Why Are There So Many Different Bible Translations ?

I often reflect on the direction that I should take the articles we post in the newsletter. Recently, it was suggested of me to write about why we have so many different translations of the Bible, and the benefits/drawbacks of each. As I pondered this suggestion, my mind returned to the multiple times that individuals have approached me on my reasoning for using the particular translation from which I preach, the differences between Bible translations, whether the King James Version is the most reliable translation, and how we received the Bible that we have today. At Brookes Bible College, I have taught a course that included the doctrine of Bibliology (the study of the Bible) at least three maybe four times. Each time that I teach this course, the students seem to be extra interested in the topic of how we have received the Bible we have today. Therefore, this is the subject upon which I have chosen to focus our newsletter articles for the year 2019.

Before we actually start thinking about translations, we have to run through the basics of how we received the Bible that we have today. Generally, there are four stages that must be considered. We will look at all the stages in the following months, while expanding on the last, which is the stage of translation. These stages include inspiration, canonization, transmission, and translation. I will briefly introduce each of these stages in this article, and then explain them in greater detail within the articles to come.

First, the stage of inspiration is descriptive of the original manuscripts, in which the Holy Spirit moved the human author of each text to communicate God’s revelation. The words that were written where co-authored 100% by both the human author and the Holy Spirit. These authors captured this revelation and recorded it in manuscripts. The original manuscripts are considered to be without error and completely infallible.

Second, the stage of canonization refers to the recognition of these inspired texts as just that, inspired. Many confuse the concepts of “determine” verses “discover” in this process. Some claim that the church determined what books would be considered inspired, and therefore be in the “canon” or “rule of standard” that we call the Bible. This idea would be incorrect. God is the one who determines what is inspired and what is not. However, through God’s providential guidance, He has revealed to man what works are inspired, and man has “discovered” these books that belong in a standard that we call the “Canon” or the “Bible.”

Third, these manuscripts had to be copied for distribution purposes, and over time, the original copies were lost. The copying of these original manuscripts is what we call “transmission.” Before Gutenberg invented the printing press, each manuscript of the Bible had to be meticulously copied by hand. This process occurred from the end of the first century to around the sixteenth century, roughly fifteen hundred years. Comparing the thousands of copies in our possession helps us to identify what was actually in the original manuscript.

Fourth, and finally, the stage of “translation” occurs when we take what we believe was in the original manuscripts, after comparing the copies, and translate the works into different languages. There are many things to consider when one translates ideas from a certain language into that of another. Issues of word definition, order of words in sentences, punctuation, and nuances of communication are just a few aspects that must be considered when evaluating different translations. So, tune in as we begin this new journey in 2019, answering the question, “Why do we have so many translations.” Until next time this is Pastor Daniel writing, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit?”