KJV/NIV Controversy: Understanding Bible translations by Olatokunbo Odunuga




By Olatokunbo Odunuga

KJV/NIV controversy
A collection of Bibles

Dear reader, a reader recently posted to me on Whatsapp an alarm against the NIV Bible Translation with the following allegations among others:

* That Zondervan Publishing Company, owned by Harper Collins also published Satanic Bible and Joy of Gay Sex.

* That 64, 575 words including Jehovah, Calvary, Holy Ghost, Omnipotent etc. are omitted in the NIV.

* That 45 verses e.g. Mt. 17:21, 18:11, Luke 17:30, 23:17, John. 5:4, Acts 8:37 etc. are omitted.

The poster of the alarm suggested that people should stop reading NIV. My first concern is to suggest that believers should please be cautious what they share with large audience especially when they probably may not be adequately informed on the subject matter.

I have a feeling the person has likely not been exposed to the Principles of Biblical Interpretation and Hermeneutic Exegesis, and might also not realize what confusion he might have caused young believers, who are still trying to grow in biblical understanding. He might not even be conscious of the legal implications of the allegations. I do not intend to join issues with this brother or sister, but wish to highlight some facts that my friend might probably not have been privy to. I want to point out that Zondervan is just a publishing company and being in business as publishers would naturally entertain any customer who patronizes them, unless they are a Christian organization like Tyndale Publishers, who may choose to be discriminative on religious grounds.

Definitely, he was not aware of the fact that the same Zondervan he was contending with also published the popular Comparative Study Bible which contains Amplified Bible, NASB, NIV and KJV itself. Somewhere in Europe, I came across a Children year-round daily devotional-New International Readers Version Adventure Bible, Book of Devotions for Early Readers-also published by Zondervan.

The omitted words in NIV

With regards to the omitted words, I want to mention that scholarship has advanced beyond the skills and competence of 1611 time of the KJV translators. There had been over 1,000 Bible versions after 1611. I doubt if the complement of modern-day tools and facilities such as Concordances, Bible Dictionaries, Bible Atlases, and Archaeological Discoveries, etc. were available to the 1611 scholars.

Definitely the Dead Sea Scrolls were not discovered then. Now let us mutually examine the issues. JEHOVAH (Ex 6:3, Psalm 83:18 etc) was not omitted in the NIV as claimed, but rendered as “THE LORD” just as it is also the case in the following Bible versions :NASB, GOODNEWS BIBLE, NLT, NET, ESV, ASV, HNV, CAB, CSB etc. The ‘JEHOVAH’ in contention is rendered as “YAHWEH’ in Amplified Bible, New Jerusalem Bible, BBE, CLV, ERV, HCSB, WEB etc. It is rendered ‘ADONAI’ in 1899 Douay- Rheims Bible, rendered ‘LORD’ in Brenton Bible, NCV, NLV, NIRV etc. It is rendered ‘ALL-POWERFUL’ in Contemporary English Version, rendered ‘GOD, I AM PRESENT’ in Message Bible and as ‘YHVH’ in Restored Names King James Version (RNKJV)

It is claimed that ‘CALVARY’ in Lk 23:33 was omitted. It was not omitted. Calvary is a root Latin word meaning ‘Skull’. Hence rather than being an omission, it is accurately rendered ‘SKULL’ in NIV, NLT, NJB, Amplified Bible, NASB, RSV, ACV, ALT, AUT, ASV, BBE, CLV, CENT, CAB, CSB, DARBY, ERV, ESV, GSNT, GW, HCSB, HNT, ISV, JMNT, LITV, MOFFATT, MNT, MRC, NET, MURDOCK, NIRV, RVLT, RV, TCNT, WEB, WMSNT, WNT, VLT, etc. Message Bible renders it “SKULL HILL”

HOLY GHOST in Matt 1:18, Mark1:8 etc was not omitted but appropriately rendered as HOLY SPIRIT in NIV as well as in about 1,000 other versions. Holy Ghost is found only in Bishop’s Bible and Geneva Bible which were even in circulation before the KJV and in a few others such as 1899 Douay-Rheims Bible (DRB), GB, WORNT and WTNT. Even KJV 2000; New KJV Restored Names King James Version (RNKJV) and the most recent International KJV(IKJV) had made the change to ‘HOLY SPIRIT’.

As regards ‘OMNIPOTENT’ in Rev 19:6, it was not missing in NIV. It was translated ‘ALMIGHTY’ as also done in J.B Phillips, NASB, RSV, ESV, GW, ACV, AUT, ASV, CLV, CENT, CAB, CSB, DARBY, DRB, EMTV, GB, CNB, GSNT, HCSB, HNV, JMNT, LITV, MOFFATT, MRC, RV, WEB, WORNT, VLT, etc. NET and CEV rendered it ‘ALL POWERFUL’ while the Message Bible renders it ‘THE SOVEREIGN-STRONG’.

This particular issue will be like raising allegations against Bishop Ajayi Crowther’s YORUBA(NIGERIAN) BIBLE as ‘missing’ out or replacing GRACE with ORE-OFE or HOLY GHOST with EMI-MIMO.

In summary, from the foregoing, if the issues raised in the contention against NIV are valid, then not only the NIV but also nearly all the over 1,000 Bible versions are culprits, suspects and the devil’s idea. So we shall be left with KJV and a few of its collaborators in substantial defects. There is a field of study called Textual Criticism, which does not imply criticizing or speaking against the bible, but methods applied in accurately interpreting the Bible.

Often, It could be due to lack of such application that causes hundreds of denominations to give hundreds of divergent interpretations to specific texts of scriptures, resulting in contentions and divisions in the Body of Christ, usually causing us be ridiculed by the unbelievers. Meanwhile each denomination claims to be led by the Holy Spirit and the members pride themselves as the privileged custodians of the Truth. For instance, can all the various denominations poised behind either Dispensational Premillennialism, Historical Premillennialism, Postmillennialism or Amillennialism be simultaneously correct?

Since all the original writings of the apostles, prophets etc called the ‘Autograph’ had been lost thousands of years ago, the dilemma is how to authenticate the ancient authorship and the difficult or obscure aspects of their writings. Many of us may not appreciate the complexity of bible translation. The Bible, as voluminous as it is, was hand-copied until portable typewriter was invented in the 15th century by John Wurttemberg, The ancient Greek manuscripts (of the New Testament) had no spaces between words and no punctuations while the Hebrew manuscripts (of the old Testament) did not also even have vowels.

The burden of translating the Bible

Ancient publishers re-produced several copies of a book by reading to a group of scribes, who copied what they heard as diligently as humanly possible. And if some of them did not hear properly, might copy wrongly. A scribe assigned to re-copy say, a century-old fading manuscript might have had difficulty in reading some aspects of the old manuscript or might even jump a line or more when he was weary. That was why a particular manuscript copied John17:15 as “I do not ask that you should keep them from the evil one”. The anchor scribe who was even reading out the old Manuscript to the group of scribes might have mistakenly read wrong words to the copyists.

There are also instances where scribes incorporated glosses. (i.e. side notes of previous scribes) into the main bible texts. This may be the ground for the controversy over the inclusion of “this means all foods are clean” in Mark 7:19 as probably being a gloss; not having been found in the original Latin Vulgate. That is also why we have some versions having more or lesser numbers of verses in certain chapters of the Bible.

An example is the longer and shorter endings to Mark 16. It is a function of which manuscript was made available to the translation team at a particular time in history. It was not deliberate on the part of the translators or manipulated by the devil. In general, due to the age of the manuscripts, climatic conditions might have caused some blots on the pages of the manuscripts. Such can alter the meaning of the words drastically.

For instance, the difference between a fool and a wise man in Hebrew is a dot above or below a particular Hebrew vowel .I can’t have time and space enough to highlight the diverse avenues for these discrepancies. But be rest-assured that it was not Satan that supervised the fallen angels or demons to produce the popular versions of the Bible.

If and when Lucifer does, one would not have to be a Paul or a St. Augustine or a Rocket Scientist to detect it. A young believer, genuinely born from the above would discern such by the Spirit of God. I am in sympathy with these Bible translators, especially those who laboured on the Literal or Dynamic Equivalence Versions, because it involves sacrifice and intensive labour of love. For instance, the team of about 50 scholars who produced the recent New English Translation(NET) were from the very best Universities and Seminaries in the world .Nearly all of them had  a Ph.D in religious and allied field of study. They worked from the scratch, that is, not revising all previous Versions and they charged no fee.

I wish to point out to all that there is virtually no version of the Bible without some flaws. Many of us are so “married” to only King James Version that we disdain and disregard other versions and keep them at arm’s length. It was so with me also over two or three decades ago until I was set free from such narrowness.

Let me tell us, the English Version of KJV (or any other version for that matter) is not inspired in its present form. Only the autographs that were penned originally, written first hand in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek by the apostles, prophets etc were inspired. Selected brilliant Scholars (human beings, not even angels) later sat down to translate them into English and other languages. Let me give you two insights as food for thought.

Why different translations

Firstly, let us read paragraph 3 of the Preface to Revised Standard Version (RSV) or New RSV: “the King James Version has with good reason been termed “the noblest monument of English prose”. Its revisers in 1881 expressed admiration for its simplicity, its dignity, its power, its happy turns of expression… the music of its cadences, and the felicities of its rhythm’. Yet the King James Version had grave defects.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, the development of Biblical studies and the discovery of many manuscripts more ancient than those which the King James Version was based, made it manifest that these defects are so many and so serious as to call for revision of the English translation” Unquote. Secondly, if you read pages 20 – 25 of the Book HOW TO CHOOSE A BIBLE VERSION” By Robert L Thomas, you will observe that some “partly converted” men might have been on the KJV Translation team.

One of them never went to bed sober; as he had a terrible drinking habit. Another went behind the others to collect money from King James when the consensus was to do the work selflessly, not for fees. He was described as an intensely aggressive man, an exceptionally intolerant and abrasive man, known for his endless quarrelling with other committee members. One, who was the chairman of one of the two committees, had a reputation for lavish spending and for spending church fund on his own church properties. I feel reluctant to state their names but the author of the book stated them.

Thirdly, Gordon D. Fee (Professor of New Testament) and Douglas Stuart (Professor of Old Testament) in their book “How to Read Bible for All its worth” wrote: “The KJV is not only the most widely used translation in the world, it is also a classic expression of the English language. Indeed, it coined phrases that will be forever embedded in our language.

However, for the New Testament, the only Greek text available to the 1611 translators was based on poor late manuscripts; which had accumulated the mistakes of over a thousand years of copying. Few of these mistakes and we must note that there are many of them make any difference to us doctrinally, but they often do make a difference in the meaning of certain specific texts. This is why for study you should use almost any modern translation rather than the KJV” Unquote. You will do yourselves a world of good to acquire these books.

As a matter of fact, if KJV had been flawless, there would have been no need for New KJV, 20th Century KJV, the 21st Century Revised KJV, Modern KJV (MKJV), Restored Names KJV (RNKJV) and the recent International KJV, Etc . Scholars said that the King James Version of 1611 and that of 1769 in use today differ in about 75,000 aspects.

These people are sincere and very objective, not rigid or dogmatic. When they observe discrepancies in any version over time, they embark on a revision. That is why we have about seven updated revisions of KJV itself. Even NIV that is in the eye of the storm had been revised over five years ago with Today’s New International Version (TNIV). To be candid, one may not even regard KJV as a Bible Version, because according to Professor Geisler and Professor Nix, a version is a translation from the original language into any other language whereas KJV was 5th revision of Tyndale Bible.

KJV or any other version okay for purpose of salvation

However, I wish to assure us that for the purpose of salvation, KJV or any other version is quite adequate. But for accurate understanding, scholastic exploits and interpretation, it is advisable for lovers of KJV to “swim” also in some of other good translations such as NIV, NRSV, NJB, Good News, NASB, Recovery Version, NET, and International KJV. In fact one does not need the Bible to be saved. Even Peter, who preached on the day of Pentecost, had neither pulpit nor Bible; being an unlearned fisherman (1 Pet 5:12) but he was a living epistle having the Bible engrafted in is heart. The Bible is required for growth and enlightenment.

I would have ended this discourse here but because the KJV seems to have infatuated many that there is need to loosen this stranglehold and release some of those who are objective enough from this limiting provincialism. For emphasis, even if a preacher holds “Times or Vanguard” versions of the Bible, once he preaches and leads men to conviction, repentance and faith in Christ as in Acts 2: 37, when Peter preached, they will be saved.

But I believe one needs to read as accurately as feasible. Out of the hundreds of defects in the KJV, let us just consider a few:
The very first sentence in KJV is defective. What is rendered as ‘heaven’ in Genesis 1:1, has been corrected in NKJV, NIV, RSV and virtually all other as “heavens”. If the heaven is just singular, Paul would not have talked of third heaven. (2 Cor. 12:2).
In Isaiah 45:11b, KJV records “command ye me”. Many versions have corrected it to “command ye me?” (a question) or “do you dare to command me?” I wonder what audacity will make a mortal whose breath comes through his nostrils to command the Almighty God when he cannot even command his earthly father!

Isaiah 10:27 which is rendered “the yoke shall be broken because of the anointing” had been corrected in diverse ways by other versions. There was no anointing in the original Hebrew word. In the context, it is not about spiritual deliverance but a prophecy of future physical deliverance of the Israelites from the bondage to the Assyrians. But it can come to one as a personal rhema.
In Isaiah.28:18, “your covenant with death shall be dis-annulled”- has been corrected to “annulled”. In its present rendering in KJV, it may seem as the opposite of ‘annul’ in contemporary understanding.

possessing your possessions

Possessing your possessions” (Obadiah 1:17) which had become a mantra for prosperity preachers had been corrected in several versions. It is not about possessing any possession, but a prophecy that people of Israel will reclaim their land which was seized from them by their enemies. Even the earlier part “on Mount Zion there will be deliverance” is not about deliverance per se, but about remnants of Judah who physically escaped to Mount Zion from the onslaught of their enemies.

Matt 28:18-20 had been corrected by many versions even by the NKJV. The “power” in vs. 18 is to be rendered “authority”. The two do not mean the same thing. The first “teaching” in Vs. 19 is corrected as “making disciples” of all the nations. Making disciples is very much different from just teaching. Teaching is a mental or academic exercise while disciplining is a practical exercise, like an apprenticeship. The “end of the world” has been corrected in NKJV, NIV as ‘end of the age’. At the point of the ‘rapture’, the (Christian) age will end but the world does not end. The world continues into the millennial kingdom.

In 2 Cor. 5:17, the word “new creature” in KJV, had been corrected to “new creation” in NKJV, NIV. Good News Bible etc. When a man is in Christ, he does not become another creature such as a cow or monkey but a recreated being i.e., a new creation.

In 1 Sam 8:16, the word ‘young men’ had been corrected to read “cattle”. The error was due to miscopy of the Hebrew word by the scribes. It is even awkward and incongruent to classify a group of men along side with donkeys.

Hades, hell and paradise
In Psalm. 16:11;. “thou wilt not leave my soul in hell” had been corrected by various translations. Eg NIV. How could a man after God’s heart find his way to hell in the first place? Jesus, our Lord Himself did not descend to hell as contained in certain creeds. He even told the thief on the cross that he would be with Him in PARADISE (not HELL) on that day(Luke 23:43).

The Greek word Hades (and the Hebrew equivalent Sheol) does not mean just Hell, but a combination of Paradise (Abraham’s bosom) and Hell with a gulf in between (Luke 16:23,26)
In John 14:2, the word rendered “Mansions”, as a notable author said, had created one of the greatest disservice to Christianity, giving an impression of duplexes, bungalows etc in the hereafter.

This had further nurtured greed, covetousness and materialism in the Body of Christ. One wonders why a glorified (spiritual)body would need bedrooms, garages and kitchens. The better renderings are: abiding places, abodes, dwelling places which we are-I Cor 3:16, 6:19, 2 Cor 6:16. Many Brethren do not seem to realise that about 95% of bibles have changed the word from ‘Mansions’.

Acts 12:4 where the word ‘Easter’ appears have given in-roads into the churches to celebrate the paganic, idolatrous Easter. One will be alarmed to read Rev. Finis Dake commentary on Acts 12:4 in Dake Bible. Thank God it has now been corrected in KJV 2000, MJKV, RNKJV and IKJV. Maybe 1% of Bibles still bear ‘Easter’

In Dan 11: 32, the words ‘do exploits’ was not in the original scriptures, but KJV injected it to complete the sentence to make some sense as the Hebrew words were not clear to the 1611 translators. You will not find ‘exploits’ in any Concordance. Other versions have corrected it. In context, it was a prophecy given by Daniel at about 650 BC that would motivate Judas Maccabeus and his revolutionary supporters in Judah to revolt against Antiochus Epiphanes ,the king of Syria who invaded and oppressed them from 171BC, about 480 years after the prophecy. However, about 6 years later on 25th December, 165 BC, Maccabeus and his militants revolted, fought back and overthrew the king of Syria.

7.0 In their book “From God to us,’ Norman L. Geisler (Ph.D), Professor of Systematic Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary and William E. Nix, Ph.D, an editorial and educational consultant based in Texas, it is recorded as follow – “in January, 1604, King James I was summoned to the Hampton Court Conference in response to the Millenary Petition which he received while on his way from Edinburgh to London following the death of Elizabeth 1. Nearly one thousand Puritan leaders had signed a list of grievances against the Church of England, and James desired to be peacemaker in his new realm and placed himself above all religious parties.

He treated the Puritans with rudeness at the conference until John Reynolds, Puritan President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, raised the question of having an authorized version of the Bible for all parties within the church. The king expressed his support for the translation because it would help him to be rid of the two most popular translations and raise his esteem in the eyes of his subjects”.

That was the genesis of the KJV. I have the KJV, I respect the translators for the honest and dedicated work they did within the limitations they were confronted with. But I am open-minded enough to relate with dozens of other versions that modern scholars have labored sacrificially to put to our use. Please do not be like a student with whom I was sharing a bit of the above some years ago. Amidst his colleagues, he rose up sharply, said it was a conspiracy against the KJV, walked out of the class and never returned to the Seminary.

For further chat, friends, you may please link me on knowledge power60@yahoo.com The Lord Spirit be with your spirit. Shalom!-ODUNUGA,O.O.

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