Early English Bible Translation (again)
I recently became the proud owner of Hendrickson’s Geneva Bible facsimile and, in the introduction, Lloyde E. Berry observes,
The Old and Middle English translations were based on the Latin Vulgate text of the Bible. Perhaps the most important advance in the translation of the Bible in the sixteenth century was that, beginning with Tyndale, all translators except Coverdale returned to the Greek and Hebrew originals. (p. 1)
I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but I do want us to be clear on this point: the New Testament is not a translation of a translation of a translation. That claim is a complete fiction. If anyone goes into any bookstore in America and buys any American-English New Testament from any of the major publishers, they will be reading text that was written in Greek, copied in Greek and translated from Greek. And, as Berry points out, that’s been the tradition since the 1500s.
And, by the way, even if it were true that our English New Testament was a translation from Latin, the following facts would still be, well, facts:
- We would be reading a translation of a translation. We would be one translation removed, not three or four.
- The text would still be copied in the original language. In other words, the manuscript evidence would still be in Greek and therefore could be translated from the original language if somebody (or, more likely, some publisher) would put up the money.
- Similar to 2 above, we would still have a Greek New Testament (like this one, this one, or this one) that could be read just as easily as the Latin texts if somebody was diligent enough to learn the language.
The notion that the New Testament is somehow unreliable because it’s a “translation of a translation of a translation” is a rank falsehood. And that’s really sad because such a misconception is easily corrected by readily available evidence.