About a year ago I read a bigoted, mean-spirited post on a blog that I won't link to. The author rejected most modern Bible translations, saying that they had been influenced by "freemasons and Jews." The author then pointed out the ownership of America's two largest commercial Bible publishers. The largest stockholder of one is a man who probably does not claim to be a Christian. The largest stockholder of the other is a man who gives little evidence of genuine Christianity. That brings me to a question: How much should we care about who publishes our Bibles, or about who translates them, or about what store we buy them from?
I don't claim to be an authority on this, but would offer some theories. Which ones do you think are right?
1. The Lord preserves his word. By his grace, most Bibles in the stores are good enough that a person who reads and believes can come to know the Lord well.
2. Believers, on average, will turn out better translations than unbelievers.
3. A scholarly unbeliever who is honest about the meaning of the text can turn out a sufficiently good translation.
4. When a Bible publisher is part of a publicly-owned, profit-making business, the publishers will be tempted to put out editions more geared to making a profit than to making sound, growing disciples.
5. Christian-run, non-profit publishers are also tempted to use the same marketing means as the unbelievers. Some of those publishers give in to the temptation and put out editions that imply that the most important thing about a particular Bible is the binding or the notes geared to a special group of people, such as firefighters or motorcycle riders.
6. Basically-literal translations are less subject to dreadful mistakes than are functional-equivalence translations.
7. As the world moves toward the end of the age, it's possible that there will be more truly bad Bibles put out by various kinds of unbelievers, mostly phony believers.
8. Non-profit Christian publishers are more likely to avoid playing the marketing games. Crossway (publishers of the English Standard Version) doesn't put out any editions with trendy notes. It puts out editions with good cross-references and it allows people to use the electronic edition free.
9. It's good to have some Bible translations that are in the public domain. That way, if the owners of copyrights of other versions become corrupt and pull their editions from the shelves, others can still be distributed legally. The World English Bible is the best public-domain translation in English, so far as I can tell.
10. Whatever the beliefs of the publishers, and whatever the beliefs of those who make a profit from the publishing and sale of Bibles, we can be thankful that the bible is abundantly available in English. There's still a significant need for translations into other languages.
Notes: Here's a quick summary of the ownership of some major English translations.
Public domain: King James Version, American Standard Version, World English Bible.
Owned and published by Christian non-profit organizations: English Standard Version, Holman Christian Standard Bible, NET Bible, Contemporary English Version.
Owned and published by for-profit companies: New King James Version, The Message, New Living Translation.
Owned by a non-profit Christian organization, but published mostly by a for-profit public corporation: New International Version.