Bible Freedom Science
Translations and Versions

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Version is a Technical Term

A Bible version is a translation

The word version is a technical term in biblical scholarship. It refers to a translation, not an edition nor a different Bible. For example, the Qur'an is not a version of the New Testament, it is the Qur'an. Both the Qur'an and the New Testament can have versions: English, Italian, Latin, Japanese. An edition of the document in its original language is not a version, it is an edition or a text or an exemplar or a copy or a manuscript or a fragment. For example, the Qur'an cannot have an Arabic version because it was originally written in Arabic but the Qur'an can have a Greek version because that would be a translation. The New Testament can have an Arabic translation, and an ancient one existed, but it cannot have a Greek version because it was written in Greek.

Now, what do we do when we find something we thought was originally in Greek on an older fragment of Hebrew papyrus? Which is the version? Recently, possible sources for the Qur'an have shown up in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Does that make the Arabic Qur'an a version of something? In both cases, no. All documents have sources, sometimes in other languages. That does not make an original work a version of its sources. There are times when the line between translation and a whole new document, heavily dependent on its source, is crossed. But that happens as often today as in ancient times. Just yesterday I saw a modern attempt at a Diatessaron and I would certainly not call that a Bible version or edition, but a new work entirely that plagiarized the Gospels.

I understand that strictly speaking the only true Qur'an is the Arabic original. This is something like the Jewish or Christian understanding that the best text of a book in the original language is the authority, except Islam goes much further. Before the Reformation the Roman Church kept the Latin Mass and Vulgate version of the Bible in a similar status. I wonder if Islam will ever break out of its medievalist thinking and then, if it does, what will Allah do with the billion followers who can read his revelations in their own tongue? English and German versions of the Christian Bible certainly changed our world for the better. Ultimately access to the Bible by the common people broke the control of the elitists in the church and finally also those in the state.

Sometimes a version can have several editions. For example, the Revised Standard Version is a new edition of the Standard Version. Neither are new editions of the Bible, both are versions of the Bible. Yet the RSV is a new edition of the KJV. Now, isn't that clear and vitally important?

Software writers use version differently. Netscape version 3.0 is the same program as Netscape 2.0. Both are written in the same language, i.e., there is no translation from C++ to Forth. Netscape has different ports to Unix, Intel, and Mac; which a textual critic might call versions. A software version would be called an edition for a book: a corrected, updated, improved replacement.

I only mention this, and go into such detail, because some versions imply they are corrected, updated, improved replacements. While a matter of judgment and sometimes doctrinal dispute, generally speaking versions are not ranked by most recent publication date. Most of the time the newest translation is the worst but that is no guarantee that the oldest is still the best. Unlike software version numbers, there is no machine readable score for biblical versions. Instead there is a complex market of scholars, textual critics, skeptics, devotional users, pastors, and ecclesiastical authorities. And you.

So, where Netscape gets to rank the software it has copyrighted with a version number, any rank given to Bible versions is your privilege. The user rules. And the Author rules!

This was NOT Thesis/Antithesis/Synthesis, which is really no more that a verbal trick. Gnostics like Hegel always resort to gimmicks of language to replace actual thought or information. Instead the Reformation is just that, a forming again of what the church originally was when, through Word and Sacraments, our Lord Geshua had a personal relationship with each individual person, unmediated by any king, priest, city, or church. Now the corporate entities may be reformed also into servants, not masters. There will never be a synthesis of freedom and Fascism. But there will be a victory, when Satan dies.
Copyright © 2008, Charles Henry Johnsen, III