The law of translation
For centuries there has been much debate over what is the original Bible. Some say it contains the essence of God’s word. Some say it is a generalization of God’s word. Others say it is merely a historical and poetic compilation of God’s word. There are people that say that everything in God’s word has been fulfilled, especially prophecy, and there is nothing yet to fulfill. Many people believe that the Bible is inerrant and the exact word of God.
There is no actual original copy of the Bible. This is partially true. It is true because we have a very close composite of the Old Testament. We know this because of the Dead Sea Scroll discoveries. When they have been examined, they were almost exact matches to what we already have that has been passed down through the years. We do have complete copies of the Old Testament by the Septuagint and other ancient documents.
Copies of the New Testament were made meticulously by monks and those copies have been treasured. That means what we now know as the New Testament is a close match to what God intended. The problem is that monks may have made annotations next to the texts and in some cases those side comments were incorporated into some copies of the Bible.
A good example of comments added to the text is Mark 16:18 that says people could handle serpents or drink poison and not be hurt. That verse has been brought into question by various scholars whether it is original to the book of Mark. True or not, we do know that the early evangelists and apostles such as Paul did find themselves in danger and yet were unhurt. That Bible verse and the experience of the early Christians is no validation that people today should handle poisonous snakes or drink poison. Such behavior is in contradiction to the Bible that says we are not to tempt God.
It is probably a good idea that we do not have the specific and exact matches of Scripture because some people might be so enamored to them that they would practically be idols. They would hold them up as so genuine that there would be very little room for discussion for how to apply what the Holy Spirit is trying to say to us.
The most outstanding difficulty we have in reading the Bible may come from the King James version itself. Within that Scripture the Holy Spirit is called the Holy Ghost and that is not a correct translation. Also, in the book of Romans the eighth chapter the Holy Spirit is called “it” and not “him.” This again is a mistranslation.
Do not cast stones against the King James version because there are specific reasons for the above. That translation was made under the direction of King James in 1609 during the time Shakespeare lived. They spoke English in a different way than we do now. I remember a poem after all these years that I was supposed to memorize in the ninth grade. The first part of it says, “Wan that Apriel with its shorta shuta… “The spoken English was a combination with the French language.
In the days of Shakespeare, they really did believe in ghosts and for the King James version to get the point across using Shakespearean language the Holy Spirit was called a ghost even though that is not true. In the book of Romans chapter 8 the Holy Spirit is called “it” possibly because those who lived in that day did not have a full understanding of the person of the Holy Spirit. Elsewhere in the Bible the Holy Spirit is a “him.” We know the difference from the Greek language of it and him.
Other translations of the Bible are not actual translations. The Living Bible and The Message are a transliteration which means the sentences carry the central thought of the text but are not translated word for word. These may be good as a reference material, but they cannot be relied upon for the exact words from the Bible. Some translations are either the King James or close to it, but the sub notes along with the Bible text can at times be misleading. For instance, the Scofield Bible is like that. A famous preacher name Scofield made annotations about the text according to his personal beliefs. We must always be careful of annotations to make sure what is said matches the context of the entire Bible. Schofield made those annotations to Protestants and the Douay translation with its annotations is for Catholics.
Pay attention to the front page of the Bible to see if it is the translation or transliteration. Pay attention to the annotations to make sure the instructions contained therein match elsewhere in the Bible. Pay attention to what ancient texts are used in the translation. Pay attention to what ancient texts are dependable. For instance, the Gospel of Mary or the Gospel of Thomas are not considered worthy to be called biblical.