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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Bible Translations

Don Stewart :: What Is a Translation? (Version)

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Question 1

What Is a Translation? (Version)

The word, “translation” can be defined as “the process of transferring the meaning of a word, phrase, or idea from one language to another.” A Bible translation is thus the rendering of the text of the Bible into a language other than that which it was originally written. A number of observations need to be made about this important subject.

  1. The Bible Was Written in Three Ancient Languages

    To begin with, we need to remember that the Bible was originally written in three different languages. The Old Testament was mainly written in Hebrew with a small portion composed in Aramaic. Aramaic is a language similar to Hebrew. The New Testament was originally written in the common Greek of the day. Whenever the Bible is expressed in a language other than these, it is a translation.

    Translations are made in order to help the Bible reader better understand the Word of God. Not everyone has the time, or capacity, to learn the original languages in which the Scriptures were written. Thus, we have the need for translations.

  2. There Is a Long History of Translation of the Scripture

    The translation of the Scripture has been going on for a long time. Indeed, when the Jews returned from the Babylonian captivity about 536 B.C., they used the Scripture to help reunite the nation. The Bible says that the scribe Ezra, as well as some others, read the Scripture to the people and then explained it to them. We read:

    They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. (Nehemiah 8:8 ESV)

    This was necessary because these people no longer understood the form of Hebrew in which the Old Testament books were written. They were speaking Aramaic at that time.

  3. The Old Testament Was First Translated into Greek

    Sometime later, about 250 B.C., the Hebrew Scriptures began to be translated into Greek. This version is known as the Septuagint (abbreviated LXX for the traditional belief of the number of translators who were involved, seventy). The reason for this translation was the desire to make the Hebrew Scriptures understandable to the Greek-speaking Jews who had lost much of their ability to understand the original Hebrew.

  4. The New Testament Was Translated at an Early Date

    Soon after the New Testament was written, it was translated into Latin, Syriac, and a number of other languages. This practice has continued until the present time.

    For example, the Bible has been translated from the original languages into English for the benefit of people in English-speaking nations who wish to know and study God’s Word in their own language. Present-day translations into modern English help people accomplish the task of understanding God’s Word.

    The New Testament was written in the common, ordinary language of its day so people could understand the gospel and thus believe in Jesus Christ. Paul wrote the following to the Romans:

    But how can they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How welcome are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things! But all did not obey the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our message? So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ. (Romans 10:14-17 HCSB)

    To preach the gospel and to hear the gospel means the words of the Bible must be in the hearer’s language. Consequently, there must be translations.

  5. It Is Important That the Bible Be Translated Accurately

    It is also very important that the Bible be translated in an accurate manner. For one thing, we rely on it alone to tell us the way that we can be saved. This question was asked by a jailer who lived in the city of Philippi:

    Then he brought them outside and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30)

    The question was then clearly answered. Scripture says:

    They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31)

    We only know this because of what is written in the Bible; the Word of God.

    Furthermore, the Word of God tells us how we are to live our lives. The psalmist wrote:

    Your instructions are a lamp that shows me where to walk, and a light that shines on my path. (Psalm 119:105)

    Because the Bible tells us how we can have a personal relationship with the living God, and what He expects of us once we trust Him, then it is crucial that it is translated in an accurate manner.

Summary - Question 1
What Is a Translation (Version)?

The word, “translation” can be defined as the process of transferring the meaning of a word, phrase, or idea from one language to another. The Bible was originally written in three languages—Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. A Bible translation is the rendering of the text of the Holy Scriptures into a language other than that which it was originally written.

The purpose of a translation is to make the Word of God understandable to people who do not understand the original languages of Scripture. Translation of the Scripture has been going on since 250 years before the time of Christ.

For a number of reasons, it is crucial that the Bible be accurately translated. First, it is from the Scriptures alone that we find out how we can be saved from our sins. Consequently, it is essential that the communication from God to us be accurate.

Furthermore, it is only the Bible which tells us how we are supposed to live our lives. This is a further reason as to why the Bible must be translated in a trustworthy manner.

Basic Questions Regarding Translation Issues ← Prior Section
What Is a Paraphrase? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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