Friday, January 28, 2011

"Solemn and Sacred Pronouns" What?

     Several years ago, a frequent lecturer on the subject of  "Bible Versions,"
stated his preference for the use of old English forms of address such as "thee,"
"thy," and  "thine."  He has a preference for such even though he does not use
them in normal day to day conversation. He doesn't use old forms of address
when he preaches. He prefers the translations of the Bible that use them. He
believes Bibles that  use the old pronouns are showing greater  respect  for  the
word  of God. He refers to the old English forms of address as "solemn and
sacred pronouns."

     I can understand that a person may have preferences regarding the version
of the Bible he uses. If a person wants to use a translation that is more than 400
years old, based on an inferior Greek text, influenced by Calvinism in some of
its   translation  choices,  and  poses  a  considerable  degree  of  difficulty   in
being understood, he has the right to do so. I can also understand that a person
may like to read literature that uses old poetic expressions and cadence. What
I cannot understand is anyone calling things what they are not. There is simply
no such thing as "solemn and sacred" pronouns in our English Bibles.

     The translators of the King James Version chose "thee," "thy,"  and "thine"
because that is the way they talked in 1611. Some linguistic scholars call the
speech "Elizabethan" because it was the style of English used by writers and
speakers during the time Queen Elizabeth was queen of England (1558-1603).
One such dramatist and poet during that time was William Shakespeare

     There  is  a  way  that  we can determine with absolute certainty that the
so-called "solemn and sacred" pronouns do not exist in versions of the Bible.
They are the figment of a fertile imagination gone wild. The KJV's rendering
of the Lord's temptation by the devil, as recorded in Matthew tells us that
Jesus addressed the devil by saying, "Get thee hence, Satan: for it is
written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shall shalt thou
serve." (Mat. 4:10) Do you believe that our Lord was showing respect to
Satan by the use of  "thee" as recorded in the KJV? "Solemn and sacred"
pronouns ? What about Paul's statement to Elymas the sorcerer (who tried
to turn away certain ones from the faith)? Paul said to him, "O full of all
subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness,
wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? And now, behold,
the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun
for a season." (Acts 13:10-11) Elymas is called a "child of the devil," "enemy
of all righteousness," and one who perverts the right ways of the Lord, yet
according   to   the   KJV   Paul   addressed  him  with "thou" and "thee."
"Solemn and sacred" pronouns?

     A person is not showing disrespect to deity if he addresses God by using
ordinary, current pronouns in prayer and songs. Translations of the scriptures
that use ordinary forms of address are not less respectful than those that use
the old forms. When a person ridicules modern translations of the sacred text
that attempt to give humanity the word of God in current English, on the basis
that they do not use "solemn and sacred" pronouns, it is either a display of
ignorance or it shows how deep the talons of human tradition have sunk into
that person's heart.Whatever the reason, it is regrettable!

Copyright 2011


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Important Manuscript Discoveries

     There are five primary Uncial manuscripts that are invaluable for New
Testament  research. They are Codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, from about
the middle of the fourth century; Codices Alexandrinus, Ephraemi Rescriptus,
and Bezae Cantabrigiensis, from the fifth century. When the King James Version
was published in 1611, the only Uncial manuscript available was Codex Bezae.
It is the manuscript used by Theodore Beza in the making of his Greek New
Testament published in 1565. The scholars who translated the KJV could have
only known fewer than twenty-five late manuscripts of the New Testament. In the
late 1880's when the English Revised Version and the American Standard  Version
of  1901  were  published, approximately 1600 manuscripts of the New Testament
(or parts of it) were known. Today there are approximately 5735 known
manuscripts and fragments available for research. Since the publication of  the
KJV, the ERV, and the ASV many important manuscript discoveries have
been made.

     In 1868 Constantine von Tischendorf published the first papyrus manuscript,
now designated as P 11. It is from the seventh century and contains portions of
1 Corinthians. Shortly thereafter two more papyri were published by Gregory and
Tischendorf, P 7 from the fourth to sixth century, contains Luke 4:1-2, and P 4
from the third century, contains portions of Luke 1,2,3,4,5,6. In 1898 Carl
Wessely and J. Rendel Harris published two papyri, P 3 from the sixth century,
contains portions of Luke 7 and 10, and P 14 from the fifth century, contains
portions of 1 Cor. 1-3.

     The rest of the papyri (numbering about 116) were discovered since 1898.
Twenty one of these papyri (Oxyrhynchus, almost all dating between 200-400
A.D.) were published by 1922 and contain a broad sampling of verses from
several New Testament books at an early date: P 1,5,9,10,13,15,16,17,18,19
,20,21,22,23,24,26,27,28,29,30,39. In the early 1930's three papyrus MSS
P 45,46,47 known as the Chester Beatty Papyri were discovered and published.

     In the 1950's and early 1960's another group known as the Bodmer Papyri
(named after the owner, Martin Bodmer of Geneva) were discovered and
published. Five new Testament papyri are in this collection; P 66 (175-200 A.D.,
containing most of John), P 72 (third century, containing 1&2 Peter and Jude),
P 73 (seventh century, containing portions of Acts and the general epistles), and
P 75 (200 A.D. containing most of Luke and over half of John). The earliest copy
of the original text now known is P 52 (dated about 115-125 A.D., containing a
few verses of John 18:31-34, 37-38).

     The most monumental manuscript discovery for Old Testament study is the
Dead Sea Scrolls, found in the caves near the Dead Sea in 1947. They were
discovered in the vicinity of Wadi Qumran. These scrolls contain Genesis,
Exodus, Deuteronomy, Psalms and Isaiah in part. The Dead Sea Scrolls are
one thousand years older than the oldest manuscripts previously known to Old
Testament scholars.

Copyright 2011

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

From Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek into English

     Most people know that God's word was originally written in Hebrew and Greek,
with some Aramaic found in portions of the Old Testament (Ezra 4:8-6:18; 7:12-26;
Dan. 4:7-28; Jer. 10:11) An Aramaic expression is found in Gen. 31:47. Aramaic
also appears in the N.T. The names Bar-Jonah, Bartholomew, and Barnabas reflect
Aramaic. "Gethsemane" (Mat. 26:36; Mk. 14:32), "Golgotha" (Mk. 15:22), "Cephas"
(Jno. 1:42; 1 Cor. 1:12), "Talitha Cumi" (Mk. 5:41), "Ephphatha" (Mk. 7:34), "Eli
Eli   lema   sabachthani"   (Mat. 27:46;  Mk. 15:34),   "Rabboni"   (Jno. 20:16),
"Maranatha" (1 Cor. 16:22), and "Akeldama" (Acts 1:19) all reflect Aramaic usage
in the N.T. In some ways Aramaic served as a transition from Hebrew to Greek as
the language spoken by Jews in Jesus' day.

     The Septuagint (LXX) is the oldest known Greek translation of the Hebrew
scriptures. The history of the Septuagint is recorded in the "letter of Aristeas" and
reported more or less fully by the Alexandrian writers Aristobulus, Philo, and
Josephus. The earliest writer to give an account of the Septuagint is Aristobulus, a
Jew who lived at the beginning of the second century B.C. He says the version of
the Law into Greek was completed under the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus. The
Septuagint had been commenced prior to 285 B.C. According to legend, seventy
two Jewish translators had been employed to translate, and this was done in seventy-
two days. The Pentateuch is considered to be the best executed part, while the
books of the prophets seem to be the worst. The unequal character of the version
shows that a variety of translators was employed.

     The first of the Greek versions of the Old Testament executed in the second
century was that of Aquila, a Jewish proselyte of Pontus. The date commonly
attributed to his version is about the year 126 A.D. His labor is evidently directed
in opposing the passages that Christians were accustomed to cite from the Septuagint
as applicable to the Lord Jesus. His version is noted for its literalness.  Symmachus
was another Greek translator at a subsequent period in the second century. His
version seems to have been executed in good pure Greek. A third translator in the
second century A.D. was Theodotion, an Ebionite like Symmachus. Origen, the great
scholar of the third century A.D. is noted for his Hexapla ( a book containing six
columns). Two other early attempts were made to revise the Septuagint besides
Origen. In the beginning of the fourth century, Lucian, a presbyter of Antioch, and
Hesychius, an Egyptian bishop.

     The Greek speaking authors of the N.T. sometimes quoted from the Septuagint
instead of the Hebrew text. There are approximately 350 quotes from the Septuagint
in the N.T. The oldest complete manuscripts of the Septuagint in existence are the
Codex Vaticanus (fourth century) and the Codex Alexandrinus (fifth century).
Significant papyri include those of the Chester Beatty collection (second to fourth
centuries), Papyrus  Greek 458 of the John Rylands Library (second century), and
the Berlin Fragments of Genesis (third century).

     The Old Latin Versions were based on the Septuagint as early as the second century
A.D. In North Africa and Southern Gaul, Jerome (Eusebius Hieronymus) translated the
entire Old Testament on the basis of the Hebrew text. It is named the Vulgate because
it reflects the vernacular of the common people.

     Parts of the New Testament were translated into Syriac during the second century
A.D. The most important of the Syriac versions of both the Old and New Testaments
is the Peshitta, the simple or plain version. The New Testament Peshitta, fourth century,
is a revision of the Old Syriac following the Greek text. Other important translations
include the Coptic Version (third to fourth centuries), Gothic (fourth century), Ethiopic
(fourth century), Armenian (fifth century), and Arabic (tenth century).

     The first Bible translated from the original languages into a modern European
vernacular was that of Martin Luther (1522). P.R. Olivetan published the first French
Protestant version in 1535 at Serrieres in Switzerland. The first to represent the
chapters and verse division is credited to R. Stephanus (or Estienne) in 1553. The
first English translation of  the entire Bible was that of John Wyclif in 1380 to 1382.
It was based on the Latin text. William Tyndale's work represents the first printed
English New Testament in 1525 and revised in 1534, and it was the first translation
from Greek to English. Tyndale was martyred in 1536 at Antwerp. His translation
had a great impact on later work. Nearly eighty percent of the King james Version
can be traced to Tyndale. Miles Coverdale "revised" Tyndale's translation in 1535.
Coverdale produced the first complete English version in print. T. Matthews issued
a compilation of Tyndale and Coverdale's work with minor alterations in 1537. A
revision by Coverdale using the Vulgate, Erasmus' translation, and Muster's literal
Latin translation of the Hebrew was issued, and is variously called Cronwell's Bible,
Cranmer's Bible, and the Great Bible.

     The Rheims-Douay version for the Roman Catholics was published in 1609-1610.
King James I of England encouraged by the Puritan J. Reynolds, commissioned a new
translation of the Bible based on the original Hebrew and Greek. Fifty four scholars,
though forty seven names are recorded, from Westminster, Oxford, and Cambridge
organized six teams, produced the basic translation, and it was then revised by twelve
representative translators. In commissioning a new translation to be made, King James
I of England gave the instructions to the translators and said, "The Bishops' Bible is
to be followed, and as little altered as the original will permit...The old ecclesiastical
words to be kept, as the word church is not to be translated congregation..." (Revised
New Testament and History of Revision, pages 43ff) The King James Version as
printed today differs in many respects from the original as published in 1611. Changes
in spelling, punctuation, and the use of italics began to be made as successive editions
appeared. Completed in 1611, the work was at first sharply criticized and numerous
revisions were issued from 1612 to 1769. Revisions of the King James began as early
as 1612, 1613, 1616, 1638, 1659, 1660, 1683, 1727, 1762, and 1769.

Copyright 2011

Monday, January 24, 2011

Tradition and Translation

     I stand amazed at how deep the razor sharp talons of tradition are
embedded in the minds of some bible translators. Certain translation choices
are made on the basis of how the buying public expects a certain passage to
read, irrespective of selecting the best option for the text in line with the pursuit
for accuracy. It is not only the "liberal" theologians who are influenced by political
correctness and tradition. There are enough slices of the pie to feed a multitude.

     One text that has been under the heavy hand of tradition for generations is the
first section of Jno. 3:16. The Greek reads "houtos gar egapesen ho theos ton
kosmon." The question is, what is the most accurate way to translate the adverb
"houtos" ? Is it  "For God so loved the world" (as if the extent of God's love is the
point being made by the writer = "God sooooo loved the world), or is it, "For this
is the way (or manner) God loved the world?" There is little doubt that it should be
translated "For God loved the world in this way." Houtos occurs 208 times in the
Greek New Testament. It is a particle that introduces the manner or way
something has been or is done. There is no question that God's love for mankind is
great (pollen agapen). Eph. 2:4 The issue is the most accurate way to translate  
houtos in Jno. 3:16.

     Most versions maintain the traditional rendering "For God so loved the world."
(KJV, RV, ASV, RSV, NASB-77&95, NRSV, TNIV) But, there are some of
the newer versions that "break new ground," elevating textual accuracy above
tradition. The New English Translation (NET) reads, "For this is the way God loved
the world." The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) reads, "For God loved
the world in this way." The English Standard Version (ESV) maintains the traditional
rendering in the text, but has a footnote that says, "Or For this is how God loved the

     Houtos is not the only word that has been largely confined to the parameters of
traditional translation. The same is true of baptizo, ekklesia, monogenes, baptistes,
hilasmos, and others. When generations have become accustomed to a particular
phraseology, it usually becomes so ingrained that any variation is deemed to be
unorthodox to say the least, or heresy in a worse case scenario.

     I understand many of the difficulties that beset those who translate the scriptures.
People expect their translation "to read like the Bible," by which they usually mean,
they expect the Bible they use to read like the KJV, or they want it to sound like
it has always sounded even if accuracy is sacrificed. Too often translators acquiesce
to the demands of the people. They not only have a translation to produce, they also
have a product to sell, and many times the latter incentive wields the greater
influence on the final product.


Copyright 2011

Why Are Translations of the Scriptures Necessary?

     Translations of the sacred text are an integral part of the American way of life.
The reason is, very few people can read Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, the original
languages of scripture.

     We have several important manuscripts that help establish the text of the Old
Testament. The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered at Qumran by the Dead Sea
in 1947. Between 1952 and 1956 manuscript discoveries were made in more of
the caves at Qumran. Cave 1 yielded the Isaiah manuscript and the Habakkuk
Commentary. Cave 2 contained the Psalm Scroll. Cave 4 was especially beneficial
in  that  it  contained  more than  380  fragments  of  manuscripts.  None of these
manuscripts are written in English.

     There are other manuscripts that aid the translator in determining the meaning
of the text of the Old Testament: The Nash Papyrus, the Geniza Fragments, the
Ben   Asher   Manuscripts,   Codex   Cairensis,   the  Aleppo  Codex,  Codex
Leningradensis, the Petersburg Codex of the Prophets, the Erfurt Codices, Codex
Severi, Codex Hillel, Codex Muga, Codex Jericho, Codex Jerushalmi, the Samaritan
Pentateuch, the Septuagint, the later Greek versions (Acquila, Symmachus, and
Theodotion), Origen's Hexapla, the Aramaic Targums, the Syriac Version (Peshitta),
the Old Latin, Jerome's Vulgate, the Coptic Versions, the Ethiopic Versions, the
Armenian Version, the Arabic Versions, and several other sources in whole or in
part help establish the text of the Old Testament. None of these manuscripts are
written in English.

     We also have several important manuscripts of the text of the New Testament.
There are approximately 116 Greek papyri of the New Testament that have
been assigned numbers. Approximately 310 majuscule manuscripts have been
catalogued. The number of miniscule manuscripts totals at least 2,877. About 2,432
lectionaries of the Greek New Testament have been catalogued. Portions of the New
Testament books have been preserved on ostraca, or broken pieces of pottery used
as writing material. At least 25 of these have been catalogued. We can say that to
date, the important  manuscript  evidence  of  the  text of the New Testament
numbers about 5735 or slightly more. None of the manuscripts are written in English.

     There is sizable mass of evidence available for translators and textual critics to
analyze in order to ascertain the text of the Old and New Testaments. Most people
do not know the original languages of scripture. Therefore, if the masses ate to have
access to God's word, it must be translated into their language.

     It is evident that translations have their place, and that God intends for
all people to have his word in their language. The very fact that our Lord, his
apostles, and the early disciples used a translation known as the Septuagint
(LXX), provides authority to have and use translations of the scriptures. Scholars
know the Septuagint is not a perfect translation. Sometimes it is very literal. At
other times it is paraphrastic. There are some places where  it  omits portions  of 
the  Hebrew text, yet the apostles and the early disciples found it to be worthy
of use.

     English speaking people are blessed to have many translations of sacred
scripture. They can be used for comparative study. They can assist the exegete in
delving deeply into the meaning of a passage, especially when he notes the
differences among the various translations and asks, "Why is this word or passage
translated differently?" (Adapted from A Perspective On Bible Translations,
Ron Daly, pages 18-20, Published by Erhardt Publications, Copyright 2010)