When studying the New Testament, it is important to understand the source of the text. I believe that the scriptures, as written by the apostles, prophets and scribes are inspired by God through the Holy Spirit. I do not subscribe to the idea that any translation is inspired, or without flaws. However, I certainly assert that regardless of any translation’s flaws, they do not take away from the inspired word of God presented through the scriptures. Some people would certainly disagree with me, as they see certain differences in various Bible translations to correspond to (deliberate) attempts to influence, change or alter established church doctrines. My view is that anyone who seriously studies the scriptures doesn’t really depend solely on a particular Bible translation to understand the teachings of scripture. When I study the scriptures, I use various search tools, lexicons, dictionaries, original Greek/Hebrew texts, and even various Bible translations.
What really motivated me to write this post is that I was studying a passage that used a particular phrase (or maybe, it was more accurate to say, expression) in English. When I checked the original Greek texts, I found a discrepancy with the Textus Receptus (TR) Greek word and the Greek word in the Strong’s concordance reference. So, I decided to check another online reference, and in comparing both I realized that the word I was looking at in the TR is different by one letter to the equivalent (or supposedly, same) word the Morphological Greek New Testament (or Critical Text), which is an online edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum, 27th edition. The interesting thing is that this 1 letter difference slightly changes the meaning of the word in the text. I plan to make a post about this, because I find it so very interesting.
However, I wanted to post quickly about the types of source texts that the various versions of the New Testament are based on. Out of the over 5800 cataloged copies of New Testament manuscripts, they can be categorized into four major groups:
- Textus Receptus – Available as Stephanus of 1550 or Scrivener of 1894
- Alexandrian Text – Available as Westcott & Hort of 1881 (or Tischendorf’s of 1869-72)
- Critical Text – Available as Nestle-Aland 27th or United Bible Society 4th
- Majority Text (or Byzantine Texts) – Available as Robinson & Pierpont of 2005
These different type of source text are the basis for different translations available today. For example, the King James Version Bible (KJV) uses the Textus Receptus as its source, where as the New Living Translation Bible uses the Critical Text for its New Testament. Of course, I am only referring the New Testament sources, not the Old Testament. I may post about the Old Testament at a later post.
The main thing that I want to mention is that the differences of all of these different source texts are all documented. Some have verses or parts of verses that are missing in others, or placed at a different location in a book. Other differences include some spelling mismatches, and the use of different words. Most of these differences are the result of copying errors from scribes, and not the deliberate attempt to change the meaning of the text. What I like about reading different Bible translations, especially modern ones, is that they usually document all differences from different manuscripts in the footnotes at the bottom of each page. It makes for interesting reading, and shows a level of transparency that fosters understanding and confidence in the text.
I don’t really intend to document any of these differences in this post, but if you are interested, you can easily use any search engine to find a list of differences. For me, context is king and the Holy Spirit is my teacher.
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. – John 14:26