Hath God Said – A Commentary On The Several Versions
Genesis 3 is probably the best commentary on why it is dangerous to have a large number of English versions of the Bible. It invites Satan to approach anyone at any time and ask “Hath God said?”
Whenever I deal with a passage I don’t like – or simply prefer it not be there – my first reaction is “Is that what God is really saying?” When reading a passage I do not like, my first reaction is to read it in as many versions as I can, or perhaps provide alternate translation possibilities to Hebrew words with otherwise clear meanings. Maybe, just maybe, I can find a version that provides an alternate understanding of the passage – an understanding that better feeds the desires of my flesh. And if I find one, the version that “rescues” me from God’s will becomes highly esteemed – even if only by me.
Second Timothy 4:3 warns us: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.” One technique of not enduring sound doctrine is to find an alternate version with different translation methodologies. There is nothing sacred God can say if someone else writes the dictionary.
If you don’t think Jesus was born of a virgin, just ask “Hath God really said?” And the RSV will appear, and you discover that Mary was simply a “young woman.”
If you don’t think that God is offended by homosexual behavior, just ask “Hath God really said?” And the QJV will appear, and you will read that what God really finds offensive is when a man hires a male temple prostitute.
If you don’t believe the Church will be taken away before the man of sin is revealed, just ask “Hath God really said?” The NIV will appear, and the “falling away” is transformed into a “rebellion” that cannot possibly be comprehended as the rapture of the Church.
If you don't like the prophecy of the 70 weeks, just ask "Hath God really said?" The ESV will rearrange the order of the events and the Messiah becomes the Anointed One, and His life span cannot possibly be said to be Jesus Christ.
If you think that commentary belongs within the text of the holy scripture, then just ask "Hath God really said?" And almost every modern version will tell you whether "vessel" (1 Thessalonians 4:4) means "wife" or "body," completely masking that the text reads "vessel."
(And there is not much at stake in this one, but it irks me.) If you don't think that "to write the same things to you" in Philippians 3:1 refers to the three-fold "Beware" in Philippians 3:2, then just ask "Hath God really said?" The Holman Christian Standard will tell you that Paul wrote several separate letters to the Philippians.
In Eve’s day, there were just the two versions: The version God revealed to Adam, and the version Adam taught to Eve. Since Eve hadn’t yet been created when God spoke Genesis 2:17 to Adam, she relied on the scriptures to know God’s will.
“Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die (Genesis 2:16-17, God’s word to Adam.)”
“We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die (Genesis 3:2-3, Eve’s citation of God’s Word).”
We do not know if Adam gave Eve a watered down version of God’s word, or if Adam quoted scripture correctly, but Eve remembered it wrong. Perhaps it was both. Adding the clause “neither shall ye touch it” sounds like something a parent might add. For instance, a parent might take a child shopping. In order to reinforce to the child that God does not allow a person to steal, the parent with good intentions might add, “God doesn’t even want you to touch anything on the shelves in the store.” The good intentions are to avoid being tempted to steal. For once the merchandise is in the child’s hands, the temptation to steal increases. But not touching the merchandise is not part of the commandment not to steal. Adam might have reinforced the command not to eat of the tree with the addition of a sub-commandment not even to touch it.
Similarly, Eve might have found the result “thou shalt surely die” to be a bit harsh, and toned it down to a possibility just to make it bearable for her to accept as God’s word to Adam. There are several combinations of what changed, and in what manner it was changed, that resulted in converting the original command to the variation that caused Eve to misquote God. But having two versions in circulation was all that the serpent needed to redirect Eve from trusting God to trusting the wrong version. And she was totally unprepared for the serpent to ask, “Did God really say?”
The serpent knew exactly what God said. When the serpent quoted God in Genesis 3:4, he actually used the words that more closely align to Genesis 2:17 than Eve did – although he did add the word “not.” There’s not a verse in the Bible that cannot be nullified by asking, “Hath God really said?” It’s the price we pay for having a whole shelf with too many versions of the Bible on it. I’m sure that at one time or another, everyone asks the question “Hath God really said?” And the question is possibly not totally unjustified. But whenever you search for the answer – especially if the provocation of your search is to nullify the plain reading of the text in front of you – just remember that the serpent was the first being to ask that question. And cursed man has lived on a cursed earth ever since.
Addendum: The Implications of Verse Memorization
Have you ever noticed that along with the explosion of versions, many churches no longer place much emphasis on Bible verse memorization? KJV is written with a cadence that facilitates passage memorization. Romans 5:12 KJV: "Sin is not imputed where there is no law." 1 John 4:14 KJV "The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world." These verses and others carry a distinct cadence that is not reproduced in easier to read modern versions. Or at least, I've never seen it listed as an objective of any modern version. If there is a memorable cadence to a passage, the words often fall into place. We often experience that by memorizing the words to a song much more easily than you can memorize the favorite blog you read today.
I can prove cadence matters: Hand someone you trust your social security card. I am sure you have it memorized in a 3-2-4 cadence. Ask the person to transpose two digits among digits 3 through 7 (contiguous or non-contiguous, it doesn't matter) - or to read it correctly, let him decide. Then have him read what he selected in a 2-3-4 cadence. Chances are you cannot tell whether he read it straight, or if he transposed two digits.
But the mere fact of multiple versions is the death knell of memorization. Say you are trying to memorize Philippians 2:1. KJV reads:
"If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the spirit, if any bowels and mercies,"
This is a tough verse to memorize largely because of the order of the list. Paul is asking you to check for four closely related qualities in what seems to be no particular order, and it takes concentration to keep them in the correct order, and even then it is fragile. But you licked it! Consolation; Comfort; Fellowship; Bowels/mercies. And it remains firmly in your mind.... Until you eventually hear the verse read on your car radio in NASB, which moves Consolation to #2 on the list. It will create a dissonance in your head, and you will not find it difficult to keep them straight; you will find it impossible to keep them straight.
Quickly, Does KJV John 3:16 - the most memorized verse in our generation - end "eternal life" or "everlasting life?"