Do we have access to the original Biblical languages?

Americans today can chose from a wide range of Bible translations. The Bible has been translated into every major language in the world. Few countries have no access to a copy of the Bible in their predominant language. Despite the widespread availability of Scriptures in modern languages, there is a small group of skeptics who insist no one knows what is really in God’s Word because we no longer have access to the original Biblical languages.

We know the original writings of the apostles and prophets were lost long ago. No one has the parchments that Paul wrote on. No one has the stones the Ten Commandments were recorded on. What we do have are thousands of ancient copies of the original writings. Certain skeptics say the ancient copies do not reflect the original languages of the prophets and apostles. Are those languages lost to history, thus making it impossible for Christians to every really understand the Bible?

The Bible was written in three languages. Most of the Old Testament was written in Ancient Hebrew. Most of the New Testament was written in Koine Greek. Small portions of the Old and New Testaments were written in Aramaic. All three of these languages are dead languages no longer spoken today. However, like Latin, though no one speaks the Biblical languages they are far from inaccessible.

Some of the many ancient copies of the Old and New Testaments were written within a couple hundred years of the conclusion of each Testament and in the same language as the originals. Language changes over time, but a language does not change beyond comprehension in a few hundred years. Take English as an example. English of the early 1800’s would be very understandable to any English speaker today. English of the early 1600’s would sound strange but would remain mostly understandable. The English of the early 1400’s would require more work and thought, but would still be broadly understandable to an educated English speaker. Likewise, the early copyists and translators of the Bible would have had no problems understanding the original language.

Greek and Hebrew have been studied for millennia. Scholars have a good understanding of how the languages developed and changed over the years. Bible students today have access to ancient copies of the Bible and the works of ancient scholars who studied the Bible in the decades immediately following the writing of the Biblical books. The Bible itself gives us every reason to expect the older portions to be understandable, since the authors of the New Testament frequently quoted, explained and applied the Old Testament to first century believers. In addition, the argument that we cannot understand the Bible because we do not have access to the original languages would also eliminate our ability to understand many ancient historians and philosophers, like Plato and Socrates.

We can have absolute confidence in the accessibility, accuracy and understandability of the Bible today. God’s Word has been carefully preserved throughout the centuries. The Words of God given by Him through His apostles and prophets is still available to people today.

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