English Translation Overview

Issues relating to various translations of the bible.
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Tim
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English Translation Overview

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A Brief Survey of the Bible Translated into English

From what I have been able to put together over the years .

In General the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek. Jerome translated the bible into Latin (the “vulgar” or common Latin) called the Vulgate. When the Roman Empire split in two, the Eastern part centered its scholarship in Constantinople and most scholarship continued in Greek. In the West scholarship continued in Latin.

Islam finally conquered Constantinople in the mid 1400s and refuge scholars brought Greek texts with them. Some secured teaching positions in Europe and Erasmus studied in Paris under one of them. Erasmus published a Greek bible which underwent some revisions but greatly influenced the effort to bring the bible into the common language of people during and after the reformation.

The King James English version drew from several of the Greek manuscripts (called the Textus Receptus). This was the most common version for a couple of hundred years.

Westcott (an Anglican bishop and professor at Cambridge University) and Hort (also an ordained priest and professor at Cambridge) produced a Greek New Testament in 1881 based on the findings of Tischendorf. This Greek New Testament was the basis for the Revised Version of that same year. They also developed a theory of textual criticism which underlay their Greek New Testament and several other Greek New Testaments since (including the Nestle-Aland text).

Greek is the key because until the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, there were no very ancient Hebrew texts of the Old Testament. The Old Testament was usually translated from the Greek Septuagint (third century BC).

This gives us two Groups of Greek texts The Majority Texts also called the Byzantine texts and what is called the critical texts (usually consisting of the Sinaticus (promoted by Tischendorf) and the Vaticanus) These two are held to by superior because they are older.

I have not been convinced of the superiority of the Critical text however, almost every translation since 1880 has been based on this new Greek text.

While some of the Majority text is left out of the Critical text and several verses read slightly different. I have found that there is a greater difficulty bringing one language into another. For example, a Greek verb may have information about the duration of action that cannot be put into a single English word. This can result in that information not being included when the translated English word is selected.

The KJV made an effort to italicize English words that were inserted to make the translation read better in English. However, many modern translations do not inform the reader of this insertion because they do not make use of the italicization convention.

The student of the bible is cautioned to not rely too much on a particular translation and make use of tools that can bring in additional information from the original language.

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