An LDS co-worker and good friend recently asked me which translation of the Bible I prefer. I explained that I don’t really favor one translation. I trust the NASB and the ESV if I’m studying a topic and want the most accurate information, but when I’m reading straight through I prefer a more readable translation like the NLT.
I have 11 translations of the Bible on my Palm handheld, including the three I just mentioned and The Message, the HCSB, and the hot-off-the-presses TNIV. I also trust and enjoy reading the KJV from time to time. I consider myself blessed that I was raised reading it and am able to comprehend its archaic yet beautiful prose.
My friend explained that he prefers the KJV because, in his experience, it is more “doctrinally accurate.” I casually summarized for him what I have learned about Bible translation from a few good books1, and the discussion turned to manuscript evidence and the history of the Bible. He was surprised to learn that a modest percentage of the KJV New Testament comes from the Latin Vulgate rather than from the original Greek.
According to Wikipedia’s Textus Receptus entry, this is because Erasmus had only a few late manuscripts available to him and was “often forced to make his own interpretations—back-translating from the Vulgate or even fabricating material.” The King James New Testament was subsequently translated from Erasmus’ Greek text.
Later that evening my friend e-mailed me an article (part 7 below) from a series, How the Bible Came to Be, printed in several sequential issues of the Ensign in 1982. I haven’t read them all, so I can’t vouch for their veracity. Part 7 seemed thorough, if slightly biased toward the KJV, and confirmed for my friend what I had said in our conversation earlier that day.
I’ve linked to the articles below for my own future reference, but you may find them an interesting read.
- Part 1, A Testament Is Established (Ensign, January 1982)
- Part 2, The Word Is Preserved (Ensign, February 1982)
- Part 3, A New Word Is Added to the Old (Ensign, March 1982)
- Part 4, The Canon Becomes an Unread Relic (Ensign, April 1982)
- Part 5, Glimmers of Light in Darkness (Ensign, June 1982)
- Part 6, No Price Too Great (Ensign, July 1982)
- Part 7, The Sweet and Ripened Fruit (Ensign, August 1982)
- Part 8, The Power of the Word (Ensign, September 1982)
- Specifically, How We Got the Bible by Neil R. Lightfoot and The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations? by James R. White. [↩]