I believe the Bible is the word of God. That may sound unremarkable. For a good number in what I’ve called the Compassionate camp, that would mark me as a gullible fool. Many– but not all. And you might think it would make Traditionalists quite happy with me.
It turns out that most Traditionalists don’t actually believe the Bible is the word of God. They believe that particular Bible (often the King James) is the word of God.
Now, I happen to enjoy the King James Version in general, and love the passages of poetry especially. Certainly, the committee who translated it were very talented, and they produced a marvelous work.They may well have been illuminated by the Holy Spirit. But I don’t put them on a level with those who actually wrote the Bible.
And therein lies the problem. Suppose we say that the translators of the King James were inspired. Does that mean other translators are not inspired? If so, how do we decide?
Those who insist that only one translation is the right one have put themselves in the position of deciding which word choices are inspired and which are not. On what basis would they do so? Where does their authority come from?
It doesn’t come from the Bible. On the contrary, they have become the authority, deciding what the Bible really means. Usually this is based on a few verses that form the basis for a particular doctrine or doctrines they treasure. But how do they know that doctrine is correct? Is it because of a single verse? But that’s the very verse in question.
It’s circular reasoning. The verse in the newer translation is wrong, because it doesn’t support their preferred doctrine. And they know the doctrine is true because it is supported by their preferred translation, the translation they prefer because it ‘proves’ their favorite doctrine. Thus they become the authority — not the Bible.
I believe the Bible is the word of God, and I am subject to its truths, not the other way around. If a particular translation doesn’t support a doctrine I believe, then I need to re-evaluate my belief. And you know, that’s not a bad thing. If my belief can be shaken by a differing translation of a single verse, then how can it stand a real trial? On the other hand, if it’s worth believing, there will be sufficient support in the rest of the Bible.
Time and time again I have found this to be true: that searching the Bible diligently, seeking to learn from it rather than simply accumulate evidence for what I already believe, I find new depth and beauty in the text.
Instead of insisting that one translation is correct, I believe that multiple translations throw light on the text. So I often use the NASB, The Message, J.B. Phillips translation of the New Testament, and many others. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, the NIV is the standard translation for Adventist publications, so I use that as well.
This doesn’t make the Traditionalists very happy. Next time I’ll explain why the Compassionates don’t like what I have to say, either.