This question has been prompted by recent articles referring to the misuse of Jeremiah 29:11, now, apparently, a favourite verse.
In two articles I’ve read, the quote is from the NIV:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
However, the KJV says:
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
Other more literal translations are similar.
Dr Irene Lancaster, in her short article at christiantoday.com, says: ” … there is no word for ‘plan’ in the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew word used means ‘thoughts’ – no more and no less. ‘Prosper’ is also a flight of fancy.”
@RevMarkWoods, also writing for christiannews.com, says:
“[Jeremiah 29:11 has] been described as one of the most misused verses in the Bible. Originally a promise to Israel of restoration after years in exile in Babylon, it’s now used as a feel-good affirmation that ‘God has a plan for our lives’ and that everything works out for the best in the best of all possible worlds. This is a long way from Jeremiah’s intention – and a long way from real biblical exegesis, which doesn’t support the idea that God has our futures mapped out for us.
“At its worst, Jeremiah’s verse helps people avoid responsibility for their own choices. It’s a comfort blanket, enabling people to feel that whatever they do – how hard they work, whether they study, whether they work at a marriage or a relationship or a church – doesn’t really matter, because it’s all part of God’s plan.
“And that’s not really how it works. The Bible is clear that the world is a place of moral effort, of responsibility. We aren’t to tempt God by leaving everything to him: he’s given us choices. Yes, we can rely on his guidance and his care for us, but he still expects us to choose well.”
The misuse comes from lifting a more liberal translation of the verse out of context; common, I would suggest, for prosperity and feel-good preachers.
So, does that make the NIV a bad translation? I wouldn’t rubbish the NIV; I used it extensively when involved in a local Bible study group. However, it does show the need for having more than one Bible version available (which I did), with at least one of them being a more literal translation.