When the Bible was translated into different languages, could things have been lost?
Phrases, words, and punctuation marks can be lost any time a document is copied or translated from one language into another language. The original writings of Paul the Apostle, Moses, Jeremiah, Matthew or any other Old or New Testament writer are called the autographs. The Holy Spirit moved and controlled what each of these men wrote (2 Peter 1:21-22). He controlled the contents of each book of the Bible.
Lost Information During Copying
We do not know if any of the manuscripts that we have are the original writings. But approximately 25,000 manuscripts of the New Testament exist. There are differences among these manuscripts. Some of these differences are the result of translation errors, and others are just missing words and punctuation marks. But by comparing the different copies and using a process called textual criticism, we are able to determine what the original Hebrew and Greek autographs were. There is a brief explanation of textual criticism at this site. What we have discovered is that no information has been lost. There is a great book that provides more information about how the Bible was copied and translated. It is titled A General Introduction to the Bible and it is written by Geisler and Nix. The publisher is Moody Press.
Meaning Lost During Translation
Meaning can be lost when one language is translated into another. In the book of Nehemiah, we have an example of three steps that are required to understand the Bible. First we must read the Bible. Then we must translate from one language to another and finally explain the meaning.
And they read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading. (NASB) Nehemiah 8:8
Today we have the Bible in our own languages – English, French, Spanish, Japanese, etc. Each Bible has been translated from the Hebrew and Greek writings. Some information or meaning has been lost in the process of translation. This cannot be avoided. Those who can read and understand Hebrew and Greek and those who will use language tools in their study will have a better understanding of the meaning of the Bible.
Each of us needs to study the Bible to really understand it. Many Christians do not really understand the Bible, not because of copyist errors or a few translation errors, but because they are not studying the Bible. Bible study is more than having someone illustrate the meaning of the passage with jokes, stories and quotes. It is more than a warm application of truth. Bible study is having the meaning of the Greek or Hebrew words explained and discovering the cultural background of the times. This is how we discover the real meaning of the passage we are studying. This is how a person understands why the passage means what it means. This is how we find the treasure of precious truths. Here we find jewels of spiritual truth that impact and change our life.