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Book Review: Essential Guide

Posted by Gary Labels:

Yes! Last night I finished Philip Comfort's Essential Guide to Bible Versions. He covers a lot of ground and intends to show how we got the Bible in English today. His starting point is the history of OT manuscripts, then NT manuscripts. Next his focus lingers on the theory of Bible translation and how different scholars approach it. Next, early translations prior to English. After this comes history of pre-KJV English translations, the KJV itself, from KJV to today's, today's translations, and finally a discussion of the 27 verses in the KJV that don't appear in more recent translations.

Overall impressions: Comfort is a well-learned and able textual critic. His job is to look at manuscripts and compare them to find what is most likely the original Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic wording of the Bible (his focus is the Greek New Testament). In this capacity, he is superb. I express a few doubts on his abilities as a translator, but that's not his primary job anyway. He knows the letter and the spirit (and the Spirit) of the text.

This book is a compact reference suitable for a somewhat general audience. I would expect college graduates to be able to gain from it, though it is not written for a fully general audience. The book has an excellent glossary which teaches the reader technical terms used in his field. This is why I hesitate to recommend it for the general audience.

In short: it's very good for preachers, elders, and translators as a reference. Some who are not in biblical studies may gain from it also, but it's not for a completely general audience. Comfort attempts to introduce the technical field to the nontechnical folk, but it is still technical in nature. I'm glad it's on my shelf, though.