A word about ‘authoritative’ translations

In the centuries since the King James Version was authorized in 1611, many have come to refer to it as the “authoritative” translation. This notion of authoritativeness is so pervasive that many hold the KJV in higher esteem than the Hebrew and Greek texts from which it was translated.

There was a time when a grade-school education included a certain amount of Latin, Hebrew and Greek. We left that a long way back…before our modern public education system. Now, we’re lucky if the kid graduates at all and can function in English. But I digress.

Since the ancient languages aren’t taught in school, they’re not taught at home. Therfore several generations of kids have grown up in Christian homes not knowing how to read the Bible in the ancient languages. This makes the reliance on translation all the more heavier.

The reality is there is no such thing as an “authoritative” translation.

None.

It does not exist, except as an emotion-laden idea in the minds of many Christians.

It’s an idea, a notion, a myth. A widely- and closely-held belief. That’s all.

The message is the authority. How it is presented is another issue. Assuming the presentation itself is the authority is unhealthy.

The original writings from which we get the biblical text, whether they be on scrolls or tablets, probably don’t exist anymore. They’ve been duplicated by thousands of scribes over the centuries and whatever documents survive are most likely copies. So while we speak of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek being the original languages, the resource materials we employ for study are not those original documents.

With all that said, read your bible. Study it. Put a cover on it. Use highlighters. Write stuff in the margins. But understand that it is a tool, not an object of worship.

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