The diagram above is my attempt to make an illustration of key concepts in the evolution of New Testament translations. My post “Translation Pathways” was a similar attempt but from different angles. I love wrestling with images — they help me learn. When reading Hector Avalos’ book “The End of Biblical Studies” and Bart Ehrman’s book “Misquoting Jesus” I kept getting lost in the discussions of translations. So I offer you the picture I have formed to help my future readings about translations.
Click “more” to see the key, a brief caveats concerning the chart and links to related articles. I am deeply in debt to Ian’s writings over at Irreducible Complexity and for personal communications with Ian who has helped clarify much of this for me. My next hoped project is a chart on Jewish Bible Translations.
If I have left out your favorite translation or theological/philosophical theme in this diagram, please let us know in the comments. For suggestions from readers for improvement, corrections or new charts are always coveted!
- “Originals” (autographs): Of course these don’t exist (or we haven’t found them) and the dates I list are approximate and controversial.
- Manuscript Types: The small ovals with numbers inside each cloud represent how many of this Manuscript Type are found in the Text Type. The position of the circle is arbitrary and has no time significance. The numbers are only estimates. The real numbers are complicated since some manuscripts has several types and many are fragmentary and may be from the same text but are counted separately. The large ovals (codex) represent some of the most complete texts available in a given Text Type. Note that the Codex Alexandrinus contains both Byzantine and a few Alexandrian text types (see the links below). (see Ian’s post)
- Text Types: The size of the clouds are meant to show the span of history these text types cover and the relative size of available texts. (see Ian’s post)
- Dates: The diagram is not set to express dates very accurately by position — but it does give you some notion of time.
- Faith Communities: Of course the various translations are used by many different believer types. I just listed those who are preferentially drawn to this sort of text.
- Greek Critical Editions: These are an important part of the story in the development of the translations but unfortunately I did not see how to comfortably squeeze them in this diagram. Please read Ian’s excellent post on Critical Editions. Perhaps I can make a diagram later showing these players.
- Manuscript Types
- Text Types
- Important Extant Texts
- Greek Compilations