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Question

 

Gramps,

The church claims the Bible to be a sacred volume of scriptures and the Word of God. However, we learn that the Bible is not correctly translated – even though there is no historical evidence to support this opinion and, unlike the Book of Mormon, the Bible has found vestiges of its old pages and there’s never been a claim regarding the incorrectness of its translation. The 8th AF also says we believe in the Bible since being “correctly translated”. Isn’t it contradictory?  Thanks.

 

Debora

 

Answer

 

Debora,

There are some considerations that need to be addressed to answer your question.

1. No matter how old the historical documents are which we possess, we don’t have the originals.  We have evidence that people who transcribed did, indeed, change the Bible.  One of the most famous instances is that someone decided to change the number of the beast in Revelation from “666” to “616” because they thought “Oh, we all know we’re talking about the Emperor Nero (who at the time seemed to have satisfied the prophetic details of the beast).  And the reason for them to change it was actually quite ignorant, since a different rendering of Nero’s name would have given 666 as well.

Think about it.  We do NOT have the ORIGINAL documents.  There was no printing press.  There was no copy machine.  Everything had to be hand written.  Then they had to be transcribed over and over again.  The likelihood that all such copies were made perfectly word-for-word is pretty small — just from simple mistakes alone.  Then add into it the fact that some people will transcribe a “paraphrased” version based on their own understanding.  Then that gets mistakes added into it.  Then finally, we will always have some people who were men of evil intent who purposefully changed things through those early days.  And those changes were copied.

So, while you may disagree (you’re a free person) I find it very difficult to believe that such copying will result in NO errors.

When Joseph spoke the words of the Book of Mormon, the scribes made mistakes.  Some, Joseph corrected immediately.  Others were corrected upon final review prior to sending to the printer.  So, even in that simple and direct process, there were mistakes made.

Copies of early errors in various documents happened in the early days of our latter-day Church.  There were multiple versions of the Frist Vision.  Each written to a different audience, so they read differently.  While the accounts all complemented each other, there was a notable mistake in one of them. Joseph described the events happening during his youth.  The scribe added the parenthetical “17 years old” thinking of the time when Moroni first visited him.  This was obviously incorrect.  But the scribe didn’t know that.  And this was even a well intentioned scribe making such a mistake.

Then people doing research found the documents and repeated the same information without seeing other evidence to the contrary.  Then still others copied that same mistake.  If that were the only version that survived, then future generations would have an incorrect account, believing them to be whole and error free.

Imagine how much worse if someone got an early copy and purposefully distorted it.  Then those distortions would have been copied into multiple sets which were later versions, and were thus preserved.  Then thousands of years later, we look at the surviving copies and say, “Hey, they are all the same.  They must have been perfectly preserved.”

I’m not really sold on that theory of “No mistakes.  Nothing to see here.”  I’ve seen too many books that have changed from copy to copy and edition to edition, to believe that.

2. “Translated” is not only from one language to another.  It also refers to the process of deriving meaning from the written word.  A word has no inherent meaning (with the exception of characteristics like onomatopoeia) .  Language itself is arbitrary.  And without “voice” many things get lost in the translation from mind to page and then into another mind again.  This is why we need prophets.  It isn’t that they know the language better than any so called experts.  It is because they have the spiritual guidance and doctrinal understanding to provide the proper background upon which to interpret the written word.

If you’ve ever looked at ancient Hebrew and tried to translate word-for-word to English, you’ll find it very difficult to derive the meaning from it.  I’d daresay that even those who are experts may have it wrong.  Israelis who speak it natively, will also see Biblical writings may have as much difficulty as the average American reading Shakespeare.  So, when translated, that’s even worse.

Consider when an evangelical Christian reads a verse in the Bible, they derive meaning from it based on their own background and understanding of doctrine.  When we read it, we will have a different understanding based on our background.  So, if we were to then translate that meaning into another language, we might very well say different things.  So, we consider that some who look at these ancient documents and say that they all “agree” are saying so with the assumption that they satisfy THEIR doctrines.  And they may because they were written/copied/translated by people who believed as they did.  But without the originals, we have no way of knowing whether they originally read that way when they were written by Apostles of the Lord.

 

Gramps

 

 

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