Sunday, November 07, 2004

Why are there so Many Different Versions of the Bible? Shouldn’t there Just be One? Part 2

The Bible has been translated into more languages than any other book in history. In fact it is currently written in 2,200 different languages with over 90% of the world’s people able to read it. A legitimate question naturally arises as to whether or not errors occur during translation. The short answer to this is no, they don’t occur. First, anytime a new translation is started, a diverse team of Scholars comes together to work on it. This not only ensures that one man with his own agenda will not manipulate the word of God in anyway, but that in the rare cases of uncertainty in how to translate something, a wide array knowledgeable experts can arrive at a consensus. Secondly, all translations (whether English or any other language) are made from the original manuscripts. New translations are never translated from old translations. For example, if one were making a new English translation, they would use the original Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic manuscripts and not an English version like the King James or New American Standard. Thirdly, new translations always use the oldest manuscripts available. Manuscripts that may not have been discovered until recently will usually take priority over manuscripts that have been used for other translations of the Bible. This is done to help ensure that the translation is as accurate as possible.

Bible translations/versions are nothing new. Two hundred and fifty years before Jesus was born there was a translation of (what we know as) the Hebrew Old Testament into a Greek document called the “Septuagint.” This translation was for non-Hebrew speaking Jews living in Alexandria to have the ability to read their holy scriptures. Many New Testament writers were familiar with the Septuagint and even used it themselves. This shows that translations are not “altering the word of God” yet simply making them accessible to more people.

The English language changes so fast and is so complex that it needs different translations. We must remember that these different translations serve different purposes and there are different times when different translations are appropriate. For example, I use three different translations at any given time. I will use the New Living Translation for pleasure reading because to me it reads like a novel. I use the New International Version for devotionals or quite time because it has a good balance of readability and word-for word translation. I use the New American Standard Bible if I need to know exactly what word is used and how it is supposed to be understood. All three of these translations are accurate and all three are used at the appropriate times and in the appropriate ways they were designed.

Although we have barely scratched the surface, I hope that I have shown you that there are legitimate reasons for having the different versions of the Bible. Feel free to email me with questions or topics you’d like to explore.

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