The Best Possible Translation of the Original Bible

Discussion in 'Religion' started by entelecheia, Apr 23, 2014.

  1. entelecheia Registered Senior Member


    I wonder if it is possible to get some version of the Bible or of its major books, consisting in the best possible translation from the originals.

    I think, ideally, the original must be written in Hebrew/Aramaic, and its translations below each paragraph. Also could include an appendix, where basic idiomatic lessons are explained.

    I've consulted a Catholic Bible and a Jehova's Witnesses Bible and in both fund a confirmation of the abhorrent dogma of the Eternal Hell (i can't accept it by natural reason), described by Jes�s:

    Luke 16:19-31

    New International Version (NIV)

    The Rich Man and Lazarus

    19 �There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man�s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

    22 �The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham�s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, �Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.�

    25 �But Abraham replied, �Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.�

    27 �He answered, �Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.�

    29 �Abraham replied, �They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.�

    30 ��No, father Abraham,� he said, �but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.�

    31 �He said to him, �If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.��

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  3. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Most of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew. But toward the end of the pre-Christian era, Aramaic had become the lingua franca of the entire Semitic region (ironically, since the Aramaeans themselves had long assimilated into the regional melting pot), so the later books were written in that language.

    The New Testament was written in Greek.

    I've only been in one synagogue (obviously Reform since the rabbi was female and they were performing a bat mitzvah). There was a copy of the Old Testament (many Jews call it the Torah although the meaning of that name varies considerably) in every seat. It was printed in Hebrew with an English translation underneath and commentary on the opposite page.

    I'm sure the Bible you're looking for has been published a hundred different ways--in English alone! Keep looking.

    When the New Testament is included, there really is no such thing as a "standard Bible." There are whole books that are included in one church's Bible but not in another. The Catholics in particular have a rather large Bible.

    BTW: The proper spelling is Jehovah. As you probably know already if you're a scholar of ancient Mesopotamia, in the Afroasiatic language family, of which the Semitic languages (Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic, Amharic, etc.) are one branch, vowels are rather ephemeral and have no effect on the meaning of a word. So words are written with consonants only. (A writing system with only consonants is called an abjad rather than an alphabet.)

    The ancient Jews believed that it was a sin to speak the name of God, but it was okay to write it since the vowels were missing. In fact they believed that if someone actually spoke God's name correctly, he would be smitten dead on the spot. The written name of God was YHWH. Somewhere along the way some irreverent Jew inserted his own vowels and pronounced it Yahweh. (Those H's are NOT silent.) Since he was not immediately transformed into a pile of smoking ashes, his buddies appropriated that pronunciation, which eventually became standard.

    Eventually the European empires invaded Judea and began translating their literature. The Romans picked up a slightly different pronunciation of YHWH (because there were no vowels!), and said it as Yehowah. I'm sure you're familiar with the early Latin alphabet, which had no Y or W. They used J for Y and V for W, so they spelled it Jehovah. Today we pronounce those letters in English phonetics so it comes out Je-ho-va. The second H is silent, but it's important to write it.
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  5. entelecheia Registered Senior Member

    Jehovah's Witnesess claim historically almost all Bible translations have been biased in favor to hidden political interests.

    It seems a plausible hipothesis.

    How to find a reliable translation? Is it mission: impossible?
    Howewer, ironically, the Jehovah's Witnesses Bible in Luke 16;19 suggest the existence of a place for torment with fire. Even the word 'Hades' appears there.


    Hades is a greek term equivalent with Hell, and describes an afterlife scenario for torment. Not specifically a place where fire is the main element of torment.

    Can you prove that this description of Jesus is not referring to an eternal hell?
    Could not be a complement of: 'The lake that burns with fire and sulfur', and 'Where the worm never ceases to gnaw the flesh'?

    Even Gehenna can be a synonym with Hell:
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  7. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    'Best possible translation' might mean several things. Some translations are literary translations, written so that they read well. Other translations are more literal. Bible translations range from word-for-word transliterations to very loose paraphrases.

    What I'd probably go with is the Revised Standard Version, the 'RSV'. I believe that it's a reasonably good translation from a scholarly standpoint, while still retaining the literary qualities. There's a New Revised Standard Version' too, but it makes changes such as 'gender inclusive wording' that might be great for readers today, but might not quite capture how the ancient Hebrews were thinking about things. I'm even more leery of the more recent looser paraphrases, because they are more apt to reflect the views of the translators.

    Then find a good scholarly Bible commentary to read along with it. (Commentaries are important when reading any religious texts.) Read a verse, then read what the commentary says about it. That way you will learn about all the translation issues and about how the original Hebrew or Greek phrases being translated probably don't have precisely the same connotations that the English wording does. The commentary should also be able to tell you about the context of the text, about whether it's making some allusion to another passage somewhere else or something like that. Just in general, many of the things that the Bible tosses out are awfully cryptic and the commentary should be able to tell you what that stuff is all about. And a good commentary should also be able to tip you off about when there's scholarly controversy and disgreement about a passage.

    Here's a Wikipedia article about modern English Bible translations:
  8. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    This is why Jews insist that it must be read in the original language. Muslims feel the same way about the Koran.
  9. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    And yet very few Muslims can read ancient Arabic.
  10. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Whereas all devout Jews can read Biblical Hebrew. It's a requirement for getting a Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
  11. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    The best English language Bible so far is the King James. It's unlikely that a better one will come along any time soon, partly because of the modern obsession with "accuracy" and "scholarship" (missing the point, unless your interest is linguistic,archaeological, anthropological, or the like) and partly because it's been done - no motivation to put that kind of work into what can be only a relatively minor improvement or sequel effort.

    "Poetry is what is lost in translation" Rule of thumb. So with something like the Bible, translation is an initial step only - recreation would be the goal, mutatis mutandis.

    Well duh. So were the original writings. How well do the new ones recreate the roles of the old ones?

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