Lost in Translation


X-posted from AAA.

Intuitively I understand there are words and phrases which simply do not translate from language to language, especially over the ages. From an evangelical perspective, how do you make “stiff necked” Bible Believing Protestants understand the concept behind lost in translation.

I am stuck trying to understand myself how someone can truly believe the 1611 KJB is the only “authorized” word of God. I have had people of this branch of Protestantism point out to me how single words in the different versions (ASV, NABRE, Douai-Rheims, etc.) are wrong which proves the 1611 version is the only accurate version and the true Word of God. Does this mean, someone from China who only speaks a dialect of Mandarin must learn 16th Century English in order to get the true Word? When asked this question, the naive typically talk about authorized translations of the 1611 into different languages… but, they just do not seem to be able to grasp the technicalities behind a translation which would disprove their theory of the 1611 version as the only version.

So… I am looking for tips, examples, etc. to help someone understand the way translations are made to help chink through the ignorant armor of the 1611 only camp. The best I have been able to do so far is ask them how they would explain an airplane to someone in the middle of the Congo in 1920… a word which has no equivalent or even a concept in a language.

Again, this is posted in the AAA forum, the answer from Fr. Grondin is a great question for reflection:

"Perhaps you might want to ask them why they deny the infallibility of the Pope and the Church but they accept the infallibility of “authorized translators”?

Of course the answer given by someone who believes the 1611 KVB is the only authorized version is because they believe it to be inspired and written by the Holy Spirit… anybody else have a thought to contribute?


The original preface to the original edition of the King James Bible says, in the section titled THE TRANSLATORS TO THE READER:

"Translation it is that openeth the window, to let in the light; that breaketh the shell, that we may eat the kernel; that putteth aside the curtaine, that we may looke into the most Holy place; that remooveth the cover of the well, that wee may come by the water, even as Jacob rolled away the stone from the mouth of the well, by which meanes the flockes of Laban were watered. Indeede without translation into the vulgar tongue, the unlearned are but like children at Jacobs well (which was deepe) without a bucket or some thing to draw with: or as that person mentioned by Esau, to whom when a sealed booke was delivered, with this motion, Reade this, I pray thee, hee was faine to make this answere, I cannot, for it is sealed. "

The King James Bible was translated into Early Modern English. Like Shakespeare, an educated person can still understand that dialect with effort (and it’s a lot easier if the spelling is modernized, instead of printing the actual original King James Bible wording).

But “the unlearned” will experience a fair amount of difficulty in reading the King James Bible, particularly if the spelling is not modernized. If the KJV translators intended their Bible translation to be user-friendly, they would be the first ones to object to keeping it in use after its freshness had expired, except as a literary curiosity or research tool.

There’s a bunch of stuff in the preface, much of which is anti-Catholic but much of which is good scholarship (such as a list of known translations of the Bible into English from earlier times). They further say about translations of the Bible:

"Now what can bee more availeable thereto, then to deliever Gods booke unto Gods people in a tongue which they understand? Since of an hidden treasure, and of a fountaine that is sealed, there is no profit, as Ptolomee Philadelph wrote to the Rabbins or masters of the Jewes, as witnesseth Epiphanius: and as S. Augustine saith; A man had rather be with his dog then with a stranger (whose tongue is strange unto him.) Yet for all that, as nothing is begun and perfited perfected] at the same time, and the later thoughts are thought to be the wiser: so, if we building upon their foundation that went before us, and being holpen by their labours, doe endevour to make that better which they left so good; no man, we are sure, hath cause to mislike us; they, we persuade our selves, if they were alive, would thanke us.

…How many bookes of profane learning have bene gone over againe and againe, by the same translators, by others? Of one and the same booke of Aristotles Ethikes, there are extant not so few as sixe or seven severall translations. Now if this cost may bee bestowed upon the goord, which affordeth us a little shade, and which to day flourisheth, but to morrow is cut downe; what may we bestow, nay what ought we not to bestow upon the Vine, the fruite whereof maketh glad the conscience of man, and the stemme whereof abideth for ever? And this is the word of God, which we translate.

“…the religious care, to have the translations of the Bible maturely considered of and examined. For by this meanes it commeth to passe, that whatsoever is sound alreadie … the same will shine as gold more brightly, being rubbed and polished; also if any thing be halting, or superfluous, or not so agreeable to the originall, the same may bee corrected, and the trueth set in place.”

So the King James translators support new translations constantly being made, and old translations being corrected and changed.

“… wee doe not deny, nay wee affirme and avow, that the very meanest translation of the Bible in English, set foorth by men… containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God. As the Kings Speech which hee uttered in Parliament, being translated into French, Dutch, Italian and Latine, is still the Kings Speech, though it be not interpreted by every Translator with the like grace, nor peradventure so fitly for phrase, nor so expresly for sence, every where.”

Notice that last paragraph. The King James translators, themselves, say that every translation of the Bible into English (or any other language) is equally the Word of God.


So…scripture, epistles, books and preaching could not be understood before 1611?


This is good! So why the fervent insistence on this version as the only inspired and infallible word? Where did this trend come from, and why is it so popular? It would appear on the surface, the reformation required something to be infallible when they ignored the Magesterium; that something is the KJV 1611… without that, the house of cards falls. Am I missing something?


Jesus and the Apostles did not go around speaking English so anyone claiming that the only true word of God is in an English Bible must be really naive and gullible.


Hi Nick!
…two things come to mind:
1) origin of translation:

It was first printed by the King’s Printer Robert Barker and was the third translation into English, approved by the English Church authorities. The first had been the Great Bible, **commissioned in the reign of King Henry VIII **(1535), and the second had been the Bishops’ Bible of 1568.[3] In January 1604, James I convened the Hampton Court Conference, where a new English version was conceived in response to the problems of the earlier translations perceived by the Puritans,[4] a faction of the Church of England.[5] The translation is widely considered to be both beautiful and scholarly and thus a towering achievement in English literature. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_James_Version)

So, this “authorized” version is rooted in disobedience and human will and power:

Henry is known for his consequential role in the separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church, besides his six marriages and many extramarital affairs, as well as his effort to obtain an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, which led to conflict with the Pope. His disagreements with the Pope led Henry to separate the Church of England from papal authority, with himself as king and as the Supreme Head of the Church of England; the disputes also led to the Dissolution of the Monasteries. His principal dispute was with papal authority rather than with doctrinal matters, and he remained a believer in core Catholic theological teachings despite his excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church.[1 ([URL=“https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_James_Version”]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_James_Version

2) Inspiration:

James gave the translators instructions intended to ensure that **the new version would conform to the ecclesiology and reflect the episcopal structure of the Church of England **and its belief in an ordained clergy.[6] The translation was done by 47 scholars, all of whom were members of the Church of England.[7] In common with most other translations of the period, the New Testament was translated from Greek, the Old Testament from Hebrew and Aramaic, and the Apocrypha from Greek and Latin. In the Book of Common Prayer (1662), the text of the Authorized Version replaced the text of the Great Bible for Epistle and Gospel readings (but not for the Psalter, which substantially retained Coverdale’s Great Bible version) and as such was authorized by Act of Parliament.[8] (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_James_Version)

…so the “inspiration” comes not from the Holy Spirit but from a king, ordering that the translation conforms to practices held by men who comprise not a theological body of Bishops but a body of governance whose word must reflect the king’s!

Interestingly enough, those who claim “1611 perfection” refuse to accept what actually took place in the remaking of the word of God:

James’ instructions included several requirements that kept the new translation familiar to its listeners and readers. The text of the Bishops’ Bible would serve as the primary guide for the translators, and the familiar proper names of the biblical characters would all be retained. If the Bishops’ Bible was deemed problematic in any situation, the translators were permitted to consult other translations from a pre-approved list: the Tyndale Bible, the Coverdale Bible, Matthew’s Bible, the Great Bible, and the Geneva Bible. In addition, later scholars have detected an influence on the Authorized Version from the translations of Taverner’s Bible and the New Testament of the Douay–Rheims Bible.[43] It is for this reason that the flyleaf of most printings of the Authorized Version observes that the text had been “translated out of the original tongues, and with the former translations diligently compared and revised, by His Majesty’s special commandment.” (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_James_Version)

Maran atha!



…seemingly, as with Arabic, it is the only version that all believers must learn/study from! :whistle::whistle::whistle:

Maran atha!



Hi, Nick!
The code word is: Protestantism.

If it’s Catholic, man must protest!

Maran atha!



…the contention is that James and his scholars perfectly translated the 1611 from the original sources with perfect word to word translation which would give the 1611 the “no need for other versions” title.

Never mind that they borrowed from already existing translations nor that grammatical accidents change the meaning/usage of words!

Maran atha!



Some protestants have developed a “relationship” with the KJV. If they loose that “book”, they loose a precious friend, that book is their only link to God through times of drought. In order to defend this personal friendship with the KJV, there have been some unusual arguments put forward. But they are arguments for self-protection, self-preservation.

So it is probably best to let them be.


Hi, Darryl!
…of course! …no harm can come from holding on to a dream/security blanket! :popcorn::popcorn::popcorn:

Maran atha!



So, as with many Born Again Bible Believing Baptists, this book, specifically this version of this book is the center of their world. They were sold a bill of goods based on the premise this version of the Bible is everything. Christianity in general has a yes/no central point - the resurrection; if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, we are all a farse. If he did rise from the dead, he is truly who he says. I see the dependence on the KJV the same way. If it is not the single source of Gods word, then that means there is something else…and that road is a downhill stretch, lined with ice pointing to Rome. And that just won’t do…


The real question is, if somehow over time the bible had been badly translated,/ misinterpreted, to the degree that the intended original message was not getting thru to present day people…would God intervene or somehow correct this?

Or would it just be left up to us, to recognize these things?


Hi, Nick!
…well, now you are simply hitting bellow the belt–this need to reject the Church can be the fundamental force behind KJVs: 'I got God on my side, 'cause I got the right “stuff;” all others be wrong (as to be or not).

I see the claim as another “proof” that the Church is wrong!

Maran atha!



Hi, Mike!
…that only happens with those who have abandoned the Apostolic Tradition–Scriptural text can be twisted to mean all sorts of things (people have claimed descriptions of helicopters, space ships, Old Testament leading to witchcraft, dual God OT bad/evil vs NT good/merciful; then there are the various groups that claim a direct line to the Father, Son or the Holy Spirit through the group’s/individual’s “election” (where God “chose” them to receive “revelations,” etc.). Apostolic Tradition is the built-in balance: the Church is the pillar of Truth, because she is Guided by the Holy Spirit in Apostolic Tradition (Oral and Written). We find the very unfolding of Apostolic Tradition in Scriptures as we are pointed to Revelations, Doctrine, and Practice passed down from Jesus Christ, the Church’s Founder!

Maran atha!



God has already intervened. His intervention is called the “Incarnation”.
God enters human affairs with full humanity.
Human affairs are messy. They ask for trust, patience, faith, etc…

I’m wondering, what more intervention should God be expected to do?
And what should our response to his intervention be? Insistence on more intervention, til we don’t even have to work at it anymore???


Well its been 2000 yrs, things have changed quite a bit since then. Its pretty clear there are MANY who are not getting the intended message, or are trying to claim a certain interpretation is correct…if this were happening in any othe situation, you can bet it would be made very clear what the original message was and what the correct interpretation is.

This actually happens all the time when people quote statements made by our Pope, many times they are not interpreted correctly and people think they mean something which they do not, when this happens, the vatican is quick to come out and clarify, if they never did this and just let it all go, who knows how far from the truth it would get over 1000s of years.

Recently on FB, I saw a supposed quote from the Pope, the way he said it, seemed to imply going to church anymore was not necessarily required, this post had 10s of 1000s Likes and shares, meaning there are many people out there that believed this and shared it with others, if things like this are left unaddressed, the real truth would eventually be impossible to see.


While this is a great conversation, I am still interested in opinions on how one can illustrate the logical problems of relying on a document written in olde English to be the sole source of passing on the mysteries of Christ to a world that might not even speak English, let alone 400 year old English.


It’s tricky. First, you have to ask why they believe the 1611 KJV (or whichever translation they cling to) is the best translation of the Bible. (I’d think the KJV-ers would say that the KJV is the best English translation, not the best translation into any language ever.)

Then I would ask them how they know the source documents that the KJV is translated from happen to be the right source documents – that is, how do they know that the Greek and Hebrew texts that the KJV was translated from aren’t corrupt? (It would be interesting if they appealed to the Church Fathers in any way on this matter!)

Then I would ask them how they know that the translators were accurate in translating from from the source languages into English. If the person is not also able to translate from Greek and Hebrew into English, then they are putting their trust in someone else – either the translator, or the expert vouching for the translator.

Then I would ask them if it were possible for there to have been an equally good (or better) English translation before the 1611 KJV; and if an equally good (or better) English translation could be written after the 1611 KJV. Find out why that year, those translators, that snapshot of English, is the best that the English language and history has to offer.


…yeah; it’s the ole “not my fault, man…”

Interestingly enough, those who reflect on God’s seemingly “not enough” are almost always first in line for disobedience: rejecting the Commandments, Church’s Doctrine, common sense, humility, self-control, responsibility, generosity, kindness…–they would have God intervene *only *when there are issues that would hinder human “liberties,” while simultaneously and stubbornly holding on to self-sufficiency and bloated ego.

Maran atha!


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