I beleive the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated, copied, and interpreted correctly. In the course of my studies of the Bible, I've discovered that it has a long and convoluted history. So, these are my discoveries and my musings of Christian history and doctrines.

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Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States

Monday, May 09, 2005

Augustine complains about Jerome's translation

Of course, this was not the only time Jerome was accused of mistranslating text. Saint Augustine wrote him a nasty letter in which he states:

"A certain bishop, one of our brethren, having introduced in the church over which he presides the reading of your version, came upon a word in the book of the prophet Jonah, of which you have given a very different rendering from that which had been of old familiar to the senses and memory of all the worshippers, and had been chanted for so many generations in the church. Thereupon arose such a tumult in the congregation, especially among the Greeks, correcting what had been read, and denouncing the translation as false, that the bishop was compelled to ask the testimony of the Jewish residents (it was in the town of Oea). These, whether from ignorance or from spite, answered that the words in the Hebrew MSS. were correctly rendered in the Greek version, and in the Latin one taken from it. What further need I say? The man was compelled to correct your version in that passage as if it had been falsely translated, as he desired not to be left without a congregation, -- a calamity which he narrowly escaped. From this case we also are led to think that you may be occasionally mistaken. You will also observe how great must have been the difficulty if this had occurred in those writings which cannot be explained by comparing the testimony of languages now in use." (1)

Note how he says "now in use". And what if they are not "now in use", having changed over the last one thousand and five hundred years?


It absolutely amazes me how the entire course of history can change because of the mistranslation of just two or three words. To me, that gives new meaning to the phrase "the pen is mightier than the sword". Much of the time spent at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. was spent arguing over one single word, a diphthong as one historian describes it, that doesn't even occur in the Bible - not even once. And yet, the results of that council had huge impact over the history of western civilization.

  1. Saint Augustine, Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Edited by Phillip Schaff, D.D.,LL.D, (WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.: Grand Rapids Michigan) Vol I, page 327.

3 Comments:

Blogger HP said...

Scott,
I am curious. What got you interested in this topic? Are you studying early Christianity? Why and where?

9:12 AM  
Blogger Scott N. Ashby said...

I was a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints for 2 years. I would occasionally run into people who wouldn't beleive that the Bible had errors and that there were no other books or letters written. I never had any proof to back up when I said it did. So, one thing led to another ....

Also, I have always liked history, of any genre. The History Channel on Cable TV is a favorite channel. The Discovery Channel also.

I am an armchair historian. I don't have any letters behind my name such as Ph.d., except GEEK and DWEEB. But I read library books, books from friends, and buy books mentioned in the bibliographies of the books that I do read. I must have several hundred dollars invested in my personal library already.

12:34 PM  
Blogger HP said...

Good on you. I am a big believer in autodidacts. Welcome to the conversation.

1:40 PM  

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