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The Journey from Texts to Translations: The Origin and Development of the Bible Paperback – August 1, 2004
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Although many people read the Bible, very few people know the history of its making. Wegners book, The Journey from Texts to Translations: The Origin and Development of the Bible, takes you on a journey from the original texts to the most recent English versions. This journey begins with the ancient Hebrew texts of the Old Testament and Greek of both testaments (including the exciting Dead Sea Scroll discoveries at Qumran and New Testament discoveries in Egypt), to the making of many translations - especially in English. Take the journey; Wegners book is an excellent travel guide. -- Philip W. Comfort, professor of Greek and New Testament at Trinity Episcopal Seminary, visiting professor at Wheaton College, and senior editor of Bible reference at Tyndale House Publishers
Have you ever wondered about the origins of your Bible or how it relates to other Bibles out there in the marketplace? Have you ever raised the questions why our Bible contains the books it does? Paul Wegners The Journey from Texts to Translations is a virtual treasure trove of information on these and similar questions. He is an expert guide through the maze of information on Bible origins and development. -- Tremper Longman, Professor of Old Testament, Westamont College
When it comes to books on the Bible, students are often forced to choose between technical systematic theology or detailed commentaries; a good book on the Bible as Bible is hard to find. Further, what students often look for are "facts" about the Bible (how it came into being, how books were selected, how the manuscripts fared, and how the translations were undertaken) and this book admirably provides the kind of facts students need. Charts are abundant, tables everywhere, and the text clearly written and clarifyingly illustrated. This is a delightful book which will serve generations to come. -- Scot McKnight, Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies, North Park University --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From the Back Cover
Although it was written thousands of years ago, the Bible continues to fascinate and guide readers today. The Journey from Texts to Translations explains how the Bible that we use came to be in its present form. In five parts, author Paul Wegner introduces the Bible and its arrangement, describes how the various books were collected into a single canon, examines how the Bible was passed on from one generation to the next, explores how and why early versions were produced, and discusses the myriad of English translations.
"When it comes to books on the Bible, students are often forced to choose between technical systematic theology or detailed commentaries; a good book on the Bible as Bible is hard to find. Further, what students often look for are 'facts' about the Bible (how it came into being, how books were selected, how the manuscripts fared, and how the translations were undertaken) and this book admirably provides the kind of facts students need. Charts are abundant, tables everywhere, and the text clearly written and clarifyingly illustrated. This is a delightful book which will serve generations to come." -Scot McKnight, Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies, North Park University
"Paul Wegner's The Journey from Texts to Translations is an expert guide through the maze of information on Bible origins and development." -Tremper Longman, Professor of Old Testament, Westmont College
"Although many people read the Bible, very few people know the history of its making. Paul Wegner takes you on a journey from the original texts to the most recent English versions. This journey moves from the ancient Hebrew texts of the Old Testament and Greek texts of the New Testament, to the many manuscript copies of both testaments, to the making of many translations-especially in English. Take the journey; Wegner's book is an excellent travel guide." -Philip W. Comfort, professor of Greek and New Testament, Trinity Episcopal Seminary
Paul Wegner (Ph.D., King's College, University of London) is professor of Bible at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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The book is divided into five parts: preliminary matters regarding the Bible, canonization of the Bible, transmission of the Bible, early translations of the Bible, and English translations of the Bible. Section one discusses various preliminary issues concerning the creation and nature of the Bible. What is the Bible? What is the relationship between the two covenants? How does the synoptic problem affect interpretation? These questions and more are answered in a systematic and holistic fashion. Part two shows the development of the canon within the inner-workings of the early church. By the time of Jesus, an established Old Testament canon existed and the new functioned soon after the death of the apostles. Heresy, persecution, missionary usage and other factors drove the early church into recognizing and codifying a New Testament canon.
The third portion of the book spent considerable time discussing the transmission of the Bible. Where did the Greek and Hebrew texts come from and how reliable are they? What manuscripts do we have and what are their dates? What communities developed the text and for what purpose were they created? After offering a lengthy dialogue on each testament, the other shows the value of translations of the Bible in different languages. The author also offers broad principles relating to textual criticism. Part four is the shortest division within the book and seeks to educate the reader about other translations floating around the Roman world in the centuries following the time of the apostles. The author gives special care to informing one of the historical context behind the early printing of the Bible. Because of the Renaissance and the invention of the printing press, the need for a Bible in English was apparent and almost inevitable. Gutenberg’s first book printed was Jerome’s Latin Vulgate which began the process of disseminating the Bible throughout the West.
The last section of the book is on English translations of the Bible. The author breaks this section up into smaller subunits based upon the time period: English Bibles prior to 1611, modern English Bibles up to 1950, and modern translations from 1950. In light of the cultural and literary significance of the authorized version of the Bible, the writer devotes a whole chapter to its history and revisions. A special appendix is tacked onto the chapter discussing the unfortunate “KJV Only” debate in the Church today. The work closes answering the question of “Why are there so many English translations?”
Dr. Wegner remarks, “The purpose of the book is to provide a general survey of how the Bible we use came to be in its present form.” In my opinion, the author met his goal and much more. Within the span of only four hundred pages, the author indeed offered a lot of valuable information about the Bibles we cherish in our churches today. The value of the book is threefold: education, defense, and encouragement. Wegner’s book obviously educates the average Christian sitting in the pew on how we got our Bibles. Because pastors are mainly focused on teaching and preaching from the text and not necessarily discussing its integrity and textual history, this book offers the laymen a plethora of arrows in their intellectual quiver. The section alone of the various modern translations is worth the price of the book. There are good reasons why some preach from one translation as opposed to another. The book also serves an apologetic purpose. Snide and clever witticisms about the text from disbelieving dissenters can be rebuffed with the knowledge gleaned from Wegner’s book. The transmission of the Bible is a more sophisticated, tedious, and careful process than any analogy from the telephone game can provide. Lastly, the book bolsters our confidence in the Bible. The author shows that great trouble was taken in the transmission and translation process in such a way that the average reader can be sure that the text is accurate and worthy of their spiritual studiousness.
I perceived at least three important strengths of the book. First, the text is comprehensive in its scope. Almost no stone was left unturned. While more could be said on each and every subject mentioned, I did not feel the author short-changed the reader in any area. One can walk away with at least sufficient knowledge on these issues. Second, the book was both readable yet scholarly. The author did not write using unclear and difficult concepts without taking the time to explain and define the words. Many books of this caliber tend to go over the heads of the readers. This work avoided such a trap while remaining scholarly. Dr. Wegner wrote in his preface that “The discussions in this book are directed primarily toward the undergraduate student or layperson…” and remained true to form throughout. Last, the book contained many charts, maps, figures and graphs that further elucidated and extended the work’s intended aim. It is one thing to read a lengthy chapter about a manuscript. It is another thing to see the various manuscripts discussed. One walks away with a greater appreciation for the text by getting to see the manuscripts and textual variants within them. This allowed the author to include more information without having to stop the flow of his argument.
There are not many apparent weaknesses I could perceive from the book. I do however think the work could have been strengthened with some extra chapters or appendixes on what the major confessions and creeds say about Scripture and also a chapter on the importance of the Bible in the Global South. Though the book was not mainly a theological treatise seeking to discuss such issues as the inerrancy, sufficiency, and perspicuity of Scripture, something brief on those topics might lend the book broader appeal in evangelicalism. Also, the shape of global Christianity has radically changed within the last century and a nod at how the Bible is valued and utilized in non-Western locales would greatly strengthen the book. How is the Bible used in those contexts? Is it different from our own? All in all, an author cannot say everything so should not be faulted for leaving out such things as long as he or she is comprehensive. From my perspective, there was no bias that hindered the author’s work. At times, the author in fact appeared to be neutral and objective as he described various debates surrounding the text. For example, when discussing the KJV Only debate, he merely gave the arguments without his position. The arguments can speak for themselves.
I personally look forward to utilizing the information gleaned from this book in the local Church. There exists widespread ignorance on how we got our bibles and the science of textual criticism. Many times, Christians do not even care to learn about these topics until pushed by unbelievers in these specific areas. Educating our youth and others who sit in the pew can only encourage the faithful in their mission to the world. Without an adequate defense of Scripture, the Church’s message many times can and will be dismissed out of hand by the person we are evangelizing. Furthermore, Dr. Wegner’s “For Further Reading” portions after each chapter are an invaluable tool for lay-level apologists and seekers wanting more knowledge. I would and plan to recommend this book for anyone genuinely interested in the history of God’s Word.
After covering some preliminary matters regarding the Bible--it's nature, it's purpose, and some brief introductions into each section of the Bible--Wegner begins the journey at the ground level, with a discussion of the earliest forms of writing and their subsequent development. After some investigation into the history of language, Wegner arrives at the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek dialect and examines some important factors regarding the languages of the Old and New Testaments.
Wegner continues the journey with a lengthly discussion of canonicity, covering such topics as the Old Testament canon, the New Testament canon, the apocrypha and the pseudepigrapha. In this section we learn how both the Old Testament and New Testament canons were formed and what factors determined why certain books were placed into the canon and why other books were left out.
Textual criticism is treated at length as well, as Wegner examines a host of sources for both Old Testament and New Testament, demonstrating the manifold manuscripts and textual witnesses that provide abundant evidence for the both testaments. Despite the fact that we do not possess the original manuscripts, we are able to construct, by the existing copies we do posses, an extremely accurate text for all the Scripture. God has protected His Word!
From here we are taken to the history of the English Bible. We are introduced great men like Wycliffe and Tyndale, and provided the opportunity to trace the legacy of the English Bible from its beginnings in 14th century England, to its prominence in modern day America. Some noteworthy English translations that are examined are the King James Version, New King James Version, American Standard Version, the Living Bible and the Message. Each translation is studied in terms of its historical development, specific qualities, translation approach and concluded with brief critique.
On the whole, this is an edifying and informative read. It is just over 400 pages, and is thick with charts, pictures, mini-biographies and a host of other helpful materials. It will benefit any student of the Bible who desires to better understand the history of the Bible, whether they read it from cover to cover, or only use it as a reference.