In part one, I answered the question of whether the Bible has been edited with an unapologetic yes, check the post out if you can’t understand why a fundamentalist Christian would say that. I then focused on the Old Testament, and it’s reliability. This post focuses on the New Testament, which is a little more complex.
There are Basically three major Greek texts that are used in New Testament translation. These three texts are compilations of the various extant New Testament Greek texts that existed during, or have been discovered during, the years of the reformation which marked the trend towards non-Vulgate translations, and the trend towards giving people the opportunity to examine the texts for themselves as opposed to having a priest telling them what to believe. The three major texts are known as the Received Text, the United Bible societies third edition and the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. There are variations in the texts, but there is a basic agreement in doctrine. The issue comes with the judgment calls made in some translations, which make statements such as, “not in original,” nobody has an original, and “the most reliable texts say” which is a value judgment the translator doesn’t have the right to make.
The Received text was compiled by Erasmus, who took a variety of the Greek texts available at that time, in order to get a unified compilation. He took, generally, what the majority of the texts had in them and included that. Unfortunately, due to pressure, he included things that weren’t in the majority of them, verses like Acts 8:37, that is used by King James only people as a rejection of infant baptism, when all they really need is the fact that there is no infant baptism in the Bible, and that’s where Christian doctrine comes from. The early English Translations came from this text. The Geneva Bible was the first complete English translation with chapter and verse divisions, and would be the model for future translations. This version was very popular, but was riddled with notes that reflected John Calvin’s views, and perhaps left King James a little uneasy. So he authorised the production of a Bible for use in church that resembled more the pew Bibles of today, rather than the study Bible format of the Geneva Bible. The King James or Authorised Version (KJV) text only disagreed with the Geneva Bible ten percent of the time, but I’ll get to translation techniques in a future post. They both contained a separate sections for the Apocrypha, and a central column with cross references and alternative translations. The care put into producing the KJV paid off and it found itself occupying church pews into the twentieth century. No English Bible collection is complete without this version.
In the nineteenth century, the discovery of the Siniatic text, and the surfacing of the Vatican and Alexandrian texts lead to people questioning the reliability of Erasmus’ effort. Which ultimately lead to the compilation of the two remaining texts. These texts were “missing” certain sections, most of which have found there way into the footnotes of the modern translation. This explains why in some versions, certain verses are “missing,” check the footnote, they are there. KJV only advocates point out that the omissions and slight discrepancies have distorted God’s Word that supported English speakers for 3 centuries, how could God do this? These texts, and it’s impossible to list them all in this post, only change the message if viewed in isolation.
The discovery of the older texts caused a serious debate, since people have a tendency to see older as better. So in the next post, I will examine, whether older is better. The important thing here is, I generally use a New King James Version (NKJV) and a lady in our church uses a New Living Translation (NLT), and we don’t have disagreement in Bible studies. Obviously a Bible study has many people with many different versions, but the reason I use this example is that not only are they translated from the different texts, the NKJV is a received Text translation, while the NLT is from the more recent compilations, they also have different translation philosophies. Why I choose the NKJV, and the other versions I use, will become evident in later posts.
The Bible message hasn’t changed, the differences that occur, don’t provide much in the way of doctrinal leeway, as long as they are examined within the greater context, so although it’s not as cut and dry as the Old Testament, the reliability is there.