With so many Translations, how can we know the English Translation we’re using is Accurate?

It is important to be concerned about the accuracy of the Bible translation we’re using, but the fact that the wording varies in modern English translations is no reason to think they aren’t reliable. The Lord Jesus and the apostles considered the Old Testament Scriptures the very Word of God, but they weren’t troubled that the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament used by Greek-speaking Jews) differed slightly from the Hebrew text. The Old Testament quotations that sprinkle the New Testament are not word-for-word translations from the Hebrew text. The apostles quoted loosely from the Septuagint. Of the 175 Old Testament quotations found in the New Testament, not one of any length carefully follows the Masoretic Hebrew text. In general they are closer to the Greek Septuagint.

Jesus himself never sought to quote the Old Testament in a rigidly word-for-word way. An example is Luke’s account of His reading of Isaiah 61: -2 in the synagogue at Capernaum (Luke 4:17-21). We don’t know whether Jesus was reading from the standard Hebrew text or not. He may have freely translated it into Aramaic. In any case, Isaiah 61:1 (KJV) closes with the words: “Proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” Luke 4:18 closes with the words, “Preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” The wording is far from exactly the same. Does this mean that Isaiah 61:1 as we find it in the King James Version is not the Word of God or that the words recorded by Luke do not carry authority? This has obviously not been the conclusion of the Christian church through the centuries. We are confident that the inspired words of Isaiah are faithfully recorded and that Luke accurately recorded the words of Christ. A slight difference in the wording doesn’t trouble us, because both passages have the same basic meaning.

We believe the example of Jesus and the apostles serves an important purpose. If the Lord and His disciples didn’t get hung up on a minor difference in wording, we shouldn’t either. If the best available texts seem to call for small changes in the contemporary language we use to express the content they contain, they should be made. Our core concern should be the accuracy with which the inspired concept or idea expressed in the Scriptural text is conveyed.

 

 

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