Bias in Bible Translations

by Steve Ray on May 22, 2018

bible-versions-collection-700Translating Holy Scripture is a necessary process by which the sacred text is provided in various languages, usually rendered from the original languages. Not all translations are created equal. Some result from one scholar’s work, others the work of a committee of scholars. Some are literal while others tend toward paraphrase.

Translation resembles a sliding scale with each translation placed somewhere between the two opposite ends. On one side of the scale are the literal translations, on the other the dynamic. The literal strives to achieve exact rendering of the original language with minimal concern for readability or modern idioms. The dynamic end of the scale attempts to provide a readable and easily understood text even if it moves away from the literal rendering of the original language. It attempts to relay the meaning more than the literal terminology.

Types of Bible Translations - OutlineTheological bias becomes increasingly possible the further a translation moves toward the dynamic end of the scale. It is inevitable that some interpretation is involved in translation. Some translators, to accommodate their theological persuasion, may emphasize denominational and theological points of view. Martin Luther provided a well-known example when he added the word “alone” to the word “faith” in his German translation of Romans.

An extreme example is the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses which subverts the nature of Christ through translation. The RSV renders John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Teaching that Jesus Christ was a creature, and not the eternal Son of God, the Jehovah’s Witnesses translate the passage to conform to their heresy. Their New World Translation renders John 1:1 as, “In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god” although the article “a” is absent from the original Greek text.

Many Protestant translations display a considerable doctrinal persuasion, even a bias against Catholicism….

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Peter Rowe May 25, 2018 at 6:22 PM

Steve, I understand what you are trying to get at. But on another Catholic Apologists website, I commented on the Catholic Confraternity Version of the New Testament translating these passages similar to the NIV. In both 2 Thessalonians 2: 15 and 3: 6, it translates “traditions” as “teachings.” In fact, in Corinthians 11: 2, the TNIV and the 2011 revision of the NIV both translate it as “traditions” with no footnote, while the Confraternity Version has it as “precepts”; the 1984 NIV has “teachings” with “or traditions” in the footnote; and in both 2 Thessalonians 2: 15 and 3: 6, it has a footnote stating “or tradition[s]”. I do not believe that a solid case can be made that the NIV is part of a conspiracy to eliminate Catholic doctrine on tradition – if so, why do the footnotes offer the possible rendering, “traditions”? Also, the very conservative Protestant New American Standard has “works” in James 2: 24 in both its last 2 releases. I think the issue is that the NIV is using its typically dynamic method of translation, and is not trying to doctor the text of Scripture!

Another point is that the Confraternity Version also rejects the directly Marian interpretation of Revelation 12: 1. Protestant translation and exegesis is not some sort of bogeyman trying to keep Protestants in the dark about the “real meaning” of Scripture, a charge many of them make towards Catholics as well. (Btw, I am a Catholic who loves apologetics).

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