Five More Myths about Bible Translations and the Transmission of the Text

There’s an old Italian proverb that warns translators about jumping in to the task: “Traduttori? Traditori!” Translation: “Translators? Traitors!” The English proverb, “Something’s always lost in the translation,” is clearly illustrated in this instance. In Italian the two words are virtually identical, both in spelling and pronunciation. They thus involve a play on words. But when translated into other languages, the word-play vanishes. The meaning, on one level, is the same, but on another level it is quite different. Precisely because it is no longer a word-play, the translation doesn’t linger in the mind as much as it does in Italian. There’s always something lost in translation. It’s like saying in French, “don’t eat the fish; it’s poison.” The word ‘fish’ in French is poisson, while the word ‘poison’ is, well, poison. There’s always something lost in translation.

But how much is lost? Here I want to explore five more myths about Bible translation.

Myth 1: The Bible has been translated so many times we can’t possibly get back to the original.

This myth involves a naïve understanding of what Bible translators actually did. It’s as if once they translated the text, they destroyed their exemplar! Sometimes folks think that translators who were following a tradition (such as the KJV and its descendants, the RV, ASV, RSV, NASB, NKJB, NRSV, and ESV) really did not translate at all but just tweaked the English. Or that somehow the manuscripts that the translators used are now lost entirely.

The reality is that we have almost no record of Christians destroying biblical manuscripts throughout the entire history of the Church. And those who translated in a tradition both examined the English and the original tongues. Decent scholars improved on the text as they compared notes and manuscripts. Finally, we still have almost all of the manuscripts that earlier English translators used. And we have many, many more as well. The KJV New Testament, for example, was essentially based on seven Greek manuscripts, dating no earlier than the eleventh century. Today we have about 5800 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, including those that the KJV translators used. And they date as early as the second century. So, as time goes on, we are actually getting closer to the originals, not farther away.

Myth 2: Words in red indicate the exact words spoken by Jesus of Nazareth.

Scholars have for a long time recognized that the Gospel writers shape their narratives, including the sayings of Jesus. A comparison of the Synoptics reveals this on almost every page. Matthew quotes Jesus differently than Mark does who quotes Jesus differently than Luke does. And John’s Jesus speaks significantly differentyly than the Synoptic Jesus does. Just consider the key theme of Jesus’ ministry in the Synoptics: ‘the kingdom of God’ (or, in Matthew’s rendering, often ‘the kingdom of heaven’). Yet this phrase occurs only twice in John, being replaced usually by ‘eternal life.’ (“Kingdom of God” occurs 53 times in the Gospels, only two of which are in John; “kingdom of heaven” occurs 32 times, all in Matthew. “Eternal life” occurs 8 times in the Synoptics, and more than twice as often in John.) The ancient historians were far more concerned to get the gist of what a speaker said than they were to record his exact words. And if Jesus taught mostly, or even occasionally, in Aramaic, since the Gospels are in Greek the words by definition are not exact.

A useful distinction is made between the very words of Jesus and very voice of Jesus, known as ipsissima verba and ipsissima vox, respectively. Only rarely can we say that we have the very words of Jesus, but we can be far more confident that what is recorded in red letters in translations is at least the very voice of Jesus. Again, if ancient historians were not as concerned to get the words exactly right, we should not put them into a modernist straitjacket in which we expect them to be something they were never intended to be.

Myth 3: Heretics have severely corrupted the text.

This myth is usually promoted by King James Only folks who assume that the manuscripts that came from Egypt were terribly corrupted. A more sophisticated approach seeks to demonstrate this in passage after passage. For example, would orthodox scribes begin the quotation of Isaiah 40.3 and Malachi 3.1 in Mark 1.2 with “As it is written in Isaiah the prophet”? The alternative reading, found in the majority of manuscripts, reads “As it is written in the prophets.” But the earliest, most widespread reading is “in Isaiah the prophet.” It looks as though the later scribes were troubled by this attribution and they ‘corrected’ it to be more generic so as to include Malachi.

What is overlooked in the approach that assumes that the earlier manuscripts were corrupted and produced by heretics is the fact that virtually all Gospels manuscripts harmonize. That is, in parallel passages between two or more Gospels, virtually all manuscripts, from time to time, change the wording in one Gospel so that it duplicates the wording in another. Would heretics do this? It represents rather a high view of scripture—or, as Paul said in another context, zeal that is not according to knowledge. Further, the great majority of these harmonizations are either found in isolated manuscripts or in later manuscripts. This tells us that the tendencies of the earliest scribes was to harmonize, but because such harmonizations are done sporadically and in isolation they are easily detected. And later scribes produced their copies in great quantities in a heavily concentrated area, resulting in a more systematic harmonization—again, something that is easily detected.

This finds an apt analogy in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. When the beleaguered hobbits meet the dark stranger, Strider, at the Prancing Pony Inn, they are relieved to learn that he is on their side. He is Aragorn, and he tells them that if he had been their enemy he could have killed them easily.

There was a long silence. At last Frodo spoke with hesitation, “I believed that you were a friend before the letter came,” he said, “or at least I wished to. You have frightened me several times tonight, but never in the way that servants of the Enemy would, or so I imagine. I think one of his spies would—well, seem fairer and feel fouler, if you understand.”

Likewise, the readings of the oldest manuscripts often has a way of making Christians nervous, but in the end it seems fouler but feels fairer.

Myth 4: Orthodox scribes have severely corrupted the text.

This is the opposite of myth #3. It finds its most scholarly affirmation in the writings of Dr. Bart Ehrman, chiefly The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture and Misquoting Jesus. Others have followed in his train, but they have gone far beyond what even he claims. For example, a very popular book among British Muslims (The History of the Qur’anic Text from Revelation to Compilation: a Comparative Study with the Old and New Testaments by M. M. Al-Azami) makes this claim:

The Orthodox Church, being the sect which eventually established supremacy over all the others, stood in fervent opposition to various ideas ([a.k.a.] ‘heresies’) which were in circulation. These included Adoptionism (the notion that Jesus was not God, but a man); Docetism (the opposite view, that he was God and not man); and Separationism (that the divine and human elements of Jesus Christ were two separate beings). In each case this sect, the one that would rise to become the Orthodox Church, deliberately corrupted the Scriptures so as to reflect its own theological visions of Christ, while demolishing that of all rival sects.”

This is a gross misrepresentation of the facts. Even Ehrman admitted in the appendix to Misquoting Jesus, “Essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.” The extent to which, the reasons for which, and the nature of which the orthodox scribes corrupted the New Testament has been overblown. And the fact that such readings can be detected by comparison with the readings of other ancient manuscripts indicates that the fingerprints of the original text are still to be seen in the extant manuscripts.

Myth 5: The deity of Christ was invented by emperor Constantine.

This myth was heavily promoted in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. He, in turn, based his allegedly true statements (even though the book was a novel, he claimed that it was based on historical facts) on Holy Blood, Holy Grail (by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln). The evidence, in fact, that the deity of Christ is to be found in the original New Testament is overwhelming. A look at some of the early papyri shows this. In passage after passage, the deity of Christ shines through the pages of the New Testament—and in manuscripts that significantly predate Constantine. For example, P66, a papyrus from the late second century, says what every other manuscript in John 1.1 says—“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” It predates the Council of Nicea (AD 325), which these skeptics claim is the time when Constantine invented Christ’s divinity, by about 150 years! P46, a papyrus dated to c. AD 200, plainly speaks of Christ’s divinity in Hebrews 1.8. The list could go on and on. Altogether, we have more than fifty Greek New Testament manuscripts that are prior to Constantine’s reign. Not one of them denies the deity of Christ.

To see some of the details that expose these myths, consider the following books:

Rob Bowman and Ed Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ

Ed Komoszewski, James Sawyer, and Daniel B. Wallace, Reinventing Jesus

Daniel B. Wallace, editor, Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament.


93 thoughts on “Five More Myths about Bible Translations and the Transmission of the Text

  1. Pingback: Myths about Bible Translations and the Transmission of the Text | Effectual Grace

  2. In English (well, in Australia), we have a parallel to your first example.

    A “terrorist” is a “tourist” with no respect for how things are arranged, so they typically leave farm gates open, permitting stock to be in other than their carefully-assigned paddock (for example, large stock straying across a highway can be a serious issue for both the stock & any travellers).


  3. lylelife

    “The KJV New Testament, for example, was essentially based on seven Greek manuscripts, dating no earlier than then[*] eleventh century. Today we have about 5800 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament”

    This, really, is an astounding fact.

    *Typo: delete the “n”.


  4. Alan Cossey

    There seems to be a textual variant in “Misquoting Jesus”. Over here in the UK it was published as “Whose Word Is It?” There is no appendix and hence no “Essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament” as quoted above. I gather it is in the earliest manuscripts though. Have orthodox (atheist) scribes deliberately altered the text to remove a text they see as heretical?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alan,
      Concerning: “Essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament”: In my study of the causes for the differences between older versions of the Bible, like the KJV versus modern versions like the NIV, I have found only one difference that do concern an essential Christian belief. That is Rev.22:14 where the KJV states “…they that do his commandments…” as the precondition for access to the Tree of life and entrance into the city, boiling down to the precondition for salvation. We are not saved on our own performance in doing Gods commands, but on faith in the salvation through the blood of Jesus. The NIV has as precondition “…who wash their robes…” This accords with our Christian faith, having been clad with the robe washed in the blood of the Lamb. This difference was presumably caused by a scribe misreading the original uncial letters when he made his copy, as I explained on my blog.
      Deliberate alterations are limited to geographical aspects, or the addition of (for instance) fasting to prayer in several cases.
      Be assured, except for the single case mentioned above, I have found no tampering with the essence of the message of the Bible.
      God bless, Herman.


      1. David Smith

        Excuse me sir,
        I’m not arguing that the KJV text in Rev 22:14 is correct, but merely that you are reacting too strongly. Remember in John 6 what Jesus said about doing the commands of God? ‘Believe’ was His answer.

        OTOH, I would say that the pericope in John 8 has caused a misunderstanding about judging, and that 1 John 5:7 has weakened the doctrine of the Trinity. Yet, any student who wishes to understand will find help through both the Holy Spirit and through the principle of redundancy — the same concept is repeated in a multitude of ways.


    2. Hello everyone,
      My post was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. It is meant to be ironic, something we Brits do a lot of (note the way I end my sentence with a preposition, just like Mark 16:8).

      I would be interested in any more information there is about the quote Dan Wallace makes from the appendix to “Misquoting Jesus”. As I say, there is no such appendix in the UK version of that book.



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    1. Sami Cociorvan

      but about his books Misquoting Jesus – The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why and Studies in the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (New Testament Tools and Studies) by Bart D. Ehrman?


      1. Paul Goodfellow

        There are lost of reviews of Bart Ehrman’s book. Google is your friend. There are helpful reviews by Mr Wallace, PJ Williams, Ben Witherington, and many others. For me his biggest problem is the presumption behind his work that he doesn’t really explicitly state, doesn’t discuss, nor demonstrate. Namely that if God inspired the words of the Bible then he must of necessity have ensured that those words were transmitted flawlessly down though the ages. I believe this assumption and his failure to grapple with it is rather shallow frankly.


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  7. Reblogged this on Sifting Reality and commented:
    The fact that I still hear these particular objections further confirms that the skeptics who offer them have no interest in holding accurate information as it relates to Biblical Christianity. For all their boasting to be honestly seeking the truth of the matter, they routinely and persistently ignore correction on tangible historical inaccuracies that they hold. These “myths” are not matters of faith, rather they are matters of demonstrable history and yet many skeptics still hold — seemingly for dear life — to them as though there is still some question to be answered about them.


  8. Reblogged this on beliefspeak2 and commented:
    Rebloged from Daniel Wallace’s site. Many of these issues are very important to English readers of the Bible especially. It is vital to know the how and why for laymen and not only pastors and theologians. I am not sure I fully agree with all that Dr. Wallace holds to in these matters but will need to study the issues before concluding. One issue that I am in full agreement is the acceptance of all the manuscripts for consideration as contra the “Received Text Only” position.


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  10. Pingback: Dan Wallace and the Myths of Translation

  11. Reblogged this on Veracity and commented:
    Dr. Dan Wallace has another outstanding post on Bible translation. His work and research are refreshingly real, and he clearly communicates what the Scripture tells us–and what it does not.


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  16. I hate to ruin a good illustration, but saying “Don’t eat the fish, it’s poison” in French would be just as clear as in English. The double-s in “poisson” sounds like an English s. The single-s in “poison” sounds like a z. Alors, no confusion. 🙂


    1. Cameron

      That’s the point. It’s goes beyond the fact that the two words have slightly different pronunciations. Indeed, there is no confusion or lack of clarity on the actual meaning of the words, but there is a subtle word play involved in the French, that is completely lost in translation in English. The proximity of the similar words ‘poisson’ and ‘poison’ in the same sentence rolls off the tongue (or jumps off the page) better than ‘poison fish’ does.


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  19. Reed

    Many years ago, I used to study some of the things you mentioned, so I’m out of date and wonder if you could bring me up to date.

    One thing I looked at was the notion of textual corruption and came across Bruce Metzger’s comments who called the Byzantine text “corrupt” and added that it was the basis for translations until the 19th century. Could you elaborate on that?

    On the deity of Jesus, I read in a footnote to Matthew 5:1 in the New Jerusalem Bible that Jesus’ disciples didn’t have the notion that Jesus was divine. That concept developed after his death. I’ve always wondered about that in this way: If the disciples didn’t understand his deity, that would mean that the verses in the gospels used to show deity were understood differently by Jesus’s disciples and Longenecker (in The Christology of early Jewish Christianity) also said that the understanding of the title of “Son of God” didn’t initially have the meaning of divinity, but that it came to have that meaning through “the guidance of the Spirit.” I’ve always wondered that if Jesus was divine, why didn’t he reveal it in a way that his disciples understood clearly? Why did it have to wait until his death?


    1. Reed, there’s an excellent reason that Jesus did not just come out and say, “I am God in the flesh.” The strictly monotheistic Jewish milieu in which he ministered would have been blinded by rage and his disciples would have instantly abandoned him. It took some time for them to come to grips with what he was saying about himself. An excellent book on the deity of Christ, by the way, is Putting Jesus in His Place, by Rob Bowman and Ed Komoszewski.


      1. Gordon

        That’s an excellent reason? C’mon, I don’t disagree with most of your points here, but the point about deity is not backed by evidence, it’s just an opinion and not one that stands to any logic.

        If what you say is true, Jesus actively misled his disciples by lying to them about his nature and the true nature of God. He let them believe in a wrong version of God, and in fact when asked about the greatest commandment, he responded with the Jewish Shema, which is an explicit acknowledgement that he agreed with the idea of YHWH as one.

        Further, why was the “Jewish milleu” so wrong? Weren’t the Jews following the scriptures handed down to them by the Jewish prophets and leaders who spoke directly to YHWH? Why didn’t YHWH make clear the trinity (which of course is not only not mentioned but not even hinted in any book of the Bible) to the Hebrews right from the start?

        And why was this whole enterprise so fragile that the only way it would work was for the incarnate God to hide who he was for fear that his human disciples would abaondon him? God must have known that the Trinity idea would blossom after his human part died. But what you are saying was that he was powerless to act outside of human history, and had to wait for the idea to bloom. That’s a strange way to look at God’s power.

        And when did people “come to grips” with the idea? The leaders of the Jesus movement when Jesus died obviously never got it right, because James was well-respected within the Temple in Jerusalem when he was killed. How is it possible the person in charge of the movement was ignorant of this important fact some 40 years or so after Jesus died?


    2. David Smith

      On the Deity of Christ. Scripture uses parables. Look at the miracles of Christ and try to understand what He was “saying”. Later He could basically shrug and say the miracles witnessed to what He was.
      I can read the first two chapters of Genesis and “hear” time and again, “God is Love.” I can read and see the Gospel writers saying over and again, “The Christ is God.” It isn’t that easy to see unless you immerse yourself in those times, but I can see that it was apparent to the Jews of Jesus day.
      Keep studying Scripture. I only recently understood the reasoning behind Elisha and the two bears, for instance, and found a deeper context for some of the events in the O.T. because of it.


      1. Reed

        Why it is difficult for me to see what you see is that the disciples of Jesus also did not see his divinity in what Jesus was “saying.” After the crucifixion two disciples of Jesus give their understanding of Jesus’ position and/or authority by saying, he was “a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people.” And even at this time in the following verses where Jesus explains to them what the scriptures say about him and yet there is still no mention of deity. And still at his ascension, he said nothing about his divinity. Instead he told them to proclaim the gospel (Mark 16:15), or how to enter God’s kingdom. He told them to make disciples and to teach all of his commandments (Matthew 28:19, 20), and he told them to teach repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:47). In his final words to his disciples, he’s acting like a good rabbi, telling them to “raise up many disciples” (Avoth 1.1) that would follow his teachings. And his disciples remembered what he had said and in the first sermon at Pentecost at which 3000 souls were saved, Peter said nothing about any deity. Instead we read (Acts 2:22-41): “Jesus the Nazarene was a man . . . crucified . .. raised to life by God . . . made Lord and messiah by God” and for the Jews to repent for the forgiveness of their sins. In fact, throughout Acts, we see the early believers teaching repentance for the forgiveness of sins and trying to demonstrate that Jesus was the messiah, but nowhere do they teach that Jesus is God. And if his earliest disciples didn’t teach it, it must be a later development.


      2. David Smith

        Acts 2:22-41
        1a. I’m guessing that whatever circumlocutions Peter used for ‘God’ was translated by Luke to theos. Translation problem illustrated straight from Scripture.
        1b. At least one circumlocution, however, he didn’t change — Lord. That is equivalent to Deity. Check through the LXX to capture the ‘feel’ of what Peter (and Paul) had for what to us is just a word meaning “boss.” Translation problem.
        2. You included that word “Lord” in your quote, didn’t you? You mentally translate it without a touch of deity, I’m guessing.
        3. I counted 6-7 references to Jesus’ deity in that passage — from the disciples perspective. I’m pretty scatter-brained and its early in the morning, so there could be more.
        4. That “repent” was about killing the Messiah-God. In other words, they did not believe in the Messiah. That stabbed directly to their heart, not that extra beer at Joe’s. We tend to think of the Messiah as a mere man, but the meaning was different in that culture. Our Superhero? A Pagan’s Hercules? That last could roughly have the same feel because deity is mixed in. Certainly not a one-to-one mapping.
        X. As an aside and check me on this, that “be baptized for remission” is the same construction as Matthew’s 3:11 “be baptized for repentance.” Puts one in a dilemma until the “for” is better translated from εις.

        Translation of words is nothing compared to translation of concepts. Try explaining Einsteinian physics to a Newtonian mind.

        abide in the blessing,


      3. Reed

        1. It’s well known that “lord” can refer to people in the bible. “Kurios” is used to address Philip (John 12:21), the master of a servant (John 15:20; Acts 16:16,19), the Roman emperor (Acts 25:26), and one’s husband (1 Peter 3:6). Even the term “god” is used of people in the Hebrew scriptures, as Jesus noted (Jn 10:34). So assigning the meaning of “deity” to “lord” depends upon the context.

        3. Can you make explicit the 6-7 references to deity that you saw in Acts?

        4. There was no “Messiah-God” in Jewish culture of that time. If there were, then Daniel’s point above of a “monotheistic Jewish milieu” would be false.

        However, despite this monotheism, some strands of Judaism did give the messiah great glory, but as a created being without divinity. For just one example, from Pesikta Derav Kahana (Supplement 6), “The splendor of the garment He puts on the messiah will stream forth from world’s end to world’s end. . . . Blessed is the hour in which the messiah was created! Blessed is the womb whence he came . . . whose lips open with blessing and peace, whose diction is pure delight, whose garments are glory and majesty … the utterance of whose tongue is pardon and forgiveness … whose supplication during his study is purity and holiness.”


      4. David Smith

        >assigning the meaning of “deity” to “lord” depends upon the context
        I noticed that you didn’t. After analyzing what else you wrote – I consider it – that is all I’ll write to you.

        For the rest: Wallace is not wrong stating that the Lord was cautious about the strong monotheism mindset. It was a simplistic model that the Pharisees supported blindly, more or less and depending on how pure they considered themselves. In the greater mass of people, though, there was a tendency toward picking up superstitions from the surrounding people. Moreover, the pressures of being under the oppression of the Romans lent wings to the creation of a Superman.
        This is similar to the Moslems. They picked up the Monotheism yet added a multitude of superstitions.
        This is even exemplified in modern Baptist circles where I’ve actually “heard” preachers state that prayers at the altar (that stick of wood up front) are better than other places. I would be chary about sneering at that stick of wood when in that building, but I could easily share that our altar is the cross of Christ Jesus to most of the members and wait for the penny to drop.

        I’m off this topic.


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  25. Reed

    It’s not clear to me why anyone would take Hebrews 1:8 as an indicator of divinity. The original passage can also be translated as “Your throne is God forever and ever.”
    More importantly, note that god in Ps 45:6 is anointed by God, who is his God in 45:7. Thus, one god has his own God. Second, the context of this god having kings’ daughters among his ladies and a queen in gold shows that the god in this passage is a human king that was called god, much as Moses was and so were the Israelites (see above). Thus, there is no reason at all to identify the god of Psalm 45:6 with the Creator.


  26. Reed

    Actually, the unknown author of Hebrews is clear that he doesn’t consider Jesus to be divine. Throughout this letter, the author argues that Christ is superior to the angels, to Moses, and to the Aaronic priesthood. Similarly, the rabbis argued who was greater: Man or the angels? The messiah or Moses? Moses or the Patriarchs? And so on. More importantly, though, the need to demonstrate and argue that Jesus is greater than the angels, the priests, and Moses shows clearly that the author did not consider Jesus to be God or to be equal to God because there is no need to prove that God is greater than the angels, the priests, and Moses.


      1. Reed

        For me, the most important foundation for determining whether or not Jesus was divine is what Jesus himself taught. As I wrote above, it’s clear from the synoptic gospels and Luke that the disciples never understood Jesus to have taught that he was divine. For that reason, all the verses that people cite as evidence for divinity was understood differently by Jesus’s followers. We need to ask how they understood the verses you’re citing.

        So, to respond to your two verses, it’s clear that wisdom literature considers “wisdom” to be both created and also preexisting the rest of the creation. The author of the “Wisdom of Solomon” wrote that wisdom was born (6:22), yet was also “unchanging” (7:27) and the “pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty” (7:25). Elsewhere we read, “All wisdom comes from the Lord, she is with him forever . . . wisdom was created before everything” (Ecclesiasticus 1:1,4). Also, in Proverbs (8:22, 23): “Yahweh created me [wisdom], first fruits of his fashioning, before the oldest of his works. From everlasting, I was firmly set, from the beginning, before the earth came into being.” Like wisdom, some Jews believed that the messiah existed before the creation of the universe. In a weak form, we read in Pesikta Rab 152b, “From the beginning of the creation of the world king Messiah was born, for he entered the mind (of God) before even the world was created.” Thus, although the lamb was slain before the creation of the world, in wisdom literature, the lamb, too, would be considered a created being.


      2. God has a few basic attributes which are ✻not✻ optional.

        One of those is often termed “eternity,” and means that he has always existed as-is, he does not change. The (translated) self-statement is “I am that I am.”

        Since our Messiah is (or was) indeed divine, then by definition he always has been divine and always will be divine.

        Another attribute is “truth,” illustrated well by his (created) self-chosen opponent being entitled “the father of lies.” To underscore this, “God is not the author of confusion.”

        Another attribute is “creator,” in that ✻everything✻ which exists (which has not always existed) was made to exist by him.

        For the full extent of the incarnation to take place, our Messiah was made ✻into✻ (Romans 1:3) “a seed of David” and (Galatians 4:4) “made of a woman, made under the law,” yet as the passage (not just a single verse) from Proverbs 8 makes plain in quasi-anthropomorphising him as Wisdom, “the son” existed with “the father” long before these restrictions were placed upon him, indeed existed before ✻anything✻ was created, and changed roles to what we now refer as “the son.”

        To keep this clearer, “the son” was not created; he has always existed. When he changed roles to “the son,” he at that point had always existed and the change of roles involved him beginning a sacrifice, which from our perspective is infinite, which included his abilities being limited (which before they were not) so that at this point “the father” was able to give “the son” things which he no longer had.

        Part of eternity is that “the father” and “the son” foresaw this before anything was created, so a process in which their created beings could seek a mediator was begun — before said beings were indeed created. Without the sacrifice being in place, the sin which a sinner wraps themselves in (akin to a human wallowing in napalm) would destroy them (as walking near an open fire would destroy that napalm-wrapped human) when they sought foregiveness and redemption.

        There are many, many passages which parallel this; the chunk from Proverbs 8 happens to summarise most of it neatly.


      3. Hiya Reed,
        A couple of passages from Mark spring to mind. The first is in Mark 2 where Jesus tells the paralysed man that his sins are forgiven. Some experts in the law go, “Oi, only God can do that.” to which Jesus asks them which is easier to do, tell a person that their sins are forgiven or heal him, the insinuation being that it is easier to tell a person that their sins are forgiven. Jesus then goes on to do the harder task, i.e. he heals the man, thereby implying he could do the easier, i.e. forgive the man’s sins, which means he is suggesting that he is…….
        Secondly, in Mark 10 a man comes to Jesus and calls Jesus, “Good teacher”. Jesus points out that only God is (truly) good. No-one denied that Jesus is truly good so that suggests he is ….
        Such suggestions by Jesus are in step with him making people think about him, similar to the way he used parables to make people think.
        Then there are the passages in John where the Jews recognise what Jesus is claiming, e.g. “Before Abraham was, I am”, John 10:31 where the Jewish leaders saw what he was claiming and 10:33 where the Jewish leaders there at the time told him, “…you, a man, are claiming to be God”. Don’t forget Thomas and his “My Lord and my God!”

        Then on top of all these are the passages where the gospel writer points us to being God in the flesh.


      4. Reed

        Alan, as I noted, in Pesikta Derav Kahana, the messiah could forgive sins. Also Paula Fredricksen commented on a passage in the Dead Sea Scrolls in which a Jew forgave the sins of a gentile in connection with healing him. And once the people saw Jesus healing the man they acknowledged that God could give the authority to forgive to men (Mt 9).

        Others have commented on John 10:30-33, so I won’t repeat those here. On Thomas, it is possible that your understanding is the correct one. It’s also possible that Thomas is simply exclaiming as we do when confronted by a disaster, “My God, my God!” (What has happened to me?)

        John 8:58 is simply misunderstood. The “I am” is present tense in Greek, which can also be translated as a present perfect, which is done in John 15:27 (“because you have been [este=are] with Me from the beginning.), so that it becomes, “Before Abraham was, I have been” which is equivalent to “I have existed.” Thus, Jesus is claiming indirectly to be the messiah who preexisted Abraham.

        Also, “I am” is not always understood as meaning the name of God, as is seen by the man who had been healed of his blindness and kept responding, “I am” (John 9:9). The linguistic and semantic context stops everyone from believing that the blind man was God.

        In John 8:58, we need to look at the linguistic context and consider how names work in sentences. For comparison, I’ll use “I am” and “Jim.”

        1. Jim is a good basketball player.
        2. “I am” is a good basketball player.
        3. What’s your name? Jim.
        4. What’s your name? “I am.”
        5. Are you older than Abraham? Before Abraham was, Jim.
        6. Are you older than Abraham? Before Abraham was, I am.

        Notice that replying to question #5 “Are you older than Abraham?” with a name makes no sense at all. For this reason, #6 makes sense only if “I am” is not a name, but a statement of being older than Abraham, that is, preexisting Abraham.

        When God gives his name in Exodus, He had been asked who He was, what was His name. Jesus isn’t being asked his name, but he’s being asked if he’s older than Abraham, albeit somewhat sarcastically. The context demands that Jesus is replying with respect to preexisting Abraham, to how old he is.

        And it’s clear that his disciples didn’t understand “I am” to be an affirmation of deity because a few verses later, his disciples call him “Rabbi”, as any Jew of that time would call their teacher.


      5. Reed

        Leon, It’s clear that wisdom was “made” (Prov 8:22), a synonym for “created.” What clear evidence from the bible do you have for the messiah being divine? More importantly, what did Jesus say that clearly shows his divinity? As Jesus is the foundation, assertions of divinity must emerge from his teaching. Otherwise, we’re doing eisegesis, not exegesis.


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  30. ahmadfattah

    regarding the 1st myth(Myth 1: The Bible has been translated so many times we can’t possibly get back to the original. ) you replied Mrs Wallac that(

    The reality is that we have almost no record of Christians destroying biblical manuscripts throughout the entire history of the Church. And those who translated in a tradition both examined the English and the original tongues

    The reality is that we have almost no record of Christians destroying biblical manuscripts throughout the entire history of the Church. And those who translated in a tradition both examined the English and the original tongues )& that is tottaly wrong regarding the catholic which reported the following(Palimpsests

    Some vellum manuscripts of the greatest importance are palimpsests (from Lat. palimpsestum, Gr. palimpsestos, “scraped again”), — that is, they were long ago scraped a second time with pumice-stone and written upon anew. The discovery of palimpsests led to the reckless of bigoted charge of wholesale destruction of Biblical manuscripts by the monks of old. That there was some such destruction is clear enough from the decree of a Greek synod of A.D. 691, which forbade the use of palimpsest manuscripts either of the Bible or of the Fathers, unless they were utterly unserviceable (see Wattenbach, “Das Schriftwessen im Mittelalter”, 1896, p. 299). That such destruction was not wholesale, but had to do with only worn or damaged manuscripts, is in like manner clear enough from the significant fact that as yet no complete work of any kind has been found on a palimpsest. The deciphering of a palimpsest may at times be accomplished merely by soaking it in clear water; generally speaking, some chemical reagent is required, in order to bring back the original writing. Such chemical reagents are an infusion of nutgalls, Gioberti’s tincture and hydrosulphuret of ammonia; all do harm to the manuscript. Wattenbach, a leading authority on the subject, says: “More precious manuscripts, in proportion to the existing supply, have been destroyed by the learned experimenters of our time than by the much abused monks of old.” plz be honest enough


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  34. Steve Hobart

    Regarding the “strict monotheism” of first century Judaism…

    Philo’s 1st century writing “On Abraham” has a trinitarian view of God which is more explicit than anything you find in the New Testament (apart from the marginal gloss 1 John 5:7, of course). (see:, chapters XXIV – XXVIII). Philo even goes so far as to suggest that a three-component God took human form and communed with Abraham.

    It is quite probable that many Jews of the time had some exposure to some form of a concept of an overarching “pleroma” from which various transcendental powers and/or personae proceeded.

    In the “shema” (Deuteronomy 6:4), the word used for “one” does not always refer to an indivisible unit. Oftentimes, it refers to something composed of multiple subunits. (Some Torah examples: Genesis 2:24 (man + wife = one flesh), Genesis 34:16, 22 (“one people”), Exodus 24:3 (all the people answered with “one voice”), and there are arguably other examples).

    This is not to claim that “strict monotheism” was not the operative belief of some Jews of the time, but rather to provide evidence that it may not have necessarily been universal. Even God appearing as a man was not necessarily a foreign concept to some first century Jews.


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  38. Garrett20

    Excellent post! Dr. Wallace, can arguments be made for the Byzantine text-type in going back to the original? Obviously there are exceptions such as 1 John 5:7, but I was curious of your thoughts. What are some theories supporting the Byzantine-text tradition?


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  41. Mr. Wallace, I’ve been reading your writings for some time now and always find them interesting. Maybe you could answer something that’s been bothering me and I can’t find the answer anywhere. I use both the NIV Bible and KJV. People have been telling me that the NIV has thousands less words than the KJV. Is this true, what why so many less words?



    1. Michael

      Bill, you may get your answer by reading Dan’s article “15 Myths About Bible Translation.” If my memory is correct, he discusses this issue in Myth # 2 of that article.


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    1. Alan

      John 5:18 to His listeners, he clearly claimed to be God.
      John 10:30 He clearly claimed equality with God, and his listeners understood his claim, see verse 31-33 and He stood his ground see verses 37-39.
      As to the diety/trinitarian passage in the O.T see Gen. 1:1 in Hebrew and notice it is Elohim not El.
      Your translation of Psalms 45:6 is aberrant and not true to the text. Checked it out with at least 12 versions, God is in the direct address –oh and surely you noticed the Elohim in this passage also. Only know of one translation that has it like you mentioned in this comments section and only one non Christian group uses that translation.


      1. Reed

        My translation is “aberrant.” Well, anyone who disagrees with a majority can be considered aberrant, but that doesn’t mean the person is wrong. Check any Jewish translation. Ask any Jewish rabbi.

        On Elohim being plural, read about the majestic plural. Study Hebrew.

        On other verses, read all the commentaries (and study Greek). You’ll find others who have a different take on those verses. On John 10:30, for example, George Beasley-Murray states that the meaning of this verse is that Jesus and the Father are “one in action, not in person.” J.H. Bernard agrees and writes, “A unity of fellowship, of will, and of purpose between the Father and the Son is a frequent theme in the Fourth Gospel . . . and it is tersely and powerfully expressed here; but to press the words so as to make them indicate identity of ousia, is to introduce thoughts which were not present to the theologians of the first century.”


  43. Grumbach Guillaume

    hello Daniel B.Wallace,

    My name is Grumbach Guillaume,I am French, I wonder if the manuscript p66, There are the Jean12 verses. 40-41?
    and, is that you can send me a phtoto of these verses with a translation? (If they exist)

    I have to make an interfaith discussion on the divinity of Jesus with Muslims and this information could use it. Thank you and desolation for the translation, I do not speak English.


  44. TAF

    “The KJV New Testament, for example, was essentially based on seven Greek manuscripts, dating no earlier than the eleventh century.”

    This is so inaccurate and biased it’s a wonder someone doesn’t have to tell the author to get in out of the rain. The original writings in Latin by the great scholar Robert Stephanus and even Erasmus flat-out contradict this nonsense. The first three “myths” have so many problems. How many years has this author turned believers away from the most accurate Greek text? How many years has this author taught grammar using corrupt examples from the worst Greek text? How many believers have been taught this false information who don’t know any better?


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  48. archivesislam

    In regards to the statement made in the article about Ehrman saying

    “Essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.”

    He also mentions in his book Jesus Interrupted, the following :

    “In response to the assertion, made by conservative evangelicals, that not a single important Christian doctrine is affected by any textual variant, I point out It simply isn’t true that important doctrines are not involved….”

    Is Ehrman contradicting himself?


  49. J Martin (Joe) Thomas

    Great article. I’m a big fan of Dr Wallace.

    I have a question for Dan.

    On page 63 of Reinventing Jesus you said that 1% of variants are meaningful and viable. You said the same thing in the 2006 article in JETS entitled “the gospel according to Bart” (page 330).

    But in a lecture series (the 37-class series found at, you stated that ¼ of 1% of variants are meaningful and viable.

    Question – Why the difference? Which is more accurate?


    J Martin (Joe) Thomas


  50. The latest is more accurate, Joe. And that’s because the number of variants has risen considerably in the last few years while the number of meaningful and viable ones has remained largely static.


    1. J Martin (Joe) Thomas

      Thanks so much Dan. I can’t tell you how much i am enjoying the 37 classes! I have listened to many of your online talks (everything I can find, to be accurate), but they are usually an hour or so. This amount of material is so much richer! You da man!


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