Fisherman on the Mekong River at Sunrise -- Looking Eastward Towards Laos
(Telephoto Photo Taken From Nakhon Panom, Thailand)
Freshwater fish from nearby rivers and streams, along with glutinous rice
is a basic staple food of the Isan people of Northeast Thailand
Why Is It Called "Mekong Bible Translation Project"?
(Now referred to as "God's Word For Isan")
The name "Mekong Bible Translation Project" was chosen because of the close proximity of the Mekong River, and its association with the 'Isan' people, since it forms the geographical border between Northeast Thailand and Laos.
The word Mekong, literally means "Mother of Waters" in the Thai, Lao, and Isan languages. The Mighty Mekong, once the transportation and economic lifeline of many mainland Southeast Asian nations, is one of the great rivers of the Asian continent. It originates in the Tibetan Himalayas at the 16,000 foot altitude, then flows some 2,800 miles southward, emptying into the South China Sea at the fertile Mekong Delta region of Southern Vietnam (see *note below).
The Mekong, on its southward journey, first makes contact with Thailand at the famous 'Golden Triangle' region.(see map). This is the converging point between Burma (Myanmar), Laos, and Thailand's northern-most tip -- a well-known Heroin producing area. From there, the Mekong wends its way in a general southeasterly direction, forming the border between Thailand's Northeastern or 'Isan' region and Laos.
The red dot on the border of Thailand's Isan region and Laos is the location of the provincial city of Nakon Panom (or NKP). Nakon Panom is the central location from where we lived and ministered from, into surrounding provinces,districts towns, and villages.
After passing Thailand's Isan region, it winds through southern Laos, then dissects Cambodia (or Kampuchea) on its southward journey, finally emptying into the South China Sea at the *Mekong River Delta, in southern Vietnam.
*Note: A common mistake is to associate the word Mekong only with the "Mekong River Delta" in Southern Vietnam (see map). This is the section where the Mekong has deposited its heavy load of water-born silt over countless centuries, thus forming numerous fertile wedge-shaped 'deltas' as the water current slows before entering the South China Sea.
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Why Translate the Bible
Into The Isan (Northeastern Thai) Language?
The Bible has heretofore never been translated into the Isan language. The greater majority of Isan people of rural Northeast Thailand -- ethnically related to Laotians, but considered to be Thai by nationality -- DO NOT use Central Thai in their everyday lives and consequently the greater majority of Isan people CANNOT speak Central Thai to any degree of fluency, if called upon to do so (let along being able to readily understand the Thai Bible, written in high, literary language). If forced by the occasion, they often become embarrassed, since the extent of their Central Thai speaking ability is usually limited to short, uncomplicated phrases, interlaced with their own Isan language and regional accent.
(Note: This is not to say that there aren't some rural Northeasterners who have become somewhat proficient in Central Thai -- having worked in Bangkok -- but they are the exception, not the rule.)
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Isn't the Bible Already Available in Thailand?
Yes and No. It all depends on what language or people-group to which you are referring. The 'official' language of Thailand is called Bangkok or Central Thai, and true, the Bible has already been translated into Central Thai, copyrighted by the Thailand Bible Society, and is available for purchase. There are also an increasing number of attempts to produce the 'ideal' Bible version in the Central Thai language... some better than others, but all with various drawbacks.
Suffice it to say that the main reason that the Bible is not already available in the Isan language is primarily due to Sociocultural and Sociopolitical views and the negativity the Central Thai hold towards their Northeastern cousins. My "Isan Saga" Master's Degree thesis delves deeply into this subject, found on this website under the Thesis menu heading.
Thailand has a present-day overall population of over sixty million people, representing over forty languages and dialects spoken by the various people-groups, both major and minor, located throughout the land. Many of these people-groups are isolated or are not highly proficient in speaking or understanding Central Thai.
Such is the case with the over twenty-million Isan people who live throughout the rural areas of Thailand's nineteen northeastern provinces, also called the Isan Region. Isan is the most populous of all Thailand's regions, and consequently the Isan people, who comprise over one-third of Thailand's total population, are unquestionably to be considered as a major people-group.(see map above).
Thailand is divided geographically into four or five major regions: Central, Northern, Northeastern, Southern, and sometimes Eastern (the area
east of Bangkok between the Bay of Siam and Cambodia) and Western (the elongated west-central strip bordering Burma).
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What Problems Can Occur Using the Thai Bible?
To give credit where it is due, the Thai Bible (published 1971), shortcomings notwithstanding, represents a great accomplishment and is widely used and revered among the Christian community throughout Thailand as their "official translation."
NOTE: Since this article was written—numerous formal complaints were launched against the the Thai Bible Society by missionaries and Thai pastors alike—a revised edition was begun, and has now been published. I dismissed it at first as being "much of the same," but after looking it over more closely, I was pleased to see that many of the glaringly-bad translation shortcomings of the 1971 edition addressed here below had been corrected, yet not all of them. Nevertheless, it is a step upward towards greater accuracy and usability.
That being said, there are places in the Thai Bible's text where phraseology problems occur that distort the originally intended meaning—whether intentionally or unintentionally done by the translators—and mislead the unsuspecting Thai reader. Consequently, these subtle nuances of meaning, often amplified by entrenched cultural misconceptions, cause both the Thai and Isan people to misunderstand very important doctrinal Bible themes (minor little things like salvation by grace versus works!!).
Specifically stated, these areas of mis-translation confuse and obliterate correct understanding as to whether human effort plays an integral role in eternal salvation, or whether it is obtained and maintained by means of God's redeeming and keeping power alone, entirely through His mercy and grace, found solely in the Name, Person, and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Bottom line: does one have to help God by performing certain aspects, which God's Word clearly states that God does for the believer at the point of receiving Christ, and/or maintain certain behavioral norms. In short, the great watershed is, is one saved and kept by God's grace and power alone, or does one's own self-effort play an intrinsic part in obtaining and retaining God's grace?
(This has a certain frightening ring of Buddhist thought that the otherwise-skilled Thai translators have purposely woven into the sacred text. I maintain it is because they personally did not understand the foundational aspect of salvation through God's grace alone, and felt it their duty to "correct" the text according to their own faulty understanding—turning God's message of truth into just another man-made religion. I say this since the 1971 Thai Bible Society's translation is surprisingly accurate in other areas—precisely reflecting the Greek text from which it was taken.)
Why is this an extremely important issue? God's Word clearly, emphatically, and repeatedly states that eternal judgment and damnation is escaped, and everlasting life in Heaven is freely gained through personal faith (apart from works), in the merits of Jesus Christ's sacrificial atoning work on the Cross, provided freely by means of God's love, mercy, and redeeming Grace:
"That whosoever believeth in him (Jesus Christ) should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. Gospel of John 3:15-17 KJV
Another important factor is, because of the highly-stratified aspects of class-conscious Thai culture and society, when the Thai Bible was translated into the Central Thai language, it translated into a highly bookish or literary style, which uses great amounts of specialized 'high' or 'royal' language structure and terminology, not commonly used (of readily understood) in everyday conversational life situations. That, along with rigidly following a Greek or Hebrew sentence structure, makes the Thai Bible extremely 'stiff' and unnatural, difficult for even educated native Central Thai speakers to properly understand, not to mention the various people-groups residing in the provinces who do not normally speak or readily understand Central Thai. This is also true for the twenty-plus million rural Isan people of Thailand's Northeastern region.
"Being justified (declared righteous) freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: ... Therefore we conclude that a man is justified (declared righteous) by faith without the deeds of the law (i.e. human effort) ... But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness ... Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: ... Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him." Romans 3:24, 3:28, 4:5, 5:1, 5:9 KJV
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. Galatians 2:16 KJV
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast." Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV
"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;" Titus 3:5-6 KJV
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively (living) hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." 1 Peter 1:3-5 KJV
OTHER LEGITIMATE ISSUES
Consequently, it has been my experience that these combined dynamics form a very problematic synergy that makes the Thai Bible quite undesirable as a good translation upon which to rely, both for reading and teaching, since, even though much of it is very accurate, it is untrustworthy in that it misleads the unsuspecting reader, not to mention the teacher when endeavoring to impart the truth of God's Word to the people of Thailand, who so desperately need to hear it in a clear and accurate form.
Another legitimate issue is, recent revisions of the Thai Bible are based on the Nestles26/UBS (Critical) Greek text form and subsequent related translation philosophy. Consequently, it closely follows almost verbatim some of the more interpretive-styled English translations, i.e., those which tend to 'interpret' the meaning for the reader instead of using a word that more-accurately reflects the original, when that would just as easily be understood. Much of this goes over the heads of the Thai Christian community and even some in the conservative missionary community are unaware of the implications, nevertheless it happens.
Ironically, an older, more-conservative version of the Thai Bible, loved and used by many and akin to the King James in many respects, was 'shelved' in favor of the newer edition that reflects the revisions mentioned above.
At the risk of sounding unkind, intolerant, divisive, or extreme to the ears of some, the following facts are stated: Certain other more-controversial issues have also arisen in the last few years that cause alarm and uneasiness among many in the Christian community, not the least of which is the subtle infiltration of the Thai Bible society leadership by Catholics, as well as other liberal elements who, in turn, influence and control 'official' organization decisions and revision policies of the Thai Bible. This includes the incorporation of various Catholic-oriented terminology into the Thai Christian Bible. Some of the more blatant things have been removed, yet some remain... for example, interjecting the words "let us hold fast to our religion" in place of "let us hold fast to our profession" in Hebrews 4:14 and 10:23.
Another interrelated issue is that, many Christian leaders in Thailand (some of whom I know some personally) have banded together as a committee and approached the leadership of the Thai Bible Society. Their purpose was to point out the various areas where the Thai Bible has been grossly mistranslated when compared to the clear underlying meaning of the Greek and Hebrew, and to offer suggested revisions. The Thai Bible Society was approached on various occasions, yet, although fully cognizant of the feelings and pleas of the Thai Christian community at large, they refused to make any of the suggested accuracy-related changes. The Thai Bible Society is now working on a new version. Only time will reveal their intentions to correct these afore-mentioned errors in translation in the new version.
Update: A while ago, a fellow Baptist missionary friend asked and received permission from the Thai Bible Society (under certain specific conditions), to edit and revamp the present official Thai Bible text, with the goal of making it reflect the TR-based King James Bible. This large undertaking included adding words and verses—missing in the Critical text—as well as correcting terminology and verses that are inaccurate. The missionary asked if I would assist in ferreting out these places where the Thai Society Bible was mistranslated, which I was privileged to do on an informal consultant basis. My role, though not a large one, is important, since I make him aware of accuracy problems that I come across in the standard Thai Bible while I'm translating into the Isan language, which he then addresses. This has worked out quite well, and the resultant product (aptly called the Thai KJV) is a very viable option for the Thai-speaking Christian community. In fact, it is gaining in usage and popularity. However, it still maintains the bookish literary writing style and royal terminology, making it difficult for the less-educated, or those who speak Thai as a second language (like the Isan people), to easily comprehend.
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How Well Is the Isan
The following is the actual (translated) testimony of Suwannee, a believer from Ubon province of the Isan Region (Northeastern Thailand). She says:
"I met Ron Myers the other day and learned that he was translating God's Word into my own Isan language. I asked if he had anything I could read and he gave me a copy of Paul's Letter to the Galatians in Isan. I picked it up and began to read. I couldn't put it down. It captivated my heart and my understanding. Every word and every phrase spoke deeply to me. Even the passages that were formerly difficult for me to understand in the Thai Bible, became crystal clear in the Isan translation.
So what does this all mean?
"When we Isan people read the Thai Bible, we often wonder about the actual meaning and then ponder as to what the Lao Bible might say, which turns out to be unclear, like the Thai. But now, thanks to Mr. Ron's work, we will have God's Word in our own Isan language.
"This is exactly what we need. For example,
when our young people show interest and want to believe in the Gospel,
their relatives and the village elders oppose and forbid them, since they
themselves don't have a clue because the Thai Bible is difficult for them
to understand. The Isan Bible is exactly what we need to help our mothers,
fathers, relatives and elders clearly understand the Gospel message."
Simply put, it means that we are on the right track, and it means that
we need your continued prayers, backing and involvement. It means that
God is using the Isan translation to speak to the hearts of the
Isan people like the Thai or Lao Bibles could never do. It means stay with
us—God has great things in store. Pray for the speedy completion of
the Isan translation. Pray for God's timing and perfect will be done in
our return to Thailand, hopefully in the near future. (We are located in
Nakon Panom Province.)
Isan being their own heart language, the majority of Isan readers, nearly
without exception (illiterate listeners included), give beaming
testimony that they can finally clearly comprehend what God's Word is saying
and don't have to guess at or strive to 'juggle' unfamiliar grammar and
terminology in their minds from a lofty form of bookish Central Thai just
to figure out what is meant.
Isan people who are even semi-proficient readers experience little or
no difficulty in adapting to the Isan translation almost immediately. This
is partly because Thai writing and spelling rules are strictly adhered
to in the Isan translation so that no confusion is caused by unfamiliar
When Isan believers are able to understand God's Word as He intended,
the Gospel of God's redeeming grace truly becomes 'good news' to be shared
with others, instead of just another form of religion. As a result, Isan
believers more readily and cheerfully share their faith and endure hardships.
Their understanding of the character of God and their personal relationship
with Him is strengthened. They grow in grace, are strengthened in faith,
and are less likely to be swayed or lead astray by erroneous teachings
and practices . . . because of the Isan Bible.
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What Are the Isan and
Thai Languages Like?
The Isan Bible translation uses the official Thai script and spelling rules;
however, the words are genuine Isan and expressed in the Isan vernacular
with consideration for specialized vocabulary. This makes it easy for any
literate Isan person to read the Isan Bible with a very high degree of
comprehension with little or no introductory practice. (The adult literacy
rate in Isan is purported to be over 75%)
Thai script has consonants and vowels and reads from left to right just
like English, but unlike English it contains no punctuation marks or spaces
between words, which instead are used to denote clause and sentence breaks
text below). The Thai alphabet is comprised of 44 consonants, 26 vowels,
and 4 tone markers, which form many highly specialized spellings. Vowels
are positioned above, below, before, or behind initial consonants with
tone markers stacked on top, over initial consonants.
It might also be noted that all languages are different and unique.
Thai and Isan are two are major dialects of the same "Dai" language
group. Both Thai and Isan are very "wordy" languages and oriented towards
the use of long verb strings. Although Thai and Isan share numerous words,
nearly all vocabulary, pronunciations and tonal patterns are distinct from
each other (similar to the distinction between Spanish and Portuguese).
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What Does Isan Translation and the Thai Script Look Like?
The following Bible text contains one of the most well-known and oft-memorized
verses in the whole Bible, John 3:16. "For God so loved
the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth
in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." KJV
Aspects of the Thai Writing System:
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What Progress Has Been Made So Far? ... Goals and Objectives?
- OLD TESTAMENT:
TESTIMONIALS AND ENDORSEMENTS:
Genesis and Exodus, along with other Old Testament portions, i.e., those relevant to introductory chronological teaching and pre-evangelism needs according to
Firm Foundations: Creation to Christ, by Trevor McIlwain (Brown Gold Publications, New Tribes Mission)
- NEW TESTAMENT:
View or download a sample lesson in English (Acrobat PDF format)
GREAT NEWS! After years of arduous work, Ron (along with the faithful assistance of Pastor Pitak) finished translating the entire Isan New Testament on December 14, 2012.
Presently, they are involved in a final review process before the Isan New Testament is ready to be printed. Projected final review completion date is mid-2015... followed immediately by printing and delivery. We are trusting the Lord that enough project funds will be available at that time. Gift towards the Isan New testament may be sent through our mission organization address:
Baptist World Missionary Outreach Ministries
P.O. Box 3303, Chattanooga, TN 37404
Tel: (423) 624-8330 - Web: www.BWMOM.org
Earmark Project Gifts as: "For Isan New Testament"
Earmark Personal Gifts as: "For Ron & Cheryl Myers"
One very important goal and objective was that the Isan translation would be successful. Below are a few selected testimonies to that effect. More of the same can be found on the "Endorsements" page.
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Paetong Boonkliang: Bible Student and Translation Assistant.
"When I read the standard Thai Bible, comprehending it, for me, is like trying to guess the words and underlying meanings of a black and white silent movie. However, when I read the Isan Bible, it's like enjoying a full-color movie on widescreen with full stereo surround sound."
Note: Paetong, in his deep desire to serve the Lord, continually found himself falling back into self-assessment and disheartenment. Ron worked closely with Paetong, taking every opportunity to encourage and instruct. As a result, Paetong has grown noticeably in his understanding and exercise of the faith-rest principle in his own personal Christian walk. A good share of his growth was due to doing exegesis together with Ron, disciphering mistranslated passages in the Thai Bible, which were the source of his discouragement due to their contorted, "works-oriented" message.
Banpote Wechkama: Pastor/teacher, writer and key leader with the Isan Research and Development Foundation for Evangelism and Church Growth.
"I would like to voice my full support and assurance that the Isan Bible Translation has great benefit for the people of Isan. Especially John's Gospel, the version that you did [Ron] that has both Central Thai and Isan, because readers can then compare the two and readily understand the meaning. They don't have to retranslate it in their heads first as they do with the Thai Bible. My hope is that many, many Isan people will be able to read the Scriptures in Isan and thus increase their understanding of God. And, that they will finally understand John 1:1, that Jesus is 'The Word,' and not a frying pan."
Note: The little-known Thai term, Wa-Ta, used in the Thai Bible for "The Word" (John 1:1), is an unknown term for the Isan, but sounds suspiciously similar to Ka-Ta, the common Isan word for frying pan.
Uncle Pote: Isan Pastor/Leader.
"Wow, in times past we never had a Bible like this one. Where did this come from and why so good now? When I read, the understanding is crystal clear."
Note: Isan believers, in the past, have been forced to rely on the Thai Bible, which is not their own spoken heart language, not to mention translated in "high" or literary language with obscure terminology reserved for use when addressing royalty. A more serious problem is that it is mistranslated in various passages key to their understanding of God's grace and the believer's standing "In Christ."
Mr. Waen: An Isan Buddhist reads John's Gospel in Isan and believes
"I read the booklet you gave me last week. It is really special. It went deep down into my heart. I want to know more. I want to 'enter' (believe) now."
Note: PTL! I have never previously (since 1973) had this happen, or seen this amount of openness. God's word in their spoken heart language did it! I spent some time with Mr. Waen briefly—I was on my way to the airport to catch my flight to Bangkok—and then referred him to a local pastor in whom I had confidence.
Ms. Suwanee: A strong Isan believer
"I picked up [the book of Galatians in the Isan language] and began to read. I couldn't put it down. It captivated my heart and my understanding. Every word and every phrase spoke deeply to me. Even the passages that were formerly difficult for me to understand in the Thai Bible, became crystal clear in the Isan translation."
See above section FAQ #5: How Well Is the Isan Translation Received?
What Methods Are Employed
in the Translation Process?
Approved translation techniques and methods are employed in the translation process, based on a sound (conservative) exegesis and relying on a normal, literal interpretation, all done to derive the intended meaning of the original text (versus imposing any personal or allegorical interpretation of the meaning). Also taken into account is an historically accurate view of the culture of the day and the various grammatical senses and styles employed in the text (teaching or didactic, narrative or story-telling, figurative or metaphorical, prophetic, et al). This process is employed to insure straightforward or formal translation that is faithful in content and meaning to the original, all with the goal of insuring accuracy, clarity, faithfulness and readability in the finished product—the Isan Bible:
Note: All this is a tall order and not easily accomplished at times,
but nothing less will do in the final analysis. It is worth all the toil
and hardship involved to witness Isan faces light up with smiles of comprehension
and expressions of gratitude given.
The Isan New Testament is being translated relying on the word choices and phrasing of the Authorized King James Version and the Textus Receptus, i.e., the Received Greek Text upon which it is based. Thus, the New Testament is being translated into Isan through the medium of English with all passages, sentences, phrases, and words being diligently compared to the KJV and the Received Greek Text.
Note: This does not refer to the use of archaic or out-of-use expressions, but harmony and agreement with the word choice and textual meaning of the TR and KJV, as opposed to other modern translations that are based primarily on the Alexandrian Greek text form (Nestles26/27/UBS, Westcott-Hort).
Conservative translation principles are used, with an emphasis on literal and formal equivalency translation methods, not paraphrase or interpretive methods.
To insure correct meanings, all words and passage are compared with conservative commentaries, lexicons and dictionaries to insure accuracy of meaning (using Logos Library System Bible software).
For final checking, Wycliffe checking techniques are incorporated with
the assistance of trained and qualified native Isan speakers for all final
word and phrase choices so as to insure that, given the differences in
languages, the finished Isan translation reflects the original meanings
as closely as possible.
As a final goal, the Isan Bible translation text must contain and accurately
reflect ALL of the meaning of the original text in the very best possible
manner, taking into consideration the differences in languages, and
at the same time flow naturally in the normal spoken Isan vernacular.
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What Philosophies Are
Adhered To Concerning The Bible?
Of supreme importance to the Bible translation process is adherence to
the fact of what the Bible teaches about itself: namely that the Holy Scriptures,
as contained in the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, is God's unabridged
message to mankind in verbal form, without error and complete in its original
As the revelation of God to all humanity, the Bible also teaches that
its message is inspired and infallible down to the very last word, breathed
forth from the mind and heart of God in its entirety, and transcribed by
His chosen human vessels, the Prophets and Apostles of old.
As such, the Bible is eternal in its power, supreme and final in its
authority, global in its message (for all peoples), and not open to anyone's
personal reinterpretation to suit their own ideas or ideals. It is the
only trustworthy guide for faith and life and it points to the only one
who can truly cleanse from sin and give ultimate peace and victory over
death and the grave and restore lost souls to a right relationship with
the Heavenly Father, our Living Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thus, the Mekong Bible Translation Project believes in a supernatural
Bible, which tells of a supernatural Christ, Who had a supernatural birth,
Who spoke supernatural words, Who performed supernatural miracles, Who
lived a supernatural life, Who died a supernatural death, Who arose bodily
from the grave in supernatural splendor, Who intercedes as a supernatural
Living High Priest, and Who will one day return again in supernatural glory
to establish a supernatural kingdom on the earth.
That being stated, it should be self-apparent that the Mekong Bible
Translation Project holds to a fundamental viewpoint, as well as conservative
principles and philosophies.
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Does The Bible Contain Errors And Contradictions?
The popular notion held by many humanistic, liberated or 'tolerant' thinkers is that there are major discrepancies or blatant contradictions in the Bible, rendering it antiquated and irrelevant. However, for one who has studied these "discrepancies" out, this is simply not the case. These arguments essentially stem from personal bias and blind stereotyping, and are not founded upon sound reasoning or factual basis.
They are but the suppositions and allegations of those who, of their own volition, find it easier to disregard the Bible's teachings and prophetic warnings in favor of their own chosen 'enlightened' philosophies and resultant, often godless, lifestyles. Thus, they would rather dispute the existence of a personal Creator God or Supreme Being as being a product of the imagination of the unenlightened, or the superstitious crutch of the uneducated, while at the same time they accept almost anything else as being valid and worthy of all tolerance and consideration. Ultimately, this is because they rebel at the thought of God's claim of sovereign ownership and rule over their lives (as Creator of all things) and egotistically indulge themselves in their own sense of importance.
As to our present-day Bible being marred with serious errors or inaccuracies, inserted into the manuscripts over the centuries by scribal tampering or blunders, is also an ungrounded but popular assertion, tossed out as a red herring to confuse and cloud the real issues at hand.
Despite these claims of errors or inaccuracies, the fact is we have access to countless ancient Biblical manuscript portions still in existence today, as well as archeological findings, that validate our present-day Bible as being without error (scribal or otherwise), since it faithfully reflects these ancient manuscripts from which it came. In fact, there are many more ancient Biblical manuscripts, along with extra-biblical accounts in existence today, such as Josephus' historical writings, to offer ample proof of Bible accuracy than there are evidences to prove the validity of Shakespeare's existence or the veracity of his writings. Yet interestingly, no one seems to dispute or question Shakespeare.
Ironically, many scoffers and naysayers who would seek to discount the accuracy and relevancy of the Bible's spiritual message have absolutely no difficulty in advocating or relying heavily upon the Bible as an archeological guide and information resource because of the pinpoint accuracy of its historical and geographical accounts, revealing the location of long-extinct ancient cities and civilizations.
Probably of equal or more relevance is the Atheistic claim that the Bible is merely a man-made series of tales and allegations of a supreme being, done to assuage their need for a "higher power" on which to rely, like any other pagan deity. Factually speaking, the Bible's human authorship consisted of 40 individuals, compiled over a period of around 1500 years. These came from different centuries, differing classes and walks of life—from rich kings to those in destitute poverty; from uneducated fishermen to doctored scholars, et al, most of whom never knew each other, nor could they have. Nonetheless, the overall theme or main thread of the message is woven throughout, from the first page to the last.
Could mere humanity do that? No! It was as the Word of God attests: inspired or breathed from the very Heart of God, through the minds and pens of His servants, onto writing instruments of the day. The naysayers should try that as a party game sometime... give each participant pencil and paper, and instruct each one to go to a separate location and write a few lines of shortstory without first agreeing on what to write. Then, return and compare notes. It will be hilarious to see what each wrote. At the very least, it should give them pause as to their unbelief, and reconsider their position. "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God..." Psalms 14:1
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Why Translate Using the Byzantine and the Received Text?
Although many have gravitated towards modern Bible translations, increasingly popular since the mid-sixties (under the promoted premise that they were more accurate, being based on the N26/UBS Alexandrian Greek mss.), in recent years there has been a renewed interest shown by Bible scholars and return for a second look at the respected old standby: the King James Bible and the Textus Receptus, along with the Byzantine Greek mss. upon which it was based.
As mentioned above in FAQ #9, we have made an intentional decision to align the Isan New Testament translation to the original word meanings and content contained in the Received Greek text form and the Authorized King James. As I have stated at the top of my home page, I believe that "God's Eternal, Life-giving Word, Accurately Translated Into the Heart Language of Any People, Is Truly Powerful." Being " Accurately Translated" includes adherence to and reflection of the wording and grammatical expression of the Byz/TR Greek text form, as much as the Isan language is able—given the natural differences in languages and their respective cultures.
We feel the position and direction we have taken is purposeful and balanced, while honoring to God and His eternal Word. Notwithstanding, we are well aware of the many and varied preferences, convictions, emotionally-charged opinions, and often strongly-held opposing viewpoints from both sides of the Greek text form debate: Alexandrian vs. Byzantine/TR (some of which can be traced to misinformation, uninformed bias or speculation, rather than solid facts and sound reasoning).
Our position and reasoning: As a matter of both personal preference and growing conviction, we embrace the more traditional or conservative side of this issue. Even though we are not in agreement with some of their wording, translation style or philosophy, we do; however, shun the position that all Alexandrian-based modern Bible translations are purposely conceived as subversive "perversions" or inherently "evil," as detractors might suggest.
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We also reject the notion that God has somehow abandoned His own God-breathed inspiration of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek autographs in favor of the 1611 King James Bible and its updates, a great time-honored translation that I also use and rely upon. (On the contrary, I would suggest that the inspired Holy Scriptures spoken of by the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 3:15-16 are obviously not the KJV, which, as a great translation, wasn't translated until almost sixteen centuries after Paul penned these words... unless Paul's words were meant to be prophetical in nature, which I doubt.)
Whichever side of this issue one chooses to align him or herself, we all need reminding that God's Word, and the scope of His power and purposes are eternal. Furthermore, we know that God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34) and cannot be confined by man's finite arguments or reasoning (even if it happens to be yours or mine). God can and does use whatever He wishes, whenever He chooses, to accomplish His sovereign will, often to the bewilderment and chagrin of those who take themselves too seriously, assuming they have an inside track on things.
Consequently, without begging argument with any on either side of the aisle who might have strong feelings, views, opinions or convictions concerning which particular Bible version, translation style, or manuscript is right or wrong, we consider it best to not get side-tracked by being drawn into the unending debate, but rather focus our energies on more urgent matters, such as completing the Isan Bible translation project.
For further explanation, see the article: Why the King James Version? , by Charles V. Turner, Executive Director of : Baptist Bible Translators Inst.(used by permission of author)
TWO DIFFERING GREEK TEXTS; WHICH IS MORE ACCURATE?
Much of the Bible version controversy centers around which Greek text the New Testament is based on. There are two major classifications. They are: The Byzantine Greek text (associated with the Received Text or Textus Receptus), and the Alexandrian Greek text. I will attempt to give a neutral explanation of the differences that are at the focal point of the controversy.
Both the KJV and the NKJV New Testaments were translated from the Byzantine Greek Manuscripts—sometimes called Textus Receptus (Received Text), sometimes associated with the Majority text. Conversely, both the NASB and the NIV were translated from the Alexandrian Greek Manuscripts (called Wescott & Hort, Critical, Nestles, United Bible Society, etc.). In fact, almost all modern New Testament translations are translated from the modern-day derivatives of the Alexandrian text, not just the NASB and the NIV. Neither of the two Greek texts (Byzantine or Alexandrian) are the actual original inspired writings, but are two sets of texts, compiled from parts and pieces of ancient scribal copies that have been discovered over the years.
Now, the challenging question being posed is, which compiled set of Greek New Testament documents (Byzantine or Alexandrian) more closely resembles or reflects the actual original inspired Greek text, penned by the Apostles and other writers under the divine guidance of the Holy Spirit?
Among all the Alexandrian-based translations, the NASB is by far the more accurate or "faithful," to the Greek because its translators' prime goal was to make it as grammatically accurate or faithfully reflective of the original texts, i.e., formal equivalence. Meanwhile, even though the NIV reads more smoothly-and is therefore very popular on that premise, as well as due to superb marketing-it tends to be unnecessarily interpretive in many of its word choices (i.e., dynamic equivalence). Its translators could have easily chosen more accurate (non-interpretive) English terms, and still maintained its ease of reading.
The theory proposed by scholars who advocate (prefer) the Alexandrian Greek text form over the Byzantine, is that certain words, verses and phrases present in the Byzantine Greek manuscripts-missing in the Alexandrian text-were added afterwards, since the Byzantine Greek text is said to be "younger," or dated centuries later. They reason that these so-called additions or "corruptions" were made by Scribes tampering with or editing the text, making it to their own liking. Meanwhile, the Alexandrian Greek text is said (by those who prefer it) to be "older," or dated earlier (even though it was discovered centuries later). Therefore, they maintain, it is potentially more accurate, having had less occasion or opportunity to have been "tampered" with by said Scribes. That being said, some Bible scholars in the pro-Alexandrian camp have begun to question the pro-Alexandrian, Scribal-tampering argument, and are taking a second look at the old stand-by, the Byzantine text (Textus Receptus), from which the KJV (and variants) and the NKJV were translated, along with other versions. 1,2
To counter the pro-Alexandrian position-that the Byzantine text had been corrupted by Scribal tampering and additions during the Scribal copying process-if one is familiar with the absolute reverence for Scripture, attention to detail, and striving for accuracy practiced by ancient Biblical scribes, this argument becomes very weak at best. Conversely, those who support (prefer) the Byzantine text position, as being the most accurate, point out that the Alexandrian text was set aside centuries ago because it was discovered to have been corrupted-missing many key words, phrases, as well as complete verses or sections in some cases, when compared alongside the Byzantine text form. These omissions are found in all modern translations… all being based on the Alexandrian Greek text or its derivatives.
Concerning the preponderance of evidence, numerically speaking, there are far fewer Alexandrian manuscript remnants and pieces in existence today than there are of Byzantine manuscripts. This lends further evidence to the suggestion that the Byzantine was the more widely used and accepted Greek text, which again favors the pro-Byzantine Greek text argument. This also agrees with the New Majority3 text argument, so named because the majority of textual evidence (or preponderance of evidence) lines up with the huge amount of Byzantine Greek manuscripts, and not the Alexandrian. This suggests that the greater probability is, the Byzantine/TR text (used in the KJV and NKJV) has a greater probability of reflecting the original manuscripts more accurately than the Alexandrian. And, the Alexandrian text (modeled in the NASB and NIV, etc.), which omits many key versus and words, is more likely to be the corrupted, less-accurate Greek text, and the reason why it was initially set aside in the caves at Qumran.4
Possibly the most compelling evidence supporting the Byzantine/TR text position may be found in the writings of the Apostles and early church fathers very earliest translations of the New Testament, translated in the first and second centuries - like the Syraic New Testament. These should reflect or favor the wording of the Byzantine/TR, or New Majority Greek text compilation, rather than that of the Alexandrian, if the Byzantine/TR argument is true.
In conclusion, Concerning the NIV, the Alexandrian Greek text form, and other of its modern-day derivative translations... I believe that a lot of sincere people have been unwittingly led into accepting the promotional hype and reasoning about modern translations being more "accurate." Many might agree that the NIV reads very smoothly-a positive point. It also employs quite literal or straight-forward translation in many places. However, the major problem is with the missing words, phrases, or verses (reflecting the Alexandrian Greek source text), as well as the tendency to be "interpretive," when a more straight-forward wording would work just fine. That, coupled with the huge multi-million dollar marketing campaign, has taken it into many hearts, homes, and pulpits.
THE MISSING BLOOD - a note on Colossians 1:14: I very much dislike the idea of "Through His Blood" missing in Colossians 1:14. However, I have come to the realization that translators of the NIV (and other aforementioned modern versions) did not purposefully leave it out in any nefarious attempt to "deny the Blood," as many conspiracy theorists have alleged-claiming that it is Satan's Bible, etc.
Allow me to explain, purely from a translator's perspective or vantage point (and no, I have not gone liberal). Actually, the underlying problem here is that this key phrase, "through His Blood," in Colossians 1:14, is not present in the Alexandrian-based Greek text, or it's modern derivatives. The modern-day translators are, by and large, Godly and scholarly individuals who seek to remain faithful to the text they believe most accurately reflects the original writings, i.e., the Alexandrian and its derivatives. Personally, although I once held to that view, after years of prayerful study, reflection, and comparative analysis while translating the New Testament into the Isan language, I no longer take that position. I now, by choice and persuasion, advocate the Byzantine/TR (Received Text) and the New Testaments derived from it; focusing here on the KJV.
Incidentally, in W. N. Pickering's (ThM, PhD) New Testament translation footnotes on Colossians 1:14 (based on his New Majority Greek Text), he states that, " 'Through His blood' " is omitted in some 40% of the Greek manuscripts, but that 60% include the phrase, which is the best line of transmitting the message." He adds that, "The omission was presumably deliberate—one wonders why ...and...without the shed blood of God’s Lamb, we would have neither redemption nor forgiveness. Praise God for the Blood!"
Ron Myers - Translator
1 This was told to me firsthand by a well-known SIL/WBT Bible translator whose father was a member of the NIV editing committee.
2 Bible translations following the Byzantine/TR Greek manuscript include the Literal and Modern KJV versions (done by Jay Green Sr., c. 1962, 1976), the Geneva Bible, the KJV, and the more-recent New KJV.
3 Concerning the original Majority Greek text version, there has been a recent reevaluation of the compilation of like manuscripts called the Majority Greek text. The reevaluation was done by unbiased, truth-seeking Greek manuscript experts, Dr. Fred Donehoo and Dr. Wilbur N. Pickering. Their findings were that the original so-called compilation of "Majority" manuscripts was, in fact, not impartial at all, but weighted towards the lesser amount of manuscript fragments and portions available from the Alexandrian Greek text, with all of its changes and omissions. Because of this, they felt compelled to do a whole new rendering, i.e., create a more-accurate New Majority Greek text version (including copious translator findings and notations) that was not weighted in any predetermined direction. Interestingly, their New Majority text generally reflects the Byzantine/TR in many of the more controversial passages.
SEE: Pickering's English New Testament, based on the New Majority Greek Text
SEE: Pickering's Greek New Majority Text, based on the preponderance of evidence theory
4 Qumran is best known as the settlement nearest to the hiding place of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the caves of the sheer desert cliffs. Since the discovery in 1947 of nearly 900 scroll fragments in various states of completeness—mostly written on parchment (sheep or lambskin)—extensive excavations of the settlement have been undertaken.
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A Balanced View of the King James and the Received Text (w/ Dr. Henry M. Morris).
For a concise and we feel well-balanced answer for our position, reasoning, and endorsement of the Authorized or King James Version of the Holy Bible, we invite you to read the following excerpt from the article "A Creationist's Defense Of The King James Bible—PDF Format," by Dr. Henry M. Morris, Founder and President Emeritus of Institute for Creation Research, friend and mentor until his passing into Glory in February, 2006.
Dr. Morris writes: . . .
"In this day of rapid change, when many Christians
have suddenly started using one of the many modern English translations
of the Bible ..., abandoning the long-used King James Bible read and loved
by English-speaking people of all ages and walks of life for over ten generations,
it may be appropriate to review a few of the reasons why many creationists,
including this writer, still prefer to use the latter.
"One reason is that all the fifty or more translators
who developed the King James Bible were godly men who believed strongly
in the inerrancy and full authority of Scripture and who, therefore, believed
in the literal historicity of Genesis, with its record of six-day Creation
and the worldwide flood. This has not been true of many who have been involved
in producing the modern versions.
"The spiritual motivations and convictions of the King
James translators are indicated by their fascinating preface, entitled
" The Translators to the Reader." . . . (Use "<
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"Furthermore, the King James translators were also great
scholars, every bit as proficient in the Biblical languages as any of those
who have come after them. They were very familiar with the great body of
manuscript evidence, as well as all the previous translations. They worked
diligently on the project (assigned to them by King James) for over seven
years, completing it in the year 1611.
"The professional qualifications of the translators were
all extremely high. There were 54 scholars originally assigned to the project
by King James, though some died early in the project. There were evidently
47 who were active throughout the project, all of whom were exceptionally
well qualified both academically and spiritually.
"[In conclusion] I believe, therefore, after studying,
teaching, and loving the Bible for over 55 years, that Christians—especially
creationists!—need to hang on to their old King James Bibles as long as
they live. God has uniquely blessed it in the history of England and America,
in the great revivals, in the worldwide missionary movement, and in the
personal lives of believers more than He has through all the rest of the
versions put together.
"The King James Bible is the most beautiful, the most
powerful, and (I strongly believe) the most reliable of any that we have
or ever will have, until Christ returns." (Copyright © 1996 - Used
by direct permission of Dr. Henry M. Morris)
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