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"Do you think that all of the false doctrines floating around today are because of all the different Bible versions we have?"
A friend of mine recently asked me this question. It's a good question. I mean, unless you are a theological pluralist, all of us agree that there are some pretty wild and totally off the wall teachings out there that claim biblical support. So where do all these lies come from? Are all the different versions of the Bible responsible for them? Here are three reasons why I would say no.
1. False teachings have been around since the first century of the Christian church where there were no "other" Bible versions. In fact, most of the false teachings around today are simply a repackaging of old lies. A lot of these lies were born during the early years of the church when the NIV, ESV, KJV, or any other translation did not exist. As a matter of fact, many people in these days had the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts and they knew how to read them without a Lexicon. Regardless of all of this, dissident groups like the Judaizers and the Gnostics gained a foot-hold in the church. Over the next few centuries there were countless theological controversies like Pelagianism, Arianism, Adoptionism, Docetism, Monarchianism, Sabellianism, and plenty of other "isms." All of these were born without the help of Zondervan and Thomas Nelson (both publishers of modern translations).
2. This kind of question comes with a presupposition behind it. While my friend may or may not have had a presupposition, the question itself carries it. The presupposition is this: Modern heresies are the result of new translations, therefore all new translations must be rejected and only the old translations maintained. By "old translations" what is most often meant is the King James Version. At this point we enter into the KJV-only debate. Once again, the positions defending this are weak. The KJV, while a great translation, is not the only reliable one and other Bibles such as the NIV translate other passages more accurately than the KJV. Since I have already written on this topic I won’t go into detail here. To read more about my views on the KJV-only theory click here.
3. Suppose we entertained the KJV-only mentality. Allow me to ask, how many false doctrines have been taught using the KJV? Do those who use the KJV inherently teach sound Bible truth or are there lots of lies taught from using that very same Bible? The answer is yes. A perfect example is Marshall Applewhite, the leader of the Heavens Gate cult that was responsible for a mass suicide of its members in the 90's. Applewhite studied using a KJV Bible. Dave Koresh, the cult leader of the Branch Davidians was an ardent defender of the KJV-only theory. It is, in my estimation, pretty evident that a KJV-only world would not be a heresy free one. Thus, the idea that false doctrines are the result of new translations is without foundation.
In conclusion, I would like to point out that the answer to my friend’s question “Do you think that all of the false doctrines floating around today are because of all the different Bible versions we have?” Is no. While it may be true that not all versions are reliable for doctrinal study, and that some versions are terrible translations that can lend support to the spread of false teachings it is not true that false teachings are the result of modern Bibles. Neither is it true that the KJV is the only reliable translation and is itself, due to mistranslated texts, responsible for phony theology. The best rule of thumb is to get some good reliable translations and study them together, comparing scripture with scripture, and if necessary studying the original languages all under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. There is no such thing as the “perfect” translation but Gods word has definitely been preserved and if we study with His help we will be ready to respond when we hear the lies.