From Greek to English

The Greek source used today is called the morphological Greek New Testament (GNT). There are several versions. The one I use is found at Tufts University Perseus Digital Library. This version is known as the Alexandria version, revised by Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort.

The term “morphological” is added to the description of the Greek source because information has been added to the text that didn’t appear in the oldest original manuscripts. These include:

  • punctuation,
  • accent marks over vowels,
  • spaces between words,
  • lower case letters
  • chapter and verse numbers.

All of these features are inventions since the days of Christ. The original Greek in which the Bible was written was all capital letters, with no spaces between words. It wasn’t divided into words much less sentences, verses, and chapters.

The Greek that created the KJV was from a different source, the Textus Receptus. This was the printed version of the Greek Bible created by Erasmus in the fifteen century and available in England when the KJV was written. The Textus Receptus was also used to create Luther’s Bible. Erasmus wrote it based on several Greek versions, most dating to about the twelfth century. It was heavily influenced by the Latin version of the Bible called the Vulgate. The Vulgate was created from the Greek in the late fourth century. The Vulgate was the official version of the Bible in Western Europe between the fourth century on. Translation into different local languages was not created until Luther wrote his German version.

The various versions of the morphological GNT that we use today are based on our oldest manuscripts of the Greek Bible. All modern Biblical translations rely on the morphological GNT, but they are heavily influenced by the KJV since it was the original and accepted English translation for hundreds of years.Since all translations are imperfect, we can see where changes were added at each stage. These changes often sought to explain what Jesus meant in more detail than we see in the original Greek, but there are also differences in the oldest sources.

Jesus’s words have gone through four stages of translation to get to English:

1) between the source Greek and the Vulgate,

2) between the Vulgate and the Textus Receptus, and

3) between the Textus Receptus and the KJV to reach English

4) between the KJV and the morphological GNT to create most modern Bibles.