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Bible Versions - Is There A Conspiracy?
THURSDAY, JULY 13, 2006
Posted by: Scott McMahan | more..
1,200+ views | 100+ clicks
A set of conspiracy theories surrounds the issue of Bible versions. There are variations, but the general thrust is that new Bible versions are attempting to replace the historical Christian Bible with a new, watered down, New Age version which lacks key Christian doctrines.

The key to understanding a conspiracy theory is to realize any conspiracy theory rests on the fact that it is difficult or impossible to exhaustively prove a negative, and doing so would be necessary to completely discredit the conspiracy theory. An example:

Q. Do you believe that there are no bright-green cats?

A. Of course!

Q. Why?

A. I've never seen a bright-green cat, or a photo of one.

Q. Why have you never seen a photo of one?

A. Because there aren't any.

Q. Do you know that for sure? What if photos of bright-green cats were being censored?

A. Why would anyone do that? Do you mean taxonomists, biologists, nature photographers, publishers, stock photo companies, and web site authors are all involved in this? Why?

Q. So you're saying that you don't know if there are any bright-green cats, and can't be sure because you don't know who has been involved in surpressing photos?

A. You make it sound like there's a world-wide conspiracy to surpress evidence of these bright-green cats.

Q. Did you know I had a photo of a bright-green cat?

A. Let me see it. You probably spray-painted one. I want to verify this for myself.

Q. Why should I let you see the photo? You don't believe there are bright-green cats. Only those who believe in bright-green cats are trusted with copies of my photos.

A. You're a kook!

Q. Really? Are you sure? Who are you going to trust? People who have conspired to keep information from you all these years, or me, who is trying to tell you the truth you'd never hear otherwise?

A. Um...

For "bright-green cats" almost anything at all could be substituted. To prove any conspiracy theory to be wrong, you would have to exhaustively prove there are not any "bright-green cats" by examining all "cats". Even then, if you produce this evidence, there is always a second level where of course you were allowed, by the conspiracy, to produce this proof as part of their cover. And so on. There is always a lot of doubt. That's one reason why the same conspiracy theories keep coming back year after year. No one has ever, and can never, exhaustively discredit them.

In terms of Bible versions, we have to ask how this conspiracy, which has been going on since the mid-nineteenth century, has never been exposed. Are they that clever? Even the most clever conspiracies in history rarely last more than a generation.

A conspiracy theory works by alienating people from those whom they could trust to discredit it. In terms of Bible versions, these are translators and scholars. We obviously can't vet every single scholar and translator going back to the 1880s to make sure they're not part of a conspiracy. The key to success for any conspiracy theorist, or any kook in general, is to discredit the very people who could blow the conspiracy theory out of the water. (This is why quack medicine promoters are almost always against doctors and scientists, who prove their remedies are snake oil, and claim doctors are surpressing evidence.)

Considering that modern translators are supposed to be in this conspiracy, realistically, we have a huge amount of writing by those who have translated modern Bible versions. Scholars such as Leon Morris, F.F. Bruce, Tremper Longman, Gordon Fee, and all the rest have written commentaries with mind-numbing detail about the books they've also translated. They have also left a record of the fact that they're Bible believers. These are not liberal modernists, but scholars who have carefully studied every word of the Bible in great detail. If nothing else, given the weight of the commentaries they've produced, they scarcely have had the time to do anything else. These are not sinister figures hiding in the shadows, but scholars who have left a very public record of their academic careers. Maybe Gordon Fee's defense of the Pauline authorship of the pastoral letters in his Timothy/Titus commentary, which has probably been read by a few hundred people, is a smoke screen to hide his involvement in the conspiracy by making him look conservative, but that is absurdly unlikely.

Do not fall for guilt by association. Lumping in conservative, orthodox Christian translations and their translators with cult Bibles is a red herring argument that rests on guilt by association. It is not valid. A translation like the New World Translation of the Jehovah's Witnesses is intentionally corrupt to reflect cult doctrines (they intentionally mistranslate the text), and was not translated in the same way as a conservative, orthodox translation like the ESV.

Realistically, this conspiracy has to have covered at least six generations without a single hint of it getting out. It also crosses denominational and ideological lines. Have conservative Baptists (HCSB), conservative Reformed (ESV), liberals (RSV), Catholics (NJB), and others really been in a conspiracy, or have they produced remarkably similar modern Bibles because the text of the Bible is quite solid after centuries of intense scrutiny? Does it make more sense that scholars from very different backgrounds and ideologies have evaluated the evidence and have reached a consensus, or that they're all somehow in league with each other to destroy Christianity?

Compared to the weight of this evidence, the conspiracy theorist offer ... nothing. Accusations, but no facts. Charges, but no proof.

The conspiracy has been remarkably ineffective, considering it has been going on world-wide since the 1880s. Why would this conspiracy change one version of the Lord's Prayer, and leave the other one alone? What does that accomplish? Maybe they'll change the other one later on, but by the time this inch-at-a-time conspiracy accomplishes anything, the world will have ended. If there really was a conspiracy, I wouldn't worry about it, because in over a hundred years, it hasn't done much.

The conspiracy theorist totally ignore a piece of important evidence: Those who are watering down Christian beliefs are more likely to use the King James text than not. All of the Word of Faith movement probably the strongest challenge to orthodox, historical Christianity since gnosticism, uses the KJV almost exclusively. Paramahansa Yogananda, an influential guru who has cast a long shadow in the New Age world, used the King James Bible even though he taught from the 1920s to the 1950s, long after the RV and ASV were available. Why did he ignore the New Age Bible and use the KJV? The conspiracy theorists have yet to produce a New Age person who is using a modern Bible.

If there is any substance to the arguments for using the King James Bible instead of modern versions, it is not to be found in conspiracy theories.

Category:  King James Plus

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