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Why Are There So Many Translations?

This is another basic question that gets abused and if left unresearched it can lead to ignorant and incorrect views of The Bible.  Some people just don't have an answer when asked, other people assume they know an answer but it is false.  Yet others see an opportunity to push their bias against The Bible on other genuine inquiring minds in the hopes of steering them away from discovering the truth about The Bible.

If there is one message from God, recorded in a single original language, why is there so many different translations/versions in English?  The true answer is actually pretty simple.  But first you have to understand language. Example:

I love my Dog
I love my Spouse
I love my parents
I love my siblings
I love drugs

Notice the same word "love" is used for completely different types of deep affections.  Yes people can love both their dogs and spouse but they do not love them both the same; yet there is only one word, "love".  The last example of drugs describes a "love" for something non living but yet can still capture our affections and make us addicted.

Greek used different words to describe the different types of "love"

1.   "Mania" is one example.  This greek word describes a obsessive and lustful love that consumes.  Being madly in "love" to the point of obsession and insanity.

I "mania" drugs

(this is not exactly how the greek sentence structure is set up, but we will use it in this way to help understand what each word means).

2.  "Eros" is the second example of a form of "love".  This word describes the passion, romance, emotion, and feeling that is sought after.  It is not based on the object that which is being loved but the "love" of that which is produced.

I "mania" my spouse because I "eros" how he/she makes me feel

3.  "Philos" is a third example of a from of "love".  It refers to the "love" friends and families have for each other.  Persons who share a common interests and fondness.

I "philos" my siblings"

4.  "Storgy" is a fourth type of "love".  It describes a dependent type of love.  Where the lover is completely dependent on the lovee.  But it also can be used in a negative sense.

(as a child) I "storgy" my parents
(as a drug addict) I "storgy" my drug

5.  "Agapeo" is the fifth type of "love".  It is not dependent on that which is the target of the affection but is completely describes the lover.  A fathers "love" for his son.  The father's affection is not dependent on the son but on the father alone.  Unconditional love.

I "agapeo" my children no matter what they do.

Here we see five different words that, in English, there is only one word for; love.  Translating greek into english is not a simple smooth transition.  Each greek word represents an whole idea in english some times.

So back to our original question: Why are there different English translations?

Each translation attempts to capture the exact word for word or thought for thought or the mix of the two for the better understanding of the original text

For this article we will use NASB, NIV, and MESSAGE to compare

Proverbs 18:24 

"A man of many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. "

"A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."

"Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family."

Notice the different in word usage and sentence structure.  Yet, they say the same thing.  The same idea and concept.  But the farther away from word for word translations we got, the more problematic the translation can become.

Colossians 2:9-10

"For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;"

"For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority."

"Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don't need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything."
The original text is describing that Jesus was competently God in the body.  But look at what the Message is talking about.  Is Jesus God or is he just expressing God?  "When you come to him" is not even stated in the original texts.  The message refocuses the identity of Christ to making it about you.  HE is deity, in HIM we are made complete, HE is the authority.  In the message it states "so you can..", "You don't need...", "When you come...", "comes together for you...".

Romans 8:35-37

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written, "For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered." 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us." 
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us."
"Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture: They kill us in cold blood because they hate you. We're sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one. None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us."

Here we find a very big problem with The Message.  A key added idea that is not found in the originals and even goes against what is written in the originals.  " not even the worst sin..." is added by the author of The Message, not an apostle.  Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, aka; disbelief, does "drive a wedge between us and Christ" .  Secondly, all sin is eternally damning, there are not "worst sins".  Eugene Peterson has written his own ideas and his own words here, not an apostle of God.

OIV, TNIV and NRSV Translations

These translations attempt to stay close to word for word but just enough to retain a easy readable thought for thought version.  The issue with these is when it comes to cultural sensitivity.  Words are changed from the original to become more gender neutral and politically correct.  This then effects some key connections the verse is making

In Hebrews 2:6, 12:7 (TNIV) we see "man" and "son of man" changed to "mortal" and "human beings".  This completely erases the connection between us and Jesus.  Thus this relation is continued to be distorted by changing "father" into "parent".

In Revelations 3:20 (TNIV) we see "he" and "him" changed to "them" and "they".  This erases the individual relation and morphs it into a less than personal relationship.  From singular to general.  But Jesus is speaking to YOU, not them.

In John 19:12 (TNIV) we see "the jews" changed to "the Jewish Leaders".  This is NOT in the original text.  Six verses earlier John does mention the leaders but here he chose not to.  This is the TNIV choosing to add language that is not there and change the meaning so that it seems less offensive.

We can go on and on the number of changes that seem harmless but drastically impact the over all meaning and affect the deeper meanings of the text.

So back to our original question: Why are there different English translations?

1. Greek and Hebrew do not perfectly translate into English. The English language is lazy. So word for word, thought for thought, and paraphrased editions are made to help in this Greek to English transitions.

2. Some people feel the Bible is offensive or "not up-to-date" with our modern times so it needs to be "reworded" from its original writings to remain relevant to our civilized and sophisticated age.

The next question is: How do I know what versions is God's Word?

God spoke to and through the Prophets. The holy spirit guided the minds of those who recorded what they saw and heard. To say God's Word is outdated is to call God himself old fashioned and not keeping up with sophisticated mankind.

Bible Versions and translations that KEEP the word for word of the Hebrew, Arabic, and Greek language AND maintain the original thought and idea being presented are the most reliable.
  • Word for Word
  • Thought for thought
  • All keeping with original word usage
  • All keeping with original thoughts, ideas, and messages.
Adding what is not in the manuscripts or rewarding to fit our modern times, is pure man centered pride. The prophets weren't murdered by their own people because they spoke nicely. Jesus wasn't murdered because he was politically correct. The apostles weren't murdered because they wanted to be all inclusiveness and non-offensive. They were all focused on truth, no matter the costs.

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