A fragment of a Greek manuscript of the
Gospel of John that dates to the second
century. This fragment is housed at the
John Rylands Library in Manchester, England.
In my last two posts (Part 1 and Part 2), I wrote about a new NAR translation of the Bible, called The Passion Translation, which features drastically changed verses of Scripture. See three of those changed verses here.
In this post, I show how the translator of this NAR Bible, apostle Brian Simmons, attempts to justify his changes to Scripture.
In short, Simmons claims that the vast differences in meaning are the result of his decision to translate many verses from Aramaic manuscripts – not Greek manuscripts. (Yet, I must mention that even those verses he claims to translate from the Greek are still drastically different.)
Simmons said the reason he decided to translate from the Aramaic is because new discoveries have revealed that the New Testament was originally written in the Aramaic language, not Greek.
Here is what Simmons says, in his own words.
“For centuries, it has been believed that the New Testament was first written in Greek. … Some scholars now lean increasingly towards the thought that Aramaic and Hebrew texts of the New Testament are the original manuscripts, and that many of the Greek texts are copies, and a second generation from the originals! This is radically changing translation concepts, and will result in many new translations of the New Testament based on Aramaic.” [Excerpted from “Translator’s Introduction” to Letters from Heaven by the Apostle Paul, the fourth installment of The Passion Translation]Astounding Claims
These are astounding claims. If what Simmons says is true, then that would mean that all the standard English Bible translations–including the King James Version, the New International Version, the New American Standard Bible, and the English Standard Version – are not based on the earliest and most trustworthy manuscripts and should be replaced by new, more reliable translations, such as Simmons’ Passion Translation.
But don’t throw out your Bible yet. There is simply no evidence to support Simmons’ claims.
Contrary to what he says, the vast majority of scholars continue to believe the original manuscripts of the New Testament were written in Greek. Why do they believe this? It’s simple: the manuscript evidence.
The Manuscript Evidence – Or Lack Thereof
For starters, there are fragments of New Testament manuscripts written in Greek that date back to the second century. And a recent discovery of a Greek fragment of Mark’s Gospel may well date back to the first century!
In contrast to these very early manuscripts written in Greek, the earliest surviving Aramaic manuscript of the New Testament – called the “Peshitta” – is from the fifth century.
In light of the lack of Aramaic manuscripts prior to the fifth century–and the abundance of much earlier Greek manuscripts– it’s a huge stretch for Simmons to claim that the New Testament was originally written in Aramaic.
Beyond the lack of manuscript evidence itself, there are a lot of other significant problems with Simmons’ claims that Aramaic is the original language of the New Testament. Read about those problems here.
But his claims are not new. They have also been promoted by the Nestorian Church and some Seventh-Day Adventists. Yet, Simmons has taken a baseless theory and rehashed it–hoping to sell it (and his new translation)–to a new audience of NAR followers.
The thing that disturbs me most about Simmons’ claims is his willingness to discredit all the widely accepted Bible translations merely so he can tout his personal translation. By implying that all the standard English Bible translations are unreliable–translations that are, in fact, based on ancient and reliable manuscripts–he is undermining NAR followers’ confidence in those translations. In effect, he is undermining their confidence in God’s Word.