The original Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic - does not exist?


I hear sometimes people mentioning that the text in the Bible “in the original Greek” or “in the original Hebrew” or “in the original Aramaic” says something.

How can one make this comparison to “the original” when the original copies of the Bible are long gone. The closest thing we have are copies of copies of copies of …the original.


The original language. Multiple early sources can be compared for accuracy. For instance if you sent out a letter and this letter was hand copied by multiple people, even if you lost the original the copies could be compared with each other and if they match than you can be reasonably assured of their accuracy to the original. However, If they differed widely from each other than you would have reason for concern. Of course they didn’t have zerox machine back then. :wink:


There are more copies of the ancient Biblical texts in existence than any other ancient writing. The accuracy of our current texts is based on comparing the ancient texts to each other. They look for variants. So let’s say you have 500 copies of a certain text from the Bible. 499 of them read a sentence one way, and 1 text reads it differently. Odds are for the 499 texts being the accurate version. They compare the text of the Bible line by line that way. Because of that, odds are extremely good that our current version of the Bible is highly true to the original texts.


There’s nothing wrong “copies of copies of copies” if the copy machine (man) is good.


The numbers I’ve seen are approximately 8,000 New Testament copies or parts of and 12,000 of the Old Testament. Enough to reliably compare.


If the something that follows such expressions is in English, then I think the expressions are simply a way of saying that the something that follows is a more literal English translation.


‘Original’ here means the original languages these texts were written in, not so much the original autographs.


Generally speaking, yes, but there are certain cases where the reading attested in fewer manuscripts may be judged to have a chance of being more original than the one attested in the majority of manuscripts due to certain factors, one of which is the so-called lectio difficilior (the difficult, unharmonized reading is more likely to be authentic than the more consistent, harmonized reading).


And that is an assumption that under-girds our trust in Scripture. We trust that generations of men copied them correctly.

I love it when people make fun of Sacred Tradition dismissing it by calling it the “telephone game” - when Scripture underwent the same process throughout the generations but they’re not calling it the “telephone game.” I see that as a double standard.


It was no “telephone game” no one whispered anything to anyone. The original books and letters were copied by good copy machines (men)


Spotify has a lot of hebrew and aramaic songs. You could learn the intonation and learn their language fastly.


Bob what about telephones? The coinage is whisper it down the alley / mountain.

Are you focusing on a particular telephone that was cut off at a particular mosque?

It seems clear to me that this specific case is implied as you move into the eternity of Scripture. That eternity is Jesus who is “I Am” the Lord, God, Jesus is eternally begotten of God, The Father.

Allah is a fictitious God made by big egos and tiny minds.

Whisper it down, Bob.


We barely have the originals of the documents of the founding fathers of the USA. And, when we do, people are always trying to weasel around them.


The Dead Sea Scrolls provide compelling evidence that Scripture has been copied accurately.


I understand exactly what Bob is saying. It was very similar to a telephone game. The “copyists” were not perfect. Otherwise, we wouldn’t need to harmonize the many “versions” of the Bible. From one generation to the next, “copyist error” crept in.

The point is that God protected His Word in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture from error throughout the ages. We trust God to protect His Word through His Church.

Make sense?


Copies of the original language are a lot more closer to the original scripture than a copy in a foreign language. Once scripture is translated into another language it loses some of its meaning


Yes it is true the original Greek text is gone but fortunately we still have the translations from what was called the “common text.” In other words, we can go to the (Greek) common text to source any passage in question found in English. This common text was multiplied thousands in the 1st. and 2nd and 3rd. Century. These manuscripts were reliable and consistent with each other and surely plentiful in their time. Unfortunately today we get into trouble only because translators no longer use the common text but a discarded text. Why? Because these are legible and plentiful. But the discarded text do not have the consistency or reliability of the common text. Modern translations all use them and it has proven to be a disaster in terms of doctrine, this is why they were discarded in the first place. We don’t need to look at a copy of a copy of a copy. We can reach back to the common text translated into our native tongue with a sense of confidence that the translation is workable and accurate. There are certain passages that may prove to be difficult because of the English translation, but overall it can prove to be solid. The Geneva bible, a translation into English is older than the King James and used by the founders of our country, does not have some of the linguistic prejudices of the King James. Very reliable.


What other original manuscript languages could there be apart from Greek or Aramaic or Hebrew? :shrug:

We aren’t comparing actual later documents (in Latin or English) to non-existent documents. We’re comparing a later translation with an earlier physical document written in the original Greek/Hebrew language of the source/author.

And there’s no reason to presume that a non-existent earlier manuscript was more or less accurate. If I wrote a first draft or took shorthand notes or kept a rough diary which I (as the author) intended to use as the basis for my final ‘presentation’ document, why would my published work be less significant than the missing first draft(s)?


I will give another view about the original Scriptures. The other side of the coin…

**If you see a train in 12,000 pieces you know that something horrible has gone wrong. **

The Scriptures are accurate in everything that pertains to salvation, Faith and morals but not in all matters. Some Scriptures such as KJV are not even accurate in Faith and morals.


That is why you should only trust Catholic versions of the Bible.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit