Let’s say it right now, first thing – it doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as the perfect Bible.
What would be the perfect Bible? Well, I suppose if we had the original manuscripts of the entire Bible, they would be it. But unfortunately the original manuscripts of the Old Testament crumbled into the sands of time literally thousands of years ago. At least that’s most likely true; they’ve never been found over the last 2000 years or more. And the New Testament? You say that would be much newer! Perhaps there are at least some of the original manuscripts stuck in a jar somewhere? I’m afraid that’s also highly doubtful. Most of what have been found are copies of copies of copies; or maybe in the case of a few of the Dead Sea Scrolls, copies of copies. And much of the New Testament is made up of letters, most likely written on parchment, which were passed around from church to church in the early centuries, and rotted out of existence within the first hundred or so years after being written.
So, does that mean that we have no idea what the original Bible really said? Oh no! I’m not saying that at all! God gave us His message, and it’s been the job of the Holy Spirit to preserve that message down through the centuries! The Spirit made sure the scribes who copied and copied and copied the Scriptures preserved the most perfect copies, and copies with mistakes were destroyed. In fact, it has been proven that none of the copied manuscripts in existence has any mistakes that affect any doctrine of the Christian Faith. What we have, in the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek, is still unmistakably the written Word of God.
And if we all could read Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek, we would all know exactly what it said.
So, how’s your Greek? Not so good? You say it would be nice if they translated it all into English? Well, that poses a few problems. What dialect of English do you speak? Me, I live in the upper midwest states in the USA, so I would prefer a Bible written in my dialect. Fortunately that is the main dialect of the American press and media, so I shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a Bible written so I can understand it. If you live in the UK, or maybe Australia, you will probably prefer a Bible written a little more like you talk and write.
OK, so it shouldn’t be a problem, right? Wrong! There are incredible problems in translating from one language to another. There are words and phrases in Hebrew and Greek that have no equivalents in English, to say nothing of the fact that there are idioms that, if translated literally, would make no sense in English. And what is more, there is a major time and culture difference involved. There are things that were everyday items and events in the ancient middle east which we do not understand in 21st century midwest America. The problems are seemingly almost insurmountable!
Fortunately the same Holy Spirit who preserved the original message in the original languages is also on the job today, making sure the message of the Word of God is translated accurately into English so we can understand it today. And while there are now many, many different English translations of the Bible, the Holy Spirit can work in and through any one of them to work His work in your life!
Even so, there are some English Bible translations that are better than others. While I am no real Hebrew and Greek scholar, and I don’t have any degree from a school of higher education in this field, I have done a considerable amount of research on this subject, have spent many hours comparing Bible versions, and in the next couple blog entries I will write about my findings and my own opinions about the different versions of the Bible as we have them in English.