A copy of a modern translation of the Bible will help you. It can be a physical book or online.

The references in this course will come from the Common English Bible (CEB), unless the name of another version is written.

Bible Gateway offers a free app which has many versions of the bible in different languages. It also has some audio versions.

 

How do we know that the CEB reflects what God said? Let’s look what manuscripts the translators of the CEB used:

For the Old Testament (OT) the CEB uses a Hebrew Bible based upon a manuscript copied in 1008 AD called the BHS.

In 1947, a young shepherd found manuscripts we call the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) in a cave. They date from the 3rd century BC‒first century AD and include parts of every Old Testament book except Esther. Scholars use the Dead Sea Scrolls to check the accuracy of the manuscript from 1008.

Comparing the BHS to other ancient translations and the DSS shows that it usually matches the Hebrew in the Bible dating back to 100 AD [see Old Testament Textual Criticism for more information on this process].

In 1896, two archaeologists digging in an ancient trash dump in Egypt found the largest papyrus collection ever discovered.

These included pieces of personal letters, business papers, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, and the New Testament.

Since then, people have found over five thousand Greek manuscripts, dating back to AD 200. A fourth century AD manuscript contains the oldest complete New Testament.

Some New Testament scholars do what we call “textual criticism”. It involves looking at a manuscript to decide how old it is, knowing where it was found, and seeing how good the copy is.

This helps us to decide what was most likely the original writing of the biblical authors.

Experts have put together the most likely copies into the 28th edition of the Greek New Testament. It is called the Novum Testamentum Graecae (NA28).

We feel sure that at least 97% of the NA28 matches the original documents.

A large group of manuscripts that match each other date from the 9th through 14th centuries. They make up 80–90% of all known New Testament manuscripts.

However, as one expert has noted, “Ten thousand copies of a mistake do not make it any less a mistake.”[1]

While a great success in 1611, the KJV and the NKJV depend upon those newer manuscripts. They did not have the 2nd–4th century manuscripts which translators of the CEB used.

So, entire verses are “missing” from some modern translations.

Compare these two translations of Matt 18:10‒12:

10 “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. 11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. 12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?” (KJV)

10 “Be careful that you don’t look down on one of these little ones. I say to you that their angels in heaven are always looking into the face of my Father who is in heaven.[a] 12 What do you think? If someone had one hundred sheep and one of them wandered off, wouldn’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hillsides and go in search for the one that wandered off?” (CEB).

[a] Matt 18:11 is omitted in most critical editions of the Greek New Testament….

What do you notice about verse 11? Why do you think the CEB has a footnote where verse 11 would be? Do we still know that Jesus came to save lost people from their sins without it?

 

 

In the same way, we do not have manuscripts that show Mark 16:9‒20 before the fifth century.

Experts cannot decide if Mark 16:1‒8 was the original ending of that gospel or if, coming at the end of a rolled-up scroll, it was lost.

Since Mark 16:8 ends so quickly, it looks like people who copied earlier manuscripts wrote the two other endings.

For the entire New Testament, unless you hold deadly snakes or drink poison as part of your worship (Mark 16:18), no major teaching changes whether you use the CEB or the KJV.

 

Image via Wikimedia Commons

 

Go to Translations vs. Paraphrases

 

Return to Chapter 1: Introducing the Bible

 

Return to Old Testament Survey main page

 

[1] Michael W. Holmes, “New Testament Textual Criticism,” in Introducing New Testament Interpretation (ed. Scott McKnight; Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1989), 55.