The Bible: Original Text versus Translations

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The Bible: Original Text versus Translations

Post  windmill on Sun 02 Dec 2007, 11:36 pm

The Bible: Original Text versus Translations



The original books of the Bible were written in Hebrew (the Old Testament) and Greek (the New Testament). Parts of the books of Daniel and the Gospel of Matthew might have been originally written in Aramaic.

Many translations have been made over the years. In the early days of Christianity the Hebrew Old Testament was usually read in a Greek translation (the so-called Septuagint). As the church spread, the need for translations grew, taking the sacred text into widely accepted languages as well as local tongues. The Bible was soon translated into Latin (the language of the Roman Empire), Syriac (an Eastern Aramaic language), Coptic (Egyptian), and Arabic. By 500 AD, some estimate, scripture could already be found in more than 500 languages.

Unfortunately, translations were not always accurate and errors were made. For this reason – and also because they did not want “ordinary” people to be able to read the Bible – the (Roman) Catholic Church banned any further translations and used only a particular Latin text known as the Vulgate,which had been translated from the Greek around 600 AD. In the 1380s the first English translations were made by John Wycliffe. By 1455 the printing press was invented (Gutenberg), and mass-production capabilities made additional English versions and other language translations more readily available.

Hundreds of translations into English (estimated around 450) have been made over the years. Some of the best known are: the King James (KJV, 1611), the New International Version (NIV, 1978), the New King James (NKJV, 1982), the New American Standard Bible (NASB, 1971) and the English Standard Version (ESV, 2001). This large number of translations is usually grouped into three main categories:

Literal translations: These translate the original texts word for word into the best English equivalent words. These translations are sometimes also referred to as interlinear translations, placing the English rendering along side the original Hebrew and Greek. Although they are undoubtedly the most accurate translations, they can be difficult to read because the flow of language follows the original Hebrew and Greek, quite different from modern English. The NASB as well as the ESV are good examples of literal translations.

Dynamic equivalent translations: These translations attempt to be as literal as possible, but restructure sentences and grammar from the original language to English. They attempt to capture thought and intent of what writers wanted to say. As a result, these are more readable in English, but have a higher degree of subjective interpretation than the literal translations. These translations include the KJV, NKJV, and NIV.

Contemporary language translations: These translation paraphrase the thought and intent of the original text into contemporary English. The result is easy to read, but the text is largely a subjective interpretation of the translator. These versions, such as the well known The Message and The New Living Translation, should be approached with great care. Use them perhaps for supplementary readings, but be aware that these texts can (and often do) differ significantly from the original Bible texts.

Every translation requires interpretation. Why? Because languages do not translate one on one. That is, not every word has a unique word to match it in the other language. Also some tongues are richer in expression than English (such as Greek) or smaller in vocabulary (such as Hebrew). A translator must interpret the original meaning and find an equivalent wording, but this makes the result subject to the biases of the translator. Bottom line: interpretations differ and errors can occur. When translations differ significantly, research into the original language can help clarify the message.

To complicate things a bit, a small number of NT verses are not supported by all ancient manuscripts; this forces translators to decide which verses to incorporate. Most translators are cautious to err on the safe side and note for the reader any verse not supported by the majority of manuscripts.

As an illustration, let’s look at the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6:9-13 in the New International Version and the King James Version:

The Lord’s prayer in the King James:

“After this manner therefore pray ye: ‘Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.’”

Now read the Lord’s prayer in the NIV:

“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’

Apart from “old” English versus more modern English style, notice the two differences in the last verse:

The evil one” versus “evil.” The KJV asks for deliverance from “evil” while the NIV asks to deliver us from “the evil one.” There is a significant difference between the two. The original Greek text actually uses an adjective with an article, making “the evil one” the only correct translation. When we pray we ask to be delivered from the evil one, not from any danger, disaster, or from the general evil of the world.

An extra sentence. Compared to the NIV, the KJV has an extra sentence at the end: “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever, Amen.” This is a good illustration of a later addition to the oldest preserved Greek manuscripts. As the NIV mentions in a footnote: “some late manuscripts: for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Other verses in the NT have similar additions. None of these are of vital theological consequence, but it is important to be aware of these variations.

Therefore the differences between the various English translations are not the result of differences in the extant (still in existence) ancient manuscripts, but merely the result of choices (and sometimes errors) made by the translators during the translation to English.


Rob VandeWeghe is a skeptic turned Christian by studying the evidence for Christianity. More articles like this by Rob are available at http://www.windmillministries.org

You can also view and order Rob's new book on the evidences called Prepared to Answer.

Enjoy and research hundreds of pages of figures, facts, finds and features.

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The Bible: Original Text versus Translations

Post  Guest on Mon 03 Dec 2007, 1:21 am

Thank you for this article, which is much needed. I use a lot
of different translations today. I for one look to the Amplified for the true
meaning of the Greek and Hebrew, when I really want the truth to come out I go
to the Amplified Bible; it is a wonderful Bible. I also love the Scofield Study System
Bible, I have learned so much from this last one, it is almost like the
Amplified Bible but not as detailed. I like the New king James and also the old
but I do read most of the time from NIV. I have heard some preacher talk bad
about the NIV, but I did not buy his DVD, were he was to reveal all the wrongs
of the NIV. So at work on my lunch I read the NIV at home My Scofield Bible and NIV God
Bless you and your love ones Anastasia

Guest
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Re: The Bible: Original Text versus Translations

Post  Waqar Daniel on Mon 03 Dec 2007, 3:52 am

Thank you for your well explained article. However, I do not believe that there are errors in the any version of the Bible. The example you gave of Lord's Prayer is choice of words and no error. Every new translation is based on King James version.

While reading the Gospel written by Mathew, we see his profession being reflected in his writings. He gives precise details as an accountant would do, whereas, John loved Jesus Christ, so his writings shows, what Jesus did out of love without concentrating on details. Similarly Luke's education is reflected in his writings.

Similarly, when we talk of people who translated the Bible, they were also led by Holy Spirit, and their faiths in Jesus Christ counted a lot. The people who translated the English Bible into Urdu (Pakistan's official language) and Persian (Iran's official language) languages, fasted for 40 days. One of them was a blind but was an authority over these languages, and even to this date, no one could translate and give a better version. Although, urdu and persian are not complete languages like Hebrew and Greek. Yes, here I admit, that languages play a very vital role because sometimes you do not have right words to translate into. If you ask me to translate the Bible, instead of Jesus Christ, I would prefer to use LORD and Savior Jesus Christ because this is how I believe in Jesus Christ.

I have yet to see an error in the Bible and yes there are inferior versions like Good News that is translated on the basis of modern culture like instead of virgin they translate into young woman. But whatever word or words they use the context is never changed. All the versions show Jesus Christ as LORD and Savior and Heavenly Father as Almighty God.

God bless you all

_________________


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the LORD Jesus Christ. (Philemon 1:3)


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Re: The Bible: Original Text versus Translations

Post  lisa1880 on Mon 03 Dec 2007, 3:35 pm

I agree with you Daniel and I also maintain this stance that Bible is free of errors or contradictions. If the Bible has errors then what is the use in reading a Spiritual Book full of errors? I don't think there is any point in reading a Book full of errors. Then all those people who say that Bible is full or errors or is corrupted when it reached us over the centuries - are true then. I don't think so, because Bible says it cannot happen and moreover why do we forget this that God inspired the men who translated the Bible.

God bless you all

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Re: The Bible: Original Text versus Translations

Post  LivinginChrist on Mon 03 Dec 2007, 3:39 pm

This is an interesting discussion and I have read many articles on errors in the Bible. Some are true yet some are not. I would say let us discuss them over here and see what errors the Bible has.

God bless

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Re: The Bible: Original Text versus Translations

Post  dove on Mon 03 Dec 2007, 3:45 pm

I really do not care if the Bible has errors, moreover, I believe it to be from God and this is enough for me. One of my non-Christian friends gave me a book that claimed to have 101 contradictions in the Bible. I never read because I do not care what people say or what scholars say. When God said that it is His word then I believe in it as Word of God.

God bless

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Re: The Bible: Original Text versus Translations

Post  THE ROCK on Mon 03 Dec 2007, 6:36 pm

Can you please explain the errors in the Bible?

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Re: The Bible: Original Text versus Translations

Post  THE ROCK on Mon 03 Dec 2007, 6:40 pm

Can you please explain the errors in the Bible?

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Re: The Bible: Original Text versus Translations

Post  thirsty on Tue 04 Dec 2007, 12:50 pm

I agree, please ellaborate on the errors. I hope that we may learn something new.

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Re: The Bible: Original Text versus Translations

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