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Understanding Bible Translations

When we begin to talk about different Bible translations there are a couple of things we should keep in the forefront of our minds.

  • No one Bible is the standard to which other Bibles are held to, only the original inspired writings are that standard

  • We don't have those originals, called Autographs

  • Each translation relies on different manuscripts, which are copies of the original writings

  • In all the different translations, not one word has changed the message of God's Word.

Have you ever played the game telephone? Where someone whispers in one persons ear a sentence and then it gets whispered all the way down the line of people then the last person says what he hears and compares that to the original statement?

If you have, then you can understand a bit of how we got the different translations and how they can have some variations, all of which do nothing to change the message of God to His people.

As already stated, each translation uses a different text to draw off for the translators to use. In the case of the King James Bible, they used the Textus Receptus for the New Testament. Which means “text received by all”. Actually, this was an advertising blurb for the text used, but it became the name of the text throughout time (another example of how things can change and not change the message at all).

In 1516 a Roman Catholic Priest by the name of Desiderius Erasmus, working rapidly to beat another copy due to come out, put out the first Greek New testament from the only manuscripts they had available at the time, the Byzantine Manuscripts. Because he was working rapidly, his work under went several revisions. It was the 5th revision of his text which became the standard that the KJV translators worked off .

The Byzantine manuscripts were the largest body of surviving manuscripts found to date,dating back to the 10th -12th century. Important to note here is that it was simply the lack of choice of manuscripts to work from that was the deciding factor in which to use.

To simplify it:

Byzantine Manuscripts →Textus Recptus→ King James Version

found in 10-12 century

Modern Translations

Since Erasmus time there have been many more manuscripts found and examined by scholars.

Prior to the 9th Century all the texts used were Alexandrian. When other manuscripts were found such as the Dead Sea Scrolls etc. translators used "reasoned eclecticism" to form the basis to translate from the Greek to English.

Basically what this is: Taking all the manuscripts available poring through them and through the differences coming up with a reasonable text based off of the common traits.

Nearly all modern translations of the Bible use the Nestle-Aland 27th edition.

To simplify it:

Byzantine+Alexandrian+other Manuscripts → Nestle-Aland → Modern English Translation

As we can see here with this very brief history and description, that there is nothing inherently wrong with the King James Bible or any of the modern English translations. They just drew from differing manuscripts is all.

That leads us to some of the questions that KJV only champions ask, which I will try to answer to the best of my ability in such a short space.

  1. Missing Verses

Proponents of using ONLY the KJV will tell us that there are several verses “missing” from other Bibles. Some of these verses are:

  • John 5:4

  • Matthew 18:11,17:21,23:14

  • Romans 16:24

  • Acts 8:37,15:34,24:7,28:29

  • Luke 17:36,23:17

  • Mark 7:16,9:44,9:46,11:26,15:28

In one sense, they are correct. Go ahead, check your Bible now and you may see that in fact there is no John 5:4. What then shall we do?

Look if you would down at the bottom of the page of your Bible and you will see a little note explaining that in some texts that verse is there.

But why leave it out you ask?

Simple. By using all the available manuscripts as the basis, it was unclear to translators whether they were notes in the margin or intended verses. The important thing to ask is, does the “missing verse” alter the meaning of the text. It is my belief that no, it doesn't. And to remain faithful to the Byzantine texts, they placed them at the bottom for reference.

  1. The Morning Star

Let's take a look at the passages of Scripture that are in question here:

Isaiah 14:12 (KJV) How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

Isaiah 14:12 (NIV) How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!

Notice the difference?

The NIV removes the word Lucifer and changes it from son of the morning to morning star.

Some questions to ask:


What does it mean?

What does it change?

Let's first look at the word Lucifer, taken from the Latin Vulgate. In Roman Astrology Lucifer was the name given for the star that we now know as the planet Venus. It appears that in transcribing from the Latin Vulgate they inserted the term Lucifer here. It literally means “bringer of light” As this “star” was the brightest one in the sky in early morning. It's intention was NEVER a replacement for Satan. That passage of scripture is talking about a fallen Babylon kingdom, not a fallen angel.

But similar to our culture, words have a tendency to, over time, mean something completely different from intended. One example is Google. Google is a company name. It is not a verb. However, in today's modern usage, we always say “Did you google it?” Not dissimilar here with Lucifer. It has taken on a meaning of its own. In fact, I'd argue without the KJV/NKJV in today's English, we would not even use the word.

That brings us to morning star vs son of the morning. If we understand how Lucifer got there then we can understand the change . In short, the error is in the part of the KJV, not other translations.

  1. Who Killed Goliath

Another example used by KJV onlyists is 2 Samuel 21:19. The KJV renders it thus:

And there was again a battle in Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaareoregim, a Bethlehemite, slew the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver's beam.

The NASB renders it like this:

There was war with the Philistines again at Gob, and Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver's beam.

Other modern English translations also leave off “the brother of”

I'd like to point out here an important Bible reading note. When ever you see Italics in a verse, it means simply that those words were not in the original manuscripts.

In this case we see the words in the KJV in italics “slew the brother of”.

This, I believe is a simple copyist problem in the original manuscripts. Let's look at 1 Chronicles 20: 5 for a moment.

New American Standard Bible

And there was war with the Philistines again, and Elhanan the son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver's beam.

King James Bible

And there was war again with the Philistines; and Elhanan the son of Jair slew Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, whose spear staff was like a weaver's beam.

Here we can see both verses use the brother of......

There is no dispute that David killed Goliath. The Bible is very clear on this. Why then the difference in 2 Samuel?

Simply stated, it was a copyist problem and the translators of the KJV wanted to fix that problem, while the translators of the Modern English translations wanted to stay true to the manuscripts.

There is no corruption or deceitful tactics or intentions on the part of the modern English translators in any of the Bible. If we focus too much on which translation is “best” or “Authorized” then we are focusing on the wrong issues, in my opinion.

Doctrine is important, as already stated, not a single one of these variations between translations alters the Doctrines God teaches in His Bible.

And the most important truth has been preserved that is:

Jesus, born of a virgin, became incarnate as a man, lived a sinless life, was crucified on the Cross, bore the punishment and wrath for our sins, buried in a tomb and resurrected 3 days later appeared to over 400 people for 40 days then ascended into Heaven where he know resides at the right hand of God.

Do you believe that?

If you do, then repent of your sins today, admit to God that you are a sinner in need of a savior and put your trust in Jesus alone for your Salvation.

Whatever is True

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

This post is the first in a series of posts that will focus on this one entreaty from Paul. There are 8 things here that Paul has exhorted believers to think or dwell on. I would like to take each one separately and expound on them a bit.

Whatever is True:

In our culture, more so today than ever in the past I fear, a pragmatism that has permeated every corner of life, even our churches.

“If it feels good do it”

Whatever is true for you is truth”

Whatever makes you happy” or a derivative “Whatever floats your boat”

These are all counter to what is meant here by “Whatever is true”

We are to be focused on and concerned with the absolute divine truth of God.

The following verses are very enlightening and instructive in what is TRUE, and should be what we are dwelling on:

Matthew 22:16 – Jesus is Truthful

Mark 12:14 – Jesus is Truthful

John 6:33 – God is True

John 6:55 – Jesus' flesh is True, Jesus' blood is True

John 17:17,19 God's word is Truth and believers are to be sanctified in Truth

How focusing and meditating on “Whatever is True” will affect your Christian walk:

The Bible tells us that Satan and his demons will disguise themselves as angels of light (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). We need to purpose God's truth into our hearts in order to discern the truth from false teachers. We need to be able to test the spirits (1 John 4:1).

We can only battle the pragmatism of the age by being well grounded in the divine truth of the Lord.

Finally, we need to dwell on the truth so we can stand firm amongst the lies that surround us.

Satan is the father of lies and there is no truth in him (John 8:44). He first lied at the fall (Genesis 3:1) and with this lie he deceived Eve and led her to deceive Adam, which led to the fall of man. And he is still falsely accusing the brethren day and night (Revelation 12:10).

This whole world, minus those of us who are regenerated and born again believers, is a massive swirl of lies. We must be steeped in the truth in order to stand firm.

I close with a concern from the Apostle Paul:

2 Corinthians 11:3 But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent.

Christian Meditation

1 Timothy 4:6-8

If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance.

Spiritual Disciplines are an integral part of our sanctification in Christ. Today, I'd like to focus on just one of those disciplines, meditation.

Not just any meditation, rather Biblical or Christian Meditation. What is it? What isn't it? Why should we meditate? What should we meditate on, etc.

When many Christians hear the word meditate or meditation they instantly get a little leery of what is going to come out of the mouth of the person speaking, and for good reason, there are so many false teachings on this subject out there coupled with very little teachings of what it truly looks like and why we need to do it, the average Christian just avoids the topic altogether, I am praying through this, more people are encouraged to begin practicing this important discipline.

What Biblical Meditation is NOT:

Firstly, it is nothing like the practices by the Eastern Religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism etc. Where the object of meditation is to experience inner truth, peace and inner enlightenment. Secondly, it is nothing like the meditation of the “Christian Mystics” such as the Quakers. Where the object is either a New Revelation from God or to “experience” God.

A few things that fall into this category, that we as Christians should be very cautious of, and avoid at all costs are:

Lectio Divina

Contemplative Prayer

Contemplative Meditation

What Biblical Meditation IS:

Biblical or Christian meditation is ruminating on the things of God that he has already revealed to us in the Scriptures. That is the short and concise answer to that question.

Thomas Watson in his book A Christian on the Mount: A treatise on Christian Meditation defines it like this: “Meditation is the soul's retiring of itself, that by a serious and solemn thinking upon God, the heart may be raised up to heavenly affections. “

One of the words used for meditation in the Bible is the word for ruminate. Which is what cows do, when they chew their cud. The idea is to chew on something, bring it back up and chew on it some more. That is essentially what Biblical mediation is, chewing on God's word over and over so that it travels the 6 inches from our head to our hearts.

Many people study the Bible, a lot. This is different than meditation, as study is a modality or a function of the mind. It is similar with memorization of verses. This is another important discipline, but when it is left at just that, study or memorization, then it stays right there where the work was done, in the mind. The problem with just those is this:

Luke 6:45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (cf. Proverbs 4:23, Matthew 12:34-35)

If we don't commit God's revealed word and truth to our hearts, then how can it come out of our mouths to produce good? Head knowledge is only useful if we have heart knowledge too.

1 Corinthians 13:2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

Why should we Meditate?

Well, I laid some of the ground work above, however there are other reasons too.

It is commanded in Scriptures.

Phillipians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Colossians 3:1-2 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is,seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

1 Timothy 4:15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them,c so that all may see your progress.

We are told we are blessed if we mediate on His laws and precepts

Psalm 1:1-2 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

Another important reason to meditate on the word of God is, well, we already meditate now, only on worldly things:

Romans 8:5-8 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

How often do we let our worries and concerns fill our minds during the day?

Our Financial struggles?

Our struggles with our jobs?

Our struggles with our spouses?

Our struggles with our co-workers?

Our struggles with our kids?

The car that broke down?

If we are honest, most of us fill our heads and our hearts with these troubles and concerns. We often run to Matthew 6 for some comfort and instruction of what do to. More often though, we allow these things to dominate our thoughts. Or, how often do we let the things of the world dominate our thoughts?

What's on TV tonight?

What movie is coming out this weekend?

What “mega-star” or celebrity gossip is going on right now?

I'd suggest that many of us, myself included, spend way too much time focusing on this things and precious little of our time thinking of the things of God, committing those things to our hearts. So, we are already meditating, now, we just need to learn to meditate on God's word.

What to meditate about?

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

This is a great place to start!

Here are some others we can meditate on:

  • The Attributes of God

  • The Grace and Mercy of God

  • The Gospel

  • God's Law

  • The Promises of God

  • Sin

A note here on meditating on sin. I think this is very important that we mediate on what sin is, the consequences of sin, how sin enters our lives etc. We need to know these things in our hearts so we can combat them when they arise.

In the past I have been asked by someone who was new to the faith, “How do you take a thought captive?”

The fact is, we can't do it in the moment. We have to have committed to our hearts the things of God, to replace those those thoughts that are disobedient to Him and His word. This is why meditating on Sin and God's grace and mercy are so important to our growth.

How do we meditate?

I don't think there is a set way to do this. David chose to do it in his bed at night Psalm 63:6 (cf: Psalm 4:4, 16:7, 42:8, 119:55, 119:148,)

Issac went to the field in the evening Genesis 24:63

Both Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1:2 instruct us to meditate day and night on His law.

Both are important and play a role. For me, I often meditate throughout the day on a particular passage or verse I'm struggling to understand. In the quietness of my own room, I have a little hacky sack I toss up and catch some times for hours as I meditate.

I hope this brief treaty on a very important Spiritual Discipline encourages others to begin to study it and practice it in your own lives. I know for me it has made a huge difference in my walk with the Lord, understanding who He is, grasping difficult doctrines etc.

Shaking the dust off your feet

Matthew 10:14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.

I think the key to understanding what our Lord is saying in this verse, is understanding what he meant by “shake the dust off your feet”

Historically in Scripture dust plays a pretty important role:

Man is created from it (Genesis 2:7)

Man will return to it (Genesis 3:19)

The serpent was sentenced to a dust diet (Genesis 3:14)

People often covered themselves in dust as a sign of mourning or repentance:

Joshua 7:6

2 Samuel 1:2, 15:32

Job 2:12

Nehemiah 9:1

Dust is associated with poverty in Psalm 113:7

In Isaiah 52:2 God calls Jerusalem to shake off the dust and to rise up

So we can see that in the OT dust played a pretty prominent role in the way people thought and acted.

What is interesting though is how the Jews viewed dust or dirt from other lands. It was viewed as unclean and defiling. If a Jew was traveling in another land they had to shake that lands dust off of their body and garments before they could reenter (foot washing was not uncommon at this point too). If they had any imported fruit etc the dust had to be shaken from that as well.

"The very dust of a heathen country was unclean, and it defiled by contact. It was regarded like a grave, or like the putrescence of death. If a spot of heathen dust had touched an offering, it must at once be burnt. More than that, if by mischance any heathen dust had been brought into Palestine, it did not and could not mingle with that of 'the land,' but remained to the end what it had been - unclean, defiled, and defiling everything to which it adhered. This will cast light upon the meaning conveyed by the symbolical directions of our Lord to His disciples (Matthew 10:14), when He sent them forth to mark out the boundary lines of the true Israel - 'the kingdom of heaven,' that was at hand: 'Whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.' In other words, they were not only to leave such a city or household, but it was to be considered and treated as if it were heathen, just as in the similar case mentioned inMatthew 18:17." (Edersheim, Sketches In Jewish Social Life, ch.2; cf. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Vol.1, pp.643-44)

To come into contact with outside lands dust was considered akin to coming into contact with a corpse.

The other part of this passage that is interesting is “Shake off”. This means to shake out violently. It wasn't an action where you just lifted your foot up and shook of a little dirt. Think of a spider crawling on you, how would you violently brush and shake that off of you? It is not dissimilar in action to that, though it is a poor analogy spiritually speaking.

Spiritually speaking, Jesus was telling his disciples that if people would not receive the Gospel, then they were to be treated as dead to them. But not just people. Jews.

What Jesus was saying basically was this:

A group of Jewish followers of his were to go out and evangelize their fellow Jews. If they refused, then they were to be treated as Gentiles, or heathens. Spiritually dead.