nd hand now and the 2011 NIV has been creeping into the church over time. During my formative years as a Christian I used the 1952 RSV and loved it – it was the only bible I knew. A few years later I became enmeshed in an abusive church/cult for 23 years, and during most of that time I used the KJV – the whole church did. When I was able to break away – when I saw that the emperor’s new clothes were non-existent and I saw what was underneath – I left that church. I tried various modern versions of the bible and, while I was enamoured of the idea of bible versions, translation principles, theories, history, etc., I gradually began to see the superiority of the KJV. It took several years of fluctuating between the KJV and modern versions as I considered the arguments from both sides before I finally committed to the KJV and rejected all others.
And now, when I open my bible each morning I’m both excited and at peace at the same time because I know I’m about to read God’s preserved words in English. I do not have this same anticipation or trust with a modern version. And I’m increasingly repelled by them because of the important and beautiful parts of scripture they omit or mangle.
“…And with covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you” (2 Pet 2:3).
Daniels, D.W. 2005, 2013, “Did the Catholic Church Give us the Bible?”, Chick Publications, Ontario, California
Daniels, D.W. “Look What’s Missing”, chapter 9: The Bible Becomes Ecumenical, Chick Publications, Ontario, California, Kindle edition 2020.
Nyland, Dr. A, 2004, More than Meets the Eye: The Campaign to Control Gender Translation Bibles, copyright by Ann Nyland 2004, published by Smith and Stirling Publishing, Parramatta, Australia
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture references in this article are from the King James Bible.