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The Qualifications Identifying the Best Bible Translation

If there was no original, inerrant Bible but there were original autographs (though none yet found) from whose copies Bibles have been composed...then based on Psalm 12:6-7: The Word of God is available for each generation, it must be from copies, and there must be a "best" translation for our time. And, in order to fulfill "The Great Commission" of Matthew 28:18-20, there would have to be translations to the gentiles and all the nations of the earth. Drawing heavily from a writing by Timothy S. Morton [his publishing site], I would suggest that the best translation would hold up strongly to the following qualifications:

  • The Qualification of Jesus' Pre-eminent position: In that Christianity and the need for a Bible relate to being believers in, and followers of, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, a "best" translation and the translators of it ought to hold strongly and prevalently to the prime position of Jesus as deity (being the son of God), as qualifying uniquely as a blemish-free sacrifice, as thereby qualifying as a perfect atoning sacrifice for the sin of mankind, as having arisen from the dead, and as having ascended and returned to the right side of God the father. The best translation should not omit any opportunity to honestly reflect such in its translation.
  • The Qualification of Longevity of Usage : In that longevity of the face of competing Bible versions and roller-coaster-like societal changes...suggests an ongoing blessing of God, a "best" translation should be in fruitful use for more than 2-3 generations.
  • The Qualification of Bloodshed to Protect It: Over the past 5000-6000 years, the record often shows that God honors the ongoing efforts of peoples willing to lose their lives in His cause, this present cause being bloodshed as it relates to maintaining Scripture by Jesus believers. [note about Textus Receptus]
  • The Qualification of World-wide Impact: The best translation should be in what becomes the world language. At around 1600, some linguistic historians indicate that English was at its finest and highest level of development. English is NOW the world language and the one from which computers, the internet, and Bible distributors translate FROM into other languages. Referring to the Bible published in 1611 AD, the English linguistic history book, The Story of English, by McCrum, Cran, and MacNeil, page 109 says, "...[this Bible is] probably the single most influential book ever published in the English language." Just afterward, England began building the British Empire...always taking Christianity and this Bible translation to the four corners of the world!
  • The Qualification of Production Free From an Age of World Disbelief: After the 1600's, the "Enlightenment" (German rationalism, French skepticism, English deism, etc.) swept the world and mixed a worldwide doubt as to religious belief, the world having never since abandoned a prevailing "Doubting Thomas" skepticism bolstered by scientific skepticism plus a widespread attitude that cultural sophistication and education require a skeptical attitude. Yet Scripture demands that we first "believe" in faith, and THEN we will be shown (Hebrews 11:6); and, the unbeliever's minds are divinely shut to The Word (I Cor. 2:14).
  • The Qualification of Capability and Humility of Translators: God placing a high value on humility and lack of puffed-up pride, translators should have a combination of personal humility and great intellect plus high linguistic skill.
  • The Qualification of Suffering by the Translators: God being known to honor those who suffer for His name and/or the name of Jesus, translators should include some who have suffered such.
  • The Qualification of "Believer" Status of Translators: God having declared that His Word is closed to non-believers, the translators should be believers who believe that the materials they are translating from are the divinely maintained inerrant Word of God.
  • The Qualification of Translational Honesty: The translation should be careful to use reference superscripts, italics (or alternate script), or some other means to clearly note additions or deletions of words or verses not found in the source(s) from which the translation is rendered.
  • The Qualification of Publisher Lacking a Conflict of Interest: How much, if any, might a particular translation be influenced by desire to maintain copyright status, church or denominational approval, sponsor-group or publisher profit or nonprofit agendas (politically correct; gender correct; etc.). A best translation should be as uninfluenced as possible by such worldly issues.
  • The Qualification of Source Honesty : The record should somewhere be clear as to the influence, if any, of non-canonical books and documents such as the Apocrypha (the Apocrypha are said to have actually been included as canon in the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus source texts).
  • The Qualification of Agreement of Subsequent Editions: If subsequent editions are changed for reasons other than to correct typographical errors, to make spelling changes or to change an archaic typestyle, the reasons ought to be clearly explained in a record somewhere. In comparing Bible versions, typestyle item changes, spelling corrections, and typographical corrections should not be counted as "text changes".
  • The Qualification of Impact on Saved & Lost Persons: A reasonable argument can be made that the total number of a Bible version printed and distributed, the total number of believers who have trusted that version as their "Bible", the total number of persons to whom preachers have exhorted their congregations from that version, and the total number of Christian converts (from being lost) to that version by those using that version might represent evidence of God's testimony of blessing upon that version as the best version.

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posted: 24 Oct. 1999