When Pastor Aloysius Bugingo, of House of Prayer Ministries, burnt a collection of Good News bibles (GNB) and King James Version (KJV) bibles because they contained the word ‘Holy Ghost’ or there were verses missing in them, his actions amazed many. He claimed that Satan was trying to rob the Church of the true message of God by bringing half messages in the bible.
However, those in the same ministerial calling as Bugingo were embarrassed. Reverend Patrick Ndyanabo, former dean of Glad Tidings Bible College for 15 years and currently the chairman board of directors Uganda Bible League, says, “I think this kind of action requires scholarly knowledge. It is not about simply waking up on the left side of the bed and announcing what is right and wrong (in the bible).”
As human beings evolve, so does the Word of God. The reality of salvation history is that God did not begin by writing a book; first, He called Abraham, and then gave the Israelites the promises over a period of time. The Rev Fr Vincent Ssekabira, a bible scholar who has taught at St Mary’s National Major Seminary Ggaba for 34 years, says the first five books of the bible, called the Pentateuch, were completed when the Israelites were in captivity, in Babylon, centuries after God created Adam. “There is the question of the authorship of the Pentateuch. Who wrote those books?”
Distinction between the Catholic and Protestant bibles
The bible was written over a period of about 1,500 years. “The Samaritan Jews only acknowledge the Pentateuch,” Fr Ssekabira says, adding, “The Jews only accept the Tanakh which consists of the Torah (Pentateuch), Nevi’im (prophets), and Ketuvim (writings), all of which make up the entire Old Testament.”
With the growing prominence of other languages, the Tanakh was translated from Hebrew to Greek by 70 scholars and named the Septuagint. “Where a few words were used to explain something in the Hebrew language, whole paragraphs were used in the Septuagint. This brought about lengthy chapters and when the New Testament was added the book became longer. However, the Early Church agreed that the Septuagint was inspired by God.”
Jews and the converted Gentiles (Christians) lived in harmony, but after Rome destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD, they split and eventually disagreed on the content of the Septuagint. The Jews abandoned it and came up with the Hebrew Bible (Masoretic text), which excluded the deuterocanonical books carried in the Septuagint. “The Roman Catholic Church followed the Septuagint,” Fr Ssekabira explains.
“When the Lutheran and Protestant Churches broke away, they were forward-looking with regard to people understanding the bible in their own language. The Lutherans translated the Hebrew Bible into German, and the Protestants translated it into English.”
In 382 AD, Pope Damasus I commissioned St Jerome to translate the Septuagint into Latin. He called it Vulgata. Almost all modern bible translations today come from the Hebrew Bible. The Catholic Bible, though, follows Vulgata.
On the different translations
Bible translation has always been a touchy issue. Long before the printing press, scribes manually copied the Autograph (original biblical text).
“After a number of copies were written, it was discovered that although copied from the Autograph, they had differences, such as a missed word or sentence.Since more texts were copied from the flawed copies, the differences have continued, and yet, the Autograph has disappeared,” Fr Ssekabira says.
According to Reverend Ndyanabo, the later translators found some of the copied manuscripts had gone through wear and tear. “Pieces of paper fell out due to the passage of time, so these translators copied whatever was available.”
Missing verses and different versions
When the Scriptures were first written, they did not have chapters and verses, but to make the text easier to read, Cardinal Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, di