Most of my academic carrier opponents of the TR/KJV position have told me that there are some translations that we all agree are terrible translations of the Bible. Presently, the translations usually cited as terrible translations are those like the Mirror Bible, The Passion Translation, and The New World Translation. Sometimes the Message is included in this list.
Don’t get me wrong, I too hold that these translations are terrible translations, but why, according to the Critical Text/Multiple Version Only position, are these translations “terrible translations”? What makes them terrible? Who determines what makes these translations terrible and by what authority is that claim made?
Let us assume for a moment that The Passion Translation [TPT] is the inspired infallible word of God in English. For any of us to claim that the TPT is terrible is to judge wrongly regarding the words of God in English. That would be quite a weighty failure in judgement, don’t you agree? So by what standard, by what authority, do any of us claim that the TPT is a terrible translation?
Is TPT a terrible translation because it strays from the commonly understood content of Scripture? Is TPT using phrases and making translation changes which are so different from the “accepted” multitude of other translations? This seems to hardly be an objection seeing that once upon a time the current accepted modern versions did the very same thing when they strayed from the Authorized Version. So maybe TPT is not a terrible translation. Perhaps it is just going to take time for the Church to get used to it.
I think it likely that TPT is rejected as a terrible translation because it translates the Bible in a way deemed unfaithful to the originals. And who deems TPT to be an unfaithful translation of the textual tradition? How do we know that current Critical Text proponent simply don’t have the stomach to do what their academic forefathers did in turning the trajectory of the English-speaking Church from the KJV to the RSV? It seems to me that when Critical Texts advocates or Multiple Version Only advocates gripe about TPT or the Mirror Bible or the Message they sound more and more like the King James Version camp, but of course are very late to the game.
Additionally, the Critical Text/Multiple Version Only folks are more in our camp by rejecting TPT. They draw a line in the sand, though it is unclear what authority allows them to draw such a line. Critical Text/Multiple Version Only advocates reject certain translations as faithful translations of God’s words.
They do exactly the same thing as we do though we exclude more translations from the “faithful translations” pool. For our part though we have an argument for why we reject the TPT and the myriad of modern translations. We have philosophical arguments based in properly basic Christian belief and warranted and rational beliefs. We have exegetical arguments grounded in historic orthodoxy and careful treatment of the original languages. We have robust theological arguments, again based in historic orthodoxy and consistent with Reformed Bibliology.
Our opponents on the other hand have arguments like, “I don’t like the way it sounds” and “That translation does not fit the prevailing subjective translations philosophy supposed by the academy.” Or they may argue, “These ‘terrible translations’ affect major doctrine.” Which of course is ridiculous if TPT is God’s word it is teaching major doctrine and ought to be considered an authority in every Christian’s life.
If TPT is not God’s word according to the Critical Text/Multiple Version Only crowd, how much of it is not God’s word? How do you measure that? What is the threshold which makes a translation a terrible translation? Who determines that threshold? Why should we trust that person’s stated threshold?
To my Critical Text/Multiple Version Only brothers, we believe you when you say TPT is a terrible translation, but it is wholly unclear why you believe that and by what authority you hold that belief.
On this point you are no different than atheists. Atheists seem to know rape is wrong, but they can’t explain why without provincial appeal to the assumed relative subjective social contract of their contemporary society. Even then their moral structure falls apart because morality need a transcendent source which has immediate and effectual causal power in the present i.e., God knows your sin, He will judge your sin, and be sure your sins will find you out.
The Critical Text/Multiple Version Only position is the same. It is not Christian. That is, the Critical Text/Multiple Version Only position is not grounded in the revealed words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as revealed in the 66 books of the Canon. Instead all appeals to standards, authority, and threshold are punted to the assumed relative subjective authority of the prevailing contemporary opinions regarding textual criticism.
In sum, the Critical Text/Multiple Version Only position is very much like our position in that certain translations are not faithful to the originals and are in this sense terrible. The difference is we here at StandardSacredText.com know these translations are unfaithful and we can explain why from a distinctively Christian position anchored in exegesis, theology, and philosophy. Our opponents know certain translations are unfaithful to the originals, but their attempts to explain why are no better, no more Christian, and no more effectual than those of common garden variety atheists.