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  Saturday, Dec 16, 2017 


The Jesus Diaries

Insights of biblical translations through the ages

By Myrtle Macdonald, M. Sc., Author, Chilliwack


downloaded from Google an article about an old letter found, thought to be teachings of Jesus to his brother James.  I was not impressed by the article.  I knew there were lots of writings and letters by early Christians and skeptics and that some have not been located. The Dead Sea scrolls were a great find of Old and New Testament writings, some still being translated.  Some were found of Isaiah for example, that were almost identical to those in the Bible.

About AD 70-90 Gnostics were sensual people who denied the basic teachings of Jesus and the apostles.  The errors in their teachings are explained quite a lot in the New Testament.

It wasn't just Constantine and Catholic leaders who decided which books to keep in the Bible. It was a wide spectrum of eastern and western church leaders.  Two women did a lot of the work that St. Jerome got the credit for.

There is also the Apocrypha which Roman Catholics accept as part of scripture, and protestants don't.  Excerpts however are used sometimes because they describe beliefs and events during the 300 year period between the OT and NT.

Also in Alexandria there were 70 Jewish scholars who collected the Old Testament 300-150 BC, long before Jesus was born.  There were many copies made and children learned them diligently.  Jesus often quoted from them saying when and where prophecies were fulfilled in earlier centuries, in his life, or would be in future. He said he came to fulfill the law not to reject it. Here and there that is explained by Him and by Matthew, Paul, Peter and James.  They quote from many places in the OT.  In fact Jesus is foretold in every book in the OT, starting in Genesis.  There are 39 books in the OT and 27 in the NT, a total of 66. The authors wrote the insights they received from God while in deep worship.

There is much ignorance of the Bible today.  Having read parts of it once does not give one accurate understanding. I enjoy reading it every day.  I see something new in familiar passages.  Often a sentence will seem highlighted and timely.  Then I read the whole chapter and cross references to understand better how it applies to me or others. When Queen Elizabeth was crowned, the Moderator of the Church of Scotland handed her a Bible saying "Here are the Lively Oracles of God."  She has followed faithfully. I pray her son, grandson, Camilla and Kate will do the same.

It is important to read in modern English.  The version authorized by King James dates back to 1604-1611 AD, translated by 52 scholars representing many denominations.  The meanings of words are of the Shakespearean era. The original scripture was written in everyday Hebrew and Aramaic, with very little in scholarly classical Hebrew or Greek and none in Latin.  Jesus spoke in ordinary Aramaic.

I studied the Bible in the Oriya language (related to Sanskrit) translated about 1734 by William Carey and a local team.  Latin, Greek and Sanskrit are related, and Carey was a scholar in all three. Translating accurately in other languages is very difficult. Often a phrase or sentence is needed to translate one word. Some concepts are not relevant today or are unknown in different climates and cultures. During my many years of work overseas I was privileged to live close to Bible translators for three languages Soura, Shan and Hmong. 

One problem in English translation is that of gender. There are many places where the word "person" would be more accurate than "him".  When I am in doubt I look in my Oriya  Bible to see whether the male gender is meant, or if the thought is unisex.

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