Why are there so many different Bible translation?

6 days ago

Why are there so many different Bible translations, and which ones should we use? It’s time to UNLEARN the lies. UNLEARN Hey, welcome to UNLEARN. My name is Lex, and I’d like to invite you to join us each week as we UNLEARN the lies and dig deeper into the truth of God’s Word. Now, let’s get started. There are approximately 900 English translations and paraphrases of the Bible. Never at any time in history have we had such an overabundance of Bible versions to choose from. This presents us with the unique problem of which translation to use.


Its obvious that not all translations are created equal, because they range from very literal such as the Young’s Literal Translation to very loose such as The Message. So, I want to look at why we have so many different translations. During the first 1400 years of Christian history all Bibles were handwritten copies that were written and copied by hand, and most of the time these copies were not made by scribes. This is important to keep in mind when we start looking at the manuscripts that are available to us today. There are three primary New Testament manuscript text-types, the Alexandrian text-type represented by codex Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, the Byzantine text-type represented by the Majority Text, and the Western text-type represented in the Old Latin. The Majority Text is used as the base for all Bible translations and refers to the largest number of surviving manuscripts, and has the fewest instances of textual variations, which is why its relied upon heavily in both the Textus Receptus and the Critical Text.

The Textus Receptus was compiled by Erasmus in the 16th century, and is the basis for Tyndales English New Testament as well as the King James, New King James, and most Reformation-era translations and is very similar to the Majority Text. The Alexandrian text-type consists of a relatively small number of manuscripts and is sometimes referred to as the minority-text. These manuscripts tend to have a larger number of abrupt readings, omitted verses, more variations between parallel passages, and more difficult readings. Most textual critics favor the Alexandrian text-type, because they tend to be older documents. However, it’s been argued that Egypt has an optimal climate for preserving texts, while the environment in the middle-east is not favorable for preserving documents, which explains why we don’t have older documents in the Byzantine text-type.

Most modern Bible versions are based on the Critical Text, which was first compiled in the 1800s and relies heavily on the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus codices. Codex Sinaiticus is an Alexandrian text-type manuscript written in uncial letters in the 4h century. According to many scholars, Codex Sinaiticus was one of the fifty copies of the Bible commissioned by the Roman Emperor Constantine. It is important to note that Sinaiticus has been modified by more than seven different people between the 4th and 12th centuries, making it one of the most corrected manuscripts in existence. Its also missing large portions of the Old Testament, as well as small portions of the New Testament, yet it’s considered by Scholars to be one of the most reliable texts because of its age.

Let me tell you that this really bothers me, because they know its missing verses, yet they consider it to be reliable. How can we trust a manuscript that we know has been modified and is missing information? Codex Vaticanus is named such because it came from the Vatican Library. Interestingly, this manuscript contains unusual small horizontally aligned double dots called “distigmai indicating textual uncertainty, and mark places where there were known textual variants.

The Critical text relies heavily on the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus codices, yet there are many differences between those two texts. In fact, there are more than 3,000 textual variants between these texts in the Gospels alone. Because of this, one scholar commented, “It is in fact easier to find two consecutive verses in which these two manuscripts differ the one from the other, than two consecutive verses in which they entirely agree.” – Dean John W. Burgon, Revision Revised (1883), p. 12 Yet, with all of these discrepancies, these are the two texts that form the basis for nearly all modern translations. It is important to point out that the Alexandrian text-type has far fewer manuscripts, which indicates that it was not as widely circulated as the Majority text.


Which means the Majority text represents the text that has been in use and circulated over the centuries. I want to emphasize that all of these texts are approximately 85% identical, which leaves 15% variations between them. However, 99% of the variants make no difference at all in the translation of the text. Almost 75% of these variants are spelling mistakes and 25% are word order and grammar variants. This leaves only about 1% of the variations to be of any concern at all to the translation. This is very encouraging and means we have good reason to believe that what we have today is very close to what was originally written. In regards to the number of texts we have available, the date of these documents, and their reliability, Bible scholar Dr. Gary Habermas has this to say: What is usually meant is that the New Testament has far more manuscript evidence from a far earlier period than other classical works. There are just under 6000 NT manuscripts, with copies of most of the NT dating from just 100 years or so after its writing. Classical sources almost always have fewer than 20 copies each and usually date from 700-1400 years after the composition of the work.

In this regard, the classics are not as well attested. While this doesn’t guarantee truthfulness, it means that it is much easier to reconstruct the New Testament text. – “The Reliability and Inspiration of the Bible”. Dr. Habermas Answers Important Questions We have over 5,800 Greek texts, 10,000 Latin manuscripts, and over 9,000 manuscripts in various other languages including Syriac, Slavic, Gothic, Ethiopic, Coptic and Armenian, yet the fact that we have less than 1% of meaningful variation is phenomenal. There is no other document in history that can compare to the manuscript evidence and congruency that we have for the Bible. Most of the variations are attributed to scribal errors, and can be easily reconciled when comparing the texts. The fact is there are a very small number of variants that actually affect the message of the text, and none of the variants affect core doctrine.

This shows us that God has preserved His Word over all these years in spite of human error. That being said, there are two major multiverse variants, which are are the woman caught in adultery in John 7:53-8:11, and the long ending of Mark 16:9-20. These two passages are the subject of much debate among scholars. Aside from these variants, there are a number of verses that appear in the Majority Text and or Textus Receptus but not in the Critical Text. For example, Matthew is missing from the critical text. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting. – Matthew (Majority Text/Textus Receptus) So, when we come across these types of variants, we need to look at the context and see if that verse is important to the text or not. In this particular text, this information could be important if there are unclean spirits that can’t be removed without prayer and fasting.

Other textual variants of significance are verses that are shortened or missing information. For example, Mark is missing some critical information that appears in the Majority Text and Textus Receptus. And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, Children, how hard it is FOR THOSE WHO TRUST IN RICHES to enter the kingdom of God! – Mark (Majority Text/Textus Receptus) But the Critical text says: And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! – Mark (Critical Text) This missing information makes a big difference in the understanding of what Yeshua was saying. Is it hard for everyone to enter the kingdom, or is it hard for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom? The context of this verse is in relation to money, so it seems to make more sense that He would be talking about the love of riches making it hard to enter the kingdom. Likewise, when we compare this verse with parallel passages in the other gospels, we see that He does include the statement about trusting in riches.

Another type of variant is when a passage uses different pronouns or uses a pronoun instead of a proper name. For example, in 1 Timothy we see that the Majority text says, God while the Critical text says, He. And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: GOD was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory. – 1 Tim (Majority Text/Textus Receptus) But the Critical text says: By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: HE who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. – 1 Tim (Critical Text) In this verse, the Majority text makes it clear that God was manifest in the flesh, but the Critical text, using the pronoun He leaves it unclear if this was God or someone else.

Another type of variant is when a verse contains different information than the same verse in other manuscripts. This type of variant is less common, but there are a few instances of it. For example, Revelation is quite different in the Critical text than it is in the Majority text. Blessed are those who DO HIS COMMANDMENTS, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter through the gates into the city. – Revelation (Majority Text/Textus Receptus) While the Critical text says: Blessed are those who WASH THEIR ROBES, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter through the gates into the city. – Revelation (Critical Text) This particular variant makes a significant difference in our understanding of what we should do. Also, the phrase wash their robes seems a bit vague and leaves room for various interpretations, while the phrase do His commandments is very clear and specific. Now, I can’t talk about textual variants without mentioning the Comma Johanneum found in 1 John 5:7-8.

This is one of the rare textual variants that found its way into the Textus Receptus, but doesn’t have the support of the Majority Text. For there are three that bear witness in heaven: THE FATHER, THE WORD, AND THE HOLY SPIRIT; AND THESE THREE ARE ONE. AND THERE ARE THREE THAT BEAR WITNESS ON EARTH: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one. – 1 John 5:7-8 (Textus Receptus) But the Majority text says: For there are three that bear witness: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one. – 1 John 5:7-8 (Majority Text/Critical Text) As far as I know, the Comma Johanneum exists only in the Textus Receptus, and it was added reluctantly by Erasmus because he couldn’t find it in any of the Greek manuscripts, so he backward translated it from the Latin text.

This is a very rare occurrence, and it is well documented. So, textual variants account for some of the differences we see in translations, but they are actually not the most significant factor. Copyright laws affect the reading of the text more than the textual variants. In order to have a copyright, new Bible versions must show significant difference from all existing Bible versions, this means that words must be changed whether they need it or not. In most cases words are replaced with synonyms that convey the same idea. This is what copyright.gov says about this type of copyright. A derivative work is a work based on or derived from one or more already existing works. Common derivative works include translations Another common type of derivative work is a new edition of a preexisting work in which the editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications represent, as a whole, an original work.

To be copyrightable, a derivative work must incorporate some or all of a preexisting work and add new original copyrightable authorship to that work. – www.copyright.gov/circs/circ14.pdf We also have to realize that translator bias affects translations as well. If someone has a particular belief about a verse, that might shape their translation of that particular verse. Mark is a good example of a verse that has been affected by translator bias. This is how the verse reads in the New King James Version: because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods” – Mark (NKJV) Now compare that with what the New International Version says: For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body. (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) – Mark (NIV) Notice that they changed thus purifying all foods into a declaration that all food is clean.

The New Living Translation takes it even further, saying: Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.) – Mark (NLT) This is not a verse that is affected by source texts, because all of the manuscripts agree about this verse in the Greek. The Greek text says: Katharine panta ta bromata () Which literally translates as, purifying all the foods, the exact same way the New King James translates it. So, why do these other translations add to the text? Its because they have a bias about this verse that’s affected their translation of it. Finally, when looking at Bible translations, we need to understand the two basic types of translations. The first is called “formal equivalence,” and attempts to translate the text word-for-word, as literally as possible.

The second is called dynamic equivalence and attempts to translate thought-for-thought, and results in a less than literal translation. However, there is another type of translation known as a paraphrase, which is basically a retelling of the Scripture in the authors own words. This type of translation ends up being very different from the original text, and these versions should be avoided. One example of a paraphrase is The Message. In my opinion, these paraphrase versions are so far from the original text that they shouldn’t even be considered a Bible translation.

So, what does all of this mean for us? It means we must be Bereans who study the Scriptures daily so that we can rightly understand the Word of God. Not all translations are created equal, so we need to use wisdom in selecting a good translation. I personally recommend a word-for-word translation so that you can have the most accurate understanding of the text.


I also recommend a translation that is based on the Majority text and or Textus Receptus. My personal favorite is the New King James Version, but I like several others as well. I hope this video has helped to clear up some of the confusion about Bible translations. SHARE THE TRUTH UNLEARN THE LIES Thanks for watching. If you found this video helpful then share it with your friends and family so they can UNLEARN the lies with us. If you want to see more videos like this one, subscribe to my channel. I want to say a special thank you to those who support this ministry. We truly appreciate your prayers and generosity. Thank you so much. And remember, the truth will set you free. See you next time.


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