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|The Biblical Translation Principles of the New Chinese Translation|
This translation has two features. First, among modern Chinese versions of the Scriptures this translation of the Gospel according to John is the only one translated directly from Greek Textus Receptus. All other modern Chinese Scripture versions are translated from a Greek Modern Critical Text. Second, our main translation principle is “as literal as possible and only as free as necessary”—more about this will be found below under Translation Philosophy. This preface serves to explain the biblical foundation of these two features.
The Doctrine of Verbal and Plenary Inspiration
The Holy Bible is the infallible and inerrant Word of God inspired by the Holy Spirit: that inspiration was in Koine Greek in the New Testament and Hebrew in the Old Testament. 1 The nature of inspiration of the Holy Bible determines the infallibility and inerrancy of the Holy Bible. “The doctrine of divine inspiration is that the Holy Spirit supernaturally guided the human authors of Scripture so that what they wrote was the very Word of God, free from all error and all omission.”2 This doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture is confirmed firmly in the Word of God itself.
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Peter 1:20–21)3
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Inspiration is not only infallible and inerrant by nature but also “verbal (i.e., extends to the actual words)” and “plenary (i.e., extends to every word and to all parts)”4 in form. This is against “the conceptual (or dynamic) view of inspiration” which teaches “that God’s revelation in Scripture is limited to the doctrines and concepts contained therein and does not extend to the actual words of the text.”5 According to this view, “the actual words used in the Bible are not essential to our faith: only the ideas or doctrines are necessary. Therefore…men are bound only to what the Bible intends to teach and not to the words that the Apostles and Prophets actually used.”6
The conceptual or dynamic view of inspiration is not Biblical. Firstly, while the thoughts are important, the words as the medium and format to convey the thoughts are fundamental. When the thoughts are focused and the words are ignored, the Word of God is free and open to “private interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20). Secondly, every word is inspired by the Holy Spirit and cannot be neglected. “It should also be noted that in the Bible, the entire argument in a passage is often based on a single word or even on a single letter” (see, for example, Matthew 22:32; Galatians 3:16).7 Thirdly, in the process of inspiration it is exactly the words that are given to the Apostles and Prophets.
Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. (Jeremiah 1:9)
Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual (1 Corinthians 2:13).
Finally, the Bible severely warns against the subtraction, addition, or changing of the Word of God.
What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it. (Deuteronomy 12:32)
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18–19)
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (Matthew 5:18)
The Doctrine of Providential Preservation
“The doctrine of inspiration demands the corollary doctrine of divine preservation…God not only inspired His Word, but He has also providentially preserved it so that His Word has not passed away, but has been kept in its essential purity throughout all generations.”8 “God has not left His church for centuries without an authoritative copy of the Word of God, but…God’s people down through the ages have faithfully copied and recopied copies of the original autographs.”9 As John Owen put it, “the whole Word of God, in every letter and tittle, as given from Him by inspiration, is preserved without corruption.”10
By faith we know that God has preserved His Word for us in the existing manuscripts of the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament… As Turretin says, the chief reason we believe in the integrity of the Scriptures and the purity of the original sources “is the providence of God (Who as He wished to provide for our faith by inspiring the sacred writers as to what they should write, and by preserving the Scriptures against the attempts of enemies who have left nothing untried that they might destroy them), so He should keep them pure and uncorrupted in order that our faith might always have a firm foundation”.11
It therefore follows that without divine preservation, divine inspiration would be meaningless.
The doctrine of providential preservation is also clearly witnessed in the Bible.
Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever (Psalm 119:160).
…the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever (1 Peter 1.23).
But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. (1 Peter 1.25)
God inspired, transmitted, and preserved His Word through His people: in the time of the Old Testament the Jews, and in the time of the New Testament the church. Regarding the prior, “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God” (Romans 3:1–2). Regarding the latter, “the church of the living God” is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).
Textus Receptus (TR or Received Text) and the Byzantine Text Type
The doctrine of verbal and plenary inspiration and the doctrine of providential preservation are the necessary foundations for a proper approach to the Word of God. Although the originally inspired autographs of the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament do not exist today, by faith we know that the Hebrew Masoretic Text and the Greek Received Text (Textus Receptus) are the pure Word of God preserved by God throughout the long history of copying and transmission among His people.12 “Today the term Textus Receptus is used generically to apply to all editions of the Greek New Testament which follow the early printed editions of Desiderius Erasmus.” “The term was first used, however, to refer to the edition of the Greek New Testament published by the Elzevirs in 1633.” Over time, “this term has been expanded to include numerous editions of the Greek New Testament which come from the same Byzantine textual family representing the majority of the handwritten Greek manuscripts before the 16th century.”13
The name “Byzantine” is applied to this text [the Textus Receptus] because it is the text-type found in the family of NT Greek manuscripts that were used, transmitted, and preserved by the eastern Greek-speaking church. Because it was handed down and preserved by the church, it is also referred to as the “traditional text” or the “ecclesiastical text.” This text was in continuous use in the Greek Church from at least the 4th century until the time of the Reformation when Erasmus made this text the basis for the first printed edition of the Greek NT.14
“The work of John Burgon has established that the basic text used by numerous Church Fathers is the same as the text now known as the Byzantine Text.”15 Among the various Greek New Testament witnesses, there are 5,813 extant manuscripts in Greek,16 8,000 in Latin, and 1,000 in other languages.17 Among the Greek manuscripts “as many as 95 percent” follow the Byzantine text-type.18
NT, about 50 contain all except the Gospels. Approximately 1500 contain part or all of the Gospels alone. A great number contain only part of a book or a few verses.19
“The Byzantine text-type was the first Greek text to appear in a printed edition. Erasmus, using manuscripts of the Byzantine textual family, edited and published his Greek NT in 1516.”20 Besides Erasmus’s five editions (1519–1535), significant printed Textus Receptus editions include four editions (1546–1551) of Robert Stephanus, ten editions (1565–1611) of Theodore Beza, and three editions of Elzevir (1624, 1633, and 1641). “One of the most important editions of the Textus Receptus is the Beza edition of 1598. This edition, in addition to the Stephens 1550 and 1551 editions, was used as the Greek basis of the Authorized Version of 1611.”21 “Therefore, the TR is that printed text of the Byzantine text-type that is based on the editorial labors of Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza.”22 “There were approximately thirty distinct editions of the Textus Receptus made over the years. Each differs slightly from the others. There have been over 500 printings.”23
“These editions differ slightly from one another but still are regarded as the same basic text”24—the differences are few and very minor. Therefore, the Textus Receptus is a long-established and stable text based on the Byzantine text family that comprises the great majority of the manuscripts. It “came to be recognized by all ‘Protestants’ as the authentic NT text” and “is a ‘consensus text that has served as the Protestant canonical standard’.”25 It “was the text used by Tyndale and in turn by the translators of the English Authorised (King James) Version of 1611 and other Reformation era translations.”26
Modern Critical Text (MCT) and the Alexandrian Text Type
“The Modern Critical Text represents a printed Greek Text that is the result of the work of textual scholars reaching from Griesbach (1775) to Nestle-Aland”27—the latest edition of the latter was published in 2012. “The Greek text that underlay the English versions of the sixteenth century, the so-called Textus Receptus (TR), remained the dominant text until the end of the nineteenth century.”28 Under the historical dramatic upheaval of the Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, Industrial Revolution, and two World Wars, humanism, individualism, rationalism, scientism, positivism, and skepticism are gaining more and more influence. Consequently, people more and more naturally, easily, and instinctively accept the so-called ‘scientific’ and ‘modern’ innovations whilst questioning all tradition, orthodoxy, and authorities.
At the end of the nineteenth century, this influence also extended to the field of the Biblical text and translation. People began to question and challenge the foundation of our faith, the Word of God, the Received Text, and the traditional English translation, the Authorised (King James) Version. They began to accept the so-called ‘scientific and objective’ tenets of the modern critical text and the new translations produced by the so-called ‘scientific and objective’ research of scholars. Before the nineteenth century, men sought answers in science, but it was science which was based upon the Scriptures as the ultimate truth. However, during the nineteenth century theories came to the fore, which were derived from scientific discoveries that resulted from the abandonment of belief in the truth of the Scripture.29
Such trends originated in the West and affected the Chinese Union Version and the vast majority of the Chinese New Testament translations through universities, seminaries, various institutions, and the academic world as a whole. Under this trend, the study and scholarship of the Scripture began to “be divorced from a belief in the God of those Scriptures. Even some Christian scholars turned over the text of their Bible to men who believed it to be nothing more than another ancient book.”30
Specifically, as more diverse and more ancient manuscripts found their way to the west, scholars began to wrestle with the differences between the newly discovered text and the familiar printed editions.
The Greek texts of Griesbach (1775–1777) and Lachmann (1831) finally broke with the TR and printed their own reconstructions of the Greek, with TR readings among the variants rather than in the text. However, it was not until 1881, with the appearance of the Greek Text edited by B.F. Westcott and F. H. A. Hort, that a major Bible translation was based on a Greek text other than the TR. The British Revised Version (1885) and American Standard Version (1901) were both based on this epochal work, as was the Amplified NT (1958).31
Of the twentieth-century Greek texts that followed the lead of Westcott and Hort but did not slavishly adhere to all of their decisions, the most successful are those of Nestle and Aland (NA) and of the United Bible Society (UBS).32 So far, all the modern English translations except some attempted updates of the Authorised Version, the New King James Version (NKJV), and the Modern English Version (MEV) are based on the Modern Critical Text. All the modern Chinese versions are translated from the Modern Critical Text (or an English translation of it), including the Chinese Union Version, the Chinese New Version, the Contemporary Chinese Version, the Chinese Standard Bible, Today’s Chinese Version, the Lu Chen-Chung Version, and the Studium Biblicum Version. A slight variation is the Chinese King James Version (CKJV) which is translated from the English Authorised (King James) Version rather than the original Greek TR.
“The MCT is an eclectic text; this means that it is a text that has been determined by scholars who employ certain ‘canons’ (rules) of textual criticism” and the majority vote of a committee of scholars “on a variant-by-variant basis to decide on which reading among the available witnesses is to be considered the true reading of the NT text.”33
Three major principles are being employed in modern textual criticism:
1. The older reading is preferred.
2. The more difficult reading is preferred.
3. The shorter reading is preferred.34
The first principle means that the Alexandrian text-type is preferred because scholars generally hold that it is older than the Byzantine text-type. The Alexandrian text-type “originated from Alexandria, in Egypt”35 and accounts for “only 10–15% of the available manuscripts.”36
Readings from this type of text are to be found among the early Egyptian papyri (e.g., P46, P47). Its chief representatives, however, are Codex Sinaiticus (or Codex Aleph) and Codex Vaticanus (or Codex B). Support for this text-type comes from the Alexandrian Fathers, most notably from Origen (AD 185–254) and Cyril (376–444).37 In summary, the TR is based on the Byzantine text-type while the MCT is base on the Alexandrian text-type.
The Majority Text
Along with the TR and the MCT another text, called the Majority Text (MT), has in recent years found limited popularity. The editions of the MT, including The Majority Text Greek New Testament by Zane Hodges and Arthur Farstad in 1980 and The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform by Maurice A. Robinson and William G. Pierpont in 1991 and 2005, are based solely on Byzantine text-type manuscripts. The TR, on the other hand, is “any form of the Greek text that goes back to the edition of Erasmus and the several late manuscripts that he used”38 and “is a more restricted and limited form of Byzantine text.”39 “Daniel Wallace notes that Hodges and Farstad’s edition of the Majority Text differs from the Textus Receptus in 1,838 places.”40 The Society does not use the Majority Text because of following reasons. The Majority Text is not the text used by the catholic (universal) church. The modern textual criticism scholars do not have the authority to decide for the church what is the word of God. Second, it still uses many modern textual criticism philosophy and methods which are not biblical (this will be explained in detail later). Third, the majority reading is open to constant change as new manuscripts are discovered, examined or assessed. By contrast the Received Text represents a stable text-type, representing the text that has been used by the church since the time of the apostles.
Textus Receptus (TR) vs. Modern Critical Text (MCT)
The Greek Text used in this translation of the Chinese Gospel according to John is the Trinitarian Bible Society (TBS) edition of F.H.A. Scrivener’s 1894 text, “which reflects the Textus Receptus underlying the English Authorized Version.” Since “the AV was not translated from any one printed edition of the Greek Text,” Scrivener chose the Beza edition of 1598 as his basis, identified its differences from the AV, and “examined eighteen editions of the Textus Receptus to find the correct Greek rendering.”41He found
approximately 190 differences between the Scrivener text and the Beza 1598. There are 283 differences between the Scrivener text and the Stephanus 1550. These differences are minor, and pale into insignificance when compared with the approximately 6,000 differences—many of which are quite substantial—between the Critical Text and the Textus Receptus.42
There are various crucial reasons why TBS chooses the TR instead of the MCT as the basis text for all its New Testament translations, including this new Chinese edition of the Gospel according to John.
First of all, in conformity to the doctrine of the providential preservation of Scripture, the TR has been transmitted and preserved by God through the centuries in the church of Christ. “As many as 95 percent” of “the 5,813 today extant Greek New Testament manuscripts follow the Byzantine text.”43 According to Burgon, “God in His wisdom has provided the church with abundant external evidence ‘for the establishment of the truth of His written Word’.”44
The TR conforms to the majority of the existing manuscripts because it has been used by the church down through the centuries. “The church all over the world has used the Traditional Text in all of its various forms, and God has seen fit to multiply multitudes of copies and has brought salvation to many generations through this preservation process.”45
…It was the text used by the church because it was the text recognized by the church as being the authentic Word of God. The text of the TR is not, therefore, based on the theories and votes of textual scholars, but upon the clear and consistent testimony of the great majority of existing Greek manuscripts—manuscripts that were preserved for us because of their usage and acceptance by the Greek-speaking church.46
Because the text-type reflected in the TR was handed down and preserved in the churches, it can rightly be called the ‘church text.’ The TR represents the only NT Greek text that has been in circulation and use in the church throughout the entire era of church history.47
The TR as the “church text” can also be demonstrated from its being “associated with the city of Antioch in Syria ” where the first Gentile church was born through the ministries of Barnabas and Paul (Acts 11:22–26) and where believers were first called Christians (Acts 11:26). “Antioch became the mother city of Gentile churches and, after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, it became the true undisputed centre of Christianity. A text proceeding from Antioch would be the text approved by the apostles and the early Christian Church.” Later, “during the fourth century when this text became supreme, the Church was blessed with exceptional scholars such as Methodius (AD260–312), Athanasius (296–373), Hilary of Poitiers (315–67), Cyril of Jerusalem (315–386), and Gregory of Nazianzen (330–394)” who had “access to many early and invaluable manuscripts which long since have perished” and “were involved in formularizing orthodox doctrine and ratifying the canon of the New Testament.” “The emergence of a predominant text from this period is highly significant. It was obviously considered the genuine, uncorrupted, and authorised text.”48
“The TR was the first printed form of the Greek NT to be published” and remained the dominant printed Greek text “in approximately 160 editions over the next 150 years.”49 Furthermore, “the Byzantine text was the underlying text of all the great English Protestant Bibles, including those associated with the names of William Tyndale (1525), Miles Coverdale (1535), John Rogers (1537), and Richard Taverner (1539), as well as those known as The Great Bible (1539), The Geneva Bible (1560), The Bishop’s Bible (1568), and, of course, the Authorized Version (1611).”50
Thus, just as “the Jews were appointed the guardians of the divine revelations imparted to them” (Romans 3:2), “the New Testament Scriptures were committed to professing Christians, or to the professing Christian Church” which, from earliest times has “recognized and propagated” the Byzantine text-type.51 In the knowledge that Jesus Christ is the head of the church and that He preserves the Word of God through His church, we acknowledge the Textus Receptus as the choice for the translation of the Word of God because it is the choice of the church. “It is inconceivable that God would give a totally corrupt and mutilated text to His people and then allow that text to be used by them for over eighteen centuries.”52
Some may argue that Erasmus’s first edition of TR “used only a handful of manuscripts which were readily available”, and he “may well have been in a hurry to produce a Greek text to accompany his Latin,” but the manuscripts he used “were a valid representation of the majority of manuscripts available at that time”. Additionally, his was not the last, nor the definitive edition of the TR: he and other scholars carrying on his work accessed more manuscripts and dedicated long hours—and years—to produce the TR editions available today.53
The printed editions of the Greek New Testament which were published during the 1500s and 1600s were produced by men who understood what the glory of God meant and the importance of having accurate copies of the Bible. From the work known as the Complutensian Polyglot to the various editions of Erasmus… and ultimately to the work of F.H.A. Scrivener in the 1870s and ’80s, we have scholarship in textual criticism and the most faithful and careful attitude toward the manuscripts that one can image.54
No doubt they spent as much time and energy as current scholars can claim to spend, and did not have many of the distractions which are common in today’s fast-paced, politically-correct world.55
In great contradiction to the belief that the Word of God is preserved by God in the church throughout all ages, the Alexandrian text manuscripts, which are the principal contributors to the MCT, were available for general use only during the last few centuries. Codex Sinaiticus was discovered in the 1840s in a wastepaper basket in the monastery of St Catherine in Sinai, and Codex Vaticanus lay in the Vatican library in some untouched and untouchable until the mid-19th century.
Many of today’s scholars “treat the Word of God as just another book that can be submitted to the whims and changing norms of modern scientific methods. Many of the destructive forms of higher criticism of the 19th century have come from a lack of belief that the Bible is a supernatural book.”56
Some scholars who have taken upon themselves the editing and finalizing of the Modern Critical Text do not accept the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. Yet, such ungodly men surely do not have the authority to decide what is and what is not the Word of God for the church of Jesus Christ! For instance, when a well-respected textual scholar like Dr. Kurt Aland denies “the apostolic authorship of the Four Gospels, the Catholic Epistles, the Pastoral Epistles, and Hebrews” and doubts “the canonicity of several New Testament books,” specifically Hebrews, 1 Peter, James, 1, 2, and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation 57—thus making both the Bible and the author of the Bible, the Holy Spirit, liars—how can we legitimately trust him to determine what should be in our Bible?
The Word of God is the foundation of our faith. In this respect God’s children should honor the headship of Jesus Christ. It is not in accordance with the Bible and the will of God to allow unbelievers to edit and decide what is the Bible.
Secondly, the Byzantine text-type, it can be argued, is as early as or earlier than the Alexandrian text-type. The Byzantine text-type is “the standard text of the Christian Church throughout the Byzantine period, 312–1453 AD (and actually long after that).”58 Also, “even the strongest critics of the Byzantine text believe that the age of this text-type goes back to the end of the 3rd or the beginning of the 4th century.”59 Besides, “in the early papyri there is an impressive number of distinctively Byzantine readings” that indicate that the Byzantine text-type “can be traced as far as back as the second century.”60
The antiquity of the Byzantine text is also supported by early Bible translations such as the old Syriac (or Aramaic), Latin Versions and the Peshitta, and confirmed by the early Church Fathers (including Justin Martyr (100–165), Irenaeus (130–200), Clement of Alexandria (150–215), Tertullian (160–220), Hippolytus (170–236), and even Origen (185–254) from their quotations of Scripture in their writings.61 Finally, the date of one text-type or manuscript “says nothing in itself concerning the age of the text” in the text-type or manuscript.62 In other words, the later manuscripts may contain an earlier text.
Verses and passages which are found in the writings of Church Fathers from around AD 200 to 300 are missing in the Alexandrian Text manuscripts which date from around AD 300 to 400. In addition, these early readings are found in manuscripts in existence from AD 500 onwards. An example of this is Mark 16:9–20: this passage is found in the writings of Irenaeus and Hippolytus in the 2nd century, and is in almost every manuscript of Mark’s Gospel from AD 500 onwards. It is missing in two Alexandrian manuscripts, the Sinai and the Vatican.”63
Thirdly, another problem with modern textual scholarship is that the so-called earliest manuscripts in the Alexandrian text-type are not necessarily the best manuscripts but probably the worst manuscripts. It is highly possible that these early manuscripts are preserved until today just because, rather than deteriorating through use, they were discarded by the early church. By contrast the manuscripts which led to the Received Text were worn out through use and no longer exist. It is like a good book which a person reads over and over again: it falls apart with use and becomes difficult to preserve.
However, the acceptance of these early manuscripts in the church cannot be demonstrated. For instance, the Alexandrian text-type originated in Alexandria, Egypt, where Scripture and history give no indication of an apostolic presence; on the contrary, “church history reveals that many notorious heretics lived and taught there including such Gnostics as Basilides, Isidore, and Valentinus.”64 Also, “it has never been proven that these few Alexandrian manuscripts ever existed outside of Alexandria, Egypt.”65
Moreover, “the two great representatives of this text-type, Codices Aleph (Sinaiticus) and B (Vaticanus) are exceedingly poor in quality. When examined by Dr. F.H.A. Scrivener, Codex Aleph was declared to be ‘roughly written’ and ‘full of gross transcriptural blunders’ such as ‘leaving out whole lines of the original’.” In addition, “these principal manuscripts [of the Alexandrian text-type] show their corruption by disagreeing with themselves in literally thousands of places (3,000 times in the Gospels alone)” while “the text attested by Aleph (Sinaiticus) and B (Vaticanus) is at variance with the overwhelming majority of the Greek manuscripts.”66 Finally, “the fact that very few copies indeed were made” from the Alexandrian manuscripts strongly testifies their poor quality and doubtful credibility.67
In summary, God preserved His word through His church. His word is preserved in His church not in a cave. So-called ancient manuscripts found by archeology are likely to have been deserted by the early church because of their serious problems. We believe in the preservation of God and also respect the authority of the church granted by God.
Fourthly, the other principles of modern textual criticism, such as the shorter reading is the better reading and the more difficult reading is the better reading, cannot stand objective scrutiny. The shorter reading may lack genealogical support and the principle may rule out a whole chapter of the New Testament or even a book. Also, the resultant “preferred text repeatedly can be shown to have no known MS support over even short stretches of text—and at times even within a single verse.”68 Moreover, since the Alexandrian text-type normally contains shorter readings than the Byzantine text-type, the principle of preferring the shorter reading unduly favours the Alexandrian text-type.69 Besides, the more difficult reading may be a scribe’s errors and usually does not make sense grammatically and semantically. In addition, divine “preservation provides that no one local text, such as the one from Alexandria, Egypt, would become the dominant text. It took liberalism and unbelief to challenge this preservation process.”70
Besides the lack of widespread geographical witnesses, the MCT is based on a handful of manuscripts that differ from the majority of the manuscripts, thus lacking convincing quantitative support.
Finally, the textual choice in textual criticism is subject to personal judgment, prejudice, and change. New archaeological evidence is being unearthed constantly, and scholars continually absorb the archaeological discoveries into the Critical Text; thus their judgments and conclusions are also changing all the time. For instance, the United Bible Societies (UBS) have published five Greek New Testament editions (1966, 1968, 1975, 1983, 2014). The textual apparatus of the five editions contains the editing committee’s evaluation of the certainty of their textual choice among textual variants. Apparently, the evaluation is quite different throughout the five editions.71 Thus the Critical Text, produced at a huge cost of financial and human resources, can never settle on what is actually the Word of God, making the Word of God ever uncertain or open and in a constant process of change and evolution. To these scholars, even after two thousand years of church history the text is uncertain. Undoubtedly it will be increasingly unstable as the future unfolds.
What is the most significant point, however, is that in the MCT—based on the decisions of textual critics—a great number of important texts are deleted, changed, or bracketed as not in ‘ancient manuscripts’ or ‘ancient scrolls’. David Blunt notes that “the devil seeks to alter the Word of God. We have noted three major types of textual change he sponsors: omission, addition, and substitution” among which omission “is the main type of alteration found in the modern versions.”72 Compared to the TR, “the Vatican manuscript omits 2,877 words in the Gospels; the Sinai manuscript 3,455 words in the Gospels.”73 By some estimates the omissions in the entire New Testament text can equate to as much as “200 verses (the equivalent of 1 and 2 Peter).”74 Some may argue that most of the omitted material and the doctrines affected by omission in one verse are still in the NT,75 “but these other occasions are often truncated and do not express as succinctly the doctrine as the omitted passage”. Such is the case with 1 John 5:7–8, and material in John 7:53–8:11 is found nowhere else.76
Some examples of the problems produced by modern textual criticism (bold added) are provided here:
Mark 16:9–20 about the disciples’ unbelief and the Great Commission is bracketed in MCT and not considered to be in the original Greek New Testament.
In John 4:42 “the Christ” is omitted in the MCT.
John 7:53–8:11 about the woman caught in adultery is bracketed in the MCT and is considered not to be in the original Greek New Testament.
1 Corinthians 11:29
1 John 5:7–8
Luke 2:33 about virgin birth:
1 Timothy 3:16
As is obvious from even a cursory look, many of these verses relate to Christology and are vital to our Christian faith. The fact that the earliest manuscripts do not contain these texts exhibits the noticeable impact of early heresies such as Gnosticism. We must give thanks to God that the early creeds such as the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed were not established on the so called “ancient manuscripts” discarded by the early church and picked up by many modern versions.
The believer today must choose between a modern reconstructed text based essentially on two manuscripts from the 4th century, which omits the deity of Christ in many places and is estimated by some to leave out approximately 200 verses (the equivalent of 1 and 2 Peter), or he must choose as a text one which God has used through the centuries. Do we use the text which God has blessed, and which best honours and glorifies the Lord Jesus, or do we not?77
Generally, there are two kinds of translation philosophy. One is “literal…word-forword… form-oriented…formal equivalence” while the other is “para-phrase…thought-for-thought…content-oriented…dynamic equivalence.”78 Using the Scrivener Greek New Testament, the translation philosophy employed in this new Chinese edition of the Gospel according to John is to be “as literal as possible, as free as necessary”—that is, formal equivalence rather than dynamic equivalence—“so that every word of the text is taken into account in translation.”79
Literal translation is governed by the doctrine of “verbal (i.e., extends to the actual words)” and “plenary (i.e., extends to every word and to all parts) inspiration.”80 On the other hand, dynamic equivalence and paraphrase translations are based on “the conceptual or dynamic view of inspiration”, “that God’s revelation in Scripture is limited to the doctrines and concepts contained therein and does not extend to the actual words of the text.”81 As discussed earlier, this view is not Biblical because doctrines and concepts can only be known and conveyed through words. Also, “modern man does not have the thoughts of the writers of Scripture” and it is only through faithfully keeping and translating every word of God that we received from Him that we can understand, convey and transfer the thoughts of the writers of Scripture.82
All translation involves some degree of interpretation. However, in the FE [Formal Equivalence] method, the element of interpretation is deliberately kept to a minimum. In FE, the role of the translator is not that of ‘an exegete who is interpreting the Bible for the church.’ Rather, ‘The proper role of the translator is to give the church an accurate translation upon which it may do exegesis’.83
In this Chinese edition of the Gospel according to John, the translators have attempted to parallel as closely as possible the wording and grammatical structure of the original Greek and have sought to render nouns by nouns, verbs by verbs, etc. The translator “is not only concerned with what God said in the original, but also with how He said it. This is because the form of the text is part of the transfer of meaning”84 and part of divine inspiration. Some of our translations in this Gospel are distinctive, and readers may at first find some readings in the Gospel unfamiliar. Please note that this is because we seek to be as faithful to the original text as possible.
However, it should also be noted that we do not “advocate an absolutely literal translation, for there are elements of Hebrew and Greek that have no formal equivalence in English” or Chinese; thus “a strictly literal translation would be, at times, nearly unintelligible to English” or Chinese readers.85 “Thus idioms, figures of speech and difficult vocabulary are translated carefully and with reverence. The Bible is, after all, the holy Word of God, and must be treated as such.”86 For concepts such as faithfulness, expressiveness, and elegance, we first seek faithfulness while keeping in mind expressiveness and elegance in seeking to achieve the goal of accuracy and readability.
The doctrine of verbal and plenary inspiration and the doctrine of divine providential preservation determine that the TR (Textus Receptus)—used by the true church throughout history for the last two thousand years—rather than the MCT (Modern Critical Text)—edited by scholars in the past two hundred years—should be the Greek New Testament textual basis for our translation. The doctrine of verbal and plenary inspiration also requires that formal equivalence instead of dynamic equivalence is our translation philosophy.
Please pray for the translation team as they continue to prepare the rest of the New Testament in the same God-honouring way. It is also the Society’s intention, once work on the New Testament has been completed, for the Old Testament to be translated into Chinese from the Hebrew Masoretic text. It is thus the desire of the Trinitarian Bible Society that within the next decade the millions of Chinese-speaking peoples around the world may have a faithful and accurate translation of the entire Word of God in their own tongue. May God lift up His own Word and use this translation to bless the Chinese churches and glorify His name. All glory be to God forever. Amen!
1 Malcolm H. Watts, The Lord Gave the Word (London, England: TBS, 1998), p.13.
2 William O. Einwechter, English Bible Translations: By What Standard (Pensacola, FL, USA: Chapel Library, 2010), 7. www.chapellibrary.org/files/5014/0485/0884/ebtb.pdf, p.7.
3 如果没有特别说明，经文都是引自 和合本圣经。
4 Einwechter, p.8.
6 Ibid., p. 9.
9 Trinitarian Bible Society, What Today’s Christian Needs to Know about the Greek New Testament (London, England: TBS, 2007), p.5.
10 Einwechter, 10, quoting John Owen, The Divine Original, Authority, Self-Evidencing Light, and Power of Scriptures, in The Works of John Owen, 16 vols. (Edinburgh, Scotland: The Banner of Truth Trust, reprint ed., 1968), 16:301.
11 Einwechter, 11, quoting Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 3 vols., trans. George M. Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr. (Phillipsburg, PA, USA: P&R Publishing, 1992), 1:72.
12 Malcolm Watts discusses this on pp.7-11, 21-25.
13 G. W. Anderson and D. E. Anderson, The Received Text: A Brief Look at the Textus Receptus (London, England: TBS, 1999), from www.tbsbibles.org/pdf_information/202-1. pdf, p.2.
14 Einwechter, p.21.
15 TBS, p.2.
16 Stanley E. Porter, How we Got the New Testament: Text, Transmission, Translation (Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Baker, 2013), p.56.
17 J. Harold Greenlee, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism (Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson, 1995), p.7.
18 Porter, p.56.
19 Greenlee, p.7.
20 Einwechter, p.22.
21 Anderson and Anderson, p.3.
22 Einwechter, p.22.
23 Anderson and Anderson, p.2.
24 TBS, p.2.
25 Einwechter, p.22, quoting Theodore P. Letis, The Majority Text: Essays and Reviews in the Continuing Debate (Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, 1987), p.17.
26 TBS, p.2.
27 Einwechter, p.23.
28 John R. Kohlenberger III, The Precise Parallel New Testament (New York: Oxford, 1995), p.xvii.
29 Debra E. Anderson, The Validity of the Received Text (London, England: Trinitarian Bible Society, 2002), p.2.
30 Anderson, p.2. One of the most notable examples of this is J. N. Darby who strongly held to the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible but used an early form of the MCT in his translation.
31 Kohlenberger, p.xvii.
33 Einwechter, p.23. Focus in this article is on the Alexandrian text-type manuscripts, the primary manuscripts which comprise the Modern Critical Text. There are other text-types: the Caesarean features “a mere mixture”, and the Western text which shows a “radical difference from others” (Watts, p.20). These two text-types are not discussed here.
34 Kohlenberger, p.xvii.
35 Watts, p.24.
36 Einwechter, p.24.
37 Watts, p.24.
38 Porter, p.48.
39 Ibid., p.52.
40 Ibid., from Daniel Wallace, “Majority Text Theory,” 302n28.
41 Anderson and Anderson, p.3.
42 Ibid., p.4.
43 Porter, p.56.
44 Einwechter, p.25, quoting John W. Burgon, The Revision Revised (Paradise, Pa, USA: Conservative Classics, reprint, nd.), p.56.
45 TBS, p.5.
46 Einwechter, p.25.
47 Ibid., p.26.
48 Watts, p.23.
49 Einwechter, p.26.
50 Watts, pp.22-23.
51 Ibid., p.23.
52 Ibid., p.24.
53 Anderson, p.2.
54 TBS, p.7.
55 Anderson, p2.
56 TBS, pp.5-6.
57 A. Hembd, What Today’s Christian Needs to Know about Dr. Kurt Aland (London, England: Trinitarian Bible Society, 2007), pp.5-7.
58 Watts, p.21.
59 Einwechter, pp.21-22, referring to Kurt Aland and Barbara Aland, The Text of the New Testament, trans. Erroll F. Rhodes (Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Eerdmans, 1989), pp.50-51.
60 Watts, p.21.
61 Ibid., p.21.
62 Einwechter, p.21.
63 TBS, p.3.
64 Watts, pp.24-25.
65 TBS, p.6.
66 Watts, p.25.
68 Maurice A. Robinson and William G. Pierpont, The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform (Southborough, MA, USA: Chilton, 2005), p.536.
69 Ibid., pp.542-543.
70 TBS, p.6.
71 Aland and Aland, et al, eds., The Greek New Testament (Stuttgart, Germany: United Bible Societies, 1966, 1968, 1975, 1983, 2014).
72David Blunt, Which Bible Version: Does it Really Matter ?(London, England: Trinitarian Bible Society, 2007), p.3.
73 TBS, p.3.
74 Ibid., p.6.
75 Kohlenberger, p.xviii.
76 Anderson, p.2.
77 Anderson and Anderson, p.6.
78 Einwechter, p.12.
79 Trinitarian Bible Society, An Introduction to the Society’s Principles (London, England: Trinitarian Bible Society, 1992, 1997), p.4.
82 TBS, Introduction, p.4.
83 Einwechter, p.14, quoting Jakob van Bruggen, The Future of the Bible (Nashville, TN, USA: Thomas Nelson Inc., 1978), p.106.
84 Einwechter, p.13.
85 Ibid., p.14.
86 TBS, Introduction, p.4.