The Bible Then and Now

The Bible Then and Now

Can you read this?


I am guessing that you can read it, and without too much difficulty, although it is certainly unconventional. The words are jumbled together, it has no spaces separating them, all the letters are capitalized, and it has no punctuation. Nevertheless, with a bit of concentration you can easily make out that it is John 3:16 in the King James Version.

Now try this one:

(Picture not shown)

This is an actual snapshot of part of the third chapter of John in a Greek manuscript with the beginning of each verse marked for convenience. This is not the original. We don’t have any of the originals. However, we do have almost 6,000 manuscripts which we can compare. When we do, we find they are remarkably similar, although they were all handwritten until after the printing press was invented by Johannes Gutenberg around 1440 AD. I am guessing you can’t read it. Nevertheless, you can see that all the words are jumbled together. You may also be able to recognize that several of the letters are similar to English capital letters and therefore you may assume (and you would be right) that all the letters are capital letters. You can also see that the lines look a bit wavy. That’s because this is a handwritten copy of John.

Here’s what John 3:16 looks like today in a Greek Bible I have on my computer:

οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλ᾽ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον.

You can see it is not in all capital letters, it has spaces between the words, and punctuation. These advances make it much easier to read (if you know Greek). Now here’s roughly what John 3:16 would have looked like in an original KJV Bible published in 1611:

For God so loued þe world, that he gaue his only begotten Sonne: that whosoeuer beleeueth in him, should not perish, but haue euerlasting life.

You can see from this that English has changed considerably since 1611.

Nevertheless, the message contained in that early Greek manuscript, in a modern edition of the Greek New Testament, and in the original KJV is preserved today in the Bible(s) you and I possess. Nothing is lost. Through his providential guidance God has faithfully preserved the Scriptures for us because he loves us and he wants to communicate with us. Therefore, we should be profoundly grateful and confident each time we open our Bibles in English. Grateful that he has safeguarded it for us. And confident that what we have in English accurately conveys what was written in the original.

« Back