In Wednesday Sunday School virtually everything that is read out loud in class is from the Bible. I use the NAB for most reading (that’s what the kids hear at Mass), but usually check the RSV-CE, Douai-Rheims, and KJV for critical verses: sometimes I just don’t love the way the NAB says things.
As part of lesson planning I frequently do word searches. The best online searchable Bibles IMNSHO are the collated Protestant versions at Bible Gateway (Gateway graciously gives you the option of searching the 7 Deuterocanonical books along with the 66). There are several search options, plus it’s easy to quickly see a given verse, chapter, or the whole Bible in a number of versions and languages (Spanish!). Occasionally I will prefer the 1611 King James Version to the Catholic Bibles I typically use, so my default version at Bible Gateway is the KJV.
Gateway also has the NIV (New International Version) which I understand is one of the most “readable” Protestant Bibles. Occasionally I have a look at the NIV. Sometimes it’s ok with me; other times, wow, it’s not. I mean: if you are reading the Bible to learn or teach your Catholic faith, it will be hard to do if you’re using the NIV, or anything like it. Let’s look at a few examples comparing the KJV to the NIV:
Bishop/ Episkopos/ἐπίσκοπος (literally, over-seer)
In class we use the New Testament to discuss the early organization of the Church, including offices such as Bishop. The word bishop shows up 6 times in the KJV; zero times in the NIV.
KJV: Acts 1:20 For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.
NIV: Acts 1:20 “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the book of Psalms, “May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, “May another take his place of leadership.’
“Place of leadership?” Ya kiddin’, rite? The Greek word here is ἐπισκοπή/ episkopi. At least use the word office. Office? We’ll get to that in a few minutes.
KJV: 1 Timothy 3:2 This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
NIV: 1 Timothy 3:2 Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.
KJV: 1 Timothy 3:3 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach….
NIV: 1 Timothy 3:3 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach….
KJV: Titus 1:7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;
NIV: Titus 1:7 Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless–not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.
KJV: 1 Peter 2:25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
NIV: 1 Peter 2:25 For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Yes, bishop means overseer; but saying overseer eliminates the historical significance of the word episkopos. You may as well say “saver” instead of “savior.” They both mean “one who saves,” right? And at least in the South, overseer already has meant for centuries the Simon Legree types who boss the slaves on a plantation. Nobody down here would want to use that word for anything else because of its pejorative meaning. Now I’m thinking that Southern revanchists might want to take a hint from the NIV and start saying bishop instead of overseer. It sounds so much nicer to say the slaves had bishops rather than overseers.
KJV: Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:
NIV: Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:
I love this one. The Greek word bishop just has to go; but the no-less-Greek deacon (diakonos/ servant) gets to stay. Is that because someone thinks it’s ok to have deacons, but not bishops? Well, as Ian Faith might say, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no…no, no, not at all. I, I, I just think that the…uh…the NIV is becoming more selective.”
Communion/ Koinonia/ κοινωνία
Communion is found 4 times in the KJV; zero times in the NIV.
KJV: 1 Corinthians 10:16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
NIV: 1 Corinthians 10:16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?
KJV: 2 Corinthians 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
NIV: 2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
KJV: 2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.
NIV: 2 Corinthians 13:14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Koinonia translates well as communion; e.g., the koin- root shows up in other Greek words such as koine, which describes the common, spoken Greek of St Paul’s day. Participation and fellowship are not bad words, but they move away from the root meaning of koin- and also strip out the historical continuity and implications of the word communion.
Tradition/ Paradosis/ παράδοσις
Uh-oh. You know how the Catholic Church accepts the authority of Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium. But non-Catholics are ummm, non-fond of the latter two. But the KJV and NIV both use the word tradition to translate paradosis, which means to surrender, give up, hand over. Or at least they do when the traditions are bad. For example, the N.T. speaks of the “traditions of men:”
KJV: Mark 7:8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the traditions of men
NIV: Mark 7:8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.
KJV: Colossians 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
NIV: Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
So where tradition is found in a bad context, both Bibles keep the word. But, you ask, doesn’t Scripture also say good things about tradition? Why yes it does, when it speaks of tradition which is “handed down” by the Church’s authorized teachers, such as St. Paul and the Apostles. But gosh, the NIV won’t say tradition if it’s in a good context, per the examples below:
KJV: 2 Thessalonians 2:15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.
NIV: 2 Thessalonians 2:15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
KJV: 2 Thessalonians 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.
NIV: 2 Thessalonians 3:6 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.
So if traditions are shown in a bad light, the NIV sticks with the KJV; when traditions are shown in a good light, the NIV punts the KJV and says “teaching.” By the way, the Greeks do have a word for teaching; it’s διδασκαλία/ didaskalia. You’d think it’d be easy to distinguish didaskalia from paradosis; St. Paul must’ve been way confused.
Work/ Ergon/ ἔργον
Uh-oh, problem word: works. Like traditions, sometimes works are bad; sometimes works are good. How to translate? Let’s see if this rule will “work”: bad works are works; good works are anything but works.
Works are bad or useless:
KJV: Romans 4:2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about–but not before God.
NIV: Romans 4:2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about–but not before God.
KJV: Romans 4:4 Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.
NIV: Romans 4:4 Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.
KJV: Romans 4:6 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
NIV: Romans 4:6 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
KJV: Romans 9:32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.”
NIV: Romans 9:32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.”
KJV: Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
NIV: Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace
Yep, works are works! So far, anyway.
And where works are good:
KJV: James 2:24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
NIV: James 2:24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
KJV: James 2:25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
NIV: James 2:25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?
KJV: James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
NIV: James 2:26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
KJV: James 2:14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
NIV: James 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?
KJV: James 2:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
NIV: James 2:17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
KJV: James 2:18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
NIV: James 2:18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.
KJV: James 2:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
NIV: James 2:20 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?
KJV: James 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by work, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
NIV: James 2:21 Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?
KJV: James 2:22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
NIV: James 2:22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
KJV: Rom 2:10 but glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile…
NIV: Rom 2:10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
KJV: Rev 20:12-13 the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
NIV: Rev 20:12-13 The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done.
That was easy! You just have to apply the rule.
Last one now. Both the N.T. Greek and Old Testament Hebrew have an array of words which the KJV translates as office. In total the KJV says office 46 times. In contrast, the NIV uses office 7 times. Some NT examples:
KJV: Luke 1:8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course…..
NIV: Luke 1:8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God,
KJV: Luke 1:9 According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord
NIV: Luke 1:9 …he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.
KJV: Romans 11:13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office…
NIV: Romans 11:13 I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry…
KJV: Romans 12:4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office…
NIV: Romans 12:4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function…
KJV: 1 Timothy 3:10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless
NIV: 1 Timothy 3:10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.
KJV: 1 Timothy 3:13 For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
NIV: 1 Timothy 3:13 Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.
Like translating bishop as overseer, I don’t find these alternate translations to be be less technically accurate than saying office; but if you’re trying to show the Scriptural reasonableness of the Church having permanent, formal offices, as opposed to gauzy “places of leadership,” you’re going to have a problem doing so from the NIV. And the same thing will be true when subjects such as bishops, tradition, communion, and good works are concerned. In the NIV, the positive Biblical support for these (not exclusively) Catholic concepts has been translated right out of the plain text.