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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Why are Bibles Different? Starting Point, Translations, and Paraphrases…

Starting Point
A further issue is which version of the original language is being used as the starting point.  In the New Testament the King James is a literal translation of what is referred to as the Textus Receptus.  It is also the basis of most of the translations that were made into common languages during the reformation.  Most of the modern translations will use what is referred to as the eclectic text.  The primary difference is the eclectic text takes into account the massive amount of ancient documents and fragments of documents that have been found in archeological digs since the reformation.
Why are Bibles Different?  Starting Point, Translations, and Paraphrases…
Textual scholars compare and contrast the different readings in the papyri, uncials, minuscules, and lectionaries in an attempt to reconstruct as closely as possible the original autographs.  This is an ongoing and comprehensive effort.  As noted above most modern versions are based on the results of this work.  In your Bible that will typically show up with either verses skipped or bracketed with a marginal note that explains that the earliest and best manuscripts do not contain the verse.  The most common examples are John 7:53 – 8:11 and pretty much everything after Mark 16:8.

To some extent the same discipline applies to the Old Testament but I am not as well versed on its application to the Hebrew manuscripts.  Read the introduction to your Bible to learn how the committee handled the Old Testament manuscripts.

You may have a translation rather than a version.  What is the difference?  A translation is one person’s work from the Greek or Hebrew.  Tyndale and Luther both did translations.  One of the best known in English is the Phillips.  Wuest is yet another.
Translations are good but do not have the advantage of running their work by peers.  It is their work and can reflect some bias.  I have translated most of the New Testament.  I certainly would not want anyone to use my translation uncritically.

Paraphrases are typically one person’s work starting from, usually, English, and thought by thought putting that thought into more culturally relevant language.  The Living Bible, Todays English Version, and The Message are examples of paraphrases.  Since the starting point is a version or translation, a paraphrase has at least one level of separation from the original text.
While they are easy to read, they are not the best for study – but I get ahead of myself.

So What?
How do we, as believers, make the best use of these differences and how can they best help us in our walk with Christ?  I will make some suggestions on that tomorrow…

Posts in this series:
Why are Bibles Different?

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