2 Corinthians 3:16 "Nevertheless when IT shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away."
There are many different ways this single verse is translated and there are many wildly different ways of understanding what the verse is teaching. And this in spite of the fact that there are no textual differences among the various Greek manuscripts. They all read the same - Ἡνίκα δ' ἂν ἐπιστρέψῃ πρὸς κύριον, περιαιρεῖται τὸ κάλυμμα
The context of 2 Corinthians chapter 3 is the contrast between the two covenants or testaments; that of the law of Moses and the new testament or our Lord Jesus Christ. The law of Moses is referred to as "the ministration of death" and "the ministration of condemnation" and the New Testament is called "the ministration of the spirit" and "the ministration of righteousness". (verses 7-9)
The old covenant has been done away with in Christ and we are now under the new covenant of life and liberty. We then read:
12. "Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:
13. And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:
14. But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.
15. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart.
16. Nevertheless WHEN IT SHALL TURN TO THE LORD, the vail shall be taken away.
17. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."
As I mentioned, there are many different explanations of what verse 16 means and many different ways it has been translated. Many bible versions add words here that are not found in any Greek text, and by doing so, force a certain interpretation upon the verse.
Some say that when Israel turns to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. Others say that when "the heart" of individuals turn to the Lord, then the vail is taken away. However there are several problems with these interpretations.
The word "it" in the King James Bible is singular because the verb is singular and the context is not the nation of Israel, but rather "the children of Israel", which is plural.
And the big theological problem with both interpretations and the idea that "when THE HEART turns to the Lord, the vail is taken away" is simply that there is a VAIL upon their hearts and their minds have been BLINDED by God Himself.
The human heart cannot first turn to the Lord and then the vail is taken away, but rather the vail must FIRST be removed and THEN the heart can see so that it can turn to the Lord. GOD has to first take away the vail that is on their hearts, otherwise they simply CANNOT see.
One would have to first see before they could turn to the Lord; not the other way around.
"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." John 3:3. You must first be born again before you can see. You do not see first and then are born again. Don't put the cart in front of the horse.
The King James Bible is right when it says: "Nevertheless WHEN IT SHALL TURN TO THE LORD, the vail shall be taken away." What the verse is simply stating is that when it is God's time to act, He will be remove the vail from their hearts, and THEN they shall see and be converted to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Bible is its own commentary. Notice that it is God who blinds their minds and it is God who takes away the vail.
Compare Isaiah 25:7-9 "And he (the LORD) will destroy in this mountain (Mt. Zion) the face of the covering cast over all people, and THE VAIL that is spread over all nations. Verse 8. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.
Verse 9. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation."
Comparing the versions
Agreeing with the King James Bible's "Nevertheless WHEN IT SHALL TURN TO THE LORD, the vail shall be taken away." are - the Bishops' Bible 1568 - "Neuerthelesse, when it shall turne to the Lorde, the vayle shalbe taken away.", Whiston's Primitive N.T. 1745, Wesley's translation 1755 (certainly no Calvinist) - "Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.", the Worsley Version 1770, the Thomson Translation 1808, Webster's translation 1833, the Living Oracles 1835, The Pickering N.T. 1840, The Longman Version 1841, Noyes Translation 1869, The Alford N.T. 1870 "whenever IT turneth to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.", The Smith Bible 1876, The Revised English Version 1877, The Sharpe Bible 1883, the Revised Version 1885, Darby's translation 1890, the ASV 1901 - "But whensoever it shall turn to the Lord, the veil is taken away.", The Clarke N.T. 1913, The Improved Bible 1913, The Word of Yah Bible 1993, The Lawrie N.T. 1998, The Yah Sacred Scriptures 2001, J.P. Green's literal translation 2005 - "But whenever it turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.", The Mebust Bible 2007, A Conservative Version 2005, American Bible Union N.T. 2008, The Faithful N.T. 2009, The Hebrew Transliteration Scripture 2010 - "Nevertheless when it shall turn to YEHOVAH(יהוה), the veil shall be taken away. ", The New European Version 2010, The Bond Slave Version 2012, The Far Above All Translation 2014
This online Interlinear Greek translation got it right - "But when IT shall have turned to the Lord, is taken away the veil."
Wrong Translations -
Tyndale 1525 - "Neverthelesse when THEY tourne to ye Lorde the vayle shalbe taken awaye." The verb is singular, not plural, and we have the same theological problem. The vail has to first be removed by God or they WON'T BE ABLE TO SEE so as to turn to the Lord.
The Geneva Bible 1587 - "Neuertheles when THEIR HEART shall BE TURNED to the Lord, the vaile shalbe taken away." There are no words in any Greek text that say "their heart" and the verb is not passive "be turned" but is an active verb - "it turns".
Mace N.T. 1729 - "when THEIR MIND shall turn to the Lord, that veil too shall be taken away." Again, no words for "their mind" in any text.
Thomas Haweis N.T. 1705 - "Nevertheless, when ISRAEL shall turn unto the Lord, the veil shall be taken away." NO word for "Israel" in any text.
Young's 1898 - "and whenever THEY may turn unto the Lord, the vail is taken away." There is no word for "they" and the verb is SINGULAR, NOT PLURAL. Young's is wrong.
Revised Standard Version - "but when A MAN turns to the Lord the veil is removed." There is no Greek word for "a man", and the same theological problem results.
NASB, Holman Standard, ISV - "but whenever A PERSON turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away." There is no Greek word for "a person" in any text.
NIV - "But whenever ANYONE turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away." There is no word for "anyone" in the text.
NKJV 1982, NET - "Nevertheless when ONE turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away." Again, there is no word for "one".
Jubilee Bible 2010 - "Nevertheless when THEY CONVERT to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away." No word for "they" and it is a singular and not a plural verb.
ESV 2011 - "But when ONE  turns to the Lord, the veil is removed." Footnote Greek 'he'.
This again is false and so is the ESV footnote. There is NO Greek word for "he" much less "one" in any text, and you run into the same theological and even logical problem. If the vail is upon their heart, then they CANNOT see in order to turn to the Lord. God has to FIRST remove the vail and THEN they will be able to see.
Catholic St. Joseph NAB 1970 - "But whenever HE turns to the Lord, the veil is removed."
Catholic New Jerusalem bible 1985 - "and this veil will not be taken away, till THEY turn to the Lord."
The King James Bible is right, as always.
"Therefore THEY COULD NOT BELIEVE, because that Esaias said again, HE hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them." John 12:39-40
Paul writing to those who were already Christians - "For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you (Christians), not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as GOD HATH DEALT TO EVERY MAN THE MEASURE OF FAITH." Romans 12:3
"Looking unto Jesus THE AUTHOR and finisher of our faith" Hebrews 12:2
See also the thoroughly Biblical article about "Why do some believe the gospel and others do not?" here -
All of grace, believing the Book and in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom belongs ALL the glory and praise. Salvation is of the LORD - Jonah 2:9,