According to linguistics, history and culture which version of the Bible today is most accurate translation of the ancient original?

closed as primarily opinion-based by James Shewey, Ruminator, enegue, Dan, Paul Vargas Oct 29 '17 at 15:44

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  • The Septuagint. – James Shewey Oct 28 '17 at 15:34
  • @LangLangC "There probably never was one." What on earth do you mean? – Sola Gratia Oct 28 '17 at 22:24
  • Never mind, I thought you were denying that there were even originals. Which is literally impossible. I know of no "errors" that can be demonstrated to be "introduced along the way" which are shown to not have been original. Unless we're coming in with a bias. – Sola Gratia Oct 28 '17 at 22:52
  • 1
    In fact, there is no evidence that there ever was an "original" text for the OT. Individual sections of the text might have a version that was the first written version but it could also be that there was a multiplicity of versions for many portions of the text from the very start. That's the way Israelite and Jewish culture have always worked - preservation of multiple coexisting and conflicting sources. The burden of proof is on anyone who claims otherwise. – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Oct 29 '17 at 9:43
  • I encountered an actual literal (probably computer generated) by translating each word in isolate. It was a pain to read. – Joshua Oct 30 '17 at 21:51

You pose a very interesting question.

It might be argued that this question is not about a particular text of scripture and therefore should be considered 'off-topic'. I would disagree and I would say that this question is about every text of scripture and that, thus, it should be permitted.

First of all in your question heading you ask which is the most accurate version of the bible and in the body of your question you ask which is the most accurate translation of the ancient original.

There are scriptures which were originally written in Hebrew, some of that being in Chaldee which is very close to Hebrew. And there are scriptures written in Greek. The Old Testament is in Hebrew/Chaldee; the New is in Greek.


There is little dispute about the Hebrew, it is generally agreed that the Masoretic Text is the correct Hebrew text and there is not a huge amount of difference in the major translations of that text up until about 1900 or so and then we begin to see modern versions using more modern English which some regard as a good thing and some regard as a bad thing.

A comment has been made, and I agree with it, that there is a difference between a readable bible, written in idiomatic English, and a literal translation of the underlying text.


There is, however, a division of thought regarding the ancient, original Greek scriptures. Up until 1881, the King James Authorised Version was 'the bible' as far as the vast majority of English speaking people were concerned.

Then, it was decided to improve the translation and certain chosen people were gathered to carry out that necessary task, for there were corrections and improvements necessary. However, two of the appointed persons privately approached every other member of the committee and introduced the individual participators to their own, new Greek text. Westcott and Hort are their names.

The outcome of this was that the Revised Version of the bible was not an improvement of the Authorised Version but was a translation of a new Greek text. The text of the AV is close to what is called the Received Text or the Textus Receptus. The Greek original manuscripts - there are thousands of them - on which this text is based, are from the 4th, 5th, 6th centuries and following centuries.


Westcott and Hort argue that a few manuscripts which are older than that are of massive importance and they argue that those few manuscripts should be allowed to predominate over the huge majority of later writings. They made particular reference to a manuscript discovered by Tischendorf in about 1860 and to one in the Vatican which became available to scholars at about the same time.

The opposite argument is that these ancient copies - from the 2nd century or so - are deeply flawed and that is why they survived. They were little used because they were not highly regarded. The good copies were read and re-read and used so much that they deteriorated and had to be replaced.

This side of the divide also queries whether Divine Providence would permit thousands of manuscripts, and quotations of scripture in other books, to be available for many centuries, yet suffer the 'most important' evidence to be unavailable to the Christian Church until the 19th century.

Ayone who is serious about reading the bible has to look into this matter and has to make up their own mind about the division that occurred in the late 19th century.

Once one has made up one's mind as to which Greek text one believes to be the correct one, then one can choose between the various English translations of that Greek text.


[All of the above can be seen on various Wikipedia articles but this is a controversial subject and opinions are being propagated within what ought to be unbiased expressions of truth. I have tried my best not to take one side or the other in what I have expressed here. But I have personally followed one side of this divide for the past fifty years, ever since I was a teenager.]


Wikipedia, and other sources, will refer to 'uncials' which are ancient manuscripts written in capital letters and 'miniscules', which are manuscripts written in smaller writing which is 'cursive', that is, ordinary handwriting; they will refer to 'versions' which are the translation of the Greek scriptures into other languages, such as Syriac; they will refer to 'Patristic Citations' which are the quotations of the fathers of the Christian Church (such as Augustine, Jerome, Eusebius) in the books which they wrote; and they will refer to 'Lectionary Quotations' which are bible texts preserved in ancient books of church service, similar to the Common Prayer Book of more modern times.

Then there is the 'Septuagint' the Greek translation of the Hebrew scripture, which may, or may not, have been quoted by apostolic writers; and there is the 'Vulgate' which is the Latin translation of the Greek scripture, written, largely by Jerome, in the 4th century.

All of this evidence is used in collation, such that errors in copying can be eliminated by comparisons made across the whole spectrum of evidence until agreement is reached as to what were the original 'autographs' - the actual written words of the apostolic writers who wrote in the first century after the resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ.

  • I believe in one of your earlier versions you briefly touched on the issue of translation philosophy. A translation may be in modern English, but the translator must decide whether it will be more or less literal or a freer translation involving a higher degree of interpretation. Then there is the issue of the underlying text, which you have covered thoroughly. – Pilgrim Oct 28 '17 at 12:50
  • @Pilgrim Yes, I edited as I felt I was stating a personal preference and I wanted to avoid doing that. I think the more important point is the one you state, the difference between a readable, idiomatic bible and a literal translation. – Nigel J Oct 28 '17 at 12:54
  • @LangLangC Your approach is not the one I have chosen, myself. I researched this matter thoroughly - at the age of sixteen - and I have read one version all my life. Only now in maturity, now that I am more familiar with the original, I also use literal translations as a further reference. – Nigel J Oct 28 '17 at 20:20

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