Speaking the Truth in Love

Speaking the Truth in Love

How We Got the Bible: Why Are There So Many Versions? (lesson 4)

I. Introduction

A. It is our aim in the study for all of us to have a better understanding of the Bible, where it came from and how it is presented to us today.

II. What is a Bible translation?

A. It seems it would be a simple thing to go to the bookstore and purchase a Bible but one quickly realizes that there are many choices. 

B. If people are to have access to the Word of the Lord, then it must be accurately and faithfully translated - that is, it must be conveyed from the languages in which it was originally written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit - Hebrew for the Old Testament and Greek for the New Testament (1 Cor. 2:10Eph. 3:3-5; 2Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:20, 21). Zechariah 7:12 illustrates the entire process of inspired revelation:  Lord – Spirit – Prophets - Words!

C. The task for us is to understand that not all these translations are accurate and to educate ourselves on how these various Bibles were translated. If the Word is not translated correctly, then there is no Word of God, but the twisting and perversion of the translator. Unlike the original authors, translators are not inspired of God!

III. The source that is being translated must be considered

A. The original writings of the OT and NT are no longer in existence

B. Thousands of hand-copied NT manuscripts have many variations

C. Textual criticism is the identification & removal of errors in the texts of manuscripts, producing a text closely approximating the original

D. Textual critics determine which readings were most likely original

E. Important textual critics are Erasmus (early 1500s), Griesbach (late 1700s), Tischendorf (mid 1800s), Westcott & Hort (late 1800s), Nestle & Aland (1900s)

F. These men have worked over the centuries to incorporate newly-found manuscripts into the Greek NT used as the basis for English translations

G. We should use a translation that makes use of the latest Greek text

IV. The approach to translation must be considered

A. Formal Equivalence
- attempts to render the text in a literal, word-for-word fashion
- at the expense of natural expression and readability
- goal is to express as exactly as possible the full force and meaning of every word and turn of phrase in the original
- none are truly word-for-word due to differences in Greek & English languages

B. Dynamic Equivalent
- also called functional equivalence or relevant parallel idioms
- attempts to convey the thought expressed in a source text at the expense of literalness
- goal is to generate in the reader the same effect aimed at by the original
- problem is that the original author’s aim is subject to interpretation of translator

C. Formal vs. Dynamic
- No sharp boundary between dynamic and formal equivalence
- Broadly, the two represent a spectrum of translation approaches
- All translations employ both techniques but favor one over the other to varying degrees
- Many contemporary translations lean heavily toward dynamic equivalence, bordering on outright paraphrasing    
V. Things to watch for

A. Paraphrases
1. Paraphrase versions are not really translations as much as they are commentaries on what the translator thinks is being said in a certain passage
2. We should not confuse the Bible which is God’s authoritative word with men’s opinions about what the Bible teaches which is subject to error
3. Most paraphrases are laid out exactly like other Bibles and do not distinguish were the translator is translating versus inserting his commentary

B. When a translation is done by one translator
1. Often these express the views of one person due to their theological bias
a. It is better to find translations produced by a committee of scholars
b. With often hundreds of experts in Hebrew and Greek who examine and critique each other's work in the translation

C. When a translation is done by a denomination
1. Some translations are the work of one religious group; for example:
a. The New World Translation produced by Jehovah's Witnesses

D. It is best to find a translation that is trying to stay as accurate as possibly to God’s original inspired words

VI. How do we know which Bible translation to use?

A. While there is no one right answer, we should make an educated decision when choosing a translation

Following are some of the more popular translations and how they were translated:

The King James Version (KJV) — Translated in 1611 by 47 scholars using the Byzantine family of manuscripts. Its archaic English is difficult for modern readers. This is still a good translation for those who can deal with the language.

The New American Standard Bible (NASB) — Translated in 1971 by 58 scholars of the Lockman Foundation, from Kittle’s Biblia Hebraica and Nestle’s Greek New Testament 23rd ed., which include the Alexandrian Family codices.

The Living Bible (TLB) — A paraphrased rendition of the King James Version by Kenneth Taylor in 1971. Originally intended to help the author’s own children understand the scriptures.

The New International Version (NIV) — Over 100 translators completed this work in 1978 which was composed from Kittle’s, Nestle’s and United Bible Society’s texts, which include the Alexandrian Family codices.

The New King James Version (NKJV) — 130 translators, commissioned by Thomas Nelson Publishers, produced this version from the Byzantine family (Textus Receptus) in 1982. This is a revision of the King James version, updated to modern English.

Good News for Modern Man - first translated in 1966 by Mr. Bratcer is a paraphrase. There quickly followed revisions in 1967 and 1971. It has become extremely popular because it is a very simple translation.

B. One of the best study techniques is to view a passage from several translations to get a better overall sense of the passage.

VII. Conclusion

A. While we need to consider what translation of the Bible we are using, we can have confidence in the accuracy of the scriptures

1. We can believe all of it (and should!):
a. Luke 24:25, 27 - Believe all the prophets…in all the scriptures concerning Himself.
b. Luke 24:44 - Echoes Matthew 5:18!

2. Have confidence in its words - Matthew 22:31-32.

3. “It is written” ended all controversy with Jesus - cf. Luke 10:25-26.