There is the belief in some circles that the written Word of God has become corrupted because it has been translated from the original languages, and is merely a copy of the original manuscripts, which no longer exist. For those that walk in such doubt, we hope this article will reveal the utter absurdity of such vain imaginations.
Is it really true that only the original manuscripts in the original Hebrew language were inspired by God, and the copies and translations were not? Is it correct to call a translation of the scripture "the inspired Word of God"? These questions will be examined.
In 2 Timothy 3:15-17, our brother Paul refers to the Scriptures that Timothy had and called them inspired. If ones belief that only the original manuscripts were inspired, then one must conclude that "all scripture" in 2 Timothy 3:16 refers to the original manuscripts only. Let's back up one verse. Timothy knew "the scriptures." Did Timothy know the original manuscripts? Did he have them in his possession? Did he see them somewhere and learn them? We know that Timothy did not have the originals; he had only a copy. It is possible that he had the Old Testament in Hebrew, but it is more likely that he had the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint), since his father was a Greek and he lived in Derbeand/or Lystra, which were definitely Greek-speaking. Every reference in the New Testament to the "scripture(s)" is rendered from copies of the original manuscripts in Hebrew and the translations in Greek. No one had the original manuscripts at that time.
And at Luke 4:21 "…This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears." Did this synagogue in Nazareth have the original manuscript of Isaiah? And consider John 5:39 as Jesus told the Jews who had challenged Him to "Search the scriptures..." Was He telling these people to search the original manuscripts? How would anyone know if the "scripture" were fulfilled if the original manuscripts had crumbled into dust centuries earlier? Simply because they had copies and translations of the original manuscripts!
And at Acts 8:32, Philip was sent to meet up with the Ethiopian eunuch. When Philip found him, he was reading something called "scripture". How on earth did this fellow from Ethiopia get his hands on the original manuscript of the book of Isaiah? And why did that synagogue in Nazareth ever give it to him? And consider the Bereans at Acts 17:11. Did the Bereans have all the original manuscripts of the Old Testament? If they had them all, what did the eunuch have; or if the eunuch had Isaiah, the Bereans were deprived of Isaiah?
If "scripture(s)" refers to "original manuscripts," then one would have to say that Jesus was playing a cruel hoax on those to whom He spoke. Examine Matthew 21:42; 22:29; Mark 12:10,24; Luke 24:27; John 2:22; 7:38,42; 19:36-37; 20:9. How could these people read or know the scriptures, if they had crumbled into dust centuries earlier? Because, of course, they had copies of the original manuscripts.
Now, when we go to Luke 24:32, we can see things in a new light. Did Jesus have the original manuscripts with Him? In fact, did he have any book with him?? Or did he simply speak? In verse 45, Jesus opened their understanding so they could understand the scriptures. What scriptures? The original manuscripts? And once these Emmaus fellows understood these original manuscripts, did they mail them up to the Bereans? (Relative to Luke 24:32, see also, Job 32:8).
At John 10:35, we learn that the scripture cannot be broken. But if "scripture(s)" refers to original manuscripts, Jesus was mistaken (but we know He was not). For every original manuscript that was ever written has been broken into dust. Do you see the problem we have here? If 2 Timothy 3:16 says only the original manuscripts were inspired, then how do you explain all the other places where that word "scripture(s)" appears, when they cannot possibly refer to the original manuscripts??
Hebrew 1:8 and 10:5 quote from the Greek translation of the Old Testament scriptures (the Septuagint) authoritatively. Hebrews 3:7 states, "the Holy Ghost said ..." and it was in Greek, not in Hebrew. Why did he not insert Hebrew words at that point? Obviously, because a translation may be correctly called the Word of God!
If only the original manuscripts were inspired, then about 40 verses in the New Testament are not inspired, since they, even in the original manuscripts, were Greek translations of the Hebrew Old Testament.
Is Exodus 5-11 inspired? All those conversations that took place between Moses and Pharaoh were in Egyptian. Yet, when Moses wrote the book of Exodus, all those conversations appeared in Hebrew. They were all "translations." Or we could go back to Joseph in Egypt. He spoke Egyptian to hide his identity from his brothers. Yet, when Moses wrote it down, he wrote it in Hebrew, another "translation". Not inspired?
What about the decrees of Artexerxes and Darius and Nebuchadnezzar? Those men didn't speak Hebrew, yet what they said appears in Hebrew in Daniel and Esther. Another "translation". Not inspired?
All of the "speaking in tongues" in Acts 2 were translations, for each man heard what Peter was saying in his own language. Not inspired? What about the sign that was nailed on the cross? That consisted of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. At least 2 of those had to be translations. Not inspired? Or how about Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34? Jesus cried out in Aramaic, and in the very same verse, even in the original manuscripts, there was given the Greek translation. Can you honestly say "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani" is inspired, but "Theemou, Theemou, inati me egkatelipes" is not, being a translation?
If only the original manuscripts are inspired, no one has the inspired scripture. Thus, no one could obey Matthew 4:4, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." Did God intend for only those who had the original manuscripts to obey his Word? Did He intend for only those who could read Hebrew and Greek to obey his Word? The answer must be obvious to any child of God. When He spoke this truth, and when Christ reaffirmed it, did He not know that the scripture would be copied and translated many times? Again, if only the original manuscripts are inspired, we cannot obey 2 Timothy 4:2 ("Preach the word"); nor can we obey Revelation 22:18-19 (warnings about adding to and taking away from Scripture). Neither could we have the benefit of 2 Timothy 3:16-17, being instructed and "thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
1 Peter 1:23-25 teaches that "this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you." Note: This is the word ... that which they had heard. They had not heard the original manuscripts, but copies and translations. Yet he stated that they were born again by the incorruptible word of God.
And let's consider this question. Would our Father tell us His Word is the final authority and leave us without His Word? Would He call a man to preach His Word and not give it to him? God calls a man and says, "I'm calling you. Spend your life preaching the truth. Preach the Word!" So, wouldn't He give him a copy of His Word? Would God tell His people to live by the Word and not give it to them?
It is a very sad commentary when people say, "We believe that the scripture, in the original manuscripts, is the Word of God. But the scripture we have today is not the Word of God," If that's true, we have no scripture. Do you understand the implications of that? We have no scripture. Why? Because if God is not the final authority, then man is the final authority. If we have no final authority in God's Word, then man will arbitrarily discern what God says. If man discerns what God says in this way, then man becomes the final authority instead of God.
"Well, in the original manuscript..." sounds scholarly; but nobody in our generation has seen them! If we don't have a scripture that's the Word of God, we've got to go to human reasoning. Those of little faith have to either admit that the written Word of God existing today is inspired by Him, or they have to flee to the Church, or to human reasoning or human experience as being the final authority. If there is no dependable Word of God for them today, they have no other recourse. If God has not given them His Word, then they have to decide what is God's Word. If you decide what is God's Word, and you decide what is good and evil, then"...ye shall be as gods" (Genesis 3:5). That's human reasoning.
By the way, basing a doctrine on human reasoning is idolatry. Basing a doctrine on human experience is idolatry. Basing a doctrine on some Church being the final authority is idolatry. The Church is then the idol, because making the Church the final authority is done so by human reasoning. Letting the Pope or a preacher speak ex cathedra and saying that it is God who is speaking is idolatry. You're making him as God. Following your own heart and saying that it is God who is speaking is idolatry. You're making yourself as God.
So the truth is, you've got one choice of two.Either the written Word handed down to us is the uncorrupted Word of God or we have no other place to turn but to idolatry.
Answers to Questions
1. "Are the italicized words in bibles inspired?"
Answer: When translating from one language to another, it is impossible to give a word-for-word rendering. Inserted words (usually italicized) are necessary. The Greek language omits the verb sometimes and is perfectly correct, according to the rules of Greek grammar. However, in English, this would make an awkward sentence to say the least, and in some cases, would greatly hinder one's understanding of it.
An example is in 2 Timothy 3:16, where the word "is" is in italics, since there is no Greek equivalent for it.
2 Timothy 3:16, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:"
In addition, it is necessary to re-arrange the order in which some words appear. For example, if we translated John 3:16 in a word-for-word literal rendering, it would read as follows:
John 3:16, "So for loved the God the world that the Son of him the only-begotten he gave, that all the ones believing into him not may perish, but may have life eternal."
There is nothing wrong with the insertion of words, if they be correct. They are necessary for our understanding.
2. "The translators were not consistent; they were wrong to translate one Greek word by several English words."
Answer: We must distinguish between a translator's choice and a translator's error. For example, in Roman 7:7-8 the Greek noun epithumia and its corresponding verb epithumeo are translated by three English words: lust, covet, and concupiscence. We cannot charge them with error here. In their day, the three words meant essentially the same. The same is true of the translation of the definite article from Greek to English. Not all translators agree when it should or should not be done, however, it is not a matter of error, but of personal judgment, as every translator knows. We may disagree with a translator's choice of words, but cannot necessarily call that an error. The English words story, fast, tie, post and watch all have at least two different meanings; sometimes three. This situation exists in any language.
Synonyms may mean the same in one situation, and have different shades of meaning in another. For instance, car and automobile may be referring to the same thing, or differentiating between a railroad car and an automobile. The context must determine.
3. "If the translation is inspired, it would be wrong to have a marginal reading or to suggest another possible word."
Answer: When suggesting another translation of a word or phrase, there is no thought of correcting the translators or the scripture. Such suggestions are given because of the changes in the English language in the past 300 plus years. Also, various false doctrines which are popular today, but were unknown at the time the translation was written, have confused the understanding of many people. Hence, it is often necessary to resort to Greek and Hebrew to clear up such misunderstandings.
New Testament writers sometimes paraphrase Old Testament scripture. Examples: Matthew 12:17-21 (from Isaiah 42:1-3); Romans 3:10-18 (from Psalm 14:1-3; Psalm 5:9; Psalm 140:3; Psalm 10:7; Psalm 59:7-8; Psalm 36:1).
Therefore, different words may be used when teaching the same truth. Hence, an honest translation in English from uncorrupted texts would be equally inspired as an honest translation in Spanish from the same texts. Also, two English translations that say the same truths, though using different words to do so, would be equally inspired in the scriptures which agree. It is in the places where there is a different teaching, or an omission, that we must choose.
If God was not involved in the making of copies or translations, then how does one advancing the theory that "only the original manuscripts were inspired and man took it from there," avoid the charge of anthropolatry? They are saying that man is more powerful than God, and God is not powerful enough to keep his promises to preserve his Word.
4. "Only the original writings were inspired of God; therefore, only the original writings were inerrant, or without error."
Answer: To answer honestly, a question must first be asked: which copy of the originals? For instance, in Jeremiah 36:2 an "original" is made, and in verse 23 it is burnt. Then in verse 32 Jeremiah makes another "original" and in this one he adds some words to it (at the direction of God). Then this second copy is tossed into the Euphrates river in at 51:63! Which one was the original? Was the first one, or the second one the correct copy? If it was the first, then why didn't God save it from the fire? If it was the second, then God must not think much of the originals, for He had them thrown into the river!
This is a life and death matter, for if we do not have an infallible, pure, inerrant Holy Word of God now, (not in the originals which have been lost forever, centuries ago) to rest our weary souls upon for time and eternity, then we have but one alternative or option: Let's eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die and go to hell. For the child and servant of Almighty God, that is not an option.
Let us look at some undisputed facts about the originals.
And on and on and on. Therefore, in the light of the above, to flee to the supposed sanctuary of the originals is unreal, hypocrisy, a fetish, and worse than the proverbial ostrich hiding its head in the sand and thinking it is covered and out of sight.
- First: there never was a book of 66 originals of the scripture.
- Second: there never was a book of the 39 originals of the Old Testament.
- Third: there never was a book of the 27 originals of the New Testament.
- Fourth: no one living or dead ever saw the 66, 39 or 27 originals.
- Fifth: each of the originals was lost, worn out, destroyed or gone within 100 to 150 years of their writing.
- Sixth: the originals were written over a period of about 1600 years from the first book of Job to the last one Revelation.
- Seventh: the originals (from the Old to the New Testament) were written from as much as 2000 miles apart from each other.
- Eighth: the originals were written in at least three different languages.
- Ninth: the originals were written on any number of kinds of materials, with any number of kinds of writing fluid.
- Tenth: the originals under God's will and guidance incorporate many kinds of culture and background.
- Eleventh: no version in existence today was or is translated from any original.
- Twelfth: no one living today would know or recognize any one of the 66 originals if they saw one.
The first thing we observe is that our Father in Heaven promised to preserve both His word and words.
"The word of God…abideth for ever " (1 Peter 1:23).
"The word of the Lord endureth for ever" (1 Peter 1:25).
"My words shall not pass away" (Luke 21:33).
"Thou shalt preserve them" (Psalms 12:6-7).
"For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven" (Psalms 119:89).
"Concerning thy testimonies…thou hast founded them for ever" (Psalms 119:152).
"Thy word…endureth for ever" (Psalms 119:160).
"The word of our God shall stand for ever" (Isaiah 40:8).
"My words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth…saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever" (Isaiah 59:21).
Has our Father kept His promises? Yes, He has preserved His Word and it endures even unto today, because His Power, Wisdom, and Spirit transcend the error of men!
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