Turning The Bible Into An Idol

King James BibleI couldn’t believe what I was reading. It was Google Plus, in a community dedicated to The Bible, and the person was saying something along these lines: “Why should the Hebrew take precedence over the King James Version? God gave us the King James Version in English.” It turned into a long rant, but I was captivated by the opening words.

When pastors talk about the inspiration of Scripture, they mean that the original version written down by the prophets and apostles were directed by the Holy Spirit.

If you actually look at the process by which the book we call the Bible has been handed down to us, the whole process is a great miracle. Very early texts have been preserved for thousands of years, the agreement between the preserved portions is very high considering they were individually hand written.

I also believe that the Holy Spirit guides the thoughts of those making the translations from Hebrew and Greek into English (or the hundreds of other languages spoken round the world) and most importantly, the Holy Spirit uses those words to speak to the reader, convicting us about sin, holiness and the need for salvation.

But, and this is really important, if you want to read the inspired version of Scripture, you must learn Greek and Hebrew, and read it in the original languages.

Translation from one language to another is an art. It is tricky because no single word in any language really covers the full range of meaning of its equivalent in another language. Even within the English language, Australians use words differently to Americans and New Zealanders. Not only that, but words change subtly in meaning over time even during one person’s lifetime.

So yes, the original Hebrew text does take precedence over the King James, or any other translation for that matter, even the NIV.

Having said that, English speakers are blessed in having dozens of translations of the Bible to choose from. Many of them are very good, and strive to be as accurate as possible in rendering the meaning of the texts. If you can’t learn Greek and Hebrew, read a couple of different English versions to get a wider understanding of the text.

But please don’t turn your favourite translation into an idol. The original texts are infallible, translations less so.