by Dave DeSonier
The January 2, 2015 issue of Newsweek magazine featured on its cover an article in which the author states that we can't possibly know, today, what the authors actually said in the original bible documents. To quote from the article:
At best, we've all read a bad translation -- a translation of translations of translations of hand-copied copies of copies of copies of copies, and on and on, hundreds of times.
The premise is that the bible we have today is not an accurate representation of what the original authors wrote. But is this claim true?
Has today's bible really come to us via a long series of language translations, say from Greek to Latin to Armenian to Russian to German to Spanish to English? Or something similar to that? Absolutely NOT.
Our modern English translations of the bible come directly from Greek, the original language in which the New Testament was written. Whether you're using NIV, NASB, NLT, etc., the English text was translated by a team of scholars directly from the Greek. Many bibles will include an explanation of the translation process used.
So on this point the Newsweek author is clearly wrong. Either he is woefully misinformed, or he is purposely trying to mislead readers regarding the process by which modern bibles were translated..
On the other hand, he is correct that our bible came from copies; we don't have the original of any document from antiquity. However, he exaggerates significantly; many New Testament copies are dated quite close in time to the originals, and cannot simply be dismissed as "copies of copies, and on and on, hundreds of times."
Not just bible documents are copies, but so are all other ancient documents you've ever read. For none of them do we have the original that was penned by the author. The materials used in ancient times simply don't last for 2,000 years. They decay over time, and thus make it necessary for scribes to copy documents in order to perpetuate the author's work. The copies available to us are called manuscripts, where 'manuscript' can mean a copy of the entire book, or of only a chapter of the book, or perhaps of just a fragment of one page.
Even though it was from a copy, my high school English teacher still made me read Homer's Iliad…
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