We welcome all feedback to help improve our Bible text.
You do not have to be a scholar to propose a correction. Some of the best corrections have come about because of simple questions from Bible lovers!
If you have an idea for a correction, we’d love to hear it. Below is listed (in no particular order) 15 things to consider when debating a correction, plus resources that will help. You may wish to investigate these things too if you are able. However, if you are unable to, send your idea to the editor anyway. Note that simple errors such as typos obviously do not need investigating!
1. What is the motivation for the proposed correction?
If the motivation is merely to support the interpretation of a particular religious denomination, a personal theory, or because we don’t like what it says, that is not a valid reason to change the Bible text.
The only thing that matters is what the text originally said and meant as proven by documented evidence in the places listed below. Every correction must stand on its own two feet, with evidence to back it up.
- “I don’t like it” is not evidence.
- “I prefer” is not evidence.
- “I believe” is not evidence.
- “I feel” is not evidence.
- “My pastor/church says...” is not evidence.
- “The tradition is...” is not evidence.
- “I have this qualification...” is not evidence.
2. What do other Bible translations say?
However, if you see a great difference between Old Testament verses in the 2001 and other translations, that’s probably because most Bibles are based on the corrupted 9th century Masoretic text, whereas ours is based on the more reliable Septuagint text. Many verses in the Septuagint read very differently!
As for the New Testament, most Bibles go by tradition and ignore the Aramaic manuscripts, despite the possibility that it may have been the original language of much of the New Testament, and was very likely the language that Jesus and the Apostles spoke.
3. Do any Bible commentaries have anything helpful to say?
Many Bible commentaries just give one persons’ opinion, and this is not always helpful. However, some report various viewpoints that we may have not heard, and others list manuscripts that have different readings of a verse. Many give background historical information which helps you to understand what is being said.
4. Is there any reason to believe the verse, or certain words, are spurious?
We have an (incomplete) list of suspected fake bible texts. It would take some extraordinary evidence to argue that one of these texts should be put back, but if the evidence is there, then our minds are open.
5. Does the proposed correction fit the context better?
If you look at the surrounding verses, and the entire chapter, does it flow better? Does it fit the argument or the story better? If not, why? If it does, what implication does it have?
6. Does the proposed correction contradict or agree with other verses?
Are there other verses in the Bible that talk about the same events or the same topic? What do they say? Do they say something different than what the verse says right now, or what the correction would have it say?
You can find verses talking about similar things by searching the entire Bible for words that appear in the verse, or synonyms of those words. Also, websites like Bible Hub have lists of cross-references compiled by various people over the years.
7. Are the words written in poetry?
This is often useful, because Hebrew and Aramaic poetry follows certain rules, and if those rules are broken, then it could indicate there is a copyist error or a mistranslation!
Poetry could also indicate that someone is being quoted, which may not be otherwise apparent. Then, if you can find the original that was quoted (elsewhere in the Bible, or some other ancient writer), it could clarify what the text was meant to say.
8. Is there any word-play in the original language? Does it rhyme?
This requires some familiarity with the original language, although sometimes it does not. Most of the reference works will change the Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic into English characters (called transliteration). This allows you to pronounce, roughly, the original words. Obviously a native speaker of modern Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic will have an easier time.
If several words all end with the same sound, that could be deliberate rhyming. For example, Jesus said a lot of things that rhyme or have a poetic structure. Or if two words are contrasted, but only differ very slightly in spelling and sound, it could be a pun or a play on words, and this may help us to understand what was originally meant. For example, in Matthew 16:18 Jesus might be using word-play with Peter’s name, which means “rock”.
9. Does the word in question look similar to another word?
If a disputed word happens to look very similar (in the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek alphabets) to another word which would fit the context better, then this could be an early copyist error. The copyist may have read one word, but wrongly assumed it to be another.
Checking this is very time-consuming and usually requires a good knowledge of the language. It is also impossible to prove.
10. Does the verse quote another part of the Bible? Or a secular source?
If the verse contains a quote, finding the original could shed light on how it should be translated. Does the original read differently? Bible commentaries (see above) often say if someone has already discovered that a verse contains a quotation.
11. How are the words used elsewhere in the Bible?
If the same Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic word is used in other verses, in the same kind of context, it is extremely helpful to see how it was translated in those places.
Today each Bible word has a special ID, known as a Strong’s number, after the Strong’s Lexicon. Look up the Greek word in the Apostolic Bible Polyglot (for both Old and New Testament), or the Hebrew word in Bible Hub’s Hebrew Text Analysis.
The Aramaic has its own numbering system. Here are instructions for looking it up:
- Words can be looked up by first locating the verse in the Dukhrana Peshitta Tool with the option to “use BFBS/UBS Peshitta text” switched on.
- When you’ve located the verse, click the “Analyze” link next to it.
- This will show every word in the verse, with its corresponding ID number. Click the ID number, and a pop-up window will appear that contains a link titled “show verses”.
12. How were the words used in ancient times?
Words change over time. Just because a Greek word means something today, does not mean that it was used that way 2,000 years ago. Thankfully, we have many secular ancient writings, such as books, plays, speeches, poems, and letters to compare against.
For Greek, use the The Online Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English Lexicon (free registration may be required).
For Aramaic, use the The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon.
There are so few Ancient Hebrew documents outside of the Bible that Ancient Hebrew lexicons are almost entirely based on Bible manuscripts. A good one is The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon Of The Bible.
13. Do the early “Church Fathers” comment on the verse, or even better, do they quote it?
We have many of the writings of Christians from the very early period, some dating as early as the late 1st century. Do they mention the verse in question, or the topic it talks about? Do they perhaps quote the verse? There’s a very high chance that they do. It is said that you could recreate almost the entire New Testament just from quotes of the “Church Fathers”!
So, if you can find their quotation(s) of the passage, would their quote support the proposed correction?
This is sometimes hard to do. The writings of the “Church Fathers” are over 1 million words long. Most were translated into Victorian English, some translations are unavailable online, and some are still not translated at all.
To search their writings for specific words, you could use a search engine with their name, the name of their book/letter, and the words you’re looking for. But, it may take time.
Also, if that were not bad enough, some early Christian writings were fraudulently changed in later years! Why? Possibly someone was trying to garner support for or against a particular Church doctrine, and faking some words of an early “Church Father” would serve their interests. Indeed, the are entire fake letters written in later centuries!
Many of these frauds are badly done and obvious, and are therefore well-known to modern historians (e.g. someone in the 4th century was writing fake letters supposedly from the 2nd century Ignatius of Antioch).
The fraud goes even further. There are also ‘long’ and ‘short’ versions of many early Christian texts. The ‘long’ versions are the originals. The ‘short’ versions are paraphrased and abridged versions, possibly created to make them easier to copy and distribute. However, whoever abridged them also changed some wording and fraudulently inserted words and phrases to support later doctrines. For example, some ‘short’ versions have references to the Trinity doctrine fraudulently inserted, while no such wording appears in the original ‘long’ texts at all.
So extreme caution is needed.
14. Do ancient secular sources tell us anything useful?
For example, the Jewish historian Josephus lived in 1st century Judah and wrote extensively about the events at that time. He also wrote about Jewish history.
Such works act as independent “witnesses” in Bible translation. In this case, the dates that Josephus gave for biblical events match up with the Greek Septuagint rather than the Hebrew Masoretic text. This is one of many reasons to say that the Masoretic text was later corrupted.
15. What do the oldest manuscripts say?
Bible commentaries, such as The Oxford Bible Commentary, will often list all the manuscripts that contain different readings for a verse. Each manuscript has a special code (a letter, number, or a symbol) associated with it, so you can then look those manuscripts up yourself if necessary (see the lists of Tanakh/Old Testament manuscripts and New Testament manuscripts).
However, often you learn a lot by just checking the largest and oldest complete manuscripts.
As for Aramaic, for verses in 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, and Revelation, check the Aramaic Crawford Codex, and for all other New Testament, check the Aramaic Khabouris Codex – these links contain interlinear English translations, so you don’t need to read the Aramaic Estrangela script.
As for Hebrew, note that we consider the oldest Hebrew text, the Masoretic, to be corrupted. However, it is still very necessary to check it at times. So you may wish to consult it using the oldest copy, the Aleppo Codex, which is provided with an English interlinear.
Just remember that words change over time, so check the historical lexicons to see how the words were used in ancient times.
Sometimes the old manuscripts don’t just have the Bible text, but also marginal notes left by translators and copyists. These can be enlightening. For example, right next to Hebrews 1:3 in the Codex Vaticanus, someone scribbled a marginal note saying, “Fool and knave, can’t you leave the old reading alone and not alter it!”
Then what happens?
If the editor decides that the proposed correction should be investigated, it will be described in an e-mail to everyone on the mailing list. Then, the mailing list subscribers will have the opportunity to do their own research and provide feedback (please join the list if you haven’t already).
If no problems are found after a reasonable length of time, the editor will add the correction to the Bible text (or as a translator note) here at 2001translation.org. Then, all versions of our Bible text available for download are automatically updated with the correction.
Finally, the correction is added to the corrections log, along with the reason(s) behind the decision.
A great result
So that’s how you make a 21st century Bible translation. Thanks to the Internet, research that may have taken months of trampling through libraries and endless letter-writing, can now take place online with much less effort, and hopefully, with more transparency and accuracy too.
Submit your ideas for corrections to the editor.