Preachers and elders are frequently asked, “Which Bible translation should I buy?” To keep it simple, I usually recommend what I call, “The Big Four.” They are the King James, New King James, New American Standard, and English Standard Version of the Bible. This quartet is: available in most stores, reliable, and trustworthy. They are all committee translations and use a word-for-word philosophy in an effort to be as transparent to the underlying text as possible1.
Other translations may use a thought-for-thought, paraphrase, or even a “meaning based” approach which leaves the publisher free to write almost anything. The thought-for-thought portion of the Bible market was dominated by the NIV until a few years ago. In 2011, the publishers of the NIV put out what is now known as the NIV2011. It’s use of non-gendered pronouns and a willingness to lean more toward a paraphrase, has made it unusable as a reliable, daily Bible (In my opinion-JS).
I posted a couple of videos on translations to my YouTube channel (@preachermansage6822). This week a man made a comment on one of those videos that hi-lites the problems with a Bible produced with a non-word-for-word approach. In Deuteronomy chapter 22, the NIV translates the same Hebrew phrase in two different ways. The NIV is interpreting what God means. As a result, the NIV2011 uses the word “rape” which is not in the Hebrew and is the result, not of a translation, but an interpretation. If you ever wondered why people within churches of Christ were so adamite about using a certain Bible, here is your answer. What follows is my reply to @thejontydavid on YouTube:
This is the classic mistake that occurs with a paraphrase. Inherent in the philosophy is the idea, “We will tell you what God really meant.” Here is how the mistake is made, and should be avoided.
Deuteronomy 22:13-19, 22-30 records God delivering a courtroom precedent for deciding whether a man or woman are guilty of consensual sexual immorality or if the man has violated a woman against her will. What the NIV2011 has done is interpreted these passages for us, even though the underlying Hebrew is identical in v22-28.
Ignorance Alert: I AM NOT a Hebrew or Greek scholar. I am simply looking at the text with the aid of an interlinear on my Bible program. So, directly under the phrase “lies with her” are the same three Hebrew words and the same Strong’s Numbers, which are 7901, 5973, 1931. From the context, the NIV2011 translators have interpreted the guilt or innocence of each situation.
V22 “sleeping with” he and she are guilty because “is found” indicates in town (see principle in v23).
V23 “sleeps with” he and she are guilty because they are “in a town” and she “did not scream,” indicating consent.
V25 “rapes her” he is guilty, she is not guilty because they were “in the country” and even if she had screamed, “there was no one to rescue her.”
Up until this point, I agree with the NIV2011’s interpretation. But that is not a foolproof standard! The word of God should be translated, not interpreted! Verse 28 is a perfect example of why.
V28 “rapes her” The woman is declared neither guilty or innocent. Yet she pays the penalty of marrying her rapist?
Again, the underlying Hebrew is identical in every one of these verses, the ESV has “lies with her.” So, the NIV has determined for us what the word should be. May I humbly propose another interpretation?
In verse 22, the phrase, “is found” indicates “in town.” Therefore, there is mutual consent and mutual guilt.
In verse 23, “is found” is implied by the fact they are “in the city” and she “did not cry for help.” Both are guilty.
In verse 25, they are “in the open country” and the woman is declared not guilty because she has no chance to scream and be rescued. I don’t need the translators to interpret “lies with her” and make the decision to change it to “rape.” The Hebrew word for rape is not present. And a common-sense reading of the text would lead anyone to determine the man had raped her because he is put to death and she “has committed not offense.”
In verse 28, there is a change because the woman is neither married nor betrothed (this is of consequence because of the penalty). But notice the phrase, “they are found.” Following the interpretation principles for verse 23, this is a consensual act, in the city, between two single people, who are not betrothed (thus no other party is wronged). It is not a rapist gaining a bride by victimization. It is a God, who had every right to pronounce a death sentence, mercifully allowing two single people to enter into the honorable state of marriage.
So, does it matter which Bible translation you use? Absolutely. No translation is perfect! But you stand a much better chance of understanding God’s will for your life by reading from a translation using a word-for-word philosophy.
No man is perfect. No woman has the right to decide for anyone else what the word of God means. It is up to us to be, “acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”-II Timothy 3:15.