NO. 5 – TOO MANY CHANGES/TRANSLATIONS
People often say that the bible has been changed too many times to be accurate. They may use the word translation but more likely will say that too many changes have taken place.
What they are most often referring to is the process of writing new translations, of which there have been many over the years.
The key questions to be asked is why do we have so many translations and why where there continual changes made to the text? You could also add here, do we know that those who made the translations where accurate in what they did/changed e.g. what was their motivation?
Here is a summary of the many translations and between the lines will be the reason for the new translation, denoted by an (*).
Keep in mind that as with any historical writing, the older the document supporting an event the more accurate it is considered to be.
– Latin Vulgate (around AD300)
Reigned for around 1000 years in Western Europe. Written by Jerome and was based on Old Latin.
* Not based on original Greek *
Therefore Erasmus in 1516 followed by Stephanus in 1551 wrote the first Greek NT, this translation however was based on only a handful of late Greek manuscripts (MS).
* Discovery new and oldest MS – The Alexandrian MS – AD400 *
Therefore reprint of the Greek text by John Mill in 1707 to take into account this more accurate MS.
* Discovery of Sinaitic and publication of Vatican MS (AD300/AD350) – Now the oldest and therefore most reliable witnesses to the NT text *
Therefore Westcott and Hort produced NT in the original Greek in 1850 followed by the Revised Version in 1881.
* Bible not translated from Greek into English as yet (1524) *
Therefore William Tyndale translated Erasmus’ Greek NT into English in 1525.
King James edition completed in 1611 in an attempt to be all inclusive to all sides (no additional notes included e.g. Non-denominational).
*Shortcomings of KJ text (known as received text) as was translated prior to discovery of Codex Vaticanus, Sinaiticus & Alexandrian. (3 most reliable MS’)
Therefore English Revised version and American standard version completed in order to avail of all new Manuscripts.
* Further Papyri found *
Therefore new revision required which would improve reliability further. One of which was the NIV which works as a phrase for phrase interpretation which improves readability and has an excellent reliability.
There have been other translations not mentioned here but this covers the main ones.
Will there be a need for more translations? Very likely as new MS are coming to light all the time.
So in answer to the question/accusation re: too many translations/changes.
They have been needed due to the unearthing of new but much older MS’ which has increased the reliability by going back closer to the time and by, going back to the original language in which they were written.
We now have over 5,700 Greek MS of the New Testament some of which go back to only 50 years after the original was written
e.g. John Rylands Fragment from John in Manchester, England and dated around AD117
Essentially what this has achieved is to make the NT the most supported writings, with MS closer to the time of the events than any other ancient historical document.
In response to this one could certainly respond with: These changes have increased the reliability of the text and have came about due to an almost supernatural number of MS discoveries, which is literally unheard of in any other area of history.
Any Thoughts/Questions please contact me.