Bible translation

Christianity / Bible / Ancient translations

Bible translation

Bible translation requires proficiency in Hebrew and Ancient Greek, as well as Aramaic for both Old and New Testament translations.
Knowing Hebrew alone is not enough to translate the Old Testament, just like knowing Greek alone is not enough to translate the New Testament.

Old Testament (Tanakh)

Masoretic Text

In the VIII-X centuries, the Jews, being scattered all over the face of the earth, had many centers and all had sacred books.
These manuscripts fell into disrepair and were copied everywhere in different ways. This was done carefully, with respect, but nevertheless, after a while, discrepancies in these copies became apparent (according to the principle of a damaged telephone).
If it goes on like this, the Jews would have several rather different Holy Books.

The Jews did not lose hope of the reunification of the people, and for this something was required to unite the whole people.
The Tanakh was perfect for this. Therefore, it was decided to collect the existing copies of the Tanakh and rework it into a single text.

All the work was carried out radically, all copies, all discrepancies were simply destroyed.
A single text was created, vocalizations appeared, and this text was recognized as the original.
This text has already been rewritten very meticulously. This was done exclusively by specially trained and authorized people.
If an error was noticed in the text, it was rewritten, and corrections were written in the margins.

In addition to uniting the Jews, the task was to protect Judaism from Christianity.
This determined the choice of versions of the TaNaKh texts in case of discrepancies.
Let's say in Isaiah 7:14 in "behold, Virgin in the womb shall conceive and give birth to a Son", instead of VIRGO the word YOUNG UNMARIED WOMAN is used .

Dead Sea Scrolls

Manuscripts were found in the Judean Desert.
Huge number and very ancient.
These manuscripts confirmed the correctness of the Masoretic texts.
A museum was built with a roof in the shape of the lids of the jars in which these manuscripts were found.

Translation is older than the original

Based on this, there is great interest in the translation of the Septuagint, which used texts dating back hundreds of years BC, which are not available either today or to the Massorites.

Translators of the Septuagint may well have had access to texts written in Paleoscript (the original Hebrew alphabet, which was replaced by the Babylonian alphabet during the Babylonian captivity).

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son

D Isaiah 7:14 in "Behold, a Virgin shall be with child and bear a Son", instead of VIRGIN in the Masorot text the word YOUTH is used UNMARRIED WOMAN.
The Septuagint uses the word VIRGO.

Has someone corrected the text? No. The text is correct in both places.

In Hebrew there is a word for a young woman, and there is a word for a virgin. The Bible uses a word that can be interpreted in two ways.
The fact is that this prophecy is twofold, like many in the Bible: for the situation in Israel and for the future.
So, based on the situation in Israel, it was about a young unmarried girl, and when the Septuagint was being translated, this prophecy had already been fulfilled and the correct spelling was VIRGIN. Moreover, the translation was done by the Jews.

Which text should we use to translate the Old Testament?

The basis for the translation is the Masoretic text, because it is the text of the original language.
Not everything can be directly translated perfectly. Something always gets lost in translation.

However, it is recommended to check the text with the Septuagint. If there are discrepancies, you should consult other ancient translations of the Scriptures:

  • Peshitta - translation of the Old Testament into Syriac.
  • Targum - translations of the Old Testament into Aramaic.
  • The Samaritan Pentateuch - the version of the Torah for the Samaritans. There are points where they "tweaked" the Scripture to their advantage, but overall they stuck to the Scripture.
Here it becomes clear who rewrote the original correctly and who was wrong.
Everyone cannot make the same mistakes.

Therefore, to correctly translate the Old Testament, knowledge of Hebrew and Ancient Greek is required.
Some of the books are written in Aramaic, so knowledge of Aramaic will also be required.

New Testament

The New Testament is written in Ancient Greek, but... Jesus did not speak Ancient Greek.
Jesus spoke Aramaic and quoted Scripture in Hebrew.
For example, in Greek there are several words for the word LOVE, but in Aramaic there is only one.

Of course, Paul's epistles and other text were originally written in Greek, and there you can pay attention to the shades of this language.
But the quotations from Scripture and the words of Jesus and others are simply translations of ancient Greek and Aramaic into Greek.
This is where knowledge of these languages ​​will help a lot.