Fifteen Myths about Bible Translation

  1. Perhaps the number one myth about Bible translation is that a word-for-word translation is the best kind. Anyone who is conversant in more than one language recognizes that a word-for-word translation is simply not possible if one is going to communicate in an understandable way in the receptor language. Yet, ironically, even some biblical scholars who should know better continue to tout word-for-word translations as though they were the best. Perhaps the most word-for-word translation of the Bible in English is Wycliffe’s, done in the 1380s. Although translated from the Latin Vulgate, it was a slavishly literal translation to that text. And precisely because of this, it was hardly English.
  2. Similar to the first point is that a literal translation is the best version. In fact, this is sometimes just a spin on the first notion. For example, the Greek New Testament has about 138,000–140,000 words, depending on which edition one is using. But no English translation has this few. Here are some examples:

RSV           173,293

NIV           175,037

ESV           175,599

NIV 2011   176,122

TNIV        176,267

NRSV       176,417

REB          176,705

NKJV      177,980

NET         178,929

RV           179,873

ASV        180,056

KJV        180,565

NASB 95   182,446

NASB      184,062

NLT, 2nd ed  186,596

TEV         192,784

It’s no surprise that the TEV and NLT have the most words, since these are both paraphrases. But the translations perceived to be more literal are often near the bottom of this list (that is, farther away from the Greek NT word-count). These include the KJV (#12), ASV (#11), NASB (#14), NASB 95 (#13), and RV (#10). Indeed, when the RV came out (1881), one of its stated goals was to be quite literal and the translators were consciously trying to be much more literal than the KJV.

Some translations of the New Testament into other languages:

Modern Hebrew NT             111,154

Vulgate                                    125,720

Italian La Sacra Bibbia      163,870

Luther                                     169,536

French Novelle Version2   184,449

La Sainte Bible (Geneve)    185,859

3.    The King James Version is a literal translation. The preface to the KJV actually claims otherwise. For example, they explicitly said that they did not translate the same word in the original the same way in the English but did attempt to capture the sense of the original each time: “An other thing we thinke good to admonish thee of (gentle Reader) that wee have not tyed our selves to an uniformitie of phrasing, or to an identitie of words, as some peradventure would wish that we had done, because they observe, that some learned men some where, have beene as exact as they could that way. Truly, that we might not varie from the sense of that which we had translated before, if the word signified the same thing in both places (for there bee some wordes that bee not of the same sense every where) we were especially carefull, and made a conscience, according to our duetie.”

4.    The King James Version is perfect. This myth continues to be promoted today, yet even the translators of the KJV were not sure on hundreds of occasions which rendering was best, allowing the reader to decide for himself. Again, the preface notes: “Therfore as S. Augustine saith, that varietie of Translations is profitable for the finding out of the sense of the Scriptures: so diversitie of signification and sense in the margine, where the text is not so cleare, must needes doe good, yea is necessary, as we are perswaded… They that are wise, had rather have their judgements at libertie in differences of readings, then to be captivated to one, when it may be the other.” The original KJV had approximately 8000 marginal notes, though these have been stripped out in modern printings of the Authorized Version. Further, some of the typos and blatant errors of the 1611 KJV have continued to remain in the text after multiple corrections and spelling updates (weighing in at more than 100,000 changes) through the 1769 edition. For example, in Matthew 23.24 the KJV says, “Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.” The Greek means “strain out a gnat.” Or the wording of Hebrews 4.8, which says, “For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.” Instead of ‘Jesus,’ Joshua is meant. It’s the same word in Greek, but the reader of the text will hardly think of Joshua when he or she sees ‘Jesus’ here since ‘Joshua’ is found everywhere in the OT.

5.    The King James Version was hard to understand when it was first published. Again, the preface: “But we desire that the Scripture may speake like it selfe, as in the language of Canaan, that it may bee understood even of the very vulgar.” The reality is that the KJV was intended to be easily understood, yet today this 400-year-old version is difficult to comprehend in all too many passages.

6.     There has never been an authorized revision of the KJV. There were three overhauls of the KJV up through 1769, involving more than 100,000 changes (the vast majority of which merely spelling updates). The KJV that is used today is almost always the 1769 revision. And the Revised Version of 1885 was an authorized revision of the KJV. It used a different Greek text than the KJV New Testament had done.

 7.    The Apocrypha are books found only in Roman Catholic Bibles. Although the Apocrypha—or what Catholics call the Deutero-canonical books—are an intrinsic part of Roman Catholic translations of scripture, a number of Protestant Bibles also include them. Even the King James Bible, a distinctly Protestant version, included the Apocrypha in every printing until the middle of the nineteenth century. To be sure, the apocryphal books were placed at the end of the Old Testament, to set them apart (unlike in Roman Catholic Bibles), but they were nevertheless included.

8.    Homosexuals influenced the translation of the NIV. It is true that a woman who later admitted to being a lesbian was a style-editor of the NIV originally, but according to Dr. Ken Barker, one-time editor of the NIV, she had zero say on the content of the NIV.

9.   No translation can claim to be the word of God except the King James Bible. It may seem as though we are beating a dead horse, but the KJV-Only crowd is persistent and continues to exercise an inordinate role in some circles. In the preface to the KJV, the translators noted that the king’s speech is still the king’s speech even when translated into other languages. Further, even poor translations of the Bible deserved to be called the word of God according to the preface to the KJV. And yet, in all particulars, only the original Greek and Hebrew text can be regarded as the word of God. Something is always lost in translation. Always.

10.    Modern translations have removed words and verses from the Bible. Most biblical scholars—both conservative and liberal—would say instead that the KJV added words and verses, rather than that the modern ones have removed such. And this is in part because the oldest and most reliable manuscripts lack the extra verses that are found in the KJV.

11.    Essential doctrines are in jeopardy in modern translations. Actually, no doctrine essential for salvation is affected by translations, modern or ancient—unless done by a particular cult for its own purposes. For example, those Englishmen who signed the Westminster Confession of Faith in the seventeenth century were using the KJV, yet it is still a normative doctrinal statement that millions of Protestants sign today even though they use modern translations.

12.    “Young woman” in the RSV’s translation of Isaiah 7.14 was due to liberal bias. Actually, ‘young woman’ is the most accurate translation of the Hebrew word ‘almah. Although this created quite a stir in 1952 when the RSV was published, even the NET Bible, done by evangelicals, has ‘young woman’ here. The TEV, REB, and NJB also have ‘young woman’ here. And it is a marginal reading found in the NIV 2011, TNIV, and NLT. The NRSV has a marginal note that indicates that the Greek translation of Isaiah 7.14 has ‘virgin’ here.

13.    Gender-inclusive translations are driven by a social agenda. In some instances, this may be the case. But not in all. The NIV 2011, for example, strives to be an accurate translation that is understandable by today’s English speaker. And the translators note that the English language is changing. In reality, the older gender-exclusive translations may miscommunicate the meaning of the Bible in today’s world if readers understand the words ‘men,’ ‘brothers,’ and the like in numerous passages to be restricted to the male gender. Translations must keep up with the evolution of the receptor language. For example, the RSV (1952) reads in Psalm 50.9, “I will accept no bull from your house.” In today’s English, that means something quite different from what the translators intended! The NRSV accordingly and appropriately renders the verse, “I will not accept a bull from your house.”

One of the great challenges in English translations of the Bible today is to avoid language that can become fodder for bathroom humor. Or, as one of the translators of the ESV once mentioned, a major challenge is to remove the ‘snicker factor.’

14.    Red-letter editions of the Bible highlight the exact words of Jesus. Scholars are not sure of the exact words of Jesus. Ancient historians were concerned to get the gist of what someone said, but not necessarily the exact wording. A comparison of parallel passages in the Synoptic Gospels reveals that the evangelists didn’t always record Jesus’ words exactly the same way. The terms ipsissima verba and ipsissima vox are used to distinguish the kinds of dominical sayings we have in the Gospels. The former means ‘the very words,’ and the latter means ‘the very voice.’ That is, the exact words or the essential thought. There have been attempts to harmonize these accounts, but they are highly motivated by a theological agenda which clouds one’s judgment and skews the facts. In truth, though red-letter editions of the Bible may give comfort to believers that they have the very words of Jesus in every instance, this is a false comfort.

15.    Chapter and verse numbers are inspired. These were added centuries later. Chapter numbers were added by Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in the early 13th century. Verse numbers were not added until 1551. Robert Estienne (a.k.a. Stephanus), a Parisian printer, added verse numbers to the fourth edition of his Greek New Testament. The pocket-sized two-volume work (which can be viewed at www.csntm.org) has three parallel columns, one in Greek and two in Latin (one Erasmus’s Latin text, the other Jerome’s). To facilitate ease of comparison, Stephanus added the verse numbers. Although most of the breaks seem natural enough, quite a few are bizarre. Neither chapter numbers nor verse numbers are inspired.

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164 comments on “Fifteen Myths about Bible Translation

  1. Point 2 is hardly valid w2hen one takes into account things such as personal pronouns which are always used in English but not necessarily so in either Hebrew or Greek.

    • But that’s precisely my point. English can’t translate Greek or Hebrew with exact formal equivalence or else the text is not really English. Because you have to add words in one language means that a completely literal translation is impossible. Further, it’s not just personal pronouns but word order, articles, direct objects, subjects, verbs, and a host of other things that may be missing in the original but are needed in the translation.

      • English can approximate in meaning and usage the Koine dialect. We have words that have the same breadth of usage and encompass the same objects or activities. I worked on it for 20 years, and have arrived at “The Fresh Agreement.” Many words require synonyms at various forms, and that added some minor consternation. Nevertheless, it is my belief that anyone who reads “The Fresh Agreement” will choose it as his authority when evaluating other attempts. You can find it at lulu.com

      • Daniel,
        For your consideration, here is some of my research concerning “Biblical in-errorentcy” . I also would like to know why the ‘Apocryphal’ books were excluded.

        The topic of “Bible inerroratncy” came up in MY world in the mid 1980′s. Are you aware of the FACT that True Bible Scholars and Theologians debated the issue? Most came to the conclusion that ALL of the many Versions of the Bible had mistranslated/ADDED/OMITTED words in them, BUT they ALL agreed that Gods Plan for Salvation was to be found in them ALL . Here are a few things that are mistranslated/ADDED/OMITTED.

        I provided the FACTS (with links to the origin) concerning the word …”JEW”… at my site and in the links I provided there.
        I also provided the FACTS from the original TEXT as it was translated into English from the “Strong’s Concordance” pre-1980, at the article, “The SYNAGOGUE Of SATAN: EDOMS PLAYGROUND” where I said, “Lets examine the word JEW”. I provided the correct translations and scriptures as they were used.

        The meaning for the words JUDAH/Judahite and JUDEAN have been “altered” to “FIT” the modern misuse of the word JEW. Jew is the ‘bastardization’ of the word JUDAH. The simple addition of the word, ‘JEWISH’ is a perversion of the Original TEXT. The addition and use of the word ‘JEW’ is for confusion and deception, as with word GENTILE!

        Another over looked fact is, the word “ISRAEL” occurs 2568 times in 2294 verses in the KJV, and not one time is ISRAEL called “JEW” The Book of Romans was largely about Gods love for “ISRAEL” for the most part, and the word “JEW” is used 10 times there, and NOT once for ISRAEL!

        GENTILE: That word Gentile, defied translation? Does a Latin word “Gentile”, belong in a English translation of a Hebrew and Greek TEXT? Gentile is found in both the Old and New Testament. THOSE words, Gentile and Jew are there for the purpose of DEPICTION , CONFUSION!
        “GENTILE”: Hebrew S.C. 1471 gowy/goy “a foreign nation or Nation, People” ALSO “troop of animals”… Note: GOY is what the so called JEWS call us using the ANIMALS definition.
        Greek S.C. 1484 ethnos “Nation, People”. Note: “ethnos” is where we get “ETHNIC”
        Based on what I know about the EDOMITE Rothschillds creation, “The ILLUMINATI” and their ownership and control of the majority of the Publishing House’s and infiltration of the Seminaries, that is how we have the word JEW and GENTILE in our Bibles.

        NOW to the really fun points of interest….

        Deuteronomy 5:17 “Thou shalt not kill”. comes from the Hebrew …”ratsach”… S.C.7523 MOST causal Bible students understand that the CORRECT translation is …”MURDER”…

        The word “Easter” in ACTS 12:4 comes from the Greek …”pascha”… S.C.3957 that means …”PASSOVER”… Easter is found in the KJV only. Why?

        AND HERE is one that I found in the early 1980’s, because I have known since the third grade that “WORDS HAVE MEANINGS” I wanted to know what “THEOPHILUS” meant. I had not heard any explanation for it at that time, but seeing it In Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1, I had to wonder why LUKE used the “WORD”, “THEOPHILUS” I learned that it was in the Greek …”Theophilos’… From(on-line) S.C. 2321 …”friend of God”… ALSO …”the person to whom Luke addressed his Gospel and the book of Acts”… BUT there is no reason to believe that LUKE was addressing any one person. I believe that was LUKE’S way of addressing the CHURCH.

        In my hard copy from 1980 it says nothing about a “person” it ADDS that it is from, …”Themellos” S.C. 2310 Greek …”something put down, i.e. a substruction (of a building, ect.) (lit. or fig.):-foundation.
        So “THEOPHILUS” should read as, “FRIEND Of God”

        Facts concerning the Origin of the word “JEW”.


        More on the word “JEW” from a “JEW”


        The SYNAGOGUE Of SATAN: EDOMS Playground


    • Translation is always a key factor of misrepresentation, misleading the reader in many ways. The translation of the bible has its benefit but one must always take in consideration of the translator views. in many ways more than one there remain errors in many version.
      #1 if i should say, when the scripture speaks regarding the virgin that shall give birth in Isaiah 7. to note the prophet in his word of favour used ALMA instead of BETHULAH. this simple meant that he was addressing the female as a young maid but not s a virgin. there the translation of the Greek word parthenos highlight it as virgin.
      #2. as remain which is true of the translation of names that. Yeshua as the original text disclosed whilst in the Old Testament we see Joshuah. This then gives changes in the New Testament where we see the word JESUS. In the book of Hebrew we see another confusion of the name JESUS used where the reader believed the scripture was pointing to the Messiah.
      so we all must note that translation has errors,

  2. Just an amazing blog. Unreal! Thanks for posting this and your work is greatly appreciated.

  3. Dr. Wallace,

    Thanks for posting about these myths. Much needed truths are expressed in this post. I do have a question, however, about your reference to Jerome’s method of translating the word of God. In my library I have this quote from Jerome regarding his translation methodology:

    For I myself not only admit but freely proclaim that in translating from the Greek (except in the case of the holy scriptures where even the order of the words is a mystery) I render sense for sense and not word for word. (Jerome, “The Letters of St. Jerome”, trans. W. H. Fremantle, G. Lewis and W. G. Martley, A SELECT LIBRARY OF THE NICENE AND POST-NICENE FATHERS OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH, SECOND SERIES, VOLUME VI: ST. JEROME: LETTERS AND SELECT WORKS, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1893). 113.)

    Granted, in the context he was defending his translation of non-biblical texts, but he did imply, in his parenthetical statement, that he translated holy scriptures “word for word” and not “sense for sense,” did he not? Are you aware of another statement of Jerome where he indicates that he translated the scriptures using sense for sense and not word for word? Thanks.


    • I believe that you are correct, Mr. Gentry. When I read Dr. Wallace’s mention of Jerome in the first point I was sort of flummoxed, being fairly familiar with Jerome’s writings.

      In his prologue to Judith, Jerome indicates that he felt bothered having been forced by the demand of friends to translate the book and so he translated it quickly (“I have acquiesced to your request (or should I say demand!): and, my other work set aside, from which I was forcibly restrained, I have given a single night’s work…”) with less care than he normally gave to the more important work from which he was pulled (“translating according to sense rather than verbatim”) – from THE PREFACE OF JEROME ON THE BOOK OF JUDITH translated by Andrew S. Jacobs.

      The key sentence of the same prologue translated by Kevin P. Edgecomb reads thusly: “Yet having been written in Chaldean words, it is counted among the histories. But because this book is found by the Nicene Council to have been counted among the number of the Sacred Scriptures, I have acquiesced to your request, indeed a demand, and works having been set aside from which I was forcibly curtailed, I have given to this (book) one short night’s work translating more sense from sense than word from word.”

    • John, you make an excellent point. I appreciate the correction.

    • John, what are you referring to in Jerome’s comments? He says that apart from some exceptional cases, he renders “sense for sense and not word for word.” But you appear to take these words to mean the opposite (namely, that he translated word for word and not sense for sense). Have I missed something?

      • Glenn, thanks for replying. I think if you will re-read the quote from Jerome you will see that he said he rendered or translated “sense for sense” when translating everything “EXCEPT in the case of holy scriptures.” His quote implies that he translated “word for word” and not “sense for sense” when translating scriptures, but that he translated “sense for sense” and not “word for word” when translating everything else.

        BTW, my comment was not in disagreement with Wallace’s post. I think this is an excellent post, one that I have shared with others. My comment was just a point of clarification on a quote Wallace originally included in the post (a quote that has since been removed).

        Let me know if that doesn’t answer your question. Take care and God bless.

      • Thanks John. I see, so you’re reading Jerome as saying: “except in the case of the holy scriptures, where even the order of the words is [always] a mystery…” I added the comma and the word in square brackets, because that’s the difference between what I thought Jerome was saying and what you seem to be saying. I initially took him to be saying “except in the case of the holy scriptures, [specifically] where even the order of the words is a mystery” – In other words, except for those examples in holy scripture where even the word order is a mystery.

        But looking around a bit more at Jerome on this issue it looks like you’re right and my initial reading was off. Thanks!

  4. […] Fifteen Myths about Bible Translation « Daniel B. Wallace. Share this:FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint […]

  5. […] Wallace has a post covering 15 Myths About Bible Translation. He expands on each one, so I encourage you to read […]

  6. Hello Dr. Wallace,

    I have a couple of questions if you would.

    For 12), in this case where the LXX in a sense anachronistically informs our understanding of the Hebrew meaning, should this not be the overriding factor in our translation of the Hebrew, especially in light of Matthew’s usage of parthenos? In other words, although the most literal meaning of almah is young woman, isn’t it by implication usually or always virgin anyways – justifying forever the usage in translation of “virgin”?

    For 14), there are instances in the gospels where the words of Jesus are quite different in seemingly identical pericopes, e.g. Matthew 5-6 compared to Luke 11. I wonder then, in light of your comments, if we may have a confident exegesis of the historical narratives? It is standard fare in my experience for the preacher to stress the minutest parts of speech in bringing out meaning from the subject in Scripture. How would you then instruct a student to approach the preaching and application of a word which is ipsissima vox, but not necessarily exactly what the person said?

    Thank you,
    J Esposito

    • I did, BTW attempt to use HTML tags for italics on those foreign terms, but alas it did not work ;-)

    • Justin,

      I have lots about alma and parthenos on-line here: “Who are you calling a virgin?,” including a discussion of how to reconcile Matthew and Isaiah. (I also have a whole chapter on the issue in my And God Said: How Translations Conceal the Bible’s Original Meaning.)

      My simple answer to your question is a question in return: If Matthew uses the passage from Isaiah in a new context — or if he has a more refined understanding of the text — shouldn’t that fact be available to people who read the Bible in English?

      -Joel H.

    • Regarding the LXX rendering of Isa 7.14: παρθένος is indeed the translation, which by the first century AD meant indisputably ‘virgin.’ But when the LXX was done, the word could also mean ‘young woman.’ Even if this had not been the case, should we translate the Hebrew Bible according to a translation into another language done hundreds of years later or should we translate the Hebrew?

      Regarding the words of Jesus, preachers do sometimes overdo it on focusing on the minutiae. It would be helpful if they were to check out the synoptic parallels to understand the text better, but most do not. However, an expositor is also concerned to get the message right in that passage. And the ancients felt that getting the gist of what was said (by the Lord or by anyone else) was more important than getting the exact wording right. Further, if the autographs are inspired, then we ought to treat the wording of the text with respect.

  7. Thanks for this – not strictly on topic, but following on from your point 15, why is it that chapter divisions in English differ in some places from the MT?

  8. Dr. Wallace,

    Tks for the important thoughts for our days. The negative influences of the KJO are being felt here in Brazil.
    I believe there need to be limits to Dynamic Equivalence. The translation may turn out to be an interpretation of the text, and we know that the same passage may sometimes have more than one meaning. If the translator translates the text into his understanding, he keeps the readers from discovering a different meaning. Furthermore, the translator affirms to have perfectly understood the text. So we need to be very cautious about DE. On the other hand I agree that there is no such thing as Formal Equivalence; at the best a method of translation someone called i Functional Equivalence.
    I have been working on a translation of a Portuguese NT for about 12 years now. I spent over a year just comparing the Synoptic Gospels word for word. So that, wherever, in the same context, the same words were used by the synoptic writers, I was able to translate the text also in an almost identical manner. So that if someone searches for a combination of words in Greek and does the same in the Portuguese translation the result will be very similar. I had to make my own page sizes in order for the text to fit side by side, but for every similar passage there was a separate page. Altogether there are over 850 pages of comparative texts and also a few comments. Sample texts can be downloaded at the site of the NT http://www.nt.batistas.net.


    • A lot of work! May God bless it, and may you see the fruit. God speed in all.

    • Fred, I agree very much with your comments. Dynamic/functional equivalence can be abused when a translator is so sure of his or her interpretation that the real meaning of the text is lost in translation. At the same time, interpretation is always necessary in translation. One cannot simply translate word-for-word. My own view is that if an ambiguous translation in English preserves the ambiguity of the Greek or Hebrew and gives the English reader the same options as the reader of the original text, it should normally be used. But this cannot always be done. For example, in Rom 3.22 we read πίστις Χριστοῦ. The genitive is either objective or subjective. If objective, it means ‘faith in Christ.’ If subjective, it means ‘Christ’s faithfulness.’ The word πίστις itself means either ‘faith’ or ‘faithfulness.’ It will not do to translate the phrase ‘the faith of Christ’ since this is really punting and does not help the English reader to grasp what’s going on (interestingly, the KJV translates the passage this way). The translator needs to make an interpretive choice. Most go for ‘faith in Christ,’ though the NET Bible has ‘the faithfulness of Christ.’ Responsible translations also have a marginal note that gives the alternative rendering.

      As for comparing the synoptic parallels, kudos to you! We did the same in the NET Bible, but we added one more principle: even if the words were identical between two Gospels, only if the context permitted it would we translate the text the same way.

      • Dynamic/functional equivalence can be abused when a translator is so sure of his or her interpretation that the real meaning of the text is lost in translation.

        I think that if the translator doesn’t know the meaning of the text, no translation approach will help. Even if a string of words in English happens (a) to match a string of words in Hebrew or Greek and (b) to mean something in English, there’s no reason to think the English will mean the same thing as the Greek or Hebrew.

        We see examples even going between the nearly identical British and American dialects of English: To “table a motion” in the U.S. means to postpone voting on it, while in England it means to decide to vote on it. In other words, the translation from British English to American English of “table a motion” is not “table a motion”! (I have other examples here: “Sometimes the right word is the wrong word to use when translating the Bible.”)


      • Would it not be fair to say that every translation is, by definition, an interpretation? Authorial intent must be reconstructed, and therefore cannot be a certainty. One must interpret the text in light of context to reconstruct authorial intent prior to moving to a second language.

      • Dr. Wallace, would not “faith of Christ” in Romans 3:22 actually preserve the ambiguity that you speak of, and truly offer the reader the available options, apart from interpreting it?

        I know that more rigid literal translating does make reading harder, but it seems to me to convey what is there, which then allows the reader to interpret upon reading. I do know the struggles of translating (at my admittedly lower level). Yet it seems that the more we seek to interpret, the less translating is happening.

  9. […] Fifteen Myths about Bible Translation. Tell Someone Else:EmailTwitterFacebookStumbleUponPinterestLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  10. […] second post which caught my eye was a list of fifteen myths about Bible translation from Daniel Wallace; the first of which reads: Perhaps the number one myth about Bible translation […]

  11. […] Read the whole thing. Share/PrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  12. […] Perhaps the number one myth about Bible translation is that a word-for-word translation is the best kind. Jerome argued against this, noting that his translation of the Vulgate was not word-for-wor…  […]

  13. Good reason for us all to learn ancient Greek and Latin!

  14. Reblogged this on Marius Cruceru and commented:
    Cîteva gînduri și pentru adepții Fidelei (cu sau fără lapte pentru prunci la minte)

  15. […] rejecting word-for-word translations, Dr. Daniel B. Wallace explains that, “Jerome argued against this, noting that his translation of the Vulgate was not […]

  16. Regarding whether Jerome did or didn’t use a word-for-word approach with Scripture: Does it really matter?

    BTW, thanks to Eddie Arthur for pointing out this blog posting.

  17. How is it you can say that Wycliffe’s was “hardly English” yet the KJV 1611 borrowed heavily from it and it was proper English and readable?

  18. Let me also say that point one, while well stated, sort of left the issues as either/or. There is a spectrum between literal and dynamic translations where translations find themselves leaning more literal or more dynamic with each translation decisions. Having spoken with one Bible translator (for the HCSB) I know that many wrestle within this spectrum to bring communicability and accuracy together.

  19. […] Dallas Theological Seminary professor and Greek scholar Dr. Daniel Wallace has recently written a helpful blog post on 15 myths commonly associated with Bible translation. […]

  20. […] Fifteen Myths about Bible Translation by Daniel B. Wallace – tackling ideas like ‘literal is better’ and KJV-only […]

  21. Dr. Wallace denies that literal translations of the Bible are best. But that sort of depends on what you want to do with your Bible. If you want to read books from it, start-to-finish, then perhaps a bit of dynamic flexibility will help make that reading process more comfortable. But even then I wouldn’t want to sacrifice too much of the original structure of the language. For example, consider Mark 10:2. The ASV (a fairly literal translation) reads thusly:

    “And there came unto him Pharisees, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? trying him.”

    Wallace’s NET translation, however, has made some changes. It reads:

    “Then some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?'”

    The most noticeable change here is that Wallace has translated “divorce,” while the ASV translates “put away.” I think it’s fair to say that Wallace’s choice is better in this case—as long as one is MOST interested in convenience of reading. (However if one is interested in study, then “put away” is probably a better choice, perhaps with a footnote explaining what it probably means.)

    However I fail to see how it’s worth making the other two big changes we see here in Mark 10:2. In particular, why move “test him” from the end of the Jesus quote to the beginning? And why leave out the fact that they came “unto him”? These changes do not, that I can see, enhance readability to any significant degree. So why make them?

    Obviously, this is all very subjective. Apparently Wallace disagrees with me and thinks that these changes really do enhance readability. But I just don’t see it, and I certainly don’t want it in any translation I have.

    And this is just when we’re interested in reading large portions of the Bible at once. For study the issue is squarely on the side of a literal translation (with footnotes of course).

    Moreover, even for reading large portions, no doubt some will want to endure the inconvenience of stilted English for the sake of experiencing something closer to the original.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts. And even though I disagree with certain parts of it, I nevertheless enjoyed the blog post. Keep ‘em coming!

    • Ben, thanks for your comments. In response, the NET Bible is not MY translation. I was one of the editors, and I translated a couple of books for the project (the Gospels were not among them). Second, the verb ἀπολύω has a variety of meanings. “Put away” is one of them, but it also can mean, in a given context, “set free,” “pardon,” “let go,” or “divorce.” In marriage contexts, it means “divorce.” The ASV here is therefore not particularly literal with the verb, since it didn’t take into account the context. “Put away” can mean, in modern English, “kill,” “put in an asylum,” “separate from,” or “divorce.” Why should we not give to the English reader what the reader of Greek would instinctively know–namely, that in a marriage context ‘divorce’ is the appropriate gloss? Third, the ASV is not really a literal translation here. If you want to preserve the word order of the Greek and make this very literal, it would read, “And coming to [no object is mentioned in Greek], Pharisees asked him if it is lawful for a husband a wife to divorce, testing him.” This is almost unintelligible, and even so-called ‘literal’ translations have to change things to make it work in English. The ASV has changed the word order, turned the conditional clause into a direct question (which is normal in Greek, but literally it does not say that), added ‘his’ before wife, and translated the initial participle as a finite verb plus ‘and.’ However, it has kept ‘trying him’ in last place though by doing some difficult gymnastics with the English. The NET has translated the participle περάζοντες as an infinitive since it is almost surely a participle of purpose. All this is in keeping with a determination to represent the sense of the Greek for English readers. It’s actually much easier to produce semi-literal translations than more dynamic ones, but that’s because the translator often chooses not to grapple with the sense of the original. The ASV and NASB are excellent ‘ponies’ for those struggling with the original language because they are closer to the wording of the original. But that doesn’t make them better translations. Finally, just about any Greek or Hebrew sentence in the Bible cannot be literally translated. I think you were cherry-picking the parts of the ASV in this verse that were literal.

      • Dr Wallace, thanks both for your post and for your willingness to dialogue with your commenters. I’m definitely passing it along.

        I’ve long referred to the NASB as the good-Greek, good-Hebrew, bad-English version. If I’m too lazy or rushed to look at Nestle-Aland or BHS, I can refer to my copy of the NASB and get a fair guess of the underlying Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew.

    • “Moreover, even for reading large portions, no doubt some will want to endure the inconvenience of stilted English for the sake of experiencing something closer to the original.”

      I think this is one of the biggest misunderstandings about (Bible) translation. The stilted English is not actually closer to the original, though it often seems like it is. I have more here: “What Goes Wrong when we Translate the Words,” where I explain why sometimes what looks like a close reading of the Bible is just a misreading of it.


    • Your example of the different location of “trying him” vs “test him” is interesting. Greek has a quite free word order – the order of words in a sentence is no where near as fixed as it is in English. The relative order of sentence constituents is usually due to pragmatic, or information structure, reasons. A good translation will therefore ask “What was the pragmatic effect of putting this phrase here in the sentence in Greek? How can we produce the same effect in English?”

      If you want to preserve the original structure of Hebrew and Greek then you need to ask those questions. If you copy the order of the sentence constituents without asking those questions, then rather than saving the original structure you are destroying it!

  22. Dr. Wallace,

    Hi, and thanks for the reply. Permit me, if you please, to respond to your three points, in reverse order.

    First, I didn’t mean to suggest that we should have a word-for-word translation such as you gave above. I agree, it is quite unintelligible. But I thought that you wanted to distinguish between those word-for-word translations on one hand, and “literal” translations on the other—by which I took you to mean translations like the RV or ASV, whose translators appear to have made a great effort to remain faithful to the original word structure without rendering something unintelligible such as you translated in your last post. In other words, I am using the term “literal translation” to describe translations which are about as close to the original word structure as the RV, ASV, ESV, etc. I thought you were using the term in the same way, but I guess not.

    How are you using the term, by the way, if not like that?

    Anyway, onto point two. I’m not sure if you saw this in my previous post, but let me again assure you that I do agree we should have some English translation to “divorce.” My only quibble is that I think it should be relegated to a footnote for study Bibles. This is a preference of mine, of course. Maybe others prefer different. However it does seem to me that the change is significant enough that something should be noted. That is, either “put away” should be in the translation and “divorce” in a footnote, or vice versa. For a study Bible, both renderings deserve mention.

    Finally, regarding your involvement in the NET Bible, I’m sorry if I implied you were the very person who translated that bit of text. I only meant to say that it is your translation in the sense that you were editor. I actually thought you were something like the lead editor, but now that I check the credits page online, I see that W. Hall Harris III is “project director,” which appears to be the lead role. Sorry about the mix-up.

  23. very good article, than You. …a little more info:
    …the words “apocrypha” and “deutero-canonical books”(DC) are not the same document type AT ALL. The apocrypha were never taken to the canon of the universal Church (official list of books considered as inspired by the Holy Spirit), whereas the deutero-canonical books are considered as inspired and used in the universal Church a long time ago. The Old Testament includes 7 DC (included in Septuaginta translation from the 3rd century BCE) and the New Testament DC ware also used from the early centuries (Hebr,Jak,2Pt,2Jn,3Jn,Jd,Rev). The canon was officially determined on the Trident Concil 1546 AD. (btw, the word universal, general means “catholic” and is used so from the 2nd century). :)

    • Actually, apocrypha is what Protestants have called the 14-15 LXX books that Catholics have in their Bibles but Protestants tend not to have in theirs. And by universal council, I mean one in which both branches–the eastern and the western–agreed. By 1546, the Church had spit (it occurred in 1054), so there never was a universal council that decided what books were canonical. And Protestants do not consider the books you mentioned as deter-canonical; to them, all the books have the same canonical status.

  24. […] Fifteen Myths about Bible Translation « Daniel B. Wallace. Share this:FacebookTwitterMorePrintEmailDiggLinkedInRedditStumbleUponTumblr […]

  25. […] Perhaps the number one myth about Bible translation is that a word-for-word translation is the best kind. Jerome argued against this, noting that his translation of the Vulgate was not word-for-wor…  […]

  26. I am a born again believer born of the spirit of God I really don’t understand nor dose 95% of the people that I know about other languages Why should we bogle our brains with all this translation things when if we have the spirit of the living God to show us what is true and to teach us?

    • The reason is very simple: without the Bible in a language you can understand, you can’t know the word of God or the will of God. The Spirit works with the Bible. He does not add revelation about God’s word, nor does he inspire us to know God’s will.

      • Dr. Wallace, you are a gentle man. Instead of saying that you have no access to the Spirit without knowledge, and no knowledge of God without an accurate Bible, effectively dismissing Kierkegaard’s assertion that faith is the opposite of reason, you correct the error of anti-intellectualism by stating that the Spirit operates to the Bible. Such a soft-spoken character must have been a joy to learn from. Every time I pick up “Biblical Greek Beyond the Basics” I feel that warmth. The covers have fallen off my copy from so much use.

      • Hi Dr. Wallace, l totally agree with your reply to Gary Modeen’s words. And please let me add my thanks along with the others, for sharing your knowledge with us.

        But I want to say that Gary brought out a very important point. I think that those of us who are so interested in the subject of Bible translation, should be very careful about who we talk to about it. Many people are just “babes” in Christ, or are otherwise weak in their faith, so their faith is very fragile. Someone could start talking to such a person in detail about the complexities and difficulties involved in Bible translation, and by the time he’s finished, the weaker brother (or sister) is no longer confident, but rather doubtful, that the Bible he holds in his hand really is the word of God. I can think of someone right now who would be affected by it in just that way.

        Just my opinion.

      • Dear Chris,
        If I may add my little comment: you made a very valuable statement. Yet people, especially “young” Christians, are bound to at some time be confronted by the KJV/NIV controversy where some people are ruthless in their condemnation of the other. That is why I believe that one should rather acknowledge that there are differences and difficulties in translating the Word of God, but then give the facts as objective as possible.
        God bless

      • Dr. Wallace – I am and we all are greatly indebted to those such as yourself who dedicate themselves to Biblical translation. Thank you. But I also would argue that Gary Modeen has a valid point. God is not constrained by the Bible; neither is God limited by it nor to it. God is greater than the Bible. We must be careful to worship a Living God. The Bible is only as useful as it is able to help us do that or as we are able to apply it to that end. It is a perfectly inspired instrument to that purpose, but ultimately we must be careful that we worship God, not the Bible.

      • I fully agree that we must worship God, not the Bible! See my several posts that make that same point. However, to say that God is not limited to/by the Bible requires some nuancing. Surely you are not saying that God contradicts the Bible, are you? Those who speak about being moved by the Spirit are often quite ignorant of the Bible and live life, in some ways, that contradicts God’s revealed will in the Bible. The Bible is a roadmap, it is not the road. But it’s an infallible roadmap. To worship a god who is quite different from how he is portrayed in the Bible is to worship a false god, not the living God.

  27. Reblogged this on Juan The Baptist and commented:
    It’s been awhile. For that I apologize.

  28. A very interesting article and discourse indeed! As an American, I am bothered by newer 20th century translations that render, for example, words like “brethren” (KJV) as “brothers” (NIV). Since our culture is increasingly biblically-illiterate, and that in the ordinary usage of the word “brother” in the American context is that of a biogical, male sibling; I would prefer using “brethren,” which means the local assembly of believers comprising both males and females. Surely good teachers and preachers would interpret that and any other problematic word to their students and hearers to avoid confusion.
    Because the modern English vocabulary is lacking as it relates to descriptive gender word variants, compared to for example, Latin-based languages; I would submit that it is better to remain with “brethren” which, although is not widely understood outside the biblical context, still conveys the correct meaning of the word. I’ll end with a just a bit of English wit in saying that I also encourage keeping a copy of the English dictionary on the shelf. Should I mention which edition? Thank you for the article and study Mr. Wallace.

  29. The New Living Translation (NLT) a paraphase the Living Bible (LB)is???

  30. […] http://danielbwallace.com/2012/10/08/fifteen-myths-about-bible-translation/ Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in KFD. Bookmark the permalink. ← Did God use a big bang? […]

  31. Thanks for the article, I certainly must agree with it in general, but in one instance I have a question. You mention that the older manuscripts are the most reliable. Am I correct that the older, (alexandrian) manuscripts are far less internally consistant, even within the relatively few copies we have, than the majority text of which we have perhaps 5 or 6 thousand examples? Perhaps you were referring to a different of older manuscripts? I’ve been told this, but have not the tools to research it myself, not being in any stretch of the imagination a greek scholar! Is it correct theologically to say that God would in His care for His Word make sure that there was always a relatively accurate representation available throughout the ages? geography not being the issue here but what is available on the face of the earth. If so then this would lend credence to the Majority text right?

  32. A number of statements in this entry are not quite right. On a couple of points your depiction of the KJV’s preface is significantly out of focus. And the claim that “strain at a gnat” in Matthew 23:24 is a typo should be withdrawn; here are a few examples (drawn from various readily available online sources) of the use of “strain at” in writings prior to 1611:

    1584 – Eusebius Paget’s translation of Calvin’s Harmonia: “They doe as much, as if a man shoulde straine at a crumme of bread, and swallow downe a whole loafe.”

    1572 – Rudolf Gwalther: “. . . Gospel, where he sayth they strayne at a Gnat”

    1587 – Henry Barrow and John Greenwood: “. . . strain at a gnat and swallow a camel”

    1593 – Robert Greene Mamillia: “most unjustly straining at a gnat and letting pass an elephant”

    1599 – Roger Fenton – “Let vs then leaue to straine at gnattes”

    1599 – John King’s “Lectures upon Jonas”: “They have verified the olde proverbe in strayning at gnats and swallowing downe camells.”

    Pre-1604 – Archbishop of Canterbury John Whitgift (d. 1604) – “…ye straine at a Gnat, & swallow up a camel;” and “and strain at a gnat swallowing down a camel” and “. . . of whom Christ speaketh: ‘They strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.’ ”

    1600 – George Abbot’s “An Exposition vpon the prophet Ionah”: “…to make a strayning at a gnat, and to swallow vp a whole Camel.”

    Unless one wishes to propose that all these cases (and more) are typographical errors, I think we must conclude that the claim that “strain at a gnat” in the KJV must be a typographical mistake is erroneous. Languages change, and in the 1500’s, “strain at a gnat” came to have the meaning, “strain [i.e., filter] due to a gnat.” As such it is a non-problematic rendering of DIULIZONTES.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  33. {{Editorial note}} In point 6, “were” should be inserted within the phrase “the vast majority of which merely spelling updates.”

  34. Regarding point 3: Huh?! The King James Version is an essentially literal translation, and its preface does not say otherwise. Read carefully the excerpt that is presented in point 3; it states that the same base-word is not invariably rendered by the same English word. That does not mean that the alternate-renderings were therefore non-literal; the translators are still translating /words/ –and that is the essence of a literal translation. There are exceptions, where a literal rendering of idiomatic Hebrew or Greek phrases would have been incomprehensible, but anyone who compares paraphrases to their base-texts, and then compares the KJV to its base-text, will see that the KJV’s translation-technique consistently tends to be much more word-for word — that is, literal — and this is a defining characteristic of the KJV.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  35. Great article Mr. Wallace it was enjoyable to read. I like to use the NIV 2011 but i have a question. What is the correct reading at Mark 1:41?

  36. Point #10 is questionable, too. Just look through Luke 24 in the RSV and you’ll see that it does not contain verses that other Bibles contain. No matter how you slice it, /some/ modern translations *have* removed words and verses from the Bible. That is not a myth at all. (And if one does not accept the Alexandrian Text as the virtual equivalent of the original text, but tends to prefer instead the Byzantine Text, then of course one will conclude that translations of the NT based on the Alexandrian Text do indeed omit verses and words that were in the original text.

    There are a number of other problematic statements in this entry.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  37. Hi Dr. Wallace,
    could you elaborate on what you regard as the ‘oldest and most reliable manuscripts’? More specificially, if all the Greek NT manuscripts were tragically destroyed, and you were only able to preserve five, which five would you chose? Glad to be receiving your posts. Keen to learn.

  38. Thanks for all the hard work you put in here. I was especially interested in your take on young woman in the RSV.

  39. […] Testament scholar Daniel Wallace recently wrote an informative blog post on what he considers to be the fifteen most common myths about Bible translation.  While I suggest […]

  40. […] series, we looked at a few myths about Bible translation, cited from Daniel Wallace’s blog post.  Below we review a few […]

  41. Hi Dan, I like what you said, but I didn’t like that you called the NLT and TEV paraphrases. Please do not build confusion by misusing the word paraphrase. I have written about this before at the Better Bibles Blog: http://betterbibles.com/2010/11/06/paraphrases-rant/

    Much better would be to explain exactly what makes those translations distinctive: perhaps they are written with more words as they use less jargon; perhaps they put too much interpretation into the text itself, clearing up ambiguities which the other translations leave in. If you explain what makes a translation distinctive then we can decide if we like it or not. If you call it a paraphrase then all we know is that you are dismissive of it.

    And just on the top of word counts, do you have one for a polysynthetic language? I’d love to know how many “words” a NT would have in one of them! 100k? 50k? If only the Bible had been written in one, then no one would even think that word-for-word was a good idea.

    • If a paraphrase puts things in different words, then the NLT and TEV, prima facie, qualify as paraphrases more than just about any other translation in English, since they have far more words than most other versions. On what basis are you claiming to divine my motives that I am dismissive of paraphrases? I happen to think they have their place, and it’s a very important place.

      • The formal definition of a paraphrase is that it is a restatement in the same language. If you ignore the qualification of what language your source is then every translation is a paraphrase, which makes the term meaningless! I do not see why the NLT and TEV are more worthy of the term than any other version in English: surely the NKJV, ESV and TNIV are more worthy of the term as they are fairly minor revisions of other English texts. (The Living Bible was a paraphrase of the ASV. I do not know how much of the LB remains in the NLT, and whether the dominant source of the NLT we have today is the original languages or the LB.) I’d prefer if no one ever used the term again, but if we must use it, then can we use it for the proper technical sense?

        Sorry, I have reread your post more charitably, and it doesn’t seem to be dismissive of “paraphrases”. But please understand me: if you use “paraphrase” in a way that is not a reference to its source language, then by using it you are classifying/making a judgement on the version for some other reason. Most people who do this do not explain what the reasons are for classifying a version as a paraphrase, as you yourself did not. Most people who label versions paraphrases at the same time state that other versions are not paraphrases, giving the impression that paraphrases and translations are distinct, and that if you want a fully worthy translation you’ll avoid the paraphrases. You did not not say to avoid them, so I apologise. But, in your comment just then, you said “they have their place”, which says that their place is different from the non-paraphrases. I do not think that the source language would determine how a Bible version is used, so what is it that you think does? The differences between Bible versions are in no way self-evident, so if you do not take the time to explain why paraphrases should be used differently to non-paraphrases people will assume they are just inferior.

        It only takes a sentence or two to explain some differences between the translations. If a version wouldn’t be appropriate for public reading in a church service because it makes explicit too much implicit information, or because it clarifies too many ambiguities, or because its reading level is too basic, or because its language is in a register you don’t like, or because it is too dissimilar to the translation heritage you are used to, or because it actually is a paraphrase from another English text, then just say so! All of these are reasons behind what some people use the term “paraphrase” for, and all are valid for specific translations. They may or may not make a text good or bad for some purpose, such as reading aloud in church. There are not enough good discussions on the differences between translations, often because they group so many different things under a single label like “paraphrase”.

        Here’s myth #16: The term “paraphrase” tells you how a Bible was translated, or what makes it different from other Bibles.

  42. Did the King James authors use the best greek copies available?

  43. Thank you for this excellent post.
    I have a blog where I study the reasons for the differences between older versions of the Bible like the KJV and modern versions like the NIV. (www.bibledifferences.net) Some time ago I posted on Mat.1:23 and Isaiah 7:14, “Virgin or young woman” (http://bibledifferences.net/2012/08/10/47-the-virgin-birth/) Your No.12 confirms what I posted there.
    I thoroughly enjoy the way you explained these myths. May I post an abbreviated form on my blog as a “guest post” in your name? I would also post a translation on my Afrikaans blog handling the same material.
    Thank you.

    Herman Grobler, Pretoria, South Africa.

  44. The King James Bible is God’s perfect words in English… you’re “myth busting” otherwise just stems from your unfortunate refusal to believe what God has done.

    • Greeting in Christ Mr Quigley. I am a proponent of KJV as first choice for a bible, in that it promotes the continuation a long tradition of God’s word in the English language passed down from many generations. I also encourage it’s use as a practical means of learning the richness of the English language while feeding on the Word in our daily life. However I ask that you look as several apparent errors that I have located in the KJV text. Please allow me to preface this by stating that these 3 errors by no means sway me from endorsing the KJV. See the following texts from Leviticus: 12:8 and 15:29; and Numbers 6:10. Merely comparing the scripture with scripture, I by no means claim expertise in the area of textual analysis, however it would appear that the word translated “turtle” in the KJV should be in fact “turtledove” – unless of course the reptilian was accepted as a clean creature for use in sacrifice at that time.(?) I encourage Mr. Wallace to weigh in with a response to this question, for which I express my thanks in advance. So before claiming the KJV as “God’s perfect words in English” one should consider that we are still a ways-off from the eventual full correcting of the curse of Ninevah’s confounding, with the day of our LORD’s new Jerusalem in which “there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth..” At that point we shall certainly be blessed in knowing that we have been among those that have been “keeping saying of the the prophesy of this book,” and doing his comandments. Rev. 22:7,14. Yet I hope that the time between now and then would be shortened as we may together with the apostle John exclaim, “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” Rev. 22:20.

      • Good day David. Your are perfectly right in pointing to the unfortunate misunderstanding that could happen when older forms of the English like “turtle” meaning “turtle dove” could to us modern readers be understood as referring to the reptile. The Hebrew “tore” indeed does not refer to the reptile at all, but to the turtle dove.
        In Rev.22:7 we have to do with the appeal to observe the prophecies of Revelation, and should not be misread as referring to “doing his commandments”.
        Yet in Rev.22:14 we are confronted with a complete different and crucial problem. The KJV and other older versions of the Bible using the Textus Receptus as source text translates this verse as “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” The problem is that the rendering of the KJV makes “keeping the commandments” the precondition for salvation! That is contrary to the message of the rest of Revelation and the whole New Testament, and actually also the Old Testament. We are not saved by our own performance in keeping the law! Christianity is the only religion that proclaims salvation by the grace of God and not the achievement of man!
        Yet modern Versions like the NIV have the precondition in this verse as “Blessed are those who wash their robes…”, that is, in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore relying on the done work of Jesus on the cross, and not own performance. This indeed corresponds with the message of the rest of Revelation and indeed the whole Bible. The question is which gives the correct rendering of the original Greek in which Revelation had been written? The oldest Greek manuscript we have containing the version found in the KJV dates after 900 A.D. while there are many Greek manuscripts before that date with the version found in the NIV.
        This unfortunate mistake probably happened when a scribe misread the uncial letters. This could have happened if his source copy had been worn down or he had been careless as I explained in my post on this important difference between the KJV and the NIV ( http://bibledifferences.net/2012/08/10/56-robes-wash-or-commandments-do-rev-2214/ )
        BTW, to date this is the only difference I have found in my study of the causes behind the differences that impacts on the essence or foundations of our faith.
        God bless,
        Herman of bibledifferences.net.

      • Prayerful consideration of whether the AV’s “turtle” is a reptile or a bird would have provided you with sufficient answer without the need to become an bibleless infidel by departing from God’s words in English.
        The response by “Herman” is instructive, he doesn’t believe in doing God’s commandments, but simply “observing” them – like looking at the speed limit sign while going 100 miles per hour past it. He simply took your exact approach to the AV Bible – rejecting words he didn’t like – and became a heretic.
        Let Herman’s follies be a lesson for you. The AV is God’s words in English, and once you start on the slippery slope of changing any words in it as you see fit, you justify the worst sorts of infidelity by others who also reject the final authority of the AV.
        I believe the King James Bible – every single word in it – even if all the world thinks I’m wrong and stupid for doing so. Let God vindicate me or else rebuke me – I simply decided to trust the book he put in my hands when I got saved more than the apostate “scholars” who never did one thing to save my lost soul.
        If it was needful, I’d gladly take a pair of snapping turtles to the Temple in mistaken good faith long before I’ll let go of one of the leasts words of that precious Book.

    • Dear mr. MackQuigley,
      I just love it when one can make a decision and stick to it, but then that decision should be grounded on sound and true facts. There was a time when devout Christians honestly believed that the earth was flat and stood on pillars. Those who opposed this conviction were considered heretics and severely punished. Yet facts proved the real truth. To believe that the KJV is the true Word of God is OK. But on what grounds? Because my dad used it? Or because I am used to it? Or because I have come to this conviction by studying all the facts available? In some cases the KJV is the best translation in English. But very often it contains very late additions to the Greek texts, and even alterations found in no Greek manuscript prior to Erasmus’s corruption of 1John 5:7-8. And please do not build your entry into the Holy City and access to the Tree of Life on “do his commandments” as the KJV instructs. For in that area we all fail! Rather look at the facts and correct the mistake some scribe made many years ago and build your faith on the true instruction Jesus gave and is found in most modern Bibles based on the oldest and most reliable Greek manuskripts. “Have your garments washed in the blood of the Lamb”! By the way, in about 100 differences in versions of the Bible that I have already studied, this one in Revelation 22:14 is the only one that touches on Biblical doctrine. So, whether you follow the KJV or the NIV or any other version, you will find God! Stick to the KJV, it is a good Version of God’s Word. But do not reject other versions based on better true facts. Moles became blind because they wouldn’t face the light outside and rather chose to hide in their comfort zone under ground.
      God bless,
      Herman of bibledifferences.net

  45. Dr Dan, I am really curious to know this; as you attempt to prove that those so called popularly known as literal best word-for-word translations of NASB, Kjv etc are having more so much more words than the greek in the NT. So what exactly acc to you is the reason behind this misconception that NASB is indisputably known as word-for-word closer translation, even acc to many scholars. How can this be possible? plz reply

  46. Mr Quigley, my dear brother in Christ!
    How is it possibly that I expressed myself so bad that I could be understood completely wrong? Give me one example except for the mistaken verse of Rev.22:14 in your KJV Bible that says that you are saved by keeping the law or the commandments! We are saved solely by the grace of God through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.(Eph.2:8; “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God…”)
    On the other hand, I was most definitely not propagating a life of sin, just observing the speed limit and doing my own thing contrary to the Word of God! Then I would have been a heretic! The book of James is almost completely dedicated to the importance that our deeds must confirm our faith! (Jam.2:26; “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”) But so also Paul: (Rom.6:1-2; “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”) The Greek word translated “forbid” is the strongest repudiation in Greek, something like “unthinkable!”
    I found my Savior through a bible akin to the KJV, but that should not blind me to the mistakes that had slipped into those Bibles due to the lack of the privilege we now have of studying all manuscripts God chose to preserve for us!
    And as I said, the only difference I found that impact on the truth of the message of the Bible, is in fact Rev.22:14.
    We should embrace our salvation by faith and prove our gratitude by living a life that corresponds with the commands of God – then we would fulfill our creation purpose “to be His image, His likeness and be able to have dominion over His creation”!
    God bless,

    • “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words…” John 14:23. Do you love Jesus Christ? If so, don’t discard his words in the AV just because they don’t match some theological bias.
      The solution to your Revelation 22:14 dilemma is to prayerfully consider the AV’s words as written, not to change them.

      I already have Jesus Christ living inside me and the fountain of living water springing out of me – so why would I care for half a minute whether or not I get to eat from any tree? And New Jerusalem is my home – who will dare stop me from entering my own home?

      The verse is a doctrinal statement that applies to future generations born after the millennium. These people must “do his commandments” or else they will be barred from New Jerusalem and left unable eat the fruit of life or drink the water of life every month (see verse 15). You misapplied Rev 22:14-15 to this age and then tried to alter it to match Church-age doctrines like Ephesians 2:8-9 and Romans 4:5.

      Never change the AV text, it is always right exactly as written. What “the Greek” really means in any particular verse is not found in lexicons, it is found by reading the verse in the English AV. The body of Christ is not beholden to a priesthood of apostate scholars with Greek & Hebrew lexicons – they are obsolete and unnecessary. The King James Bible is all we need.

    • Hello Herman, and kindest regards to you. With regard to salvation, grace, faith, and works, I have always summed it up this way: “we are not saved by works, but we cannot be saved without works.”
      Surely, we all believe the words of Eph. 2:8-9. But we must also believe the words of Heb. 5:9, which says that Christ “became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” I sat down once and wrote down 135 various commands and instructions found in the New Testament. And that is only a portion of all that our LORD has given us to do, in order to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 3:18)
      And another important passage, and very relevant to this subject, is Rev. 20:12 — “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged ACCORDING TO THEIR WORKS, by the things which were written in the books.”
      Those “works” that John spoke of there, are works of obedience, and point directly to the words of Heb. 5:9.
      Therefore, while God provided what man could never have provided for his salvation, the sending of His Son as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of all mankind, He also required a response on the part of man — a lifelong response of obedience to His many commands and instructions written in the book that we call the Bible. It is unthinkable that obedience to these commands — which implies a LOT of work in carrying them out — has nothing to do with our salvation (and again, I reference Heb 5:9 and Rev. 20:12)
      This is what I meant when I said, “we are not saved by works, but we cannot be saved without works.” Three major classifications of works are revealed in the New Testament: works of the Law, works of merit, and works of obedience; they should all be studied carefully. (2 Tim. 2:15)

      I’m deeply appreciative for this forum and for everyone who has posted on it.

      • Dear Chris,
        What you are putting on the table to me is one of the greatest riddles of the Bible and salvation. As I see it, we are absolutely and purely saved by grace through the atonement Crucifixion of Jesus Christ alone, represented by the “washing of our robes” in Rev.22:14. Yet this is not by a mere proclamation of our mouth alone. The authenticity of our accepting of that salvation is proved by the change and outcome of the rest of our lives. Therefore the “opening of the books” is to establish whether we meant what we said when we accepted Jesus as Savior. “As a body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” (James 2:26) This I believe is what John stresses in 1John 3:2-6 where he says: “…now we are children of God…” no questions about that. Yet “No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him.” I am absolutely sure we will find the criminal crucified with Jesus in heaven, yet what could be written in “the books”?
        And that is the point about Rev. 22:14. We are not granted access to the tree of life and entrance into the city by the “doing of His commands”, but by “the washing of our robes”
        God bless!

  47. I did not create the alteration in Rev.22:14! It was done more than 1000 years ago!
    If you are happy to embrace this alteration some unknown guy did to the Word of God, good for you!
    If it doesn’t bother you that the precondition for salvation that God inspired John to write down in Revelation stood firm for 900 years, just to be altered to conform with some self righteous heretic thinking that he can comply with God’s high standards, good for you!
    If you think you will achieve that goal and be saved by yourself keeping the commandments of God in order to be saved, as your altered Bible purports, I feel so sorry for you. If you do achieve it, you will be the first after Christ to live a sinless life! Rather wash your robes in the blood of the Lamb and be sure of salvation. Then go out and do the commandments to prove your gratitude for salvation by grace and not by works as the rest of the Bible says.
    God bless,

  48. Regarding the “turtle” of the KJV, my video quiz, “How Accurate is the King James Version?” may be informative: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f86SVNqG00Q .

    It’s also available on my “Exporing the Bible Videos” site: http://www.exploringthebiblevideos.org/?video=f86SVNqG00Q

  49. […] Perhaps the number one myth about Bible translation is that a word-for-word translation is the best kind. Anyone who is conversant in more than one language recognizes that a word-for-word translat…  […]

  50. […] Perhaps the number one myth about Bible translation is that a word-for-word translation is the best kind. Anyone who is conversant in more than one language recognizes that a word-for-word translat…  […]

  51. […] Perhaps the number one myth about Bible translation is that a word-for-word translation is the best kind. Anyone who is conversant in more than one language recognizes that a word-for-word translat…  […]

  52. Great information on Bible Translation, Dr. Wallace. It’s amazing how much misinformation is out there on this and even well intentioned people will pick it up.

  53. […] Wallace has an excellent post on Fifteen Myths about Bible Translation. He followed this with another one with Five More Myths about Bible Translation and the […]

  54. Reblogged this on Mark Block.

  55. Thank you, Dr. Wallace, for “Fifteen Myths … “. Excellent. Very helpful for me and those with whom I minister. I had not heard of you until seeing this featured by Dr. Edward Fudge on his blog. I’m grateful for your ministry. Bob Mize, Lubbock, TX

  56. Thank you, Dr. Wallace. I have an extensive library but have yet to find a book (or journal article for that matter) that addresses the seeming conundrum of what may be a type of “double inspiration” in light of the differences between what the human author spoke (such as Jesus, or even an Apostle to an amanuensis) and what was written down. This is compounded by the different wording in the synoptic gospels and the consideration that Jesus was likely speaking Aramaic. I am a verbal plenary inspirationist, but this seems to lend a measure of support for those who hold a dynamic view.

    If anyone knows of a work that goes into detail on this point I’d very much appreciate it if you’d note it for me.

  57. Reblogged this on A Prince's Path and commented:
    Here’s something a bit different. I’m reblogging this from danielbwallace.com. I’ve read KJV for many years and still enjoy the literary weight of the KJV text. Recently, I have switched to the ESV for a lot of my reading. I find the ESV to be easier to read. When you read 20-30 chapters at a time like I have done for class assignments, that easier reading goes a long way. My thanks to Daniel for the article.

  58. […] subsequent English translations, so I posted these two articles written by Daniel Wallace recently: “Fifteen Myths about Bible Translation” and “Five More Myths about Bible Translations and the Transmission of the Text”. One of the […]

  59. exactly the point the latin volgate ( where we get the word vulgar from) was a counterfeit bible created by the Alexandrians and their leader “Origin” who did not believe in the deity of Christ. Most new versions of the bible are originated in this heresy. The king James, Geneva, and only a few others are derived from the Textus Receptus ( the received word) which is why I choose the King James over any version. Especially the NIV, RSV, and many others… Check out “Dr. Hovind on bible versions” on youtube for a complete 10 minute explination. And to bible gateway, the reason there are so many bible versions is Money. But to copy write a book it has to be at least 10% different then the last version. How many times can you change a word before it doesn’t mean the same thing. Money is the root of all evil and I hope you are not pushing all these other versions just to collect a paycheck.

  60. In your zeal to address all of the myths surrounding the KJV your selective focus failed to address a few other important and pertinent myths:

    1. Early texts are always the best. There is no guarantee the earliest textual fragments are the most accurate. Early fragments are as likely to contain bias as later ones, and selective preference for early fragments is an arbitrary choice made by modern critical scholars. For example there appears to be textual evidence the Pericope Adulterae existed in early fragments but was was excised in early Greek manuscripts because of Greek prejudices believing it justified adultery, whereas it wasn’t excised in Alexandrian manuscripts because no such prejudice existed (which is why we don’t tend to see it in early manuscripts, though we do see diacritical marks marking its removal).

    2. Paraphrased and thought for thought translations are able achieve levels of translational objectivity approximating those achieved by literal and word for word translation. Lets face it, if word for word and literal translations are defective because of debates about meaning and semantic scope. Yet these type of problems only compound when this scales up to translation of idioms, analogy, metaphor, and nuance of expression. Defective or not, objectivity is lost by greater degrees the further one gets from literal and word for word translation.

    3. Red letter editions highlighting approximate words of Jesus (in translations) are of little use because they fail to objectivley convey Jesus’ point. Critiquing red-letter editions by pointing out the words recorded do not directly represent words spoken by Jesus is only a concern if there is some evidence this record represents corruption. No such evidence exists. Actual words or not, Red-letter versions are not worthless.

    4. Decisions to translated gender inclusive language is simply an effort driven by benevolent efforts to remain clear in modern English, and remain current in linguistic fashion. Both the ancient Greek and Hebrew embed gender loaded words and expressions in the original languages. Therefore, to consciously reject accurately representing these ancient preferences in word choice is inherently political as a modern (and therefor anachronistic) prejudice identifying those word choices as ‘bias’.

    There are others, of course. You get the point.

  61. Reblogged this on Some Random Bloke and commented:
    Some Bible translation myths from a leading scholar. Worth a read.

  62. Thank you for this article. I am considering joining a church with an Independent Baptist background that so far seems to be a KJV “preference” rather than KJV-only. I am proceeding prayerfully and with caution. Over the years I have read primarily the NKJV and NASB.

  63. […] Vrye vertaling van ‘n publikasie deur Daniel B. Wallace op 8 Oktober 2012 in Bible […]

  64. I only use the KJV because when I teach I need to know how some of the people are viewing the passage. My favorite (study) version is the NASB. However, I have to give the KJV a few thumbs up. One is the fact that, except in James 5, it basically translates ‘oath’ and ‘vow’ consistently. True, modern English confuses the meanings, but if one is English, and one wants to know what God is teaching the Israelites in the O.T., then some sort of one word Hebrew=one word English should be used. The NASB fell down here, ‘literal’ as it is.
    To say otherwise is to use the word ‘sex’ in places where ‘love’ is in the Greek in its un’erotic’ form. Aren’t the two nearly the same in modern English? Talk about sniggle factors!

  65. […] Daniel Wallace has two very good online articles concerning Bible translation myths, twenty in all: Fifteen Myths about Bible Translation and Five More Myths about Bible Translations and the Transmission of […]

  66. I have one question that popped into my head the other day that relates to the last myth. Who named each book? I know that for instance Romans is named such because it is Paul’s letter addressed to the Roman people, but who named it? I know this defers for each book (thinking OT and NT), but I am interested in learning this.

    • An excellent question. We don’t know for sure, but we do know that books in the ancient world often received titles very soon after they were written. The titles for Paul’s letters naturally presented themselves because Paul addresses the audience in the opening salutation.

  67. If one compares a number of translations of James 2:2 we find …

    New International Version (©2011)
    Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in.

    New Living Translation (©2007)
    For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes.

    English Standard Version (©2001)
    For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in,

    New American Standard Bible (©1995)
    For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes,

    King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)
    For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;

    Holman Christian Standard Bible (©2009)
    For example, a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and a poor man dressed in dirty clothes also comes in.

    International Standard Version (©2012)
    Suppose a man wearing gold rings and fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor man in dirty clothes also comes in.

    NET Bible (©2006)
    For if someone comes into your assembly wearing a gold ring and fine clothing, and a poor person enters in filthy clothes,

    Aramaic Bible in Plain English (©2010)
    For if a man will enter your assembly with a gold ring or fine clothing and a poor man enters in dirty clothing,

    GOD’S WORD® Translation (©1995)
    For example, two men come to your worship service. One man is wearing gold rings and fine clothes; the other man, who is poor, is wearing shabby clothes.

    King James 2000 Bible (©2003)
    For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in fine apparel, and there come in also a poor man in shabby clothing;

    American King James Version
    For if there come to your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;

    American Standard Version
    For if there come into your synagogue a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, and there come in also a poor man in vile clothing;

    Douay-Rheims Bible
    For if there shall come into your assembly a man having a golden ring, in fine apparel, and there shall come in also a poor man in mean attire,

    Darby Bible Translation
    for if there come unto your synagogue a man with a gold ring in splendid apparel, and a poor man also come in in vile apparel,

    English Revised Version
    For if there come into your synagogue a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, and there come in also a poor man in vile clothing;

    Webster’s Bible Translation
    For if there come into your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;

    Weymouth New Testament
    For suppose a man comes into one of your meetings wearing gold rings and fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man wearing shabby clothes,

    World English Bible
    For if a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, comes into your synagogue, and a poor man in filthy clothing also comes in;

    Young’s Literal Translation
    for if there may come into your synagogue a man with gold ring, in gay raiment, and there may come in also a poor man in vile raiment,

    There seems to be no excuse translating Synagogue to be Assembly or Meeting. The word Synagogue is translated Synagogue in other places in all translations.

    • SUNAGOGE is the noun from SUNAGO. SUNAGO means “to convene”, so SUANGOGE means properly a “convention” Because of specifically Jewish religious usage, it is usually best translated synagogue, but when the context is not Jewish, then meeting and assembly are both equally imprecise equivalents. I translate James 2:2 as convention, with this footnote: a regularly scheduled meeting of the assembly of believers

  68. The only Bible translation that seems to be talked about in the negative by most so called experts is the KJV. Maybe a better title would have been: The Top 10 Reasons to Hate the King James Version of the Bible and Despise the People Who Blindly Follow It.
    Question: Has the world gotten better or worse with all the modern bibles and the confusion they cause?
    The ground work for the antichrist is being laid. Everything is being pulled into one; in the political(world gov’t body), and the religious(ecumenical movement). I believe the modern translations of the bible have been influential to this end.

    Rev.22:20 He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly, Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. :21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

    I believe and trust in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ the Word of God.

    • Chris, it’s sad to see that you really didn’t read what I had to say. There are certainly myths about the KJV, but I never said that it was worthless or a terrible translation. In fact, I constantly tell English-speaking Christians that one of the Bibles they must own is a King James Bible. Your reaction actually reveals that you do seem to blindly follow the KJV. Very sad.

  69. I am not a KJO advocate, but I wonder whether the number of words for the KJV in your study makes sense, since it isn’t linked to a wide variety of manuscripts as the others are, but to the Textus Receptus.

    • The Textus Receptus known today is mostly the 1550 Edito Regia of Robert Etienne. It differs in 8 places from the critically received Majority Test. Why do so many people have a problem with it? If it’s 1John 5:7, it should be known that verse was not in the first edition of Erasmus, on which much of Etienne is based. Nestle-Aland bases most of its readings on Aleph and B, and in the 3000 places where they do not agree, mostly B. One or two manuscripts is not a good foundation on which to build certainty.

      • Actually, that’s not true. The TR differs from the MT is nearly 2000 places. Specifically, the Hodges-Farstand MT differs from the 1550 Stephanus in 1838 places. And although Aleph and B provide the staple basis for readings, they are almost always joined by other important witnesses. There are very, very few places in which a single MS is the basis for the reading of the NA28, and Aland himself argued against such readings as a matter of principle.

  70. […] version is translated and whether the ancient Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew  is interpreted  (See Fifteen Myths about Bible Translation).   Being a layman and not educated in ancient languages or methods of translation I cannot speak […]

  71. […] links to comments from Conservative Christian sources. https://bible.org/seriespage/translations Fifteen Myths about Bible Translation | Daniel B. Wallace Daniel Wallace would be acknowledged by anyone who doesn't have an inherent chip on his shoulder […]

  72. Baptists: Please throw your Greek lexicons in the trash!

    Why do Baptist always want to go to the Greek to understand the Bible? It is as if Baptists do not trust their English Bibles: “Sorry, hold on a minute, I need to check the original Greek before we can believe that God really loves the whole world as your English Bible seems to say in John 3:16…we can only know for sure if we understand and read ancient Greek.”

    When God promised to preserve his Word…did he really mean that he would only preserve it on 2,000 year old parchment and papyrus in ancient forms of Greek and Aramaic?? Did God really intend that the only people who could REALLY know what he had to say to mankind…would be ancient Greek-educated Baptist Churchmen?? Is the non-ancient-Greek- speaking layperson sitting in the pew supposed to just shut his English language Bible and sit at the feet of these Baptist Greek scholars to learn what God couldn’t explain himself in plain, simple ENGLISH??

    Do you REALLY believe that God intended for only Baptist, Greek-speaking Churchmen to understand the Gospel? Because that is really what Baptists are saying, because the Greek scholars of the Greek Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, the Presbyterian Church, and the Methodist Church think that Baptist Greek scholars are all WET on their positions that the Bible does not support infant baptism and that baptism MUST be by immersion!

    Is it really possible that ONLY Baptist Greek scholars truly understand ancient Greek, and that the rest of the world’s Greek scholars completely bungle the translation of the New Testament? How is that possible? It defies common sense. And if I hear another Baptist start talking about how the Greek genitive case proves that the Baptist position is correct, I swear I’m going to puke! Seriously, every time I get into a discussion about Biblical translation with a Baptist he starts in with the genitive case nonsense. If you want to understand the genitive case in a Greek document…I suggest you confer…not with a Baptist…but with a GREEK!

    Instead of all this ancient Greek nonsense, which Baptists seem to have a fixation on, I suggest that every Christian layperson do this:

    1. Obtain a copy of four different English language translations of the Bible. Read each one of these “problem passages”, as Baptists and evangelicals refer to them, in each of these English translations.
    2. God’s true meaning of the passage will be plainly understandable after comparing these four English translations.

    You do NOT need to read the ancient Greek text unless you want to delve into the study of ancient Greek sentence structure or some other nuance. God promised he would preserve his Word, and the English-speaking people of the world have had the Word of God IN ENGLISH since at least William Tyndale (1300″s??). Dear Baptists…PLEASE stop insisting on using the ancient texts to confuse Christian laypeople of God’s simple, plain message of the Gospel!

    Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals
    an orthodox Lutheran blog

    • Dear Gary,
      Your comment is most interesting. May I ask what precipitated it? Additionally has the Greek text made a difference in the way you understand, for example, John 21:14-16?
      It did for me.
      Sincerely, David

      • Dear David,
        I made a study on the way John uses the two words “agape” and “phileo” in the Gospel. You might find it interesting. It is at “http://bibledifferences.net/2013/02/28/agape/ ”
        I study the causes for the differences between older versions of the Bible like the KJV versus modern versions like the NIV.
        God bless.
        Herman of bibledifferences.net

    • I was once a Baptist. I remember each Sunday the Pastors (2 brothers) would proclaim the superiority of their ritual by blasting other protestant denominations that believed differently. This precipitated a two year study that culminated in a 40 page report. Among the things I found was that Vine’s Expository Dictionary supported it’s definition of baptism by citing that Plato used BAPTISMA in the context of being overwhelmed with questions, and Plutarch used it “metaphorically” to describe a cup of wine being dredged from a vat. For the metaphor, there must be a relationship of the components and the effects of the action. The use of Plato had a motivating force (an interesting situation,) a vessel (Plato himself,) and a substance filling the vessel (curiosity.) The usage of Plutarch had a motivating force (his arm drawing the cup,) a vessel (the cup,) and a substance filling the cup (wine.) There is perfect correlation; the agent of baptism fills the receptacle. Water cannot be the agent of Christian baptism, or else one would need to be filled with it on completion of the act. The believer is the receptacle, God is the motivating force, and the Spirit is the agent that fills the believer. What is the result of this baptism? The believer is identified by God with the Spirit of God that was in Jesus. The water ritual was part of John’s baptism because he was acting under the legal system, and was for public acknowledgement while the relation to God was corporate. When Jesus made the relationship to God individual, then public acknowledgement was unnecessary, hence the water baptism in any form lost validity. Analyzing Greek words is good and fine, but if you cannot grasp the ideas they illustrate, then your study is in vain. I don’t mean to offend, but enlightenment has to come before Christianity is finally suffocated in triviality.

      • Dear Joshua,
        May I ask what you meant by the following coments that you made?

        1. “The believer is identified by God with the Spirit of God that was in Jesus.”
        2. “but enlightenment has to come before Christianity is finally suffocated in triviality.”

        Perhaps you can put them in laymen’s terms for me to better understand. Thanks in advance!

  73. Once again Dr. Wallace I find your work to be accurate, agreeable, and accommodating to the conservative evangelical. It is amazing all we don’t know about the actual process in producing the KJV.

  74. You made an error. The NLT is not a paraphrase, but a translation. The LB (Living Bible) was the paraphrase.

    • Hi Randy,
      I would describe the NLT not as a translation, but an Interpolation/Translation Bible.

      Acts 22:16 is just one example:
      The NLT and some other new “translations” insert the word “by” into the text between “be baptized” and “calling on the name of the LORD.” Neither the KJV, ASV, NKJV, or NASB, and not even the NIV have that word in the text. And even though all of those versions have errors in translation of their own, I would far more trust the translators of those versions than the versions that are inclined to add words that are not in fact supported by the Greek text.

      Also, in Matt 16:18, after Jesus’ words, “you are Peter,” is the insertion: “(which means rock” [or ‘which means a rock’, can’t remember which at the moment]). Then they immediately follow that by saying that it is “on this rock” that Christ would build His church. To a new Christian or others who have not studied the scriptures enough to know, that sounds like Jesus is saying that He would build His church on Peter as the rock, the foundation. But the “rock” that He was speaking of was the truth that Peter had just spoken of the deity of Christ, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

      And there are many other instances that are clearly not translation but rather interpolation, or unneeded/unnecessary words added to the text.

  75. Hi Dr. Wallace,
    Very good article! Thx. But, one small correction on the article. The NLT is not a paraphrase (The Message, The Good News Bible, The Cotton Patch Bible, The Clear Word, etc. are all paraphrases). It is a functional equivalence translation, which in my experience is about the most accurate translation methodology possible, far better than KJV/formal equivalence (I’ve worked in linguistics for about 20 years, some with translation, I am not an expert on Greek though, although I did do 2 years of classwork in it, but have worked a good deal in translation with Korean/English as a missionary/pastor/professor here). This link gives a good overview of the NLT translation methodology.


    But, overall, a very good and insightful article! Much appreciated!
    Bryan Bissell

  76. […] Fifteen Myths about Bible Translation and Five More Myths about Bible Translations and the Transmission of the Text by Daniel Wallace – “There’s always something lost in translation. But how much is lost?” Here Dan Wallace examines common myths about Bible translations. I imagine many will find this quite helpful. […]

  77. Thanks very much for the ammunition. I will hopefully be dispensing it with love @ work. I knew quite a bit about the points all ready and that was reassuring since I sell Bibles for a living. I would like to echo Bryan Bissell’s points about the NLT. It is sold and branded as a translation with over 80 Bible scholars taking it from a Paraphrase like the Good New and Message, to a translation. I believe this was done in the 1990’s, though I can’t name a solid date.

    There are so many good points throughout the comments here, I don’t feel like I can add anything to them save this; The Word of God in all its translations is protected and held together by Him, though He works through human agents. Translators, whether aware of it or not, labor with Him when they work.

  78. God is not the author of confusion. I hear over and over that the KJV is hard to understand, and that we need all these translations to properly understand Gods word and his will. What we need to do is stop arguing over which translation is best and stop showing non believers that we as believers can’t even agree on which word to read. But to say that Gods Holy Spirit is not capable of revealing the meaning of the KJV is boarding on blasphemy.

    Praise his Holy Name!

  79. I have never participated in a discussion on line before and it is obvious from reading this entire dialogue that there is a lot of intelligent thought shared here. I would not call this arguing but a sharing of thought and I can just imagine our brother Paul being right in the middle of this. I do not sense in any way that there is any attack on any one translation of scripture. Jesus said in Mathew 16:18 “on this rock I will build my church” the key word here is “I” God will build His church, His body, His kingdom. If you understand the Gospel in the KJV praise God, If you have come to faith from reading the NIV praise God, if you have allowed Jesus to become Lord in your life through the NASB praise God, but our problem is putting God in a box and saying He will only work in this way, or only speak through this text, or only this denomination has it right. This is only allowing the evil one to play his game and spread his gospel of lies, and effecting those whom are hungering and thirsting for the truth. James 1:19 “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; ” (ESV) my beloved brethren (brothers and sisters) If we the church would remember who we are and whose we are, forgetting the small idiosyncrasies ( I am not talking about absolute truths), the gospel of the Messiah would go forth in the power of God and the gates of hell would not stand. Dialogue is good, knowledge is a wonder, and we serve an awesome infinite God who in spite of us and our issues, problems and short comings will build His church for His glory.

  80. […] deadlines, and lack of original manuscripts. It can end up being like the rumor game. Here is one more article, by the same author, that succinctly outlines 15 myths about Bible translation. There is some good discussion in the comments, as […]

  81. @daniel wallace how can u say that the words in the synoptic gospels are not the words of christ? or pls explain further…….. wat u meant by wat u said concerning this…..the words of christ in d gospels are very essential….those words were wat saved my life……i take it personal…i feel violated like someone is stealing something from me….how can u say we beleiving and deriving comfort from those words are false comforts…… u read the bible…dont u derive comfort and assurance? pls dont shipwreck a faith thats still growing…….God bless

  82. The fact is that scriptures have been changed for political and other doctrinal reasons, and there is not a perfect version just some that are almost perfect like the KJV and DOUAY-RHEIMS VERSION. Both of these versions have been altered out of sin, and yet either of these versions can be correctly understood to be the same when reading is applied with the Holy Spirit. In Revelation 22:14 if you “do his commandments” than your salvation is not based on the law, but on with every word of God. We are saved, because every word of God is an instruction or a commandment and we are commanded to live by faith, love thy neighbor, turn thy cheek, forgive others, and help the poor and down those in need. The Word says we are not saved by works, but faith without works is dead.

    Here I will give a small example of what that means in this life. I was at a horrific accident scene in Louisiana where one young black girl lay in a ditch in the medium which was on fire. The weeds were so high that the fire could not be put out and the girl was about to burn. My entire career depended on me being free of any criminal charges because I had a secret clearance with the military that I had to keep to do my job, any criminal offense would render everything I worked to achieve for my family absolutely lost with my job. Up until that day, following the law was easy. As a follower of Jesus Christ I abided by what the authorities told me to do, and so I was trusted.
    The responsibility I was entrusted with was incredible and so I understood I must behave in a law abiding manner.

    Back to the fire, the young black girl about 17 years old was going to burn in the fire unless she was moved, and there was no way to stop the fire in such tall grass, but a Louisiana State Trooper blocked my way hand on his gun and spoke Satin’s eternal words “LET HER BURN”. I felt the Holy sprit move in me knowing this might change the rest of my life I knocked him to the ground, and he never said another word to me while I moved the girl out of the fire. In faith I struck a police officer in Louisiana knowing I could be shot, put in prison, or lose my job. That is what it means to love your neighbor more than yourselves and I was following the Commandment of Jesus Christ.

    The faith must come first and to live by faith is in obedience to the Word of God which tells us to live in faith. Those who live by every Commandment are those that live by every word of God, and such is the interpretation. I tell you the truth I would have died inside and lost all faith that day if my faith were not backed up with deeds of the Spirit.
    You are Commanded to more than just belief, for if it were so why give money to the poor, help the widows, preach the Word, give ear to the preacher, give time and money to the church, love thy neighbor, or feed the hungry?

    Richard Servant of Christ

  83. Dear Richard,
    We need more Servants of Christ like you in our world.
    But I do have a comment on your first paragraph. I do an in depth study of the reasons or causes for the differences in the Versions of the Bible. In about 100 differences that I have already studied, I found a logical explanation for each. What is more important is that only one difference touched on a doctrinal aspect in the Christian Faith. That is the very verse you quote – Revelation 22:14. The King James and other older versions of the Bible has the “doing of commands” as the prerequisite for entering into the gates of the City. The modern versions like the NIV, going back to the oldest Greek manuscripts have “washing of robes (in the blood of the Lamb) as prerequisite. Do have a look at the true reason why later manuscripts altered that crucial verse to “doing His commands” I have to congratulate you on the sound way you explain that verse to come to the true ground for our salvation viz. faith and not works, as is the plain meaning of the words found in the KJV.
    God cares for His Word and saw to it that there had been enough ancient manuscripts survive to enable us to discover the original words of the Bible.
    God bless.
    Herman of bibledifferences.net

  84. […] Fifteen Myths about Bible Translation | Daniel B. Wallace. […]

  85. No responses??? No admission that the objection to “strain at a gnat” is bogus, and no admission that the RSV removed verses in Luke 24? You’re just going to let these claims float around the cyber-universe and get repeated by readers who are unable to evaluate their accuracy?

    I’m a’putting “Make a video response about this: The Myth of Some of Dan Wallace’s Myths about Bible Translation” on my to-do list.

  86. I have been reading the Robinson Pierpont Majority Text lately. It is fascnating, but by Dr. Robinson’s own estimate, there are over 1800 variants between it and the Ettience text of `1550. Using the Bibleworks program to compare them, I find most are variations of one letter in a word, or the juxtaposition of words in a sentence. sometimes the interchangeability of aorist subjunctive with future indicative, but very few things of any significance. All in all, it will be hard to tell which document a translation is from unless the translator notes it at the start. Because of this, I have a hard time understanding how so many “experts” dismiss the work of Erasmus and Etienne in favor of readings that are sometimes absurdities and require ingenious corollaries to grammatical rules to make sense of them. It has puzzled me for years, and I have less confidence in modern appraisals of trustworthiness than ever before.

  87. I’m finding the differing viewpoints expressed here interesting and helpful. Since I retired two years ago, I’ve spent much more time studying the Bible and finding information on the different translations. I am not a biblical scholar, and unfortunately I don’t know the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages, but here are some random thoughts of mine:

    I grew up with the KJV and still think it’s an accurate and very beautiful translation. The worst thing I could say about it is that some of the words no longer carry the same meaning as they once did, such as “suffer,” which may confuse new believers and younger people simply because the English language has changed over time. For example, “Suffer the children” can sound like it means “Put up with them although it’s a pain,” when that’s not what it means at all. But that’s not much of a criticism in the grand scheme of things.

    It’s highly unlikely we will ever have a perfect translation from the original languages, because translation always involves some subjectivity on the part of the translators. This can’t be helped other than to minimize it as much as possible.

    As for the KJ-only faction, I think it’s important to remember that the KJV itself is also a translation from the original languages into English. The version we read now is not the 1611 version in any case; there have been revisions to it. Until two years ago, I didn’t realize this controversy existed. About a month ago I learned that sometimes a preference for a red letter edition can be taken by some as having a bias against the apostle Paul! Wonders never cease…

    My favorite translation and the one my pastor most often uses in sermons is the NKJV. (He says the best translation, however, is whichever one you will actually READ. Far too many people don’t really read the Bible, but that’s another discussion.) As some others here have expressed, I don’t quite follow that just because a manuscript is older means that it must be the more accurate. I also find that the NKJV probably does the best job of presenting alternate manuscripts in its footnotes. When translations mention the “best” manuscripts, “best” is an opinion, of course. I honestly don’t have the knowledge base to determine which manuscripts are best. I just like the NKJV but also like some other translations based on other manuscripts.

    From what I’ve read, the manuscripts don’t differ much in important ways. Many differences aren’t different after translation. (For instance, English “big” and “large” mean the same and would translate into the same word in some other languages, so it wouldn’t matter then.) Basic Christian doctrine is the same in all the manuscripts. What was enlightening to me, though, are the missing/added verses. As to accidental copying errors, it’s much easier to accidentally omit something than it is to “accidentally” add whole new sentences. But as to intentional errors, that’s another story and I’m too ignorant to comment on that aspect. I think it’s helpful for the lay person to realize that the manuscripts agree much, much more than they disagree, and basic doctrine is the same.

    Related to that, I also agree with the poster who pointed out that we can get too hung up on which translation is most accurate or best. This CAN lead to a person’s having less confidence in the Bible, especially for new believers, and therefore deserves some caution. Even I, a life-long believer, have to sometimes tell myself, “Wait! These translations are all very good ones and don’t differ as to doctrine. This Bible (whichever one I’m reading at the time) CAN be reliably believed.” (I should point out, I’m obviously talking about the mainstream translations mentioned in this discussion, not the ones that have been totally adulterated to express some cult’s theology.)

    Especially when discussions tend to get heated and accusatory, I think we’d all do well to be thankful that as English readers, we have several excellent translations from which to choose. Many people in the past have been tortured and have given their lives to make the word of God available to lay persons. We are extremely blessed to have readily available Bibles.

    I am also thankful for the author of the article and for every poster here. Obviously God’s word is very important to each of them or they wouldn’t bother to post! Blessings–

  88. I would like to comment on your statement #3. The word almah in the Hebrew demonstrates the difficulty of translation (which is often more an art than a science). “Almah” — though properly understood as a young woman — would have included the connotation of not being married or being a virgin as Matthew demonstrates as he quotes the term in the New Testament. In Shakespearean English, she would have been called a “maiden.” That would probably be the best translation even today, but sadly it doesn’t communicate well to our modern world. So now we have to choose between “young woman” and “virgin” of which neither fully encapsulates the word. Because of the New Testament stress of the fact that she was an unmarried virgin, that seems to be the best choice … though personally I think “maiden” is the closest English equivalent.

    • Ah, if only the concepts of maid, maidenly, maidenhood were understand by our current culture! (And the masculine equivalents, of course.)

    • Good day, Schroera
      I fully agree with you. I myself have been studying the causes for he differences between the older translations of the Bible like the KJV and modern translations like the NIV and published more than 100 results on my blog. I elaborated on this very same verse in Isaiah 7. (http://bibledifferences.net/2012/08/10/47-the-virgin-birth/)
      Often the problem with us Christians is that we nullify the prophecies of the Old Testament that also reflect on Jesus the Christ. This should not be. Only One child had ever been conceived via the Holy Spirit, and that was Jesus through the true virgin Mary. The young woman or maiden (not virgin) conceived through normal relationship with her husband.
      God bless,

  89. […] can read what Wallace thinks about these myths, along with many others, in his posts Fifteen Myths about Bible Translation and Five More Myths about Bible […]

  90. Thank you brethren for all! I am so satisfied!!!
    So, I am looking foreword to getting further understandind about God’s word.
    Good job all of you!!!

  91. I will make comment on #!. I believed there are relations of confusion with regard to any translation, Doubtless, whether from the Greek Septuagint or the Roman Vulgate, a word for word can still be a confusion in various texts or citations. The best way forward is a word for word translation from the original manuscript, with one taking consideration of the writer’s culture and his refereed context. In most cases when one translate they always do in their own perception but not the writer’s view, and thats what gives deceptions and confusions.
    i must say i enjoy listening
    (from written words) to you all.

  92. […] communicate accurately what you are saying. You and others may be interested in Daniel Wallace's, '15 myths about Bible translation'. In Christ, […]

  93. what is your thoughts about the tree of life versions?

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