By Nathan Jones
Is the Bible we have today a bad translation of a translation of a translation?
On our television program Christ in Prophecy, we asked this question of Dr. Ron Rhodes, the founder and director of a ministry called Reasoning from the Scriptures, located in Frisco, Texas. His ministry specializes in defending Christianity against Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, the cults, world religions, and about any group that teaches false doctrine. He is a seminary professor and an excellent writer who has written more than 70 books! His latest one is titled, The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy.
Dr. Rhodes addressed some of the outlandish statements Newsweek magazine had made in a recent article that distort the Bible and treat Christianity with contempt.
The Bad Translation Argument
"No television preacher has ever read the Bible. Neither has any evangelical politician. Neither has the Pope. Neither have I. And neither have you. At best, we've all read a bad translation, a translation of translations of translations of hand-copied copies of copies of copies of copies, and on and on."
The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear those words is the Dan Brown novels. I'm not kidding. The Da Vinci Code is a book that had these same kind of arguments. I think the author of that article got his arguments out of there.
This article makes it sound like there was a translation of a translation of a translation of a translation, and so on and so forth. His assumption is as if the Bible started in Hebrew and got translated into Aramaic, then into Greek, then into Latin, then into whatever other language that transpired. That's a completely false premise.
When it came to translating the Bible, what happened was that the New Testament was translated from Greek manuscripts. The Old Testament was translated from Hebrew manuscripts.
Now here is something really cool to think about. We've got over 25,000 manuscripts of the New Testament and many of them date very, very early. For example, we have Vaticanus and Sinaitucis which both date to the Fourth Century. We've got the Chester Beatty Papyri which goes back to the Second and Third Century. We've even got one manuscript that goes back to 120 AD, which is one generation separated from the four Gospels. What that means is accuracy.
It's correct that there are more manuscript evidence than there is for any ancient writings. Consider Plato. Plato predated Christ by a couple of hundred years. The earliest manuscript we have from him is 1,300 years later, and our total number of manuscripts is seven. Homer, who wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey, the copies we have available were written some 700 years or so after Homer's time, and so we don't even know if Homer really wrote them.
With the New Testament, we've got 25,000 that go back very, very far. They are very close to New Testament times. Here is something else to think about — even if by some freak accident we lost all 25,000 of those manuscripts, did you know that we could reproduce the entire New Testament except for 11 verses in the writings of the Church Fathers? There are 36,000 quotations by the Church Fathers of the New Testament. All but 11 verses we could reconstruct accurately if we lost all those 25,000 manuscripts. The good news is we haven't lost those manuscripts.
So, we've got the 25,000 manuscripts plus the writings of the Church Fathers. Let me tell you, this article doesn't know anything. It doesn't know its end from its beginning. You can trust your Bible based upon the real evidence.