Ecumenical Translations

Anyone who has a little knowledge of the history of Papal and Protestant Christendom will know that a great bone of contention between these two branches of the Church has been the translation of the Bible into a language understood by the common people. They will also know that the Church of Rome opposed the first translations of Scripture into English.

When the Reformers began distributing Bibles in the common tongue therefore, Rome soon came out with her own English version--often called the Duay or Rheims translation. Thus a situation was created and continued for many years whereby the Catholic Bible competed with the Protestant King James Authorized Bible. As a young man this writer can well remember how in those days it was a generally accepted position--the Catholic used a different Bible to that which was in general use by everyone else.

Some may enquire as to how there could be two different Bibles. The reasons for it are to be found in the history of textual development which goes right back to the days of early Christianity. Two main streams of biblical text can be identified; the so-called Received text (which found its way into Western Europe after the fall of Byzantium in 1453), and the one preserved by the Vatican in the form (for example) of the Latin Vulgate. From the viewpoint of the Catholic Church, it was the Protestant Bible (based on the Received Text) that was largely responsible for the Reformation, for the doctrines that arose out of it, and for the protestant rejection of the magisterium (or teaching authority) of Rome.

The most noticeable difference to most people today as they compare the two Bibles, is that the Catholic Bible has more books than does that used by Protestants. The canon of Scripture is a different issue to that of translation, but it is linked to the question of versions. Karl Keating in Catholicism and Fundamentalism (pub. Ignatius Press) thus makes the charge that "the Protestant Bible is an incomplete Bible." (P. 132). His use of the term "Protestant Bible" however, emphasizes the fact that this is a book which is unacceptable to Rome even today.

Other references in Catholic literature to the "Protestant Bible" could be multiplied--but one reference is of particular interest to readers of this magazine because it concerns the Christadelphians.

In 1923 a small booklet was published by the Catholic Truth Society in London, England. The title was Christadelphianism and it was written by a J.W. Poynter. According to this Mr. Poynter--"The Christadelphians, in fact, are simply an ordinary protestant sect..."

"Their essential oneness with ordinary Protestantism is further shown by the fact that, as the basis of their whole position, they have simply taken the ordinary English Protestant Bible..."

Christadelphians of course, are not "ordinary Protestants" (ask an ordinary Protestant!)--but the point here is to draw attention to the Roman view that the "Protestant Bible" is an inadequate and inferior version. The Roman Church has always been opposed to it. It is this Bible that they understand as the basis and foundation of the Christadelphian Faith.

Now this is the Bible that Rome has endeavoured to supplant ever since the mid 1500's--but was largely unsuccessful. The King James authorized Version--based largely upon the work of Tyndale, proved to be unassailable over a period of some 300 years.

Excerpts from Magazines: Bible versions changing?  Hidden books added to the Bible It is reported by historians that William Tyndale's last words before the executioner ended his life, were: "Lord, open the King of England's eyes!" Seventy-five years later a King of England "authorized" a translation of the Bible into the English tongue--the King James Version. This was not a perfect translation (it originally included the Apocryphal books) and most reasonable people appreciate the fact that it has many blemishes, even reflecting some of the doctrinal convictions of the translators. In spite of the faults however, the King James Authorized Version was an adequate translation, and enabled its readers to discover truths which had been previously veiled. It gave rise to the non-conformist movement which arose from the independent study of the Word of God. This was the Bible which Rome opposed--and to which she is still opposed.

It was during the 19th Century that textual critics began casting doubt upon the Received text that the New Testament of the Authorized Bible was based upon. This led to revisions of the Biblical text; revisions which just happened (!) to produce a Greek text which was closer to the one which Rome favoured. Details about this can be read in such books as "Which Bible" by David Otis Fuller (pub. Grand Rapids International Publications).

About the middle of the present century the Ecumenical movement began to gain momentum and Catholics began to work alongside their "separated brethren" in order to produce "modern" translations. For example, in the 1965 papal Encyclical De Divina Revelatione (Divine Revelation) it was stated:

"...since the word of God ought to be available at all times, the Church with motherly care provides that suitable and accurate versions are made in a variety of languages, and especially versions based on the original texts of holy scripture. If, when occasion offers and leave is given by the Church's authority, such versions are prepared by a common effort shared by our separated brethren, the resulting works can be used by all Christians."

We are not told which versions were produced in this way, but a comment on the 1952 RSV made in the Jesuit magazine America is worth noting: "If the R.S.V. is not precisely that much desired common BIBLE, it is only one step from it." The phrase "common Bible" of course, expresses the sense of the Latin Vulgate.

In a booklet entitled Unity (Imprimatur, 1967) issued by the Catholic Enquiry Centre in England we were told: "Catholic and non-Catholic scholars are striving to prepare a translation of the Bible from the original languages that will be acceptable to all Christians." This was seen when the Roman Church appointed representatives to the committee translating the New English Bible published in 1970.

The crop of new translations offered to the public since the 1950's have gradually come nearer to Rome's position. Not only has the text been revised, but often we find that versions are made available "complete with Apocrypha" in order to accommodate the Catholic Church.

Co-operation between Catholic and Protestant scholars in producing "contemporary renditions of the Bible" can be followed with both interest and (when the objectives are appreciated) alarm. In an article headed "Bible versions changing?" a Lutheran member of one editorial board is reported as saying that Bible editions are "moving toward greater convergence." He points out that "Catholic and Protestant Bible scholars have collaborated since mid-century, even before the Second Vatican Council of 1962-65..."

We are now several years on from those early days of co-operation and have a wide variety of Bible versions to choose from--all in "modern English" and therefore (so we are told) much easier to understand than the archaic King James Version. As the years move on we have seen Bible readers reach out for the latest translations--they became infatuated with the R.S.V., the New English Bible and now the New International Version. What next? The pedlar cries out "New Lamps for Old!" and we see the response as people flock for a trade-in. Even versions that are based upon the Received text, such as the New King James Version, reveal the hand of the deceiver, as subtle changes in sense lead the reader away from truth (c/p Psalm 146:3,4 in the old and new KJV).

We have stated earlier that the King James Authorized Version is far from perfect, yet adequate. We must add here that other translations--even though they may not be suitable for general use--are often helpful in bringing out the sense of a passage. This is true of translations which pre-date King James (such as Tyndale) as well as those which have come after it. But it would be very foolish to abandon the version which has proved itself to be quite competent in enlightening so many, for one which has kept millions in darkness and servitude to papal authority. We would do well to recognize that the majority of new versions today conform to the pattern of this Catholic Bible, rather than to the so-called "Protestant Bible". They are "ecumenical translations" and are produced with precisely that effect in mind.

Consider the words in the recent papal encyclical UT UNUM SINT (That they may be One), 1995.

"Significant progress in ecumenical cooperation has also been made in another area, that of the Word of God. I am thinking above all of the importance for the different language groups of ecumenical translations of the Bible. Following the promulgation by the Second Vatican Council of the Constitution Dei Verbum, the Catholic Church could not fail to welcome this development. These translations, prepared by experts, generally offer a solid basis for the prayer and pastoral activity of Christ's followers. Anyone who recalls how heavily debates about Scripture influenced divisions, especially in the West, can appreciate the significant step forward which these common translations represent."

It seems absolutely incredible to this writer, that Bible believers could be so easily deceived by the trickery that Rome has conjured. The stated objective of today's "new" translations is before us--it is to further ecumenism to bring "Christians" back into the embrace of the "mother church". These versions display an entirely different character to the old Authorized.

We hope that our reader will pause to consider what we have said, and not be persuaded by the propaganda, the scholarly bluff or the insidious arguments used to encourage the abandonment of the King James Authorized Version. For our part, we have done our duty in giving this warning--and it is only out of genuine concern for others that we express the view that the modern ecumenical versions--where they are adopted for general use--will lead people astray from the Truth, rather than to a knowledge of it. Better to struggle with the vocabulary of the KJV seeking the aid of a dictionary (and/or a concordance) than to place one's understanding in the hands of ecumenists.