Changes to the Text: Daniel 3:25

Are modern translations of the Bible trying to erase the existence of God from the Old Testament?

A pressing charge made by critics to the unreliability of, or to put it in their terms, dangers of our modern Bible translations comes from Daniel 3:25. The verse in question appears to erase the acknowledgement of the additional person in the fiery furnace as the God of Abraham.

He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. (Daniel 3:25 KJV bold mine)

Compare this with the NIV translation and it’s easy to see why it would raise a few eyebrows.

He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” (Daniel 3:25 NIV bold mine)

Why does the NIV equate the additional person in the furnace with a lowercase god and not the Hebrew God? The answer is that both interpretations are true, they’re just going about it from different perspectives. I refer readers again to Walton’s background commentary on the Old Testament.

a son of the gods – “This is a common expression in Semitic languages for a supernatural being. A polytheist like Nebuchadnezzar would use it for a member of the pantheon of gods. Recognition of a figure as divine would normally be predicated on either the clothing (especially a horned helmet) or what the Babylonians referred to as a melammu, a divine glow around the being.”

Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t a follower of the Hebrew God and thus would not have made the connection, so the NIV’s interpretation is the more historically accurate one. However, Daniel’s audience knew who the divine being is so translators would have made the appropriate changes to reflect that. The KJV reflects our perspective, the NIV and other modern translations reflect Nebuchadnezzar’s perspective. Both remain faithful.