Here at the Museum of the Bible there’s one thing you can’t miss—there are many ancient manuscripts of the Bible. But none of these are the original copy of the text. These ancient manuscripts were all hand-copied. As a result of errors from scribes copying the text, each manuscript has slight variations.
So if you are a scholar or translator, what text of the Bible do you use?
The editions scholars use are called “critical editions.” They are compiled from multiple ancient manuscripts and carefully note variations in the manuscripts. When Erasmus published his edition of the Greek New Testament in 1516, he provided an indispensable resource for Bible scholars. Since that time, many new critical editions of the Bible have been produced. That’s because we continue to learn more. For example, though first produced in 1898, the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament has been revised twenty-seven times. New editions are needed for the Nestle-Aland to stay current with recent discoveries and insights. The twenty-eighth edition of this work is a must-have for any serious Greek New Testament scholar. The Hebrew text used by scholars worldwide is regularly revised as well. It’s published by the German Bible Society and called the Biblia Hebraica. Those who create Greek and Hebrew critical texts are the behind-the-scenes champions of modern Bible translation and scholarship. And there will always be room for more. Our understanding of the Bible in its original languages is always improving, and new editions will continue to appear to reflect what we learn.