Inspiration, History and Bible Translation

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To believe in the Christian Bible is also to believe in God’s working through the church, and to believe in the church is also to believe in its constitutional documents, the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.

מְתֻרְגְּמָן Meturgeman is Hebrew for translator. The articles in this series illustrate how a knowledge of the Gospels’ Semitic background can provide a deeper understanding of Jesus’ words and influence the translation process.

What kind of book is the Bible? It claims to be inspired by God, but what does that mean for believers in general, for researchers and for Bible translators? Such questions are raised whenever the Bible is examined against the available background of its culture, language and history. I will address the question of inspiration from the perspective of a translator, because it puts me in a middle ground between researchers and general readers.

Before proceeding, however, I must point out that the scholars of the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research comprise both Jews and Christians, and even we Christians are not agreed on all points of theology. Some of the School’s research strengthens what most Christians have believed about the Bible, while some of it raises questions, both new and old. Readers are advised to examine the Bible carefully like the Bereans of old (Acts 17:11).


In the second century, differences among the four Gospels led Tatian to produce a Gospel harmony in Syriac which became the preferred text in many eastern churches in the second to fourth centuries. However, the church at large, and the eastern churches in the fifth century, have agreed that God has sovereignly given us the four Gospels, and that they are to be accepted as the rule or canon of the church, including any difficulties.

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  • Randall Buth

    Randall Buth

    Randall Buth is director of the Biblical Language Center and a lecturer at the Rothberg International School of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Home for Bible Translators. He is a member of the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research. Buth received his doctorate in…
    [Read more about author]

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