The Bible: Part 3 The Modern Translations

Sermon Series: The Bible

#3 Modern Translations

March 20, 2019

Grace and mercy to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

This is the third week in our midweek sermon series called: The Bible.  We are taking a deeper look at The Bible in order to have a deeper appreciation of this Holy Book as well as how to use it to connect with God through faith in Jesus and with our neighbor in love.

Two weeks ago, we looked at the Holy Bible as an ancient book among many.  We learned that the Bible is reliable and accurate. In comparison to other ancient books such as the works of Homer, Plato, and even Shakespeare, the Bible has more copies (6,000 New Testament) and those copies were recorded within generations rather than centuries.  To dismiss the Bible as a fake we would also need to dismiss most if not all ancient books.

Last week, we looked at how we received the Bible in our own language.  William Tyndale was a student of Martin Luther. He translated the first Bible into English.  He translated from Majority Greek text into English but also relied on Martin Luther’s German translation.  The Majority text is the important part. The Majority Greek text feed the Eastern Church for a millenia at the time of the Reformation.  The Majority Greek text has fed all Protestant Christians since the Reformation. So the Majority Text was the basis for all English Bibles until the late 1800’s

Two new manuscripts were found were found in the late 1800’s.  Their names are Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. They are not very old only dating to the 11th or 12th centuries.  They don’t agree with the Majority text very well. They don’t agree with each other very well. However, they were hailed as superior to the Majority Text. The differences between the Majority Text and the newly discovered codices are illuminating when examined in the cool light of reason.  

The Majority Text manuscripts were dominant and in agreement with one another, but the Egyptian manuscripts were not used throughout the ancient church and were not in agreement with each other. Very few manuscripts agree with Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, and the Egyptian texts do not always agree with each other.

The Majority Text manuscripts were used in worship for centuries, establishing their acceptance in the early Christian Church, which was closer to the original events than we are. In contrast, the two Egyptian texts popped up rather mysteriously and were not distributed and used in a huge family of copies within the Christian Church.

The Egyptian texts were first used in an English translation in 1881.  The Bible is called the Revised Standard Version (RSV).

The ending of Mark is worth noting. Above Mark 16:9-20 it is written “[The most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20.]”  This is also true of the English Standard Version (ESV), which is our synod’s prefered Bible at this time. It is also true of the New International Version (NIV). It is even true of the Beck Bible.

Someone who has not read the research on the ending of Mark—and this material is fairly difficult to find —would conclude that Mark 16:9-20 does not belong in the Bible. You would not know that the only major manuscript unambiguously omitting the ending is Sinaiticus and that this “most reliable manuscript” suddenly appeared without a so-called family of copies to back it up.

When a faithful Lutheran reads this Bible, after being exposed to the King James Version, he is led to believe that the Christian Church was deceived for centuries. Luther was wrong. Tyndale was wrong. All the Reformers were wrong. How can the average Christian check the facts? In front of him is the latest Bible printed by a conservative Lutheran. He has no way of discovering, apart from a theological library, that the manuscripts favored in the new edition have no history at all. If a farmer bred cattle or pigs without knowing their genetic heritage, he would be considered lazy or foolish.  The ultimate result of rejecting the Majority Text has planted doubt about the entire New Testament text.

My point is this, if you want a Bible the same Greek text used by 15 centuries of Christians, pick up a King James Bible.  If you want an English translation of Luther’s German Bible, pick up a King James Bible.