An ongoing and perhaps long-standing debate wrestles with the question, “Is accuracy or readability more important?” Frankly, the question tells much about the theologians and scholars who are debating it.
The most accurate translations I know of are less readable for sure than the most popular or “traditional” Bible versions only in the sense that the sentence structures and word choices are less familiar. Any difficulty in reading is soon overcome by the insights gained, and often those insights are missing from more “readable” versions because the structure and word choice is lacking, or even wrong!
I’ve been reading and studying from the Concordant Literal versions (CLV) of the Old and New Testaments since 1972. The translations from ancient Hebrew and Greek texts is literal, as the name implies, brought about by seriously painstaking methods that eliminate as much bias as possible. It was somewhat difficult to read the CLV’s when I began, but the riches I discovered were more than worth the effort. I found the revelation of the Father – His nature, His ways, His purpose, and even His heart – far clearer, consistent, believable, sensible, and wonderful, than any so-called popular Bible available in English today.
Here are only three examples (and there are many more) of accuracy and readability working together. The first is from Romans 7:24:
“What will rescue me out of this body of death? Grace!” (Concordant Literal New Testament [CLNT])
Here’s how the same verse reads from one of 30 versions available at Bible Gateway:
“Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (NIV)
Thirty (count ’em, 30!) versions of the Bible (from ) read pretty much the same as the example above. They’re readable and supposedly accurate…except for one seemingly tiny problem (leaving aside the subtle but important difference between the opening “Who” versus “What“:
Where is the answer to the Apostle Paul’s question at the end of the verse? It’s missing from 30 of the most popular versions that most people read! The word, “grace,” the answer to the question Paul posed–appears in the Greek text, and its accurate inclusion doesn’t sacrifice readability, does it? So, why leave it out? I don’t know, but I’m certain that Paul would not have answered a question unless it was critically important.
Here’s the next example, from Matthew 5:3:
“Happy, in spirit, are the poor…” (CLNT)
“Blessed are the poor in spirit…” (ESV, NIV, AMP, NASB, NRSV)
The differences are obvious, aren’t they? Not one of 30 versions got the word order right from the Greek text! This verse always bugged me: “poor in spirit…” are blessed, presumably because they “own” the kingdom, due to their humility? That’s what the AMP version leads to, but does that make any sense to you? If not, no wonder, because that isn’t what the scripture says, and its accurate rendering leads to a completely different understanding, doesn’t it?
Happy poor people makes much more sense than blessed people who are spiritually poor (how would that work exactly?). Have you ever spoken to someone who has traveled to a poor country? To a one, they report how happy, welcoming, and generous the people are, even though they’re dirt poor! Oh, that’s who Yeshua was talking about! Now I get it! Gee, thanks for clearing that up.
Here’s one more example, from Luke 23:43:
“Verily, to you am I saying today, with Me shall you be in paradise.” (CLNT)
“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (ESV, NIV, AMP, NASB, NRSV)
The CLNT may not be the most readable of the examples above, but look at the difference in meaning, because someone moved the comma in 30 common versions (some claiming to be “literal”)! In fairness, Greek is notorious for its lack of punctuation; it has to be inferred. OK, so let’s apply some simple logic (on the principle that God’s word MUST make sense, and when it doesn’t seem to, it behooves us to investigate rather than assume):
Jesus didn’t go to paradise the same day He was crucified, did He? Wasn’t He in the grave 3 days and nights? In fact, He didn’t ascend into heaven until 40 days after His resurrection. So, was Jesus blowing smoke at the thief on his right? No way! He simply told the thief TODAY; He didn’t tell him they’d be in paradise today!
If a word is missing, the word order is changed, or punctuation is misapplied from the original text, what else is mistaken in the Bibles that most people read? How are we supposed to gain a clear and full understanding of God – which forms the basis for a relationship with Him — His purpose, and our importance to Him?
Mistranslation has, I believe, led to misunderstanding and misapplication of the scriptures for thousands of years. It has made God appear irrational, nonsensical, and even impotent. Serious mistakes in the popular Bibles we read today have resulted in centuries of confusion, contention, conflict, and division throughout Christendom.
Here are three steps you can take TODAY to clean up the mess in your own mind and heart, increase your understanding and facilitate greater progress in your spiritual and personal maturity:
- For an accurate version of the scriptures, look into the Concordant Literal Version of the New and Old Testaments, Commentaries, Newsletters and other publications
- For help to learn how to apply the scriptures today, check out “Light Up the Scriptures“: Scripture study in plain-spoken language and free of religious bias. Tap into an archive of more than 180 studies!
- Sort out some of the most important truths and transform your understanding of and relationship to God with the book, GO GOD! – Jump on or hang on, ’cause God’s gonna win!
Blessings and Joy in the journey.