Posted in: Book Reviews

An AIA review of New Age Bible Versions

Copyright 1994 by Bob and Gretchen Passantino.
This article first appeared in Cornerstone Magazine

(G. A. Riplinger. New Age Bible Versions: An Exhaustive Documentation Exposing the Message, Men and Manuscripts Moving Mankind to the Antichrist’s One World Religion. P.O. Box 388, Monroe Falls, OH: A. V. Publications, 1993, $15.00, 690 pp.)

What if the Bibles we use pervert and obscure God’s Word, and are actually being used by Satan to seduce the Church into accepting the One World Religion of the coming Antichrist? What if we couldn’t trust our Bibles to warn us of false doctrine, coming persecution, or heretics? What if we couldn’t depend on our Bibles to protect us from evil?

That’s exactly the kind of paranoia and fear promoted in a new best-selling, self-published book, New Age Bible Versions, by G. A. (Gail) Riplinger, whose work has been endorsed by Jack T. Chick, Texe Marrs, and Dr. David Hocking, who described the book as “a devastating argument to prove that the old KJV still stands as the best English translation that’s ever been produced.” [1] She claims her book has sold close to 40,000 copies and is being translated into Norwegian and Korean. Riplinger says she has promoted the book on 600 radio programs, including a week on the nationally syndicated Southwest Radio Church. [2]

Riplinger and her promoters want you to believe you can’t trust any English translation but the King James Version, whose first edition appeared in 1611. Riplinger states,

“Much digging in libraries and manuscripts from around the world has uncovered an alliance between the new versions of the Bible (NIV, NASB, Living Bible and others) and the chief conspirators of the New Age movement’s push for a One World Religion.” [3]”Since cults and New Agers like to lace their arsenic with scriptures, the adulterated verses in new versions will no doubt find themselves hip to hip with some strange and Godless philosophies. ‘The One’ in the new versions will certainly be used to perpetuate the idea that the Judeo-Christian God is the same as the god of the New World Religion.” [4]

“The New King James Version and the New American Standard Version are in poor company rallying with, not only these two cults [Jehovah’s Witnesses and Worldwide Church of God], but the New Age.” [5]

There are dozens more similar statements throughout the book, ending with “The harlots haunting the new cults, new age, new versions, ‘new’ Christianity, and new One World Religion are like the five fingers on a hand. Each varies in purpose, but Satan is waving the hand, moving the fingers and ‘reaching out’ to choke the church.” [6] It may seem belaboring the point to present four quotes, but it is essential to note that this New Age satanic conspiracy pervades the entire book. It is not possible to endorse the King James Only thesis of this book without also endorsing the New Age conspiracy idea. Every example Riplinger gives of new version perversions is linked to this satanic New Age plot. She never simply disagrees with a new version translation: she explains the disputed translation portion as a part of the plot. The new version translators can’t simply be wrong, they are inextricably tied into occultism and/or New Ageism and it’s their occult orientation that compels their “wrong” text development or translation.

Gail Riplinger does not have any advanced degrees in Bible, theology, linguistics, textual criticism, or any other academic subject related to the subject of this book. She has not been associated with any well-known, accepted counter cult organization or expert, nor has she had previous books published on biblical issues. No reputable biblical scholar has endorsed her thesis or her arguments. Riplinger has advanced degrees in Industrial and Environmental Design (a branch of what used to be called Home Economics) and taught Family and Consumer Studies and Retail Space Plans (Home Economics) for a few years at Kent State University in Ohio. When she is asked what facility she has in biblical languages, she says that as a school girl she took Latin, and after graduation from high school, she worked as an English tutor with Greek immigrants. [7] On a radio program she admitted she could not read Greek or Hebrew. [8]

However, this lack of background, expertise, and education doesn’t daunt Riplinger. She explains why she has such confidence in her arguments — God gave them to her! In an article she wrote called “Why I Wrote the Book: New Age Bible Versions” [9] she declares, “Each discovery was not the result of effort on my part, but of the direct hand of God — so much so that I hesitated to even put my name on the book. Consequently, I used G. A. Riplinger, which signifies to me, God and Riplinger — God as author and Riplinger as secretary . . . . ” Although she has echoed this affirmation numerous times since in personal interviews and on radio programs, her book is actually erroneous, sensationalistic, misrepresentative, inaccurate, and logically indefensible. Her writing is ponderous; her graphs and charts are misleading; her reasoning is contradictory and convoluted; and her paragraphs are peppered with inept alliteration and mismatched meter.

This is not the forum for a lengthy discussion of textual transmission or textual criticism. The controversy Riplinger has entered is a complex one which too often combines scholarship with paranoid sensationalism. The following short summary provides background for evaluating Riplinger’s thesis.

There are thousands of hand copied manuscripts or portions of manuscripts of the Greek New Testament and Hebrew Old Testament. Some Old Testament portions date before the time of Christ, and New Testament fragments have been found which date to within a short time after the originals were composed in the first century. Because every text had to be hand copied until the invention of the printing press at the end of the fifteenth century, and because manuscript copying tended to stay in particular areas, recognizable kinds of mistakes and modifications crept into manuscript groups very early. Most differences in manuscripts involved misspellings, local variations (analogous to the differences between British and American English), and other inconsequential differences.

As Latin became the predominant Church language in the Western Church, the number of Greek manuscripts decreased. In the Eastern Church, where Greek continued to be the language of the people, more Greek manuscripts were produced, but these later manuscripts tended to absorb some of the later Greek usages and repeated some earlier transcription mistakes. Consequently, while the majority of our Greek manuscripts come from the Byzantine manuscript family, many of them are from the Middle Ages and few remain from the earliest centuries. The standard text prepared from this family is called the “Majority Text.” On the other hand, western manuscripts (such as the Vaticanus and the Sinaiticus) are very ancient, but we have fewer copies to compare and so it is sometimes more difficult to determine the original readings of some passages. The most well known text “family” that is not Eastern is the Alexandrian.

When the King James Version was prepared in 1611, it relied on a Greek text prepared less than 100 years earlier by a Roman Catholic cleric, Erasmus, from a little more than a dozen late Byzantine manuscripts. Erasmus’ text, after several more revisions, became known as the “Textus Receptus,” or, as its printers immodestly christened it, the text received or accepted by the people at large. Erasmus’ earlier editions, as well as the Textus Receptus represent manuscripts from the Byzantine text type, represented today in the Majority Text.

With the development of archaeology in the nineteenth century, many more manuscripts and manuscript portions were found, and some were dated extremely early. The two premier textual scholars of the late 1800s, B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, prepared a new Greek text based on these newly found ancient manuscripts. This text, commonly called the “Westcott-Hort” text, represents what they call the “neutral” text. In this century other scholars have added knowledge from many more manuscript finds and the critical texts used today, such as that from which the New International Version was translated, seek to take the best readings from the best manuscripts, whether they are older or more recent. Most contemporary translations are prepared from a critical text. The New King James Version relies on the King James Version (1769 edition), and thus the Majority Text type or family, but disputed and unclear passages were modified with reference to contemporary critical Greek texts.

Any contemporary translation that uses adequate and accurate translation methods and depends on a reliable critical Greek text can be trusted to accurately represent God’s Word as it was originally given in the Old and New Testaments. [10] The differences in meaning from one responsible translation to another are insignificant. The critical Greek texts are published by reputable publishers and are available to anyone. Those few passages which differ from one text type to another are well-known and usually noted in any study Bible edition of any reputable version. As Dallas Seminary professor Daniel Wallace summarizes,

“If the quality of the text (i.e., its doctrinal purity) is not at stake, then what about the quantity? How different is the Majority Text from the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament or the Nestle-Aland text? Do they agree only 30 percent of the time? Do they agree perhaps as much as 50 percent of the time? This can be measured, in a general sort of way. There are approximately 300,000 textual variants among New Testament manuscripts. The Majority Text differs from the Textus Receptus in almost 2,000 places. So the agreement is better than 99 percent. But the Majority Text differs from the modern critical text in only about 6,500 places. In other words the two texts agree almost 98 percent of the time. Not only that, but the vast majority of these differences are so minor that they neither show up in translation nor affect exegesis. Consequently the majority text and modern critical texts are very much alike, in both quality and quantity.” [11]

So, while there are textual scholars who prefer the Majority Text, such as the late Dr. Harry Sturz (The Byzantine Text-Type and New Testament Textual Criticism. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984) or Zane Hodges (and A. L. Farstad, eds. The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982). They would not support Riplinger’s outlandish claim that the King James Bible is God’s only English Version.

The Book: A Closer Look

Riplinger argues that all new translations and versions corrupt the preserved translation of the King James Version, which she says is based on the “true” Majority text, which she equates with the Textus Receptus. She goes further than most KJV Only proponents in delineating specifically what she means by the new versions being “satanically inspired” by attributing the new versions to a satanically controlled, century-old conspiracy to transform the Word of God to make it compatible to New Age theology, which she believes is the end-time, one-world religion of the anti-Christ.

Although New Age Bible Versions is littered with quotes and footnotes, most of the quotes are irrelevant, out of context, and/or unnecessary. There are numerous charts, lists, comparisons, and pseudo-technological reports, although they don’t prove anything.

For example, chapter eleven argues that the King James Version is the easiest version for children to learn based on a Grade Level Indicator literacy test developed by the Flesch-Kincaid research company. Riplinger reports that “The KJV ranks easier in 23 out of 26 comparisons.” [12] However, the majority of this testing involves the total number of vocabulary words used and the percentage of multi-syllabic words used, not the contemporary familiarity of the vocabulary. Riplinger admits this, saying, “Why is the KJV easier to read? The KJV uses one or two syllable words while new versions substitute complex multi-syllable words and phrases.” [13] Riplinger then presents a chart comparing words from various verses between the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and the King James Version (KJV). However, her list reveals that there are some words in the NASB that might be more complex or longer than the KJV, but which most American children should have no trouble understanding.

Verse         NASB          KJV           Our comment

Matt. 1:11,   deportation   carried       What American hasn't
Matt. 1:17                  away          heard deportation in
                                          regard to Haitians,
                                          Cubans, and undocu-
                                          mented aliens?

Matt. 9:13    compassion    mercy         What American hasn't
Matt. 12:7                                heard compassion
                                          related to AIDS, and
                                          yet wouldn't be
                                          familiar with "mercy"
                                          in our justice-
                                          relative society?

Luke 1:22     mute          speechless    What American
                                          doesn't know what
                                          "MUTE" on his
                                          remote control

Other differences actually make the verse more accurate, educating the reader who might be unfamiliar with first century Palestinian culture.

Verse         NASB          KJV          Our Comment

Luke 5:29ff   recline       sat          In those days, they
              at table                   reclined on couches.
                                         They didn't sit at the
                                         kitchen table.

Matt. 10:10   tunics        coats        They didn't wear
                                         windbreakers, but
                                         shaped blanket out-

Matt. 9:17    wineskins     bottles      They didn't use glass
                                         bottles, they used

Perhaps the funniest misuse of charts is her “ACROSTIC ALGEBRA.” [14] Simply put, she analogizes between the contents of the versions and their letter designations. She says to take the letters representing the New American Standard Version (NASV) and New International Version (NIV) and the King James Version, or Authorized Version (AV). If you eliminate the letters the NASV and NIV have in common as representing the heresies the two versions have in common (but leave the second N), and the letters they have in common with the AV as representing the scattered truth in both versions used to mislead people, you are left with the letters S-I-N — an appropriate designation for these New Age versions!

We couldn’t believe she thought such a silly letter game had validity, but she affirmed her faith in this method. She said God told her how to work the system out! [15] When we asked her why she had to use the abbreviation for the Authorized Version (AV) instead of the King James Version (KJV) in this place only, she repeated that God told her to. After all, she asked, how could something so profound be only coincidence? Well, we decided to try to duplicate her feat. We took the letters representing seven versions (since seven is the perfect number of God), and went through the same procedure without exception, and we able to develop a pseudo-argument that the KJV is actually “Satan’s” tool!

We used Cunard’s Authorized (CA), King James II (KJ2), Hayman’s Epistles (HE), Revised English Bible (REB), New International Version (NIV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), and Barclay’s New Testament (BNT). When you contrast these seven versions with the KJV you get this:

     (CA - KJ2 - HE - REB - NIV - NASB - BNT) - (KJV)

When you omit all of the letters they have in common, you’re left with a nonsense sequence:

              (C K J H R I V S T) - (KJV)

When you omit the letters they have in common with the KJV, you’re left with the profound proclamation:

                    C H R I S T

Using Riplinger’s “ACROSTIC ALGEBRA” logic, these new versions must be from God! This illustrates the ridiculous nature of Riplinger’s argumentation. Obviously, neither math trick has anything to do with accurate discernment of translation purity!

Riplinger seems to be a master at non-sensical arguments. In addition to her Acrostic Algebra and many other silly arguments, she even speculates that the sounds of different letters provide clues to the New Age conspiracy. At one point she discusses the difference between a Greek word in the Majority Text compared to the Greek word in the same passage in another Greek text. She says the two words differ only by the addition of an “s” on the end of the Westcott-Hort text. [16] She concludes, “Watch out for the letter ‘s’ — sin, Satan, Sodom, Saul (had to be changed to Paul). The added ‘s’ here is the hiss of the serpent.” [17] Aside from the fact that “s” sounds and words have nothing to do with the integrity of the text, what would Riplinger do with good “s” words such as salvation, Savior, sacred, sacrifice, sabbath, Samuel, sanctification, scripture, servant, and shepherd?

Repeatedly Riplinger quotes scholars out of context to support her conspiracy theories. For example, she accuses the New International Version (NIV) of trying to hide the deity of Christ in scripture, and declares that NIV Translation Center Executive Director Kenneth Barker admits his lack of faith in the deity of Christ. She quotes him saying, “‘Few clear and decisive texts say that Jesus is God.'” [18]

Barker actually is criticizing the King James Version for using a less reliable textual tradition for John 1:18 which obscures a passage clearly declaring the deity of Christ, which Barker believes is repeatedly assumed in the Bible, but explicitly states infrequently:

“A striking case of where the KJV, following back Greek copies of the original text, changed the original is John 1:18. The KJV says, ‘No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.’ John 1:18, as inspired by the Holy Spirit, is one of those few clear and decisive texts that declare that Jesus is God. But, without fault of its own, the KJV, following inferior manuscripts, altered what the Holy Spirit said through John, calling Jesus “Son.” [19]

Riplinger grossly misrepresents Dr. Norman Geisler by yanking a quote out of context to support her misapprehension that anyone who uses the term “the Christ” is somehow a closet New Ager. She says, “Liberty University’s Dean Norman Geisler adds: ‘We should be particularly wary when someone refers to Jesus Christ as “the Christ” . . . ‘” [20] However, Geisler and Amano actually said,

“We should be particularly wary when someone refers to Jesus Christ as “the Christ spirit” or “Christ-consciousness.” [21]

In fact, the King James Version uses “the Christ” in numerous passages, including John 1:41, John 20:31, 1 John 5:1, and 1 John 2:22. Her argument is nonsense. Almost every single quotation she makes is out of context and/or misrepresents the author(s).

New Age Bible Versions repeatedly maligns trustworthy Greek and New Testament scholars, accusing them of occultism, homosexuality, and New Ageism. Only a couple of examples can be given here. During an early 1994 radio debate with counter-cult apologist James White in Arizona, Riplinger accused the NIV of being “soft” on homosexuality by translating anti-homosexuality passages with euphemistic terminology that obscured the evils of homosexuality. She said the reason for this was that some of the NIV translators were homosexuals themselves. Here is the response given by Dr. Kenneth Barker, Executive Director of the NIV translation center:

“These charges have no basis in fact. Thus they are simply untrue. And those who make such false charges could be legitimately sued for libel, slander, and defamation of character.Here are the facts. It is true that in the earliest stages of translation work on the NIV (in the late 1960s), Virginia Mollenkott was consulted briefly and only in a minor way on matters of English style. At that time she had the reputation of being a committed evangelical Christian with expertise in contemporary English idiom and usage. Nothing was known of her lesbian views. Those did not begin to surface until years later in some of her writings. If we had known in the sixties what became public knowledge only years later, we would not have consulted her at all. But is must be stressed that she did not influence the NIV translators and editors in any of their final decisions. . . .

Homosexual and lesbian practices are condemned just as clearly and strongly in the NIV as in any other English version. See the NIV renderings in Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:10; Jude 7.” [22]

No New Testament scholar is more maligned by Riplinger than Dr. B. F. Westcott, who produced the Westcott-Hort Greek text which became the most comprehensive Greek text of this century until new critical texts were prepared which reflected manuscript finds and linguistic developments of the last half of this century.

Riplinger repeatedly accuses Westcott of promoting and participating in occultism. She claims that Westcott (and Hort) were active in the occult community of late nineteenth century London, and ties him to Theosophical founder Blavatsky through what she claims was their common reading material. However, a careful search of reliable resources on nineteenth century English occultism fails to turn up any association of Westcott with occultism. What is Riplinger’s strongest “proof” that B. F. Westcott was an occultist? It’s buried at the end of her book, in footnote 128 of chapter 30 (p. 676-677) where she recounts that Westcott’s son and biographer “points out that his father’s signature was almost always read as W., not B., preceding his last name.” Aha! Now it makes a sort of insane sense: William Wynn (W.W.) Westcott was a well-known London occultist and coroner. This physician’s life, however, was very well-known, he occupied prominent positions in society, politics, and business in London, and he certainly was not B. F. Westcott or B. F. Westcott masquerading as a physician-coroner-occultist! Even Riplinger seems to realize how far she’s stretching it, as she ends her footnote, “The connection between B. F. Westcott and the activities attributed to the possible allonym W. W. Westcott are speculation on my part.” Speculation she may admit, but only in an obscure footnote at the end of the book, after dozens and dozens of brazen text declarations that Westcott’s overt occultism destroyed any validity to his Greek text of the New Testament! This is so misrepresentative that it is hard to imagine how she could have libeled Westcott in ignorance.

There is hardly a page of this book that is free from error. Riplinger does not know Greek, Hebrew, textual criticism, linguistics, principles of translation, logical argumentation, proper citation and documentation standards, competent English grammar and style, or even consistent spelling. This book would never have done more than use Riplinger’s savings and fill up her garage if Christian “celebrities” such as Texe Marrs and David Hocking had not promoted it. That Riplinger invested so much time, effort, and misguided zeal into this disaster is regrettable. That Marrs promoted it to his nationwide radio audience, that Hocking promoted it to almost 300 Calvary Chapel pastors, or that Jack Chick promoted it to his many thousands of catalog recipients is reprehensible. These irresponsible celebrities should remember James’ warning: “let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment” (James 3:1 NKJV).

For Further Study

Accurate, non-sensational, well-documented information on textual criticism and contemporary translations is available in books by reputable scholars. The following four short books are clear, concise, and reliable: Kenneth L. Barker, editor. The NIV: The Making of a Contemporary Translation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986; David Alan Black. New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1994; D. A. Carson. The King James Version Debate: A Plea Realism. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979; and Philip Wesley Comfort. The Quest for the Original Text of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1992.

  1. In an address at the Pastor’s Conference sponsored by Calvery Chapel of Costa Mesa, September 29, 1993 (Twin Peaks Conference Center.)
  2. Interview with Bob Passantino 1/12/94.
  3. Page 1.
  4. Page 95.
  5. Page 455.
  6. Page 614.
  7. Interview with Bob Passantino 1/12/94.
  8. Host Dr. H. Wayne House, May 1994.
  9. In The End Times and Victorious Living newspaper of the Paw Creek Church and Media Ministry, January/February 1994 issue, pp. 1-15.
  10. Cultic translations such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses New World Translations do not follow these principles and perpetuate their heretical doctrines through mistranslation.
  11. Daniel B. Wallace. “The Majority Text and the Original Text: Are They Identical?” in Bibliotheca Sacra April-June 1991, pp. 157-158.
  12. Page 195.
  13. Page 196.
  14. Pages 149-150.
  15. Interview with Bob Passantino, 1/12/94.
  16. She never mentions that “s” is an English letter, and that, if anything, the Greek letter would not be and “s” but a “sigma.”
  17. Page 232.
  18. Page 2.
  19. Kenneth Barker, The NIV: The Making of a Contemporary Translation, p. 143.
  20. Page 318.
  21. J. Yutaka Amano and Norman L. Geisler. The Infiltration of the New Age. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1991, p. 142.
  22. Copies of the complete public statement are available by writing Dr. Barker, Ececutive Director, NIV Translation Center, P.O. Box 292307, Lewisville, TX 75029-2307. You may also request a copy of the Center’s statement on New Age Bible Versions and its charges of NIV involvement in promoting the New Age Movement.
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