Essay / Theology

The Battle for Accuracy: Revised v. Authorized Version

Question: Which is the more accurate translation of 2 Timothy 3:16, that of the Authorized Version, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” or that of the Revised Version, “Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness?”

Answer: The translation found in the Authorized Version, on the one vital point, is far more accurate. In fact, the translation of the Revised Version at this vital point is so inaccurate and unwarranted by anything in the Greek text as to be impossible. In the Greek text, as is often the case in Greek, there is no “is,” so in translating into English the “is” must be supplied. The question then arises, shall we supply this “is” before the first of two adjectives coupled together by the most frequently occurring copulative conjunction “and” (which is the ordinary and well-nigh universal translation of it); or shall we tear apart these two adjectives (which are so closely united in the Greek text by this little copulative conjunction) and insert the supplied “is” in between them, as is done in the Revised Version, and translate the little copulative conjunction by “also,” which is a possible translation but comparatively a very rare translation? To ask this question would almost seem to be to answer it.

Of course, we should supply the “is” in the ordinary place, which is a well-known construction, and not between the two adjectives, which is an absolutely unknown construction and of which there is not a single other case in the whole New Testament. The Greek text translated with absolute literalness would read: “All Scripture God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof (or conviction), for correction, for instruction which (is) in righteousness.” Now to complete the sense in English an “is” must be supplied, where shall we put it in?

There is but one place to put it in, before the first adjective, as is done in every other place where this construction appears, and not between the two adjectives, which is not done anywhere else. Not only is the construction absolutely decisive against the Revised Version, but furthermore the sense is against it. The translation of the Authorized Version is full of significance, that of the Revised Version is flat, vapid, and silly. To say that all that which Timothy knew by the name “scripture” is God-breathed, and profitable for, etc., is a statement full of vigor and significance; but to say that the scripture which can be proven to be God-breathed would also be found to be profitable, is altogether flat and unnecessary, and altogether unlike Paul, or any other vigorous writer.

So, even if the Greek text would bear the translation of the Revised Version as well as it would that of the Authorized Version, common sense and literary discrimination and a decent sense of the proprieties, ought to have kept the Revisers from the folly to which they have committed themselves in this wild and fantastic translation. It is no wonder that some of the most scholarly and well-balanced of the Revision Committee publicly disclaimed any responsibility for this egregiously gross mistranslation. It is a striking illustration of the lengths to which the exigencies of a theory will drive even scholarly interpreters of the Bible.

As a rule the Revised Version is a more accurate translation of the original than the Authorized, but this is a very noticeable exception to the rule. This unfortunate rendering has probably done more to discredit the Revised Version than anything else in it. This is very unfortunate; for everyone who desires to know exactly what God has said in His word should study the Revised Version, especially the American Standard Version. Even in the verse before us it will be seen from the literal translation which I have given above, that in some places the Revised Version has translated the Greek more exactly than the Authorized Version, and in the next verse (2 Timothy 3:17) the Revised Version is very much to be preferred to that of the Authorized Version.

Originally from, The King’s Business, By R.A. Torrey, October 1913, pp. 493, 498

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