All of this began to change in 1453 when Johann Gutenberg invented the first printing presses. The first book to be printed on this new press was the Bible. Due to the novelty of this new process it commanded an exorbitantly high price per copy which only the wealthiest of the wealthy could afford. However, the ball had been set in motion in a chain of events that would soon force the Bible out of the hands of the Church and back into those of the people. It had taken close to 1,300 years, however, a light could now definitely be seen at the end of the tunnel and everyone began running towards it.
The door had now been forced open, the censorship stranglehold released, and the cost of individual copies began to drop dramatically. As far as lay people were concerned any Bible, even one full of errors, was better than none at all. At last, after more than a thousand years the opportunity to read, study and verify the word of God had arrived. Inevitably with this study the thirst from discerning scholars for more accurate translations emerged. What was available to them then was a very degenerated copy, a copy of copies of copies of copies, up to one hundred generations long, having been exposed to slips of the pen, tampering and correction.
The search for cleaner translations was now underway, but the Biblical world would not see the fruits of these efforts for another 350 years. The first printed Bibles were made from a copy of a manuscript that was in the common Roman language, Latin. This manuscript was a much later-generation copy of a text known as the “Vulgate,” a Latin translation of the Bible prepared by the Church father Jerome (347-420 CE). The first Bibles came off the press in 1455, and by 1610 the Catholic Douay Bible was printed; which was also based on Jerome’s Latin translation, using a copy dating back to around AD 450, and is still used to this day.
To criticize Church’s ‘approved’ text was akin to sacrilege. It was regarded as the Holy Word, direct from God’s mouth; to tamper with this translation was regarded as blasphemous. Some Churches and denominations still hold this attitude even to the present day, although it has since been proven that it contains, by the most conservative estimates, over 2,000 errors. It is interesting to note that Churches which uphold the doctrine of the Trinity generally hang on for dear life to this far-from-accurate translation, adamantly refusing to believe that it contains a single error. Could it have anything to do with the fact that this “approved” text of the Church has been exposed to many generations of modifications of the text, deliberate or otherwise, which have had the interesting end result of making this doctrine so much “clearer” to the reader than it ever was in any of the original manuscripts or with the very first Christians?
The Church maintained its attitude of sanctification and faultlessness toward its received text and this severely stifled the efforts of many to search for a more faithful and correct text. Of those rare individuals who did indeed manage to undertake a search for a more accurate text, the Church managed to maintain a large degree of control over their efforts by financing and supervising their clean-up projects. Thus, these men were torn between loyalty to their financiers and loyalty to the Word of God. However, some courageous scholars pressed on for as clean and accurate a translation as they could get. This required getting as far back in time and as close to the original writings in the copy chain as possible, to the very earliest available copies. Thousands of dedicated scholars have devoted millions of man-hours to this task.
As the original writings of the first disciples and any original Hebrew manuscripts have long since been utterly destroyed, therefore, a massive dragnet went out though the world collecting whatever copies could be found in whatever languages they might be written in. Over the years many more manuscripts were discovered by such men as Griesback, Tischendorf, and Tregelles between 1775 and 1875, who researched and investigated them and based upon the discoveries made from the study of these ancient copies of the Bible, they made many corrections to the then-in-use “received text” of the Bible.
With the passage of time and the discovery of more and more manuscripts, the list of errors in the official Church “Textus Receptus” continued to mount. Eventually, these errors became so many and so serious that any efforts to correct this received text were completely abandoned and it was recognized that it was necessary to produce a completely fresh translation from scratch. In 1881 an attempt at this was made by Wescott and Hort. Armed with the large cache of newly-discovered manuscripts they devised a system to evaluate the age and strength of these manuscripts by applying to them a two-level refining procedure.
The first level of refinement:
This involved resolving the various conflicts between the manuscripts in two ways: First, by evaluating the original author’s most likely meaning based upon the internal context; second, by evaluating the position and motivation of the scribes and any possible external pressures that may have been brought to bear upon them in order to distort the original writers meaning, taking into account how all these factors would affect the reliability and accuracy of their work.
The second level of refinement:
This involved dividing all available manuscripts into families. Each manuscript was identified as belonging to one of four families.
1.The Western family group, e.g. codex Bezae and Claromontanus.
2.The Alexandrian family group, e.g., codex Ephraemi, Regius.
3.The Neutral Family group, e.g., codex Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.
4.The Syrian family group, e.g., codex Alexandrinus.
Once cleaner translations started to become available from the start of the 1800s, the old Church sponsored creed-adopted doctrines started to be exposed and take a bashing. Using these cleaner translations, and cross-referencing all scripture statements on any one subject using Bible concordances, a clearer pattern would emerge as to the true original teachings of the Bible. When the old creed doctrines were held up to the light of this examination they failed the test. Foremost among these exposed fabrications of the Church was the doctrine of the Trinity and the relationship of Jesus to God, which were both found to be in no way supported by the Biblical text but were indeed forced upon the text through Church manipulation of the text including insertion of verses and mistranslation of others.
Although this information had come to light from the study of ancient manuscripts of the Bible by well respected Christian scholars, still, ancient prejudices die hard and many Trinitarian denominations preferred to stick with a known faulty text that endorsed centuries of creedal definitions rather than switch over to more accurate translations which would not support these ancient creeds. The Church had spent over a thousand years programming these doctrines into the minds of the masses and such extensive indoctrination would not be easy to correct.
Needless to say, the churches have not welcomed all of this public exposure of their previous actions with a whole lot of enthusiasm. However, they have generally responded by carrying on as if nothing had happened, using the same old Bibles, implying to their flock that the newer translations are simply the same Bible but in modern language, or making the appearance of an effort in acquiring newer modern language translations yet keeping them as close to the old versions as possible.
“Then woe unto those who write the Scripture with their own hands and then say: ‘This is from Allah,’ to purchase with it a miserable price! Woe unto them for what their hand have written and woe unto them for that which they earn [thereby]! And they said: ‘The fire will not touch us except for a few numbered days.’ Say, ‘Have you taken a covenant with Allah so that Allah will not break His covenant, or is it that you say regarding Allah that which you know not?’ Verily, Whosoever earns evil, and his sin has surrounded him, they are dwellers of the Fire; they will dwell therein forever. And those who believed [in the strict monotheism of God] and did good deeds they are dwellers of the Paradise, they will dwell therein forever. (The Noble Quran, 2:79-82)”
“[And remember] When God took a covenant from those who were given the Scripture: You shall make it known and clear to mankind, and you shall not hide it; but they flung it behind their backs, and purchased with it a miserable gain! How evil was that which they purchased! (The Noble Quran, 3:187)”
“Verily, those who conceal that which Allah has sent down of the Scripture and purchase a small gain therewith, they eat into their bellies nothing but fire. Allah will not speak to them on the Day of Resurrection, nor will He purify them, and theirs will be a painful torment. Those are they who purchase error at the price of guidance, and torment at the price of pardon. What boldness [they show] for the Fire! (The Noble Quran, 2:174-175)”