Sunday, July 26, 2020

Are Modern English Versions of the Bible Corrupt? -- Part 2

This is the second in a multi-part series concerning social media posts that are circulating and accusing the NIV and other modern English translations of the Bible of taking out important words and concepts, leaving out verses, and other nefarious things.

My original plan was to write one comprehensive article, but as I started dealing with the misinformation that is going around, I realized that it would be so long that only nerds like myself would bother to read it. Since my goal is to inform people with the truth, I decided it would be better to break it up into more digestible parts. Once the series is complete, I will make available a PDF file that has all the information in one place for those who desire to have such a resource.

Read part 1 here

Now, let's move on to the next in the list of claims made in the Facebook post under discussion (see part 1 for the context)

The NIV and ESV has now removed 64,575 words from the Bible, including Jehovah, Calvary, Holy Ghost and omnipotent to name but a few...

First off, as someone who was a math nerd before becoming a theology nerd, I would like to see documentation for this number. How many unique words were “removed,” and how many occurrences of each?

Second, even translations made from the same base text (a concept we will discuss in more detail later in this series) can end up with different word counts. I can pretty much guarantee, just from knowledge of the languages, that the Spanish RVR1960 translation, which uses the same base text as the King James Version (as well as the New King James Version and the Modern English Version), likely has more words than the KJV, just due to the nature of the language and how tings are expressed. We must also keep in mind that the translators of the KJV added words to the English text to make the English read more smoothly. Anyone who has experience in a language other than his or her mother tongue will tell you that you can translate something with more or fewer words, depending on the vocabulary you have knowledge of, and still accurately convey the same meaning.
Now, let’s address the few specific words actually mentioned in the claim.

Jehovah —The Divine Name

The argument is made that the NIV and other modern translations removed the name Jehovah from the Bible. Using, I searched the KJV text for “Jehovah.” The name occurs only seven times in the English text of the KJV (Gen. 22:14, Ex. 6:3, Ex. 17:15, Jud. 6:24, Ps. 83:18, Isaiah 12:2, and Isa. 26:4). The Hebrew word translated as “Jehovah” is יהוה, or, transliterated into letters of the Latin alphabet used by English and other western European languages, YHWH. This is God’s personal, covenant name. Interestingly, a quick search for the Hebrew name יהוה in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament (I used the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia in Logos Bible Software) reveals an additional six thousand occurrences of the divine name in the Hebrew text. So why didn’t the KJV translate all 6,007 occurrences as Jehovah?

For those not familiar with written Hebrew, the language originally had no vowels in its written form. The name YHWH was most likely pronounced Yahweh. At some point in history, in an effort to avoid misusing God’s divine name, the Jewish people started saying Adonai (Hebrew for “Lord”) whenever they would see YHWH written in the scrolls of their Scriptures. Around the tenth century, the Masoretes (Jewish scribes dedicated to copying the Hebrew Scriptures) started inserting the vowels from Adonai into the consonants YHWH, and when the name was then transliterated into the Latin alphabet, it became Jehovah (or Jehová in Spanish translations). Ancient Jews would most likely not have even recognized the name Jehovah pronounced as such.[1]

Out of respect for the Jewish tradition of not saying the divine name, but rather substituting Adonai, the NIV and many other translations place the word Lord in small caps. In fact, the KJV itself uses this same convention for the overwhelming majority of the instances where God’s personal name appears. So there’s no great plot here to remove God’s personal name from modern translations.


The next specific word in the list above is “Calvary.” In the text of the King James Version, the name Calvary appears in only one place: Luke 23:33. Let’s compare this verse and its parallels from Matthew and Mark, using the King James Version:

And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull, (Matt. 27:33)

And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull. (Mark 15:22)

And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. (Luke 23:33)

Matthew and Mark first give the Hebrew/Aramaic name for the hill, written in Greek letters as Γολγοθᾶ, and transliterated into Latin letters as Golgotha. They then interpret the meaning of that word for their Greek-speaking readers, using the Greek word κρανίον (kranion), from which we get the English word cranium (many anatomical and medical terms derive from Greek words). Luke skips the Hebrew/Aramaic name for the hill where the crucifixion took place, simply calling it κρανίον , which translates literally as “the Skull,” as the NIV, ESV, and other modern translations render it.

So where did the name “Calvary” come from in the KJV? “Calvary” was simply the King James translators’ use of a word derived from the Latin word for skull. In the Spanish RVR1960 translation, which we mentioned previously, the rendering is “de la Calavera,” which, translated into English, means “of the Skull,” which lines up with the NIV, ESV, and other more recent versions in English.
So there’s no conspiracy to remove “Calvary” from the modern translations. The meaning of the original Greek text is still there in the modern English.

In the next installment, we will deal with the other words the Facebook post claims are left out: Holy Ghost and omnipotent.


  1. Brian, you said above, " the NIV and many other translations place the word Lord in small caps". Isn't it rather in ALL CAPS i.e. LORD???

    1. It's a typesetting term. If you look in Microsoft Word or some other word processor, and look at your font options, where it gives you things like superscript, subscript, strikethrough, etc., you will see that one of the options is "Small caps." This takes a word type in regular mixed case, like Lord, and makes all the letters upper case, with the originally capitalized letter full size, and the originally lower case letters slightly smaller. You can see the effect in the paragraph where I mentioned it (I can't make it do it in the comments, or I would put an example here).