IS IT ALL RIGHT TO USE NEWER VERSIONS
Wayne S. Walker
Question: “If someone reads from a new version other than the King
James, for example, ‘Difficult is the way’ instead of ‘Narrow is the
way,’ isn’t that rewording the Bible and adding to God’s word?”
This question, by casting reflections on newer versions than the
King James, leaves the impression that those who would use them in
teaching the truth, for example that we must be baptized to be saved, are
unreliable. And it seems to be saying that the way to be saved and go to
heaven cannot be difficult because all one has to do is to believe on
Christ and then he can never be lost. Of course, it is always wrong to
add to God’s word. “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the
prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to
him the plagues that are written in this book” (Revelation 22.18).
But the issue is, does the example cited do this? The passage in
question is Matthew 7.14, which in the familiar King James says, “Because
strait is the gait and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few
there be that find it.” The New King James reads, “Because narrow is the
gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who
find it.” The question assumes that only the King James Version of 1611
is the Bible. However, the Bible was written many years before the King
James was translated. The writers of the Old Testament wrote in Hebrew
and the writers of the New Testament wrote in Greek. Their words have
been translated into various languages for people who do not speak Hebrew
or Greek to understand. The King James is only a translation of the
Bible into English; it was not the first, nor was it the last.
The Greek word translated “strait” is defined as “narrow, strait.”
These two English words are synonyms and either can be used in
translation. Its only other occurrence in the New Testament is in Luke
13.24 where Jesus says, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for
many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Again, the
King James uses the “strait.” The Greek word translated “narrow” is
defined as “compressed, narrow, straitened, contracted, so as to be hard
or difficult.” So “difficult” is given as an acceptable meaning of the
original word. We recognize that many words in our English language mean
the same thing. I might say, “I cut the meat,” or, “I sliced the meat,”
but it is the same thing.
Given the definition of the words, one translation might say,
“narrow,” while another say, “difficult,” yet both mean the same thing.
Remember, Jesus did not speak in 1611 Elizabethan English, but in a
language called Aramaic. And His words were recorded by inspiration in
Greek. It is true that some so-called translations do reword the Bible
and add to God’s word. But that is not true of all newer versions.
Whether from the King James or the New King James, Jesus’ meaning is
clear. His way is strait, narrow, or difficult, and only a few find it,
as opposed to the way which is wide or broad that the majority wil take.
As He said in Matthew 7.13, “Enter in by the narrow gate; for wide is the
gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many
who go in by it.”
There is a sense in which the way of salvation is easy in that it is
revealed in a way that anyone can understand and obey it. However, it is
also difficult in the sense that there are conditions to be met with
which many people simply do not want to comply–both in being saved and
in keeping saved. This raises another important issue. It is wrong not
only to add to God’s word but also to take away from it. “And if anyone
takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take
away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the
things which are written in this book” (Revelation 22.19). The Bible
plainly teaches that baptism is essential for salvation (Mark 16.16).
Any attempt to eliminate that teaching is sinful. (April, 1996).
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