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Oikos’ Position on Bible Translations: Why the ESV?

… when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, (Deut 31:11-12).They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading, (Neh 8:8).
Since the return of the exiles from Babylon, it has been necessary to translate the Bible into the common language of the people. In the middle ages some saw this as problematic and in fact some still do today,.. In the late Middle Ages the opponents of vernacular translations sought to only use a Latin translation of the text. In the contemporary realm the opponents of vernacular translations seek to ensconce a reliable but little understood 400 year old translation.

This later position often labeled “King James Only-ism” derives from several legitimate concerns. However, these concerns are not wholly satisfied by keeping the King James Bible. Asserting that the King James Bible is the only God-blessed version of the Bible raises other issues, such as ‘Does this mean God has left people who do not speak English without a witness to the Gospel?’ Proponents of Kings James Only-ism are not in agreement on an answer to this issue. On another front, some KJV Only advocates contend that the Textus Receptus is inspired and that the KJV is only a very good translation. Others claim double inspiration for the KJV itself and will state that the Greek manuscripts do not matter. Still others contend for a dozen different mediating positions all based on extra-biblical arguments. These and other problems are too numerous to recount in this short paper.

It is the position of Oikos that the King James is an acceptable translation of the Scripture, but it is not inspired nor is it the best.

God has ordained the preaching of the Word as the primary means for the dissemination of the Gospel (Rom 10:14-17); and that it is necessary for the hearers of the word to understand the words (1 Cor 14:6-12). As a result, Oikos has adopted the English Standard Version (ESV) as the primary version of the Bible for teaching, reading, and memorizing. Since all languages changes over time, it seems necessary to have a contemporary translation that is understandable to the hearers. As an example of this, in the lifetime of many people living today words such as gay (from happy to homosexual), villain (from peasant to bad guy), and prevent (from precede to stop) have taken on wholly different meanings than they once did. These examples could be multiplied. Older translations can be understood with diligence and careful study, but it seems that sometimes those seeking to retain older translations are seeking to make their own definitions of archaic words and their personal interpretation of the text indispensable keys to properly understanding God’s Word.

While the concern for “relevance and understandability” can (and has been) the grounds for several mangled translations, the English Standard Version is a contemporary translation that is at once understandable and faithful to the original text of Scripture in the Hebrew/Aramaic of the Old Testament and Koine Greek of the New Testament.

Oikos has chosen a formal equivalent or “essentially literal” translation of the Bible and has eschewed dynamic equivalent translations such as the NIV and NLT, because it is not the place of a translator to give his understanding of phrases in contemporary parlance. This does not mean that Oikos is seeking to adopt the language of Canaan; rather it is a rejection of the thought-for-thought philosophy of these translations. There are two problems with this philosophy. First, it is that the translator has set himself up as the judge over the language and teaching of Scripture. Second, thought-for-thought translations tend to hide more than they reveal to their readers.

As a corollary, Oikos rejects the gender inclusive translations. God in His wisdom and providence chose to reveal himself in the special medium of Scripture during the period from around 1500 B.C. through the second half of the first century A.D. As passages such as Galatians 4:4 speak, God sent the Son at the fullness of time. Whatever else this may convey, it conveys that God chose the first century as the best time to send the Son. The cultures into which God chose to reveal himself were patriarchal. While it is a certainty that much in those cultures, as in all fallen human cultures, had much that was false, it is presumptuous for modern translators to “correct” Scripture with our modern prejudices and biases. Since God chose and revealed the very Words of Scripture , it is presumptuous to think that if the patriarchal customs were abhorrent to him that he would have failed to confront and alter them as he did with several other customs of the era such as incest, cultic prostitution, and idolatry.

In the words of the Oikos doctrinal statement,

We believe that Almighty God has revealed all that is necessary to life and salvation in the sixty-six books of Holy Scripture, which are the Word of God. All Scripture was given by inspiration of God, is infallible and inerrant, and is the final arbiter in all disputes. Its authority is derived from its Author and not from the opinions of men.