Saturday, October 26, 2013

How We Got the Bible: Ancient Versions: The New Testament

In chapter six of the book, Lightfoot examines the early versions, or translations, of the New Testament. These ancient versions open to us an entirely independent line of evidence on the New Testament text. There are three versions:

1. Syriac Versions:  Syriac was the main language in the Syria and Mesopotamia regions and one of the earliest translations to be made. There are three forms of this translation:

  • The Diatessaron:  This Greek term means "through four" and is thus a version of the Four Gospels. It is perhaps the earliest form and was complied by Tatian around A.D. 170. No copy of it remains and it must be constructed from secondary sources.
  • The Old Syraic:  This form may predate the Diatessaron, but this is not the general consensus. There a two chief manuscripts:  the Curetonian and the Sinaitic. Both are copies of the Gospels and both date to the fifth century. The Sinaitic possibly the fourth.
  • The Peshitta:  Peshitta means "simple" and this form is a revision of the Old Syriac form. 
2. The Coptic Versions: Coptic was a development of the ancient Egyptian language and ended up be written in Greek characters. There are two noteworthy translations:
  • The Sahidic Version:  This form is written in the Upper Egypt dialect and dates to the third and fourth centuries.
  • The Bohairic Version:  This form is written in the Lower Egypt dialect and dates to the fourth and fifth centuries.
3. The Latin Versions:  The first translation of the English Bible was made from these versions.
  • The Old Latin:  In A.D. 180 the church in Numidia of North Africa was persecuted. Christians in a small town named Scilium were arrested, put on trial and decapitated in Carthage. The record of the trial indicates that an individual named Speratus had "Books and letters of Paul a just man" in his possession. These were certainly Latin translations as it is not likely that the people in Scilium knew Greek. Other Latin manuscripts were in use in a similar way in other areas of the Roman Empire.
  • The Latin Vulgate: Produced by Jerome. It is  the drawing together of the various Old Latin translations into one edition. The Latin term vulgata means "common" or "commonly accepted" and thus it displaced the Old Latin by the sixth and seventh centuries.
Stand firm in Christ,
Chase

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