Monday, July 20, 2020

Include these Facts in Discussions about the Bible

Obviously, Bibles play major roles in all “biblical heritages,” therefore it is essential for Biblical Heritage Explorers to include facts about Bibles in their discussions – and belief systems. This is why Explorers “take the Pledge.”

My belief system will be large enough to include all of the facts,
open enough to be examined and questioned,
and flexible enough to change when errors or new facts are discovered.

Fact #1

The book most people call “the Bible” is a translation.

As of October 2019 the full Christian Bible has been translated into 698 languages, the New Testament has been translated into an additional 1,548 languages and Bible portions or stories into 1,138 other languages. One of those languages is English, which didn’t exist until the 5th century CE. Prior to then the inhabitants of Britain spoke a Celtic language.[1]

Fact #2

No Bible is a translation of original books.

No original manuscript of any book of the Bible exists today.

Approximately 6,000 Greek manuscripts and fragments of New Testament writings have been discovered and catalogued.

About 10,000 manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate have been discovered.

Manuscripts of other versions exist -- Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Old Georgian, Church Slavonic, and others.

Writings of church fathers that contain quotes of Bible verses exist -- Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Athanasius are among the Greek; Tertullian, Jerome, and Augustine among the Latins.[2]

Textual differences are also found in modern editions of the traditional text of the Hebrew Bible, the so-called Masoretic Text.

We now have manuscripts in Hebrew and other languages from the Middle Ages and ancient times as well as fragments of leather and papyrus scrolls two thousand years old or more (Dead Sea Scrolls).

All of these manuscripts differ from one another to a greater or lesser extent.

Since no textual source contains what could be called “the original biblical text,” a serious involvement in biblical studies clearly necessitates the study of all sources, including the differences between them.[3]

Fact #3

Translators translated “reconstructed texts.”

The primary goal of textual criticism has traditionally been to reconstruct “the actual text that the author wrote.” However, surviving manuscripts are copies of earlier copies -- often at an unknown number of steps removed from the original.[4] One thing scholars know is that in the process of hand copying manuscripts changes to text were made.

Some changes were accidental because people making the copies were simply tired, inattentive, or, on occasion, inept.

Other changes were intentional because scribes wanted the new copy to emphasize precisely what they themselves believed or remove something they didn’t believe or thought was a mistake.

All translations of the Bible today have been affected by those changes.  


As the result of 21st computer technologies and powerful algorithms, scholars have access to a tremendous amount of new information.

They are able to see previously unknown writings that are beneath those they see.

Data from archaeological, genetic, historical and cultural databases are linked to specific manuscripts being examined.

Writings from other peoples involved in events recorded in the Bible can also examined and compared to biblical accounts.

Scholars have more information about scribes that made the copies.

Based on what we are now seeing, in the near future we will know much more about the book in all biblical heritages. Regardless of what you believe about that book, it is important to remember the following:

“The Bible” is a very important because of the role it has played in the development of Western civilization.

“The Bible” is revered by over two-billion people today because it lies at the foundation of the largest religion of the world today, Christianity.

Christian and Jewish Scriptures are writings that people around the world turn to in difficult and uncertain times – even people who are not Christians or Jews.

When it comes to belief systems and discussions about “the Bible’” -- all of the things above need to be included. I hope you found this informative and thank you for reading it. Please discuss it with others, too.

Jim Myers

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[2] Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why By Bart D. Ehrman © 2005; HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY; pp. 62, 69, 83-84, 88-89, 208-212.
[3] Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible (Second Revised Edition) by Emanuel Tov © 1992, 2001 Augsburg Fortress, Minneapolis, MN; p. 2.

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