The first characteristic of the inspired Word of God is that it builds our faith. To one extent or another this is true of every Bible version. Through the aid of the Holy Spirit, points essential to salvation are brought home, and many people can relate their conversions to one Bible version or another. But there is still a broader aspect of this subject that should be examined.
What general effect has the proliferation of Bible versions had on people's faith in the Word of God? Of course this is something that cannot be precisely measured, for there are many factors that influence society. However, we can generally observe the difference between people's attitude toward the Bible today compared to their attitudes when there was only one accepted version.
When the KJV was the primary Bible used, ministers strongly preached from it and laity eagerly committed its words to memory. As a sacred book, it was highly respected. Faith in God and the authority of His Word were paramount.
Today, however, there is quite a different outlook. Faith in God and the Scriptures is at an all-time low. Many people have lost their respect for the Scriptures. Ministers no longer preach the Word, but instead deliver philosophical sermons on the general "message" of Scriptures. And rarely do laity commit Bible texts to memory. An epidemic of ignorance concerning the most basic Bible content is plaguing even churchgoing youth. 1
Have the modern versions contributed to this lamentable condition? Let's consider several ways that modern versions may have encouraged such a situation.
First, there has been wide promotion in recent years of versions using "modern speech." Although these versions are helpful to some people, they lack the dignity that fosters reverence and special regard for the Scriptures. The Bible is an ancient, divine volume, but when it is fashioned like a common book, it gets treated like one. A study of the Good News Bible (TEV) indicated that university students "first devoured it because as they said, it read just like a newspaper. But later they had little interest in going back to it—for the same i" ?
Second, modern versions have not lent themselves to memorization. When everyone was using the KJV, frequent repetition of the same wording was heard which helped fix it in the mind. Now, however, verses are read from versions which vary so much that they are scarcely recognized as the same passage. People just cannot seem to decide which version to memorize.
Third, when you start using a modern version, it may not be long before you notice differences between it and the more familiar KJV. In turning to Luke 4:8, you will find that when lesus was tempted in the wilderness, His command "Get thee behind me, Satan" is not recorded. There is not even a footnote to mark its omission. Similarly, you may find yourself wondering whatever happened to lesus' call of sinners "to repentance" (Mark 2:17 and Matthew 9:13) or to the last line of the Lord's prayer (Matthew 6:13).
Another look at most modern versions uncovers additional perplexities. In the RSV, MV, and NEB, you will find a footnote to Luke 23:34 indicating that some ancient manuscripts omit lesus' saying, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." Immediately it raises the question, "Did lesus really say that?" It appears that scholars question it, so why shouldn't you?
A comparison of the modern versions with the KJV reveals over two hundred cases in which a verse's authenticity is seriously questioned either by complete omission or by footnote. The most pronounced of these are lohn 7:53-8:11 (lohn's account of the woman caught in adultery) and Mark 16:9-20 (Mark's account of the appearance and ascension of lesus). Footnotes and marginal readings can be helpful, but is it possible that modern scholarship has overwhelmed the Bible student with a plethora of critical readings varying from version to version?
Later we will look at a major cause of omissions. But for now, it can be postulated that the proliferation of versions has weakened the faith people once had in the authority of the Scriptures.
Soon after the publication of the most popular 19th century Bible version, an article in the Catholic Dublin Review made this startling claim: "The 'Bible-only' principle is proved to be false. It is now at length too evident that Scripture is powerless without the [Catholic] Church as the witness to its inspiration, the safeguard of its integrity, and the exponent of its meaning. And it will now be clear to all men which is the true church, the real Mother to whom the Bible of right belongs." 3
This is a sobering thought. Protestantism itself has no grounds for existence apart from a strong faith in the Word of God. If Protestants stop viewing the Bible as the sure Word of God, in a crisis, what "authority" will they look to?
To summarize our findings, we see that all versions can fit the biblical characteristic of building faith. However, a question arises regarding the effect the proliferation of modern versions has had on people's confidence in the authority of Scripture.
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