"There Is One God And One Mediator Between God And Men, The Man Christ Jesus" 
1 Timothy (2:5)

The Translation History Of The Bible


JESUS founded Christianity, and his followers spread it abroad during the days of the Roman Empire. You can still see Roman roads, aqueducts, and monuments in such lands as Britain and Egypt. Those Roman remains are real. They remind us that Jesus and his apostles were also real, as were the things they said and did.



From The Torah To The Bible

Torah is the Hebrew word for the first 5 books of the Bible and it is the foundation of the Old Testament just as the Old Testament is the foundation of the New. However, it can also be used to refer to the entire Jewish bible (the body of scripture known to non-Jews as the Old Testament and to Jews as the Tanakh or Written Torah), or in its broadest sense, to the whole body of Jewish law and teachings. The Old Testament (Tanakh) is the Holy Scripture that Jesus (Yeshua, in Hebrew) taught from, and His Disciples referred to, since there was no New Testament until well after the time of the Apostles that succeeded Him.

To Jews, there is no “New Testament.” The books that Christians call the New Testament are not part of Jewish scripture.


The “Law” is a biblical term for the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. They are also called the “Books of Moses” because Moses wrote them. In the Hebrew language (the language in which the Old Testament was written) Torah is a word that means “instruction“. God’s intention for giving the Torah is to instruct his people in holiness:


(Exodus 24:12, emphasis added)  “And the LORD said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them


The Torah contains the record of creation, the story of the fall of man, the plight of humanity, the call of Abraham, the exodus from Egypt, the stories of the wilderness wanderings, the covenants with Israel, and a lot of rules and instructions from God. These rules and instructions include well-known passages like the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). They also include ritual laws about sacrifices, holy days, dietary restrictions, and various ceremonies. For all of the 1,400 years from the days of Moses to the days of Jesus, the Torah was the rule of life and standard of godliness for God’s chosen people Israel.

When we see reference to the “Scriptures” in the New Testament the author is referring to what we call today the Old Testament. They never understood or considered it the Old Testament; they referred to it as the Torah.



The Meaning Of Translation 

The dictionary meaning of translation is the process of changing something that is written or spoken into another language, whereas transliteration is to write or describe words or letters using letters of a different alphabet or language (Wehmeier, McIntosh, Turnbull, &Ashby, 2005, p.1632).

It is important to remember that the Bible was not originally written in English. The Old Testament writers used Hebrew, a Semitic language written from right to left with no vowels.
(A few passages were written in a related language called Aramaic.) The New Testament was written exclusively in Greek, though in a form that differs substantially from the modern language.


Here’s the way the original languages appeared:


(O.T. – Isa 42:8)  Remember, Hebrew is read Right To Left (←)

 יְהוָ֖ה ה֣וּא שְׁמִ֑·י וּ·כְבוֹדִ·י֙ לְ·אַחֵ֣ר לֹֽא־ אֶתֵּ֔ן וּ·תְהִלָּתִ֖·י לַ·פְּסִילִֽים : Isa 42:8 (KJV)


(N.T. –  John 1:18)   Greek

θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε· ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός, ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο


For us to read the Bible in English, it has to be translated. Someone has to read it in the original language and determine how to express it in English. This process is more complex than it sounds, and it contributes to the plethora of Bible translations.


First, scholars differ on how translation should be done.

Second, the English language changes over time, leading to updates of previous versions or entirely new ones.


The key skills of a translator is the ability to understand the source language and the culture of the country where the text originated, then using a good library of dictionaries and reference materials, to render that material clearly and accurately into the target language.


Different versions reflect different theories of translation. All translations must make a number of changes and interpretive decisions to render Scripture in intelligible English. If they followed the Hebrew or Greek exactly, most passages would be utterly confusing and possibly unintelligible.


For Example:

• English word order must be given priority. English is locked into subject-verb-object order, whereas a Greek writer can move these elements anywhere in the sentence. So “God no one has seen ever” becomes  “No one has ever seen God.”


• Many expressions must be interpreted and expressed in a different grammatical form in English. For example, a participle may need to be expressed with a finite verb and made into a relative clause, so that “the being” becomes “who is.”


• Words that are not in the Greek text but are implied must be added: “that one explained [him].”


• Certain words need to be interpreted: “Only begotten” (KJV, NASB) is one possible way to translate the Greek word monogene-s; a better interpretation might be “unique,” “only” (ESV, NRSV), or “One and Only” (NIV).


• Certain words may need an English translation that is closer to what the term actually meant than to the precise term itself. Although the Greek word kolpos indicates a person’s chest or bosom, translating it with one of these English words may confuse today’s readers. Thus, the NIV and ESV translate it “at the Father’s side,” and the NLT uses “near to the Father’s heart.”


As you can see from these examples a lot of interpretation is needed just to get the Greek sentence into a form of English that makes sense.



There Are Two Philosophies.


Formal Equivalence

One gives priority to the exactness of the original form, while the other emphasizes clarity and readability in English. The philosophy of striving for exactness is widely referred to as formal equivalence. These translators attempt a word-for-word translation, although as we have seen, it is impossible to do this completely. Nevertheless, the goal is to remain as accurate as possible to the form of the text in the original language.


Functional Equivalence

The other philosophy focuses on readability and is called dynamic equivalence or functional equivalence. This is often called a thought-for-thought translation. These scholars endeavor to create a translation that the reader experience similar to the way the Bible was heard and understood in its original setting. This view also strives to be as accurate as possible, but their focus is on the accuracy of meaning rather than the precise form of the original.


Neither of these philosophies should be characterized as the right way of translating. They both have merits and disadvantages.




The Translation History

250BCSeptuagintThe Hebrew Bible, the Tanakh, was translated into Greek by approximately 70 Jewish scholars
400ADThe VulgateThe Septuagint was translated unto Latin and was the first Bible to include all 66 books; this became known as the Vulgate
7th centuryVenerable BedeVenerable Bede was the first to translate sections of both testaments from Latin into Anglo-Saxon
1380-1384John WycliffeJohn Wycliffe was the first to translate the Bible from Latin (directly from the Vulgate) into English; his translation was known as Wycliffe's Bible
1525William TyndaleWilliam Tyndale produced the first English translation of parts of the Bible from original languages; his was the first English New Testament to be printed on a press.
1611King JamesKing James of England created what became known as the King James Version of the Bible



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