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Transmission of the Bible

Article 5: Which Version?

Series: The Transmission of the Bible

Article 5: Which Version?
By Allen Dvorak

The steps involved in getting the Scriptures from God to man are each important. Through the process of inspiration, God revealed His word directly to individuals of the first century who taught the gospel message and recorded it in written form without error (e.g., John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13). In the second step, canonization, the early Christians distinguished such inspired literature from many other religious writings which were not, in fact, produced through the miraculous divine guidance known as inspiration. The incredible transmission record of the Scriptures, through the means of human copying, clearly shows the fingerprint of divine providence.

The final step of the transmission process, translation, is made necessary by the fact that the New Testament was written in the Greek language and is made possible by the work of textual critics who determine the Greek text to be translated. The manuscript copies of the New Testament documents, used to confirm the text of the autograph copies, were copied primarily in Greek and Latin. Since relatively few of us who wish to read the Scriptures are fluent in Greek or Hebrew (the primary original language of the Old Testament), reading the Scriptures in our native language necessitates a translation of the Greek text into another language.

Read more: Article 5: Which Version?

Article 4: The Greek Texts Behind the Versions

Series: The Transmission of the Bible

Article 4: The Greek Texts Behind The Versions
By Allen Dvorak

There are clearly discernable differences in wording between various English versions of the Bible.  Those differences stem primarily from three factors.  The most superficial cause is simply the choice of English vocabulary to translate the Greek text.  There are many synonyms in the English language with slightly different shades of meaning and the translators of the various versions sometimes choose different English words to translate the same Greek word(s).

The other two factors responsible for the differences in wording in English versions are more foundational.  One is the translation philosophy followed by those doing the work of translating.  Some translators strive for a more literal translation; others translate more "loosely" in an effort to produce a version which is smoother in English or more easily read.  Translation philosophies probably represent the greatest source of significant differences in readings between versions.  A future article in this will discuss different translation philosophies with an evaluation of their advantages and/or disadvantages.

Read more: Article 4: The Greek Texts Behind the Versions

Article 3: Tools of the Textual Critic

Series: The Transmission of the Bible

Article 3: Tools of the Textual Critic
By Allen Dvorak

The transmission record of the New Testament documents is excellent, especially when compared to the transmission records of other well-known ancient documents.  There is large number of manuscripts for comparison purposes and the chronological gap between the original documents ("autograph copies") and the earliest extant manuscripts is relatively small.

The scholastic discipline which deals with the actual transmission of the text of the New Testament is known as textual criticism or lower criticism.  In this context, the word "criticism" is not being used in the sense of "finding fault," but rather to mean "evaluation" or "analysis."  "Textual criticism... is the science that compares all known manuscripts of a given work in an effort to trace the history of variations within the text so as to discover all its original form" (Harrison, Waltke, et. al., Biblical Criticism, p. 127).  As noted in previous articles, textual criticism is necessary because of the errors introduced by scribes into copies of the New Testament documents.

Read more: Article 3: Tools of the Textual Critic

Article 2: The Transmission Record of the New Testament

Series: The Transmission of the Bible

Article 2: The Transmission Record of the New Testament
By Allen Dvorak

The original documents of the New Testament books were preserved by God through natural means.  As in the case of all other ancient documents, the method of preservation from one generation to another was through copying.  Scribes made copies of the original documents which apparently perished over time.  Additional copies were made of the first copies so that the inspired words of the original documents (known as "autograph copies") were transmitted through the ages to modern man.

The individuals who made copies of the Scriptures were not inspired as were the authors of the New Testament books.  As a result, these scribes made some errors in their copies.  Although some may argue for divine guidance of scribes (and thus the inerrant quality of their work), it is an irrefutable fact that there are variants among the manuscripts, i.e., differences in the copied text.  To properly evaluate the significance of these variants, it would be helpful to know what kinds of errors were made by the scribes who did the copying.

Read more: Article 2: The Transmission Record of the New Testament

Article 1: The Bible - From God to Man

Series: The Transmission of the Bible

The Bible - From God To Man
By Allen Dvorak

We live in an age of privilege. For a long time after the close of the first century A.D., the average person would have been unlikely to possess a copy of the Scriptures.  The cost of reproduction was just too expensive and thus copies of the Scriptures had to be shared!  We, however, can enter virtually any religious bookstore and, for a few dollars, purchase a copy of the Word of God.

Have we actually purchased the Word of God?  The question arises when we observe the multitude of versions or translations of the Bible which are available for purchase, versions with obvious and significant differences between them.  The Bible certainly claims to be the very Word of God, a bold claim with far-reaching implications.  If its claim can be sustained, the Bible is authoritative in every aspect of our lives.  Naturally, we want to learn the will of God as accurately as possible so that we can be prepared for eternity.  Which version of the Bible should we buy in order to be assured that we have access to God's Word?

Read more: Article 1: The Bible - From God to Man