People who undertake Biblical research always operateaccording to foundational ideas or presuppositions.
While our presuppositions are not always conscious thoughts, and we are not always able to verbalize them, we wish to be clear about the presuppositions that most directly and consciously affect this particular study of Bible translations. This study has limitations that we also wish to be clear about.
The first thing we would like to say is that we believe that the variants among different manuscripts of the New Testament do not fundamentally alter the message of Scripture when the manuscripts are taken in their entirety.
We believe that Scripture cannot be "damaged" by rigorous investigation, and our efforts to learn will result in praise to God for the way the essence of the Sacred Message has been preserved.
We believe that Modern English (or modern Japanese, for that matter) is just as capable of expressing the heart's reverence for sacred things as Shakespearan English is, despite the mystical aura of Old English.
While it is very clear to us that deception abounds and history seems assuredly to be moving to a climax, it is not our intention to enter into speculation about current or future events in the world and how they relate to Biblical prophecy.
We believe that every Bible edition and version has a specific historical background. Although there is certainly only one "original," because we do not have that original, we must work at getting as close to it as possible.
Knowing something about the history of a particular Bible manuscript helps us understand where it fits in the "family" of ancient manuscripts. Almost always, the text is a descendant of some manuscript and an ancestor of others. Textual analysts have done extensive work in this area and have been able to trace the lineage of many manuscripts. This involves knowledge of many separate disciplines, but linguistics and history are perhaps the most significant.
The fact that the books of the Bible were written in widely separated locations and times, by various authors, and only gradually were collected to form a single volume adds complications to an understanding of the history of Bible texts. When we speak of this collection of books as "the Bible" we must realize that each separate book had a long history that predated its appearance in the collected Biblical canon (books widely acknowledged as the inspired Word of God).
The information in this book is limited to consideration of the New Testament canon. It is certainly not exhaustive, but webelieve it to be accurate. Our careful documentation of the sources we consulted will make it possible for you to verify this information to your satisfaction. We have drawn heavily from a number of scholarly works and biographical and autobiographical materials and heartily recommend these books for additional study.
In this book, we will take a closer look at the historical context of several Greek Bible texts. Next, we will take an overview of Bible translators and scholars, and focus particularly on several key individuals. Then we will look at the matter of textual criticism and its impact on various translations.
In Part 2 of this book, we will compare two English versions of the Bible, the King James Version (KJV) and the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) in 116 variant readings.
The NRSV (published in 1989) was chosen because it is translated from the most up-to-date Greek text available, the fourth edition of the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament (UBS4). Although UBS4 was published in 1993, after the NRSV, the unpublished forthcoming edition was available to the committee who worked on the NRSV.
We believe that the real significance of the Bible translation controversy lies in the fact that without some assurance of the trustworthiness of the Greek text on which a specific translation is based, and the integrity of its translators, we approach the Sacred writings in that translation with suspicion. This can have far-reaching results.
To cast unwarranted suspicion on all modern translations has the potential of making the Bible inaccessible to those who do not have the language skills to decipher arcane English. It also cuts off one of the avenues for finding answers to some of the seeming discrepancies in a cherished, but imperfect translation.
Honest research must never be rejected in favor of treasured, but uninformed opinions. When we're confronted with a seeming error in a particular translation, especially a contradiction between one Scripture and another, rather than try to cover it up or deny it, we must search out the truth. The truth is sometimes buried in a Greek text, and when we find it, the contradictions evaporate.
Our wish is to help in this transition period when Modern English translations are offering an alternative to Old English translations. We believe that most readers, when presented with the facts, can understand the issues and reach sound conclusions about the trustworthiness of whatever translation is being considered.