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Sunday, January 28, 2018

Bible Translations and Manuscript Issues

A new Bible Translation, The Pure Word, is out. Looks interesting. I read a sample of its scholarship. Very helpful, but while being literal, it appears to me to fall short where other literal translations succeed.

I think it's a great complement to those works and a valuable resource, but not the end-all. The publishers recommend it be used as a complement to a readable version because it is awkward in English. Sounds good to me.

I'm a little disappointed that they kept apologizing to the KJV. One of the members of the committee was a KJV-only guy until he realized (as many have argued) it suffers from political and ecclesiastical compromises. They write that he wept when hit with the truth.

Rather than cry, he should praise God for delivering him from his false worship. Eh, I'll take all the kissing of the KJV as long as they acknowledge it's not inspired above the original manuscripts.

I hope I can get a copy by the end of this year.

I should say, in the example they give on the order page, they use at least one word I can't find in any Greek manuscript or in any literal translation. They've piqued my interest.

I don't pretend to know Greek, but there are so many great resources, on occasion I've tried my hand at translating. You may have seen some of my attempts followed by "The Michael Scotto translation, which we do not recommend."


Since I commented on translations, I thought I'd share my very little knowledge on the subject. Big picture stuff. VERY generalized for those starting at square one.

There are essentially three kinds of translations: Literal (L), Dynamic Equivalence (DE), and Paraphrase (P). Many translations are a combination, leaning more one way than another. (Another phrase for the L is "formal equivalence," in case you ever see that.)

The KJV, for example, is a literal translation (L). That is, it tries to translate the original manuscripts directly to English. If you'll notice, some words in the KJV (NKJV) are in italics. That's their way of saying they added words for English context. I'd say that reveals it has a slight bit of DE. There are certainly more "literal" translations (like Young's Literal), but the spirit of being L is in translations like the KJV. A readable L is the ASV.

The NIV is a dynamic equivalence. That is, it takes the original text and arranges it more "dynamically" (changes). They add more to try and have it communicate more closely to modern English. It attempts to give the "thought" behind the words, while employing some of the words. Comparatively, The Good News Translation is a looser DE (IMHO)

As we get farther away from the L, we are getting away from translations you would want to use for a "word study" or similar.

Finally, something like the New Living (NLT) or the Message Bible (MSG) would be a paraphrase. To me, they're more like commentaries. They might be helpful for reading comprehension, but certainly somebody's bias is heavily there. I would not recommend P as a study Bible.

Some like the Holman (HCSB) are combo versions (L & DE in this case).

Here are some examples:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was waste and void; (ASV) L 
In the beginning, when God created the universe, the earth was formless and desolate (GNT) DE 
First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. (MSG) P 
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty (HCSB) L & DE allows you to see 56 different English translations. The continuity is sometimes amazing. has an "interlinear" option which shows you the original language and as you roll over the words you can see the English word used. If you click on the word, the Strong's Concordance definition comes up and you can see how many times it's used and how it is translated in other verses.

You will also see options for manuscripts. I'll give a big picture overview of that next time.

Versions I use the most (in no order):

NKJV - New King James Version
NIV - New International Version
ESV - English Standard Version
ASV - American Standard Version
YLT - Young's Literal Translation
EBR - Rotherham's Emphasized Bible
KJV - King James Version
RSV - Revised Standard Version
DARBY - Darby Translation

That's certainly not exhaustive. I've recently started to check the MEV (Modern English Version)

I recommend The Companion Bible (which is KJV) which has excellent notes breaking down words and patterns in scripture.

Finally, I HIGHLY recommend "How to Enjoy the Bible" which is an excellent resource for studying scripture written by a brilliant, yet humble scholar, E.W. Bullinger (DBG).

Used copies are very inexpensive: CLICK HERE


I've decided to go ahead and comment on manuscripts since I mentioned it. Believe me, this won't take long. I've read and listened to a bunch on this topic. I've read scary books about "New Age" texts, etc. But upon closer inspection, I've never really seen the reason for the hub bub.

[I won't go into the Old Testament and New Testament. Just know that with the OT there exits a Greek version (the Septuagint) which is helpful with understanding how some Greek words can be used, but it is certainly less reliable than Hebrew (Chaldean) Jewish texts.]

The differences that do exist in the accepted manuscript evidence do not affect any major doctrine (and really very few minor doctrines if we want to quibble). I'd even argue there are more "problems" among the English translations than among the bulk of the manuscript evidence (and really not much there). IMHO.

Compared to other ancient documents we take for granted as accurate (e.g. Greek philosophers), the biblical manuscripts are incredibly more numerous and reliable.

Here's pretty much what you need to know if you're just a beginner: there are two sets of texts. The first represents the vast majority of what we have. These make of the "Majority" or "Byzantine" texts. You may hear of the Textus Recptus (TR) or the "Received Text." Well, the Majority Text is compilation of medieval texts and the TR is similar. Although not interchangeable, they're essentially the same for our purposes.

We've now covered about 95% of available texts. So why bother with the rest? Well, the other texts (Minority) are older. So, you can see the value in being closer to the originals. Closer, but we know less about their origins. Some prefer the Minority as there is some concern the state church may have not protected (or corrupted) the TR over the centuries.

One of the reasons the TR is "younger" was the practice of preservation by which new copies were made and older copies used for study (thus wearing them out). Since we don't know for certain the origin of the Minority texts, we're left to compare them with the Majority texts (which is healthy).

There are a couple of stark differences, mostly in terms of omissions. Some of the Minority Texts do not have Mark 16, for example.

If you care, the prominently used Minority texts are the Neste-Aland; the Westcott-Hort'; and Syriac-Peshitta. You may also hear of the "Alexandrian" texts. This is essentially to distinguish from the "Byzantine" texts... but neither name is particularly helpful.

Whatever translation you use will probably note the primary text used. It may also list differences in texts in the notes. Again, The Companion Bible (KJV) has a number of these notes. As noted in my last missive, I look at a lot of English translations taken from different texts, and I've never really seen a great chasm. Again, the problems I've seen in the English arise mostly from the prejudice of the translators.

Finally, the worst the Enemy has ever done to attack the Word of God has been done by people purposefully mistranslating it into English. The problem is not with the original texts themselves. And even if we had a perfect English translation, man and his traditions would twist it and use it to deceive. The people who worship the KJV never bother to note that so many heretics and false teachers use it. Not the KJV's fault, but the translation won't keep people from mishandling the Bible.

Satan and Eve both had the pure Word of God; but one twisting it and the other not believing it was the problem. It wasn't the text. As has been said, it's not the few differences that should trouble people, it is the clear declaration of what the manuscripts do teach that men should consider. These make up what men reject. They may use the manuscript differences as their excuse, but it is a rejection of light which lies at the core of their rebellion.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
-John 1:1-5

Some used Companion Bibles out there, but you can probably find an online version for free. The appendices in the back of the book are readily available.

Used Companion Bible: CLICK HERE
The Appendices to the Companion Bible: CLICK HERE

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