Thursday, January 26, 2017

Is Your Bible "Translated and Re-Translated?"

"The Bible's been translated and re-translated so many times, no one knows what it means."

I was in college the first time I heard those words. The accusations went on: "Modern Bibles just change the King James into modern English, and it was translated from Latin. No one knows what the Bible said when it was written."

It's hard to believe someone can fit so many inaccuracies into such a small space.

While I'd grown up in church, I had only recently started reading the Bible for myself. Being the nerd that I am, I had read a very under-read section of the Bible: the preface.

The first sentence reads, "The New International Version is a completely new translation of the Holy Bible made by over a hundred scholars working directly from the best available Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts." Every modern (protestant*) version has similar verbiage.

Once upon a time Bibles were translated from the Latin because that was what they had available. Since then, thousands of copies of the New Testament in Greek have been discovered. We also are better able to translate those Greek texts. (Finding people who still speak ancient Hebrew is comparatively easy.)

But in truth the Bible has been translated and re-translated many, many times. And that's a good thing. We don't just have Greek texts and research showing what those Greek words mean. We have translations into Latin, Syriac, Coptic, and many other languages made by people who spoke Koine Greek like a native. When they translated the Greek into Latin, they told us what they thought that Greek word meant. The rich tradition of translating the Bible into local tongues is a priceless gift to Bible translators.

Don't let people snow you. Any mainstream Bible you can put your hands on is a good translation of (to a high degree of certainty) what the prophets and apostles wrote into our modern languages.

If you want to go into more detail on the subject, I recommend How We Got the Bible, which goes into the history of how we got the manuscripts used for modern translations, how we use them to reconstruct the original text, and how we translate them into modern tongues.

* Roman Catholic Bibles are apparently still translated from the Latin Vulgate (which was translated from the Greek texts).