How do we know that the modern translations of the Bible are accurate?


#1

Hey everyone. How do we know that the modern translations of the Bible are accurate? How do know that they are accurate to the earliest manuscripts in other words? I mean we really don't have the original manuscripts, do we?


#2

Actually, we do. From what I understand, the Vatican has a “library” of ancient documents including things like the Dead Sea Scrolls, bits (or all) of the original Bible, and original Latin Vulgate I believe as well. I put library in quotes because it is more like safe storage with strict access than like a public library.


#3

[quote="Holly3278, post:1, topic:329262"]
Hey everyone. How do we know that the modern translations of the Bible are accurate? How do know that they are accurate to the earliest manuscripts in other words? I mean we really don't have the original manuscripts, do we?

[/quote]

We have many ancient copies of the original manuscripts, and for the old testament we have pre Christ written documents and fragments.

A modern english translation or any other language besides the original greek or hebrew is going to be lacking somewhat. In some protestant translations this can be quite significant, but most main protestant and Catholic Translations should be pretty close. The inerrant scriptures are as originally composed in their original languages, but we have mother Church to help us know what has always been taught through the Magesterium so if there is question on a particular passage, we have the wonderful blessing of turning to the church for clarification!


#4

We have no original manuscripts. We have many copies, some of which have textual variants. A good scholarly Bible will have notes on such things. The best way to know what bible is most accurate to the original text is to learn Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. The second best way, trust the Church approved translations or serious scholarly alternatives. In my opinion, the Catholic RSV is pretty good, as is the Oxford Study Bible (non-Catholic alternative). The NAB, while approved, seems to take a lot of liberty with the texts though the Catholic Study Bible version of the NAB has good notes. Alternatives for the OT are the Orthodox Study Bible since its OT is a modern translation of the LXX text making it somewhat unique among modern bibles. While some traditional Catholics may suggest the Douay-Rheims Chancellor version, I would be careful of it. There are places where the English text has been deliberately changed from the meaning of the Clementine Vulgate text. Not to say its not interesting, but always check it against either the original Latin (of the Douay), or against a modern Catholic version like the RSV mentioned earlier.


#5

Considering the age of The Bible it is as accurate as it can be. Some parts have without no doubt been altered because of translation, but the most important thing, the message of The Bible and the Truth from The Gospels are still as true as they where some twothousand years ago.

The biggest problem is the O.T. But I can not see that it would be so different today that the main issues would have change to something else.

When translating a book the translator face a big problem though. Many words just don't have a match in an other language. That mean that they must be "creative" and maybe write a longer sentence then to original to get the message correct. Some may think that it mean that The Bible has been altered, which is actually has not. Only some words needed to make it the same are added, or removed.

A language also "live" thru out the time. The English we speak and talk today is very different from the English spoken a hundred years ago. That is normal. New words are introduced because we have things that we did not had before. (Micro-wave, mobil phone, jet engine...) Also the medical "language" change all the time. Latin was the universal language in medicin for a long time, but slowly there are English words as well, the medical langugae I did read over thirty years ago is maybe not understandable today. The cor is the same, but many diagnosis have got new names.

However, we can sleep safely and trust that what we read today and understand, is the same as it was in the early days of the written Bible.


#6

We can’t guarantee that we have the exact spelling or that every single word in its original lanuage because we don’t have the autographed manuscripts. But one thing as Catholics is that we have translations that are free from doctrinal error, which is what the Holy Spirit has determined to be more than sufficient for Christianity, and that the autographed manuscripts is not what God has determined necessary otherwise we would have been provided them .


#7

[quote="COPLAND_3, post:6, topic:329262"]
We can't guarantee that we have the exact spelling or that every single word in its original lanuage because we don't have the autographed manuscripts. But one thing as Catholics is that we have translations that are free from doctrinal error, which is what the Holy Spirit has determined to be more than sufficient for Christianity, and that the autographed manuscripts is not what God has determined necessary otherwise we would have been provided them .

[/quote]

You can be pretty much assured that a translation like the "New World" used by Jehovah Witnesses is not accurate since they wrote it so that it agrees with their particular doctrines. There are likely other translations that you could say the same thing about.:shrug:


#8

[quote="LegoGE1947, post:7, topic:329262"]
You can be pretty much assured that a translation like the "New World" used by Jehovah Witnesses is not accurate since they wrote it so that it agrees with their particular doctrines. There are likely other translations that you could say the same thing about.:shrug:

[/quote]

Absolutely!


#9

[quote="COPLAND_3, post:8, topic:329262"]
Absolutely!

[/quote]

I was wondering about these magazines that they leave seemingly everywhere "The Watchtower" Some of the articles in them seem on the surface to be quite good. Is that something they use to draw people in sort of like bait to a fish?


#10

[quote="LegoGE1947, post:9, topic:329262"]
I was wondering about these magazines that they leave seemingly everywhere "The Watchtower" Some of the articles in them seem on the surface to be quite good. Is that something they use to draw people in sort of like bait to a fish?

[/quote]

There no doubt is a multitude of people who enjoy entertaining and polished poison over the simple truth.


#11

when I was 8 years old and curious with only a kid's knowledge of such things, I managed to read most of an article from one JW magazine. (My mother's best friend was, at the time, a JW, and she didn't have the heart to throw it away.)
It was regarding hell. I only remember the phrase (paraphrasing a bit) "if you think hell is only....you are sorely mistaken"; it was an implication that hell is a definitive place, not a state. I thought that that didn't seem right at all, but...
And I remember that it quoted scripture. I took out my parent's (non JW) wedding bible and looked and looked and looked. Nothing. Years later, I Iearned how the JW Bible is translated in a vastly different way.
(and my mother's friend left JW later in life)


#12

[quote="bzkoss236, post:2, topic:329262"]
Actually, we do. From what I understand, the Vatican has a "library" of ancient documents including things like the Dead Sea Scrolls, bits (or all) of the original Bible, and original Latin Vulgate I believe as well. I put library in quotes because it is more like safe storage with strict access than like a public library.

[/quote]

The Vatican doesn't own a scrap of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and we don't have "the original Bible" (in fact there's really no such thing) nor "the original Vulgate." :p


#13

I think I am struggling to understand what you are asking, still.

Are you asking how do we know that our modern English bibles accurately represented the words which were originally written by the original authors?

Or are you asking how do we know that when we use the Textus Receptus or the Byzantine Text or the Latin Vulgate or Old Latin texts or the Coptic, etc. we are translating these works in the right way?


#14

[quote="Formosus, post:4, topic:329262"]
We have no original manuscripts. We have many copies, some of which have textual variants. A good scholarly Bible will have notes on such things. The best way to know what bible is most accurate to the original text is to learn Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. The second best way, trust the Church approved translations or serious scholarly alternatives. In my opinion, the Catholic RSV is pretty good, as is the Oxford Study Bible (non-Catholic alternative). The NAB, while approved, seems to take a lot of liberty with the texts though the Catholic Study Bible version of the NAB has good notes. Alternatives for the OT are the Orthodox Study Bible since its OT is a modern translation of the LXX text making it somewhat unique among modern bibles. While some traditional Catholics may suggest the Douay-Rheims Chancellor version, I would be careful of it. There are places where the English text has been deliberately changed from the meaning of the Clementine Vulgate text. Not to say its not interesting, but always check it against either the original Latin (of the Douay), or against a modern Catholic version like the RSV mentioned earlier.

[/quote]

Formosus (what a great name choice!) - Which Hebrew text would you recommend for use, over the Greek or Aramaic? I am always slightly leery of using Hebrew texts to try to make something "more authentic." I don't actually see that is what you are saying in your post, it just makes me think of those people who would say, "No Septuagint, gotta read the Hebrew. " I get stuck on the assessment of the Church Fathers- mainly those detracting that choice of St. Jerome, "The LXX was good enough for the Apostles."

Ibid - Which parts of the DR-C are you referring to?
Have you read the Knox version? I needed to look up something in Ecclesiastes, so I turned to New Advent the other day. I hadn't been on their Scripture section since they had switched to the Knox English. Man! I had to just read the Latin because the English was first, very divergent, and the English, in its own right, was pretty convoluted! I mean, I knew the ancient Latins could throw phrases around, all over the place, but this was just... the English.... I wasn't ready, lol.


#15

[quote="LegoGE1947, post:7, topic:329262"]
You can be pretty much assured that a translation like the "New World" used by Jehovah Witnesses is not accurate since they wrote it so that it agrees with their particular doctrines. There are likely other translations that you could say the same thing about.:shrug:

[/quote]

I have a copy of the NWT, since I am in a Bible Study with a JW (I want to get out, but I don't know how to go about it... I need help :(). And to be quite honest, it is so badly translated, and so insulting, that I want to burn it. But, I don't want to disrespect the Bible in that way. But yeah, I would avoid the NWT.


#16

[quote="Kanuckistani, post:15, topic:329262"]
I have a copy of the NWT, since I am in a Bible Study with a JW (I want to get out, but I don't know how to go about it... I need help :(). And to be quite honest, it is so badly translated, and so insulting, that I want to burn it. But, I don't want to disrespect the Bible in that way. But yeah, I would avoid the NWT.

[/quote]

I wouldn't hesitate to dispose of a poisonous book like that. Its designed to mislead and lead astray. Even the devil used Scripture to mislead.


#17

[quote="Kanuckistani, post:15, topic:329262"]
I have a copy of the NWT, since I am in a Bible Study with a JW (I want to get out, but I don't know how to go about it... I need help :(). And to be quite honest, it is so badly translated, and so insulting, that I want to burn it. But, I don't want to disrespect the Bible in that way. But yeah, I would avoid the NWT.

[/quote]

I have heard that if you have a Bible you don't want or is so old as to be useless you can dig a hole and bury it or you can burn it. Those are the two respectful ways to dispose of a religious object you no longer want. One thing I would not do is simply throw it in the trash, even if it is a bad translation of the scriptures. Does anyone else have opinions on this?:shrug:


#18

Btw, along with the pre-Constantine manuscript fragments themselves we also have extant copies of the dozens of letters and documents from the ECFs which were not bashful at all about citing Scripture in them. I've heard it said that their usage is an invaluable witness to the Church's ability to preserve the Word of God to such a degree that there should be no doubt that what we have as the Bible today is the very same that the Early Church had even immediately after the death of the last Apostle.

I have every confidence in the Church in regard to the Sacred Scriptures.


#19

The accuracy of a modern translation of the Bible should be judged by its meaning, in the light of the teachings of Tradition and Magisterium. If any translation contradicts definitive Church teaching, it cannot be correct.

The Vatican does not have a special collection of ancient manuscripts that guarantees the accuracy of modern translations. Most of the ancient manuscripts are not owned by the Vatican; they are in the hands of scholars and scholarly institutions.

There is no “original” Latin Vulgate. In the early Church, there were very many translations of Biblical books into Latin. Saint Jerome’s work in Latin is not extant.

Learning Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, or Latin does not guarantee the accuracy of a translation; then you would be depending on your own understanding. What guarantees accuracy, concerning the path of salvation (rather than merely academic disputes), is the teaching of the Magisterium.

However, many modern Catholic Bible translations are not translated or edited in the light of magisterial teaching. This can be clearly seen from the character of the footnotes and annotations. Biblical scholarship, at the present time, is in a problematic state.


#20

[quote="Ron_Conte, post:19, topic:329262"]
The accuracy of a modern translation of the Bible should be judged by its meaning, in the light of the teachings of Tradition and Magisterium. If any translation contradicts definitive Church teaching, it cannot be correct.

The Vatican does not have a special collection of ancient manuscripts that guarantees the accuracy of modern translations. Most of the ancient manuscripts are not owned by the Vatican; they are in the hands of scholars and scholarly institutions.

There is no "original" Latin Vulgate. In the early Church, there were very many translations of Biblical books into Latin. Saint Jerome's work in Latin is not extant.

Learning Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, or Latin does not guarantee the accuracy of a translation; then you would be depending on your own understanding. What guarantees accuracy, concerning the path of salvation (rather than merely academic disputes), is the teaching of the Magisterium.

However, many modern Catholic Bible translations are not translated or edited in the light of magisterial teaching. This can be clearly seen from the character of the footnotes and annotations. Biblical scholarship, at the present time, is in a problematic state.

[/quote]

Wonderful post!!


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