The Bible is an incredible book – it was written over a period spanning hundreds of years by different authors and yet it has incredible unity and flow. Even though it was originally written in only two languages (Old Testament in Hebrew and New Testament in Greek), it has since been translated into thousands of other languages making it the most translated book on the planet. But how many times exactly has the bible been rewritten?
Strictly speaking, the Bible has never been rewritten. That’s because the Bible was only written once and what followed is its translation into other languages. As of 2023, the Bible has been translated into 736 languages with the New Testament alone being translated into an additional 1658. Some potions of the Bible into some 1,264 languages. These figures are expected to go up every year as more translations are made.
Brief History of The Bible
The protestant bible has a total of 66 books. The Old Testament has 39 books while the New Testament has 27 books. The Old Testament has striking similarities with the Hebrew Bible. While the Hebrew bible is available in Hebrew, the earliest known translation occurred in the third century B.C. When Alexander the Great conquered Israel, the Hebrew bible was translated into Greek.
The books of the New Testament were written in Greek and it’s from these originals that the books were later translated to other languages. The number of books contained in protestant and catholic bibles are different. The catholic bible is bigger than the protestant one because the former has additional books. Known as Deuterocanonical books, the additional books are:
- Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus)
- 1 Maccabees
- 2 Maccabees
- Additions to Esther, Daniel, and Baruch
Today, there’s a substantial number of Bible versions available in English. Some of the most popular versions include:
- King James Version
- New King James Version
- New International Version
- New International Reader’s Version
- New American Standard Bible
What Distinguishes the Different Bible Versions?
The main difference between the various versions is how they were translated. Some used the dynamic equivalence method while others used the literal translation method. The dynamic equivalence method involves reading the original text and then translating the text into context. Examples of Dynamic equivalent translations include The New International Version, The New International Reader’s Version, The Message Bible, etc. The literal method of translation entails doing a word-by-word translation. Examples of literal translations include the King James version, the New King James version, the New American Standard Bible, etc.
Because of these different approaches, Bible scholars often argue that literal translations are more accurate. However, dynamic equivalent translations are easier to read because they try to contextualize the message. For this reason, dynamic equivalent translations are typically more popular among Christians than literal translations.
The Translation Process
The meaning of any translation could get hugely altered when a text is translated from one language to another and then another. If, say you started translating a text from English to French and then translate the French text to additional languages such as German, Korean, Chinese, etc, the English text could be substantially altered by the time you reach the fourth or fifth translation.
Since theologians and bible scholars intend to deliver the exact message from the first available manuscript to a new language, how do they ensure that no alterations happen?
The first printed bible manuscripts were available in Hebrew and Greek. To guarantee that the original bible message is delivered with a high degree of accuracy, translators move from the original language to the new one. So, if you need to translate the bible to Spanish, for example, you’ll not use an English manuscript as your source document. You are required to translate from Hebrew or Greek to the new desired language.
Translating from the original language to a new language ensures accuracy and that the message in the original is transmitted with almost 100% correctness.
Are There Major Differences in Bible Versions?
Some Bible critics allege that the book has been fundamentally altered over the centuries therefore making it unreliable. Theologians and bible scholars admit that there are minor differences between various bible versions. It is also to be expected that some meaning was invariably lost in translation. Languages are not the same and you cannot have 100% accuracy when translating any text from one language to another. These differences, however, do not alter the bible’s primary message of salvation.
The Bible is still a reliable source of information and when doubt arises, there is always the option of checking the Greek and Hebrew translations. In fact, the Bible is the primary source of information for the archeologists who are trying to unearth Israel’s history in the Middle East. Additionally, there are lots of events and prophecies that can be used as further proof of the accuracy of the Bible. Events, prophecies, and units of measurement are some examples of reliable data that are seldom lost in translation.
To sum it up, the Bible was only written once by the original authors. These authors wrote the Bible in either Hebrew (Old Testament) or Greek (New Testament). After the birth of the church and its subsequent spread to other language groups, it inevitably became important to translate the Bible. The efforts to translate the Bible into Latin and English were championed by the Roman Empire and this created an avalanche effect that has since resulted in hundreds of versions of the Bible in over 763 languages. In some of these languages (like English), there are more than one translation. So, even though the Bible has not been rewritten in the literal sense of the word, it has been translated into almost all languages spoken on earth and the translation is still ongoing. For instance,the New Testament has been translated into at least 1,658 languages.