Wednesday, May 22, 2013

biblical Christianity in African Perspective - O'Donovan

Chapter 3 - How the Bible Came to Us

O'Donovan considers five questions in this chapter.  I will briefly summarize his answers.

A.  How did we get the Bible?
Oral tradition - "...the same way that stories are passed from one generation to another around the fire at night in African villages." (31)
Written tradition - from picture writing to Cuneiform (+ 2000 BC) and so on...
The work of the scribes - O'Donovan discusses the ancient concern for accuracy in these copies and the various archaeological proofs of this accuracy
The Canon of Scripture - the biblical books generally accepted by the people of God
The Septuagint - Greek translations by 72 scholars 250 BC
The Vulgate - Latin translation by Jerome AD 388
The Codices - 3rd century AD - copies of the Bible consisting of hand copies pages held together like a book
English language Bible - Beda AD 735
                                     Wycliffe AD 1384
                                     (Gutenberg Press AD 1456)
                                     (German Bible AD 1467; French bible AD 1487)
                                     Tyndale AD 1526 (strangled and burned at the stake)
                                     Coverdale AD 1535
                                     King James Scholars AD 1611

B.  Has the Bible been changed as a result of being translated and passed down over many centuries?
O'Donovan discusses the overwhelming and abundant historical and archaeological testimony of ancient manuscripts
The accuracy of the Masoretic text was confirmed by Dead Sea Scrolls
The most important manuscripts:  The Codex Sinaiticus; Vaticanus; Alexandrinus; Vulgate; Masoretic Hebrew Scrolls; Dead Sea Scrolls
Comparison of these ancient documents show amazing accurate copying

C.  What are the major English translations of the Bible?
a)  The Coverdale - AD 1535 - first complete English translation
b)  The King James - AD 1611
c)  English Revised - AD 1881
d)  American Standard - AD 1901
e)  Revised Standard - AD 1952
f)  New American Standard - AD 1960
g)  Good News Bible - AD 1976
h)  New International - AD 1978
By now there are many more versions, some literal others using the method of dynamic equivalence

D.  Why is the Roman Catholic (and Eastern Orthodox) Bible Different?
O'Donovan discusses the exclusion of the so-called Apocryphal writings found in the Roman Catholic Bible (and the Eastern Orthodox Bible)...these books were added at the Roman Catholic Council of Trent in AD 1546.  Most Protestants (like the Anglicans) agree that even though the books are not to be considered Canonical (inspired and thus used in matters of Church doctrine) they do have historical and spiritual value as they were written by believers.

E.  Which version of the English language bible is the most accurate?
This is open to debate - O'Donovan seems to favor the New International, but there are other more recent translations that some say are more accurate such as the New English Translation.  It also depends on what one means by the word "accurate".  Most literal or most understandable?

When it comes to translating the Scriptures into the language of people groups who do not have the Scriptures in their own language, a literal translation may not be the most accurate way to go in terms of conveying the meaning of the original writings.

This was not my most favorite chapter, to be sure...

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