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What about the United Bible Society?

Updated: Apr 10, 2022

By Dr. Phil Stringer

I have read with interest many articles defending the Reina-Valera 1960 (RV 1960) revision of the Spanish Bible. I was surprised that most of these articles fail to tell their readers that the 1960 was produced by the United Bible Society. This leads me to wonder what these defenders of the RV 1960 hold as their position about the United Bible Society.

As I am sure that you know, the United Bible Society has produced over 600 translations of the Bible in languages that already had a Textus Receptus translation of the Bible. Most of these Textus Receptus translations were produced during the great missions movement of the late 1700's and 1800's. A few of them date back to the Reformation.

Most of these new translations were produced under the direction of Dr. Eugene Nida, during his long tenure as Executive Secretary for Foreign Translations of the United Bible Society.

Dr. Nida wrote sixteen books about Bible translation, authored hundreds of articles about Bible translation, and gave thousands of public presentations on the subject. Consequently his goals, procedures and beliefs are well known.

All over the world, Baptist missionaries are confronted with this question, "Should I use the older translations or should I use the newer United Bible Society translation?" What do the defenders of the RV 1960 teach their missions students and missionaries?

Do they teach:

1. That UBS translations should be avoided whenever possible as the products of a modernist Bible society.

2. The UBS translations should be used whenever possible because they are more up to date translations.

3. Each UBS translation should be judged individually.

4. Do they not teach anything about the UBS at all?

This is a very important issue for any institution training missionaries.

One article I read referred to Dr. Nida's work on the NIV. Actually Dr. Nida was not involved with the translation of the NIV. He was involved with the translation of the Revised Standard Version and Todays English Version (Good News for Modern Man).

Some also refer to Dr. Nida's influence on the RV 1960 being overturned by "men of God who remained faithful to the Received Text." Can you name one saved person (professing evangelical) that was involved in the translation of the RV 1960? It is interesting to me that the defenders of the RV 1960 never want to discuss its translators.

Also, I note that many claim the RV 1960 as having the Textus Receptus as its authoritative base. Can you name anyone connected with the RV 1960 translation that says that it was based solely upon the Textus Receptus?

Dr. Jose Flores was a member of the RV 1960 committee. He was also the president of the Spanish Bible Society for many years. He refutes this claim when he says:

"One principle added to the first list of the RV 1960 revision committee was that wherever the RV (1909) Version has departed from the Textus Receptus to follow a better text we did not return to the Receptus. Point 12 of the working principles states: in cases where there is a doubt over the correct translation of the original, we consulted preferentially The English Revised Version of 1885, The American Standard Version of 1901, The Revised Standard Version of 1946, and the Internaional Critical Commentary." (El Texto Del Nuevo Testamento, 1977, pg. 323).

Dr. Eugene Nida also refutes this claim when he says, "Nevertheless in some instances where a critical text is so much preferred over the traditional Textus Receptus the committee did make some slight changes, particularity if such changes were not in well-known verses. . ." (Bible Translation, Vol 12, No.3 July 1961, pg. 113).

Calvin George is a professing fundamental Baptist who has written a defense of the RV 1960 called The Battle for the Spanish Bible.

However, unknowingly, his defense shows the weakness of the textual basis for the 1960. Think carefully on these quotes from his book:

"I cannot deny that there are some deviations in the Reina-Valera 1909 and 1960 that most likely cannot be traced to differences in the TR editions." (p. 42)

"There are a few translations in the 1909 and 1960 than may not be able to be traced to differences in TR editions, or semantics. A few departures come from a critical text." (p. 42)

"I believe Wescott and Hort texts can be consulted in the process of translating (such was the case in the Reina-Valera 1909 & 1960)" (p. 115)

Calvin George is honest enough to admit these facts. He is clear that they do not bother him. But they are contrary to the clear teaching of many fundamental Baptists about the preservation of Scripture.

For decades, fundamentalists have opposed United Bible Society translations in Japanese, Korean, Russian, Norwegian, English and hundreds of other languages. When someone also opposes the United Bible Society translation in Spanish, defenders of the RV 1960 are quick to accuse them of having a secret motive of ending the revival in the Spanish world. Are they so sure that no fundamentalist can have a legitimate motive for opposing the work of the United Bible Society? Such accusations are very serious. If they are wrong in trying to read the minds and judge the hearts of those who oppose the United Bible Society, they have committed a very serious mistake.

There is a real revival taking place in the Spanish world. It is occurring because local Baptist churches are taking their soul-winning responsibilities seriously. However, many revivals in the history of the world have been short lived. Without a zealous loyalty to the word of God, this revival will one day be replaced by apostasy as have other revivals throughout the centuries. A real revival is not threatened by the pure Word of God.

God is no respecter of persons. The pure Word of God is available to people in any language. If godly men are willing to depend upon the Lord and humbly do the necessary translation work God will give them the Word of God. But God does not automatically give the Word of God in any language anymore than He automatically makes anyone a soul-winner. Faithful Christians must be willing to pay the price.

It took several decades and seven major translations in order to get the pure Word of God in English.

One of the articles I read closes with an allusion to Dr. Jack Hyles' famous sermon, "Logic Must Prove the King James Bible". Please note that in that sermon he said "How can we know which is the real Bible? Well you can scratch off the Revised Standard Version because the liberals put that one together."

The same United Bible Society that translated the Revised Standard Version in English translated the RV 1960 in Spanish. Some of the same people, like Eugene Nida, were involved. In the United States, they selected modernist seminary professors to do the actual translation work. In the Latin American world, they selected modernist seminary professors to do the actual translation work on the 1960. Dr. Hyles was right!

Many refer to the large numbers reached by some using the RV 1960. Bill Hybels has a larger church in the U.S. than any of them do in their countries. He draws more people to his conferences than attend any conferences in the Spanish world. He claims that his abandonment of the King James Bible and his use of the New International Version is one reason that he can draw such crowds. Do his numbers justify the NIV in English?

The community church movement in the United States is building some huge Spanish ministries using the RV 1960. Do the numbers justify them?

Dr. Jerry Falwell is influencing Southern Baptist Churches in building some large Spanish ministries. He recommends they use the RV 1960 (he also recommends the New King James and the New Revised Standard Version in English). What do the numbers prove?

There is a large ecumenical evangelism movement in the Spanish world. It is drawing the evangelicals, charismatics, cults, and Roman Catholics together. It is heavily influenced by Louis Palau and The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. It reaches huge numbers. And it usually uses the RV 1960. What do the huge numbers prove about ecumenical evangelism?

Truth is not determined by numbers.

I hope that you will further study the issues involved in the Bible translation and preservation!

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