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November 6, 2007

Translations

Mars Hill Church in Seattle has a wonderful article explaining why they use the English Standard Version (ESV) as their pulpit translation. One of the key reasons is the accuracy of the translation (word-for-word), a rare kind of work the agency specialised in translations can offer. Which raises the question, How did we get the English Scriptures?

Many volumes have been written to explain the miraculous and fascinating process necessary for the Bible?s existence. To help you understand the process in a brief and simple way, Mars Hill explains a five-step sequence that has occurred for you to read the Bible.

God
Revelation/Inspiration
Transmission
Translation
Interpretation
Application
Your Life

One of the highlights of the article is the accuracy of scripture translation in general…

Tragically, opponents of Scripture have attacked its trustworthiness by falsely stating that our current English translations are built upon poorly transmitted copies. However, the bibliographical test of Scripture flatly refutes this false argument. The bibliographical test seeks to determine the historicity of an ancient text by analyzing the quantity and quality of copied manuscripts, as well as how far removed they are from the time of the originals. The quantity of New Testament manuscripts is unparalleled in ancient literature. There are more than five thousand Greek manuscripts, about eight thousand Latin manuscripts, and another one thousand manuscripts in other languages (Syriac, Coptic, etc.). As the following chart illustrates, both the number of transmitted manuscripts we possess of Scripture and their proximity in date to the autographa are astounding and unparalleled in the canon of Western literature.

AUTHOR DATE WRITTEN EARLIEST COPY TIME SPAN NUMBER OF COPIES ACCURACY┬╣
Homer ca.850 BC 643 95%
Herodotus ca. 450 BC ca. AD 900 About 1,350 8*
Euripides ca. 440 BC ca. AD 1100 About 1,500 years 9*
Thucydides ca. 420 BC ca. AD 900 About 1,300 years 8*
Plato ca. 380 BC ca. AD 900 About 1,300 years 7*
Aristotle ca. 350 BC ca. AD 1100 About 1,400 years 5*
Caesar ca. 60 BC ca. AD 900 About 950 years 10*
Catullus ca. 50 BC ca. AD 1500 About 1,600 years 3*
Livy ca. 10 BC ——– ——- 20*
Tacitus ca. AD 100 ca. AD 1100 About 1,000 years
New Test. ca. AD 60 ca. AD 130 About 100 years About 14,000 99.5%

┬╣Taken directly from Ken Boa?s I?m Glad You Asked, page 78
* Not enough copies to reconstruct original.

Simply, if someone seeks to eliminate the trustworthiness of the New Testament, then to be consistent they would also have to dismiss virtually the entire canon of Western literature and pull everything from Homer to Plato to Aristotle off of bookstore shelves and out of classroom discussions. The transmission process of Scripture is, by God?s providential grace, without peer.

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1 comment

  • At 8:07 pm on November 6, 2007, Scuffy old Dad commented:

    Even when their are differences in early copies of Old Testaments writing the differences are minor or subjective. The accuracy of both Testaments is amazing. Thanks for printing this item.

    Even though I use many different translations on my site it isn’t because of the original language problem, but with the English language word usage. –SOD

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