Something Many English Bible Translations Have In Common

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

You might recall that some weeks ago Presidential aspirant, Donald Trump, spoke at Liberty University. During his speech, he referred to a certain book of the New Testament as “2 Corinthians.” He took some heat over his having called the apostle Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians “2 Corinthians.” It seems some folks thought it revealed his ignorance of the Bible. Well, though I am not a Trump supporter, I want to point out that the objection to his reference to “2 Corinthians” actually revealed the ignorance of those who found fault with it. Here is why: I have been an avid Bible-reader for over 40 years, and I have noticed the very thing for which Trump was faulted. So, I looked at 9 of my English Bible translations, and each one refers to Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians as “2 Corinthians.” Here is a list of the 9 translations I looked at: the King James Version, New King James Version, Modern English Version, English Standard Version, New American Standard Bible (updated edition), New International Version, Holman Christian Standard Bible, New Revised Standard Version, and the 1602 edition of the Geneva Bible New Testament. I don’t know what Bible translation Trump referred to at Liberty University, but it must have been one that said “2 Corinthians” at the top of the page he read from that day.

Now, here is another important fact related to this subject: there are several books in the Old Testament and epistles (letters) in the New Testament in which numbers are used by translators to identify them. In the Old Testament we find the books called 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles. And in the New Testament we find the epistles (letters) called 1 and 2 Corinthians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, 1 and 2 Peter, and 1, 2 and 3 John. But we commonly refer to them as first and second, or as first, second and third. Here’s another interesting fact: in the Old Testament, at first there was one book of Samuel, one of Kings, and one of Chronicles. But each one was divided in half, so to speak, for the sake of convenience. They then were renamed 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 an 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles. But the letters of the New Testament were written separately.

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