Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 22, 1953
NUMBER 37, PAGE 4-5a

That "More Accurate" Tag


We've been doing quite a bit of reading in the new Revised Standard Version, with a special desire to check it as to the "more accurate than any other version" with which several of our brethren have tagged it. The more we study and read, the more amazed we become that any sane or rational man could hang such a description on this version. Amazed is hardly the word. Astounded, really.

If they had said "more readable," yes. If "fewer archaic words," still yes. If "stimulating to the modern reader," we'd agree. If they had been content to commend the version as a companion to the other "modern speech" translations (Weymouth, Goodspeed, Moffatt, and a score or more of similar works), we think much could be said in its favor. It has many of the advantages, as well as many of the disadvantages, of these free-running, paraphrasing, interpretative translations.

But "more accurate"? NEVER!

This journal for some weeks has been carrying articles critical of the new version. Perhaps you have read them. We will have others. But just to point up a few of our objections to this modernistic version, and to why we are astonished when supposedly sound brethren label it as "more accurate," we call your attention to a few (of literally hundreds) of passages that show paraphrase instead of translation, liberalistic bias instead of scholarly objectivity, and interpretation instead of accuracy of rendition of the original.

Matthew 16:18

"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it." So reads the new translation. We call your particular attention to the phrase "powers of death." Jesus did not say "powers of death" but "gates of Hades." There can be no question at all as to the Greek words he used (pulai aidou); there is no point of textual accuracy involved. Those words "pulai aidou" literally and exactly mean "gates of Hades." If Christ had said "powers of death" He would have used Greek words to express that idea (dunameis thanatou).

Now, most commentators think that He meant the force or the power of death by His expression "gates of Hades"; and we believe that is the correct interpretation. But that is interpretation, not translation. That is for the commentator and the exegete to determine. It is the task of a translator to tell us exactly what the original text says, not what he thinks it means by what it says. The translators of this new "more accurate" version have not told us what the text says, but have freely set down what they think the author meant by what he said. Indeed, they are quite bold to declare that such has been their aim. Doctor Wentz, one of the translators, declared:

"It has been our effort not only to determine as precisely as possible what we understand the original author to mean, but to take that exact message and transmit it in terms that the reader and hearer of our day cannot misunderstand."

Thus the entire Bible is translated in terms of the translator's understanding of what the original author meant by what he said! He is not content to tell us what he said; he must also tell us what he meant by that! And when we recall that all the translators are modernists, men who reject the divinity of Christ, we are not surprised to find them in passage after passage deleting and "editing out" those statements that attribute deity to Christ. So far as they are concerned the original author "did not mean to say" that Christ was divine! Hence they feel free to "translate" what he did say in such fashion as to eliminate the claims for divinity.

1 Timothy 3:2

"The bishop therefore must be without reproach, the husband of one wife . . ." This is a passage about which there has been almost endless question and dispute. The Gospel Guardian for the last six months has carried no less than fifteen or twenty articles by brethren discussing the exact meaning of what Paul said. His Greek words are "mias gunaikos andra," and are literally rendered "man of one woman."

Now that is what Paul said. From the actual Greek phrase three interpretations are possible: (1) the bishop must be married, (2) the bishop must not be a polygamist, and (8) the bishop must have been married only once. The first interpretation would prohibit celibacy; the second would be directed against polygamy; and the third would be against remarriage after the death (or divorce) of the first wife. The three possible interpretations might be paraphrased as follows:

(1) "not a bachelor"

(2) "not a polygamist"

(3) "married only once"

Most Bible students have divided between the first and second of these possibilities. Our own brethren have parted rather sharply on it, David Lipscomb and a host of others inclining to the "not a polygamist" idea while J. W. McGarvey and many others championed the "not a bachelor" view. It has been clearly in the field of the exegete or commentator to determine both from the context and from related passages the true force to be given the words "mias gunaikos andra."

But behold the brash and blythe disregard of the problem, the obstinate arbitrariness, the high and mighty disdain for the scholarship of the world with which the translators of the "new version" settle the question. So far as they are concerned there is no problem at all! Men like Lipscomb and McGarvey, as well as practically all the scholarship of all ages, are brushed aside as simpletons and nit wits. Our modernist scholars tell us that what Paul meant to say was that the bishop must be a man who has "married only once!" That's the way they translate it. They put it into the actual text, leaving the alternate translation "husband of one wife" to a footnote.

So our "new translation" declares in effect that if a man has lost a wife by death, then has married again, and has reared a fine Christian family, and possesses every other qualification set forth for the office, he still is disqualified and cannot serve; he has been married twice! And Paul said the bishop must be "married only once"!

"More accurate" is it ? Well, for a man to make that statement seriously marks him either as a man without judgment or as a man without regard for the truth. It is the task of translators to tell us what the original author said — not what they think he meant by what he said.

The translators of the King James and American Standard Versions very wisely tell us what Paul said, leaving it to the commentator and exegete to determine the precise meaning of his words. But not so with the modern translators. They think they know what Paul meant by what he said, and so they stick it right into the text — "married only once"! We have never read a comment from any serious scholar in all history that took that view; we do not know of the writing of any member of the body of Christ from the days of Campbell on to the present that sets forth such an idea. It is simply preposterous!

Yet this is the version that some of our brethren have - labelled "more accurate" than any other version! In the name of heaven, what possessed them? Had they read it? Do they honestly believe the advertisements they carried about it? Are they willing to defend their statement? If so we here and now issue a formal challenge to the three brethren whose journals have carried that statement (to brethren G. H. P. Showalter, Olan Hicks, and B. C. Good-pasture): Resolved: That the Revised Standard Version of the Bible is a more accurate translation than any other version."

The Gospel Guardian will deny that proposition. These brethren have carried it in their journals; will they defend it? Or are they ready to retract — and apologize to their readers for so gross and vicious a misrepresentation of the truth?

— F.Y.T.