A Case for the Bible, Part 7: Has the English Bible been translated so many times that the meaning is lost?
(This blog is part of a series. You can start the series by going back to the September 1, 2014 Introduction called A Case for Christianity: Why do we need one?)
It was William Tyndale who was the first to envision and bring into reality an English translation [of the Bible]. Tyndale’s translation was the first based on the original Greek and Hebrew texts, and it was his labors which opened the way for other translations. –Neil Lightfoot
The thing I find most compelling as I research and study the transmission of the Scriptures is the fact that we even have such a text as the Bible that has carried the same central theme and teachings since the beginning of recorded human history. From early on many have died a martyr’s death for bringing the truth of the Scriptures to Kings, Generals and those in high power. After the time of Jesus, Christians who would not recount the truth of this text (through the Gospel) willingly died as martyrs for their convictions. This has continued through the ages and seems to be resurfacing even more aggressively today.
Over the last few posts we have looked at various evidence for the reliability of the Christian Bible via manuscript evidence (that knocks it out of the ballpark for the Bible compared to other ancient texts), and the criteria for textual criticism which finds over ninety-eight percent agreement between the early manuscripts that we get our versions and translations from. I also put in chart form the transmission through the ages to get a visual grasp of the progression of the material as it was transmitted over time and the chain of custody for the New Testament documents during the first three and half centuries. But what about the translations and versions we have today. Many people will say, “The English Bible has been translated so many times that we can’t know what the original said.”
Not true: The majority of the English Bibles you have today have only been translated once from the original languages and not from a translation of a translation of a translation.
- Since the birth of Christ the transmission of the Bible has come from translations of the original Hebrew and Greek, and a few parts of Daniel and Ezra in Aramaic.
- It seems evident that God chose these languages for specific purposes that helped transmit the Bible accurately from ancient times to today. All we have to do is check with the original languages because they are not lost languages as so many others have become.
- The translations we have today come from the families of texts listed on the previous blog, some of which have very early manuscripts dates that previous translation such as the King James Version, did not have access to.
- The Greek name for the Old Testament.
- The first work to be translated from the original Hebrew into Greek.
- The translation used for the early Jews and Christian through the second century.
The Latin Vulgate
- Latin replaced Greek about the middle of the third century.
- Jerome, an Italian Hebrew scholar, translated from the original Hebrew and Greek into Latin.
- The Vulgate became so popular, and so identified with the Church of Rome, that it became blasphemous to have it in any other language.
It was not until around the mid forth century that Christianity became a protected religion under the Roman government, but this lead to control of the Bible and a hiding of the content that could only be read and taught from the Latin. The common person could not just get a Bible and read or study it they had to trust the priests and those in Church authority to teach it to them. This led to some major Scripture twisting by those holding power that later caused distrust, suspicion and skepticism of the Church and its teachings (which carries on today). Then came the Bible translators during and in the era following the control of the Biblical Scriptures by the Church of Rome:
Bible Warriors: These were people who put their life on the line and often lost it because of their commitment to translate the Bible for the common people. Some of the more prominent examples in the common era are:
- Caedmon: mid 600
- Aldhelm: 709
- Bede: 735
- King Alfred: 901
- Shoreham and Rolle: early 1300
- Wycliffe: 1384
- Martin Luther: 1522
- William Tyndale: 1530
- Knox and Coverdale: 1560
- King James: 1611
Excellent reference: “How We Got the Bible” by Neil R. Lightfoot
With the explosion of the printing press came religious freedom in the modern world to translate the Bible for everyone to read and understand, but oppression by religious and government leaders still permeated many countries and places around the world (as it does even today).
With all the evidence for God’s Word being God’s Word—where will you stand? Could you die a martyr’s death as so many others have for their non-violent stance for the truth of God and the Christian faith? Jesus did and His death was not just for the truth of God’s Word but it was for you and for me.
“‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these people know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’ “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ ” -Act 22:19-21
Join us next week as we continue to examine evidence for the reliability of the Bible.
Let me know what you think: Why are non-violent Christians martyred for holding on to the truth of God’s Word in the Bible?
Over the next several blogs I am going to continue to present logical reasoning and sound scientific evidence not found in the public school textbooks.
Always be ready to give an answer for the hope that you have in Christ Jesus as Lord.
1 Peter 3:15