May 18, 2008 Q & A

Bible Versions


Does the OPC have a preferred or authorized version of the Bible?


The OPC does not have one official version of the Bible. The predominant version used is the New International Version (NIV), although the English Standard Version (ESV) is gaining in popularity. Other respected versions include the New American Standard Version (NASV) and the New King James Version (NKJ). Some still use the old King James Version (KJV).

I was reared on the KJV, so I still have a warm feeling toward it, though I recognize that the younger generations have difficulty with the "Thees" and "Thous" and the "eth" endings. My personal choice hovers between the NASV and the NKJ.

There are those who hold that the "Textus Receptus" (Greek text of the New Testament) ought to be held by Reformed Christians because it is the text used by the 16th Century Reformers. That would shut them up to the KJV and the NKJ. However, most of that opinion, cling to the old KJV. I hold to the earlier Greek text, which was not available to the Reformers.

The NIV, though linguistically smoother than some of the others, is lower on my list because of its "dynamic equivalence" principle of translation. This translation has made plain some portions that are vague because the original text is vague. My problem with that is that the translators choose a meaning that is not clearly derived from the original texts. If the Holy Spirit puts some inspired texts in less than clear language, then it is no improvement if the translation does away with the lack of clarity. It should be left to the commentaries to cope with difficult texts. An example: "Flesh" in reference to human sinful frailty is translated in the NIV, "sinful nature." Probably a good interpretation, though perhaps not as forceful as "flesh." Another example: In Romans 11:25, the Greek text has "until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in." The NIV has "until the full number of the Gentiles has come in." A slight difference, but an interpretation of a text that might have a different meaning in its total context.

Again, it would be better to leave it up to the commentaries. In other cases a whole idiom is substituted for the original since the substituted idiom is not that of the original. In spite of these criticisms, all the more modern versions mentioned are not so diverse as to say, "This is not the Word of God!" It would be good if the churches could all settle on one modern version, as it was when I was young with the old King James Version.

In closing, let me say in defense of the OPC that we will never quarrel with the Word of God, but we can live with diversity WITHIN the boundaries of our confessional standards (The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms).



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