The Bible – Canon, Transmission, Translation

The Bible


The Bible is a very unique book with multiple writings styles.  It is one of the oldest books in the world, and yet is still the world’s best-selling book.  Those who oppose it have burned it and attempted to have it destroyed, and those who believe it admire it.  It is the most quoted, the most published, the most translated and most influential book in the history of mankind.

But where did it come from and who wrote it?  In the following study we will show how the Bible came to be and why it can be accepted as the unerring, authoritative Word of God.  Our study of how we received the Bible can be summarized into four main sections, Inspiration, Canonization, Transmission, and Translation.

Inspiration is what gives the Bible its authority. Canonization is the process by which the Bible received its final acceptance and came to be recognized as Holy Scripture.  Transmission deals with how the original autographs of the Bible were copied and whether these copies accurately reflect the original autographs.  Translation discusses the translation of the Bible into other languages and whether the Bible in our language accurately reflects what the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts said.


The word Bible literally means “ a book.”  The word Bible came into English by way of French from the Latin “biblia” and the Greek word “biblios.”  In the 11th century BC it was originally the name given to the outer coat of a papyrus reed.  In the 2nd century A.D. Christians were using the word to describe the accepted writings of God. 

We Bible has two major parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament.  The Old Testament was written and preserved by God’s chosen people, the Jews before the time of Christ.  The New Testament was composed by Disciples of Christ during the first century A.D.  Today we use the word Testament, but we may better understand it by using the better translation of “covenant.”  Covenant is taken from the Hebrew and Greek words designating an agreement between two parties.  In the case of the Bible we can see it as the following.  The Old Testament, or covenant, is the old contract between God and his people the Jews.  The New Testament, or covenant, is the new contract between God and Christians.

The earliest Bibles did not have chapters and verses.  These were later added for convenience and to help study the Scriptures.  The divisions of the Bible into chapters were done in 1227 by Stephen Langton, a professor at the University of Paris and later Archbishop of Canterbury.  In 1551 in 1555 verses were added by Robert Stephanus, a Paris printer.

The books of the Old and New Testaments can be cast into groups of writings.  There are four separate groups we can place the Old Testament books into.  Genesis through Deuteronomy is often classified as the “Pentateuch or The Law.”  Joshua through Esther is classified as the books of “History.”  Job through Song of Solomon is classified as books of “Poetry.”  Isaiah through Malachi is known as the books of the “Prophets.”

There are also four separate groups we can place the New Testament books into.  Matthew through John is classified as the “Gospels.”  The Book of Acts is classified as the book of “History.”  Romans through Jude are classified as the “Epistles.”  The book of Revelation is classified as the book of “Prophecy.”

The time spent for writing the Bible covers approximately 1500 years.  The writing of the Old Testament was from 1445 – 400 B.C.  The writing of the New Testament was from A.D. 50 – 100.  The Scriptures were penned by more than 40 writers over this span of 1500 years.  Not only was the Bible written over a large span of time, it was also written over a large span of the geography.  Portions of the Bible were written in Asia, Africa, and Europe.  It was also originally written in three separate languages.  The Old Testament was primarily written in Hebrew with some portions in Aramaic.  The New Testament was primarily written in Greek with some portions in Aramaic.

Now that we have provided a background for this book that God provided for his creation let us begin by looking at the inspiration of the Bible.

Inspiration:  The God-Breathed Scriptures

Inspiration Clarified

The most basic question about the nature of the Bible centers in its claim to be “inspired” or to be the “Word of God.”  What is meant by “inspiration” will be the subject of this section.  The Latin word, Inspirare literally means “to breathe into.”  As used in 2nd Timothy 3:16 the word inspiration can be translated in the Greek and means “God breathed.”  Inspiration may be defined as the Holy Spirit’s overseeing over the writers, of Scripture, so that while writing according to their own styles and personalities, the result was God’s Word written—authoritative, trustworthy, and free from error in the original autographs.  The “autographs” were the original documents that the inspired writer actually wrote upon.

There are 3 elements to the Biblical inspired Scriptures.  The first element is the divine element.  This means that the inspiration of the Scriptures came from God, therefore God-breathed.  God the Holy Spirit superintended the writers, ensuring the accuracy of the writing. Though men are involved in the process, the Bible originated with God and was authorized by Him.   It is the divine which moved the human. We see this by looking at 2nd Timothy 3:16, “Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”.  In other words, words that were written in the Bible by the Holy Spirit through the tool of men are divinely inspired words.  Another verse we can look to is 2nd Peter 1:20 – 21, “knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”

The second element is the human element.  Though the Bible comes from God the human writers played an important role in the overall process of inspiration.  As they wrote under the direction of the Holy Spirit, they used their own individual writing styles.  In inspiration God is the primary cause, and the prophets are the secondary causes. Thus the divine influence did not restrict human activity but rather enabled the human authors to communicate the divine message accurately.  God used their personalities to convey His intention.

The third element is the written element.  The final product of divine authority working through the prophets or apostles is the written authority of the Bible.  The Bible is the last word on doctrinal and ethical disputes and matters.  The Scriptures derive their authority from God through his prophets.  But let us remember, it is the writings and not the writers that possess and retain the Bible authority.  The writers have died but the writings of God will live forever.

Inspiration of the Old Testament

Let’s present three lines of evidence for the inspiration of the Old Testament.  The First evidence, the Old Testament writers claimed to be speaking and writing God’s Word (Ex: 21:1; 32:16; Isa. 1:1-2; Jer. 1:1-2; Ezek. 1:3).  The Second evidence, Jesus believed the Old Testament Scriptures to be inspired.  He recognized the entire Old Testament (Jn. 5:39; Lk. 24:44-46; Mk. 7:8-13; Matt. 13:13-14; Jn. 10:34-35).  He quoted from many Old Testament books (Genesis: Mk. 10:6-8; Exodus: Lk. 18:20; Numbers: Jn. 3:14; Deuteronomy, Leviticus: Lk. 10:26-28; Samuel: Mk. 2:25; Kings: Matt. 12:42; Psalms: Mk. 12:10; Isaiah: Lk. 4:17-21; Daniel: Matt. 24:15; Malachi: Matt. 11:10).  He clearly believed the Old Testament to be historically reliable.  For examples, note his treatment of the following Old Testament persons: Adam and Eve (Matt. 19:4-7), Abel (Lk. 11:51), Noah (Matt. 24:37-39), Moses (Jn. 3:14), David (Lk. 20:41), Jonah (Matt. 12:38-41), and Daniel (Matt. 24:15).  He submitted himself to the authority of the Old Testament (Matt. 5:17-18; Lk. 18:31 [implied]).  He attributed Old Testament material directly to the Holy Spirit (Matt. 22:41-46).  He used the Old Testament in such a way as to indicate his complete confidence in what it said (Matt. 22:23-33 cf. Ex. 3:6).  The Third evidence, the New Testament writers believed the Old Testament to be inspired.  They quoted from or alluded to most of the Old Testament books.  They refer to the Old Testament as “scripture” (Acts 17:11; Rm. 1:1-2; 2 Tim. 3:16).  They attributed the Old Testament to the Holy Spirit never themselves (Psalm 110 cf. Mark 12:36; Psalm 41:9 cf. Acts 1:16; Psalm 2 cf. Acts 4:24-26; Isaiah 6:9-10 cf. Acts 28:25-27).

Inspiration of the New Testament

We will take a look at three basic understandings to help us with the claim that the New Testament is also inspired.  The First is the Promise of Christ that the Holy Spirit would guide them in the teaching of His truth as the foundation of the church.  When Jesus first sent out His disciples to preach the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 10:7), He promised them the direction of the Holy Spirit.  Based upon the Lord’s promise to his apostles, His divine ability to fulfill His promise, apostles claim that the writings were the fulfillment of Christ’s promise (Mark 16:17-20, Hebrews 2:3-4).  The conclusion we must draw is that the preaching and writing of the apostles was not their own, but God’s.  To deny this is to call in question the promises of God.  For we see the direct promise from Jesus before He ascends to heaven to again be with His father.  In John 16:12-15, Jesus plainly tells His apostles, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.”

A Second is The Promise of Christ Claimed by the Disciples.  The followers of Christ did not forget His promise.  They claimed that their teaching came from not their selves but from what Jesus promised which gave their words the authority of God.  They claimed this in several ways: a) by claiming to continue Christ’s teachings, b) by claiming equality with the Old Testament, and c) by making specific claims in their writings for divine authority. 

a)                          The New Testament church itself is said to be “built upon the foundation of the apostles” (Eph 2:20, 3:5).  Christ promised that all apostolic teaching would be Spirit-directed.  The New Testament books are the only authentic record we have of apostolic teaching.  Hence, the New Testament alone can lay claim to be an authoritative record of Christ teachings.

b)                         Another indication that the New Testament is inspired is its direct comparison to the Old Testament.  Paul distinctly recognized the inspiration of the Old Testament in 2nd Timothy 3:16 by calling it “Scripture.”  Peter classed Paul’s the epistles right along with “the other Scriptures” in 2nd Peter 3:16 and Paul quotes Luke’s Gospel, calling it “Scripture” in 1st Timothy 5:18, quoting Luke 10:7.  The apostles were the channel of God’s truth in the New Testament just as the prophets were in the Old.  It is not strange then, to observe that the apostolic books should be placed on the same authoritative level as the inspired books of the Old Testament, both are prophetic.  In fact, Peter wrote that the prophetic writings came by divine inspiration in 2nd Peter 1:21.  John calls his book a prophecy and classes himself among the prophets in Revelation 22:18-19.  Ephesians 2:20 lists the New Testament prophets along with the apostles as the foundation of the church.  So the prophetic writings of the New Testament reveal the mystery of Christ who was predicted in the prophetic writings of the Old Testament.  Like the Old, the New Testament is a prophetic declaration of God.

c)                     The New Testament writers believed the New Testament to be inspired (John—Rev. 1:1-2; 22:6; Paul—1 Cor. 2:13; 14:37; 1 Thess 2:13; Peter {in reference to Paul’s letters}, 2 Pet. 3:15-16; Jude—Jude 17, 18).  Luke writes in Luke 1:1-4 that he writes in order that the reader should understand the truth about Christ because he has been given a perfect understanding from the Holy Spirit.  John records in John 20:31 — he writes that in men may believe Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God.  John adds that his testimony is true in Jn 21:24.  We could read many more examples of the apostles asserting divine inspiration from God for their writings.  It is an appropriate conclusion to the claim that the entire New Testament is inspired by God.

A Third understanding to help us with the claim that the New Testament is also inspired is the fact of the Acceptance of the First Century Christians.  The first Century church was not naïve in its acceptance of inspired writings.  Jesus had warned of false prophets in deceivers coming in His name (Mt 7:15; 24:10-11).  Paul even advised the Thessalonians not to accept erroneous teaching from any letter pretending to be from him (2nd Thessalonians 2:2).  John urged the believers, “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” in 1st John 4:1.  There were many false teachings about Christ circulating in the first century (Lk 1:1-4).  So the New Testament church had to be discriminating from the very beginning.  Any books received without apostolic signature were to be refused (2nd Th 3:17).  However, the fact that the letters written by the apostles were read, quoted, collected, obeyed, and circulated within the New Testament church is us assurance that they were received as prophetic or divinely inspired words of God from the very beginning.

Results of Inspiration

The result of the Bible being God-Breathed by God and the Holy Spirit is an Inerrant Bible.   The result of the divine-human authorship is a message without error.  If God is true (Rom. 3:4) and the Bible comes from God (2 Tim. 3:16), then the Bible must be true in all its parts.  That is why the Bible is said to be inerrant.  Inerrancy means that God’s written Word is: authoritative, trustworthy, and free from error.


Canonicity:  Determining and Discovering the God-Inspired Books

Canonicity refers to a book’s status, as to whether or not it should be regarded as divinely authoritative (inspired) and thus worthy to be included within the canon.  Canon can be defined as the “norm” or “standard” and is known to be the group of writings or collection of books recognized as the inspired Word of God.  Perhaps you have wondered how the early church knew which books should be regarded as part of the Bible, and which ones should be excluded?  Many people mistakenly think that some group of church officials at the council of Nicia in A.D. 325 sat down and voted on which books they thought should be included and that’s how we got our Bible.  But that simply isn’t the way it happened.  God determines the Canon, Canonicity is determined by God.  A book is not inspired because men made it canonical; it is canonical because God inspired it.  Thus, canonicity is determined by inspiration.  Canonicity is determined by God and discovered by man. This is true of both Old Testament and New Testament Scriptures.  False books and false writings were not scarce in the first century.  There ever-present threat made it necessary for the people of God to carefully review their sacred collection.  Even books accepted by other believers or in earlier days were often brought into question by the church.  The following are five basic criteria they could use to establish inspired writings: 1) is the book authoritative – does he claim to be of God? 2) is the prophetic – was it written by a servant of God? 3) is it authentic – does it tell the truth about God? 4) is the book dynamic – does it possess the life transforming power of God? 5) is this book received or accepted by the people of God for whom it was originally written – is it recognized as being from God? 

 In order to understand how we came to have the specific sixty-six books that are in our Bible we need to look at the formation of the Old Testament and New Testament canons individually.  Again, the word “canon” means “authority,” or “standard” by which other things are judged. The word “canon” when used of Scripture refers to the books deemed to be authoritative, i.e., God’s Word.  Let’s look at the status of the Old Testament and New Testament canons.  

Old Testament Canon

Note the following examples of how Scripture was immediately recognized as the Word of God by the hearers.  Moses put the Book of the Covenant, including the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1—23:33), into writing and the people agreed to obey it (Ex. 24:3-8). The Book of the Covenant became part of the Book of Exodus and immediately was accepted at the Word of God.  The Book of Deuteronomy was immediately stored by the Ark in the Tabernacle after Moses wrote it (Deut. 31:24-26). Later it, with the rest of the Law of Moses, was moved to the Temple (2 Kings 22:8).  Joshua added his words and set them up in the sanctuary of the Lord (Josh. 24:26).   Daniel refers to “the books” which contained the “law of Moses” and the prophets (Dan. 9:2, 6, 11). 

Later Old Testament books quote earlier O.T. books as authoritative.  Consider the following.  The books of Moses, which were immediately recognized as canonical, are cited throughout the Old Testament from Joshua (1:7) to Malachi (4:4).  The events of Joshua are referred to in Judges (1:1, 20-21; 2:8). . 3. The books of Kings cites the life of David as told in the books of Samuel (1 Kings 3:14; 5:7; 8:16; 9:5).  Chronicles reviews Israel’s history from Genesis through Kings including material from Ruth (1 Chronicles 2:12-13).  The ninth chapter of Nehemiah reviews Israel’s history as recorded from Genesis through Ezra.  1 Kings 4:32 refers to Solomon’s proverbs and songs.  Daniel cites Jeremiah 25 (Daniel 9:2).  Jonah recites parts from the Psalms (Jonah 2).  Ezekiel mentions both Job and Daniel (Ezekiel 14:14, 20).  Not every book is cited by a later one, however; enough are cited to demonstrate that there was a growing collection of divinely authoritative books available to and quoted by later prophets.

From these readings, we can conclude that the standard description of the whole canon of the O.T. Scripture is built on a distinction between Moses and the prophets after him.  Since the New Testament specifically cites virtually all of the twenty-four books of the Hebrew canon (same thirty-nine books as our known Bible today; though they had them arranged so that some books now split were combined, e.g., 1 & 2 Samuel, which gave them only 24 books) recognized by first-century Jews, we also conclude that the limits or extent of that canon has been defined for us.

New Testament Canon 

There are twenty-seven books recognized as canonical.  These twenty-seven books are commonly classified into 4 groups: Gospels (Matthew – John), History (Acts), Epistles (Romans – Philemon), and Prophecy (Revelation).  Unlike the Old Testament that was written over a thousand year period, the entire New Testament Canon was written within fifty years.  Although the New Testament Canon was written in a much shorter period of time than the Old Testament Canon, the geographic range of the New Testament Canon is far wider. The N.T. was written in Asia, Africa, and Europe.  This greater distance may explain why some books of the New Testament took longer to be universally recognized as canon.  

It is extremely important to understand that the early church did not determine which books would become Scripture; they merely endeavored to recognize which books the churches had already received as Scripture, and to exclude him false documents. Such tests weren’t arbitrary; they were derived from what the church leaders already knew about the character of Scripture from those books of undisputed authenticity.  Some of the questions they would have used as a litmus test have been listed in our introduction above of canonicity. 

There were many reasons for the first century Christians to begin this collection.  One reason would be because the early church was interested in collecting those books that were inspired and thus, prophetic.  The works written by the apostles and prophets were considered valuable and worthy of preservation.  A second reason would be to give themselves guidelines for faith and practice.  The early church needed to know which books should be read in the churches as the Word of God and which books could be used to determine God’s will for doctrine and living.  A third reason for collecting the canon would be to give a defense against other religions and philosophies.  As the Christian movement was confronted with philosophical and religious trends current in the Mediterranean world of its time, the need for the exact collection of the Words of God and foundation of their belief became the basic motivation toward the realization of the New Testament canon.  This grew more needed and important after the death of the first generation of eyewitnesses.  A fourth reason for collecting the canon would be heretical threats.  The early church needed to know exactly which books were canonical because certain heretics were coming up with their own canons and they needed to stand on the truth of God and dispute the canons of men.  Finally, a fifth reason for the collection of N.T. canon we can see from history would be because of persecutions.  Roman emperors in power continued to persecute Christians and attempted to choke out Christianity.   This persecution motivated the church to sort through and settle on which books were really Scripture and which books were worth suffering for.

We can summarize canonization by saying that the vast majority of the N.T. books were never disputed from the beginning.  Of the books originally recognized as inspired but later questioned, all of them came to full and final acceptance by the church.  Some other books throughout time have gained popularity for a time, but were never accepted as canon.  The books of the N.T. as we know them can be confidently known, respected, and followed as the books God would have us follow for His new law under His son and our Christ.


Given that God has communicated to man (revelation) and that man under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit has been able to accurately and faithfully record that message without error, how do we know that the Bible we have today is anything close to the original that was inspired?  Could people have changed the Bible over the years?  The answer is, “Yes.”  In fact, of the thousands of ancient manuscripts we have of the Bible (both Old and New Testaments) I have researched that some say no two are identical.  Providentially, however, in most cases the differences are minor and it is possible to figure out the correct reading.  We are aided by the fact that we have so many manuscripts to compare.  There are about five thousand early Greek manuscripts or portions of manuscripts, of the New Testament alone.  Besides many of the differences are merely alternate spellings or accidents like skipping a line of text.  Remember, these early manuscripts were all copied by hand.

 Textual Criticism

How have Bible scholars determined which manuscripts are best, and how have they resolved conflicts between those manuscripts?  These questions take us into the area of biblical studies known as “textual criticism.”  Textual criticism is the branch of biblical studies that deals with discovering the most accurate reading of the biblical text.  Scholars who engage in textual criticism usually specialize in the study of either the Old Testament or the New Testament.  Textual criticism is a necessary endeavor, since we do not have the original manuscripts, referred to as the “original autographs.”  However, we should be careful to do our homework and make sure the textual critic’s conclusions are based on sound reasons.

 Some of the basic principles used in textual criticism are as follows.  1) Because manuscripts when copied tend to get longer with each copy, the shorter reading is usually preferred (There may, however, be good reasons for accepting the longer version).  The reason these manuscripts got longer when copied is that scribes often placed explanatory notes in the margins of the manuscripts, later copyists, thinking these were “corrections” of omissions, simply put the marginal notations right in the text itself.  2) Since copyists tend to smooth out difficult readings, the awkward wording might be closer to the original.  Obviously this has to be observed with common sense.  It doesn’t mean that if you have a manuscript that really butchers the text, it’s the best one.  It simply means, Look out for signs of subsequent editing.  3) The variation in reading that most naturally accounts for how the other variation in reading occurred is probably the best.  For example, this means is that if reading “Y” could have come from making some kind of simple mistake in copying reading “X,” then reading “X” is probably closer to the original.  4) The variation that best exemplifies the style and vocabulary of the author and best fits with the context is probably the best readingOf course these guidelines have to be applied with common sense; they are not “hard and fast rules.”

 The Reliability of the Modern Hebrew and Greek Texts

Since our translations are made from the Hebrew and Greek texts, those translations cannot be any more accurate than the texts from which they are translated.  So, the question of the reliability of our Hebrew and Greek texts is of great importance.  Let’s look first at the text of the Old Testament.  Our present day Hebrew text is based on what is called the “Masoretic Texts” dating from about A.D. 900.  Until fairly recent times we didn’t have any way to independently check the accuracy of the Masoretic Texts (since they were the oldest and best manuscripts we had).  But, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940’s changed that.  The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of ancient manuscripts dating from about 150 B.C. to about A.D. 70.  They were hidden in caves southeast of Jerusalem near the Dead Sea where they remained until they were discovered in the 1940s.  Contained within the Dead Sea Scrolls collection are a number of ancient Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament–much older than the Masoretic Texts that we already had.  The discovery of manuscripts of the Old Testament that were a thousand years older than what we previously possessed gave scholars the opportunity to check the accuracy of the Hebrew text we have used since the middle ages.  What they discovered was that over the period of time from the writing of the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Masoretic Text (a period of about one thousand years), the hand copying of the Old Testament resulted in very minor alterations to the text.  That was good news, because if the Hebrew manuscripts could be copied from 150 B.C. to A.D. 900 with only minor deviations, it’s possible they were copied from the time of their original composition with similar accuracy. 

The text of the Greek New Testament is also well confirmed.  Today we have over 24,000 early Greek manuscripts and translations of the New Testament.  Although much of this material is in fragments, it is nonetheless an amazing quantity of material from which to determine the original reading of the text.  Of these 24,000+ fragments or documents, approximately 5,300 are Greek manuscripts; 10,000 are early Latin translations of the New Testament, and about 9,300 are other early translations.  No other ancient manuscript is as well attested as the New Testament.  New Testament scholars who study the transmission of the New Testament text are convinced that they are 99.9% certain of the original wording of the New Testament.  This means that only about one word in one thousand is in question.  The abundance of early manuscript evidence means that we can be confident we know the original wording of the New Testament.


The last step in making Scripture available in other languages, such as English, is “translation.”  Without translation we would either have learn Hebrew and Greek, or we wouldn’t be able to read the Bible.  In many ways translation is the trickiest step in the sequence we have been learning about.  As has been indicated, the original autographs were free from errors.  As the manuscripts were transmitted (copied) over the centuries, various errors (usually very small) crept in.  As we have seen, most of these errors can be identified and corrected through textual criticism.  However, the very nature of translation makes this step particularly vulnerable to the introduction of errors.  The reason is that translators are overwhelmed with an extremely difficult task, and they must use a fair amount of discretion in the way they choose to translate.  We may ask why can’t they just give a word for word rendering from the Hebrew and Greek and let us figure out what is being said.  The Interlinear translations actually do this.  But that’s not really a good solution.  Because both Hebrew and Greek employ entirely different types of grammar, English can sometimes be difficult to line up.  Simply rendering each consecutive word into English would result in tremendous confusion because it would effectively strip away the grammar, which is the key to understanding how the words are being used.  It would be like receiving a cipher without having the key. 

Translators generally try to produce a translation that strikes a balance between two objectives–accuracy and readability.  Unfortunately these two objectives sometimes exist on opposite ends of the translation spectrum.  The way it typically works in translating either Hebrew or Greek into a language such as English is as follows.  The more accurate the translation, the harder it is to read.  The reason is that this type of translation tends to render the text as close as possible to the original language structure—and that structure is often unfamiliar to the modern reader (especially if he is reading in English).  On the other hand, translations that are highly readable tend to not correspond with the original structure, hence the problem.  The more precise the translation, the more difficult it is to read, and the more readable it is, the less precise it is likely to be.  Now we see why we have so many new translations.  Many thinks they can do better than the previous attempts to hit just the right balance. 

So how do we go about finding the best translation to use in your reading and study of the Word?  The following guidelines should help.  1) A good translation should be just that–a “translation.”  Don’t confuse a translation with a “paraphrase.”  A paraphrase is a restatement of the Scripture in someone’s own words—the goal being to make the Bible easier to understand.  The Living Bible is an example of a paraphrase.  Unfortunately, paraphrases are interpretations rather than translations of the text.  So, while you may think you’re getting the Word of God, what you are actually getting is what the person producing the paraphrase thinks the Bible is saying—there’s a very big difference!  Paraphrases can be helpful when used correctly as an aid alongside your Bible, similar to a commentary.  2) A good translation should be readable.  If you can’t understand what it’s saying, it will not do you any good.  3) A good translation should reflect a high degree of Bible knowledge.  Some translational decisions hinge on the underlying knowledge and opinions of the translator.  So, if the Bible translators are theologically biased, it’s likely that their translations will be also.  4) Beware of translations made by one person.  The best check on any translation is that several qualified translators came to agreement on the correct rendering.  One-person volumes may, however, be good study aids to use alongside your Bible.  5) A good translation should take advantage of the most recent advances in the knowledge of Hebrew and Greek and in textual criticism.  Many people incorrectly think that we know less about biblical languages today than did people in the past.  Actually there are more scholars working with more ancient source material today than at any other time in history.  Only one hundred years ago scholars thought that the Greek of the New Testament was a unique “biblical Greek” (some called it “Holy Ghost Greek”).  Today, having discovered tens of thousands of documents from ancient times, we know that the Greek of the New Testament was the common language of the first century (it’s even called “koinā”–or “common” Greek), and those documents have taught us much about the meanings of words and even the grammar itself.


The Bible, the God-Breathed Scriptures, that we are blessed to hold in our hands and read today is not an accident but a revelation of God’s will.  We have only scratched the surface of its history in this study.  However, I trust we have established authority and a factual reason to believe that the Bible is not just possible but probable to believe and study.  Not throughout history of all mankind has another book shaped life as we know it upon God’s creation.  Men and women have been punished, beaten, and have been killed for their belief in the Bible and their belief in God.  Men and women have also been lifted, praised, and saved by God for their belief and obedience in the Bible and God’s word.

Today we should remember the sacrifice it took of all Christians before us and the divine will of our Father in Heaven for this book to reach our hands and ears.  May we always stand for the truth of God and protect it even until threat of death.  It is so easy for Christians today to take the Bible for granted due to the modern day ease of access.  However, let us never take the God-Breathed words and commandments for granted and let us always use the Bible as “inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” – 2nd Timothy 3:16-17.

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