Second Timothy 3:16 says that "all Scripture is breathed out by God," and this is where we get our term "inspiration," which literally means "a breathing in." God's Word came to mankind as the writers of Scripture were filled with the "breath" of God.
The Bible never speaks of the process of translation or of the translators. When we speak of the Bible's inspiration, we are referring only to the original autographs. The writer of Hebrews says the divine message was confirmed "by signs and wonders and various miracles" (Hebrews 2:4). Obviously, the writer of Hebrews has in mind the original proclamation of the Word, not its translation into other languages.
Second Peter 1:21 says that "men spoke from God." Nothing is ever said of "translators translating from God." The inspired part of the process, then, is the original delivery of the Word. When Paul taught that Scripture is "breathed out by God," he was referring to the original manuscripts, not to a particular translation such as (in his day) the Septuagint.
A translation's value is based on its fidelity to the original, coupled with its clarity, accessibility, and style. A Bible translation is authoritative insofar as it reflects the original. The goal of a good translation is to communicate God's Word in a way that is readily grasped by its intended readers. The KJV is a brilliant translation that had a lasting impact on 17th-century England and beyond and that set the standard for several centuries. As the English language has changed, other translations have appeared, such as the NASB, the NIV, and the ESV. All of these translations attempt to accurately communicate the ancient texts of Scripture.
As trustworthy as a translation might be, however, it cannot be considered "inspired." No translation is "breathed out by God"; it is a translation of what God has breathed. John Wycliffe was a great man of God, and we are forever grateful for his English translation of the Bible, but Wycliffe cannot be put in the same category as a prophet like Daniel or an apostle like Matthew. Daniel and Matthew were given the very words of God; their responsibility was to record precisely what the Spirit moved them to write. Wycliffe had a different role: to take what Daniel and Matthew wrote and make it comprehensible to the English-speaking world. Wycliffe would be the first to say that his translation was not inspired in the same sense as the Bible in its original languages.
We may each have our favorite translation or one that we use more regularly than another. But we should not let arguments over translations divide the Body of Christ. Our loyalty should be to the inspired, inerrant Word of God as originally written, not to any one English translation.
We are confident that Paul's general statement that "all Scripture is breathed out by God" applies to the original autographs. But there are several different translations of those autographs that can still be viewed as authoritative for the church. There are many accurate translations available today that are being used by the Holy Spirit to change lives and guide the church.
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