Misconception: We Can’t Trust the Bible Because It’s Been Translated So Many Times (Part 1)

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Misconception: We Can’t Trust the Bible Because It’s Been Translated So Many Times

Some have said that you can’t really trust the Bible, after all, it’s been translated so many different times.  There are a lot of Bible translations, even a lot of modern English translations.  Some people imply that there are a lot of differences between the translations and so we can’t tell what it’s really supposed to say.  But do all the translations affect the trustworthiness of the Bible, as some might think?  Let’s explore this together.


What Are All the Translations Translated From?

papy66bigThere are a few different issues involved in the misconceptions stated above.  One deals with the source of all the translations.  The Bible was originally written in Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) (with a little bit of Aramaic thrown in in the Old Testament).  So how were all the translations made?  Some envision it this way.  The Bible was translated from Hebrew and Greek into some other language, Latin for example.  Then it was translated from Latin into some third language.  Then it was translated from that third language into a fourth language, and so on, until it was finally translated into English.  And so some people might think that our English Bibles today are a translation of a translation of a translation, and so on.

Now if that was the way it happened, I’d agree that you would wonder about it’s trustworthiness.  It would be like the telephone game where one person tells a story to another person, who tells it to another, and so on, and by the time it gets around to the end, the story has changed a lot.  But that’s not how the Bible was translated.  When the Bible is translated it is always translated directly from the original Hebrew and Greek into the language of that translation.  They are not translations of translations.  In the case of each of the English Bible translation you see on a store’s shelves, the translators worked from the original languages and did what they thought was best to translate it into English.

What Are the Differences and Why Do We Have So Many in English?

Naturally, whenever there’s more than one translation of something there are going to be differences.  English has a lot of different ways of saying the same thing and no two people talk or write exactly alike.  Two different translators (or teams of translators, as is the case with each major English Bible translation) are going to translate in slightly different ways.  They are going to make different choices and so there will be differences, but each translation should mean essentially the same thing.  So, yes, there are lots of differences between English Bible translations, but they are pretty minor and if you compare several translations I think you’ll find that they all say basically the same thing.  It’s not as though one translation says “love your neighbor” and another says “loathe your neighbor”.

bible-translationsBut why are there so many English translations?  The Bible was first translated into modern English in the 1500s.  The well known King James Version was translated in 1611.  Since those days the way we speak English has obviously changed.  While you can still understand those first English translations, it can be a challenge.  God chose to have the Bible written in the common language of the people of those days.  I believe he wants everyone to be able to read and understand his word.  So since English continues to change, I think it’s good that we continue to have updated English translations so that everyone can easily read and understand the Bible.

The second reason there are so many English translations is that there are different approaches and philosophies to translating.  These different approaches produce translations that are good for different purposes, reading, study, etc.  Next week we’ll look at these different approaches and compare some  of the more common translations produced by them.  As we do I think you’ll see that having a lot of translations is a good thing,  not a bad thing.

I believe that God has seen to it that the Bible is trustworthy and is available for you and I to read and understand today.  Have you read it lately?  For a convenient online resource with several translations I recommend the Bible Gateway, it’s available in a browser version and a mobile app.  Access to God’s word is easier than ever.

Come back next week for part two.


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Posted on by Reasons for Hope 315 in Misconceptions, Reliable Documents

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