The age old critique against the authority of the Bible is that it was written by man, and therefore cannot hold the authority that it claims for itself. Not only was it written by man, but it was written by man in different languages. Hebrew, some Aramaic, and Koine Greek. Not only was it written by man, in different languages of man, but also it has since been translated by man into other languages for the modern reader. So the question is, does this somehow make the Bible authored by men only? If men wrote down the words to begin with, and then later translated those words, has the Bible lost all of its authority because the hand of man has been upon it? I and the 1689 LBC would say “not at all.”
“The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by His singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic; so as in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal to them. But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have a right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded in the fear of God to read, and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship Him in an acceptable manner, and through patience and comfort of the Scriptures may have hope.” -1689 LBC Chapter 1, Paragraph 8
The scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit, and therefore authoritative to us as the very word of God. Passages from the Bible that testify to this truth about itself can be found in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Hebrews 4:12, 2 Peter 1:16-21, and others. “Men spoke from God, as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” This is what the Bible testifies about itself, and therefore what we confess about it also. Men are fallible and very capable of error. But God is also capable of preserving his word perfectly through fallible men, speaking through them with authority and without error.
Notice the word “immediately” in the 1689. God is able to do this. He is able to keep his word in such a way that nothing is lost as he gives it to men to write down. He is the sole reason that his word is pure, cared for, and kept. There is no possibility of thwarting his plan to give us his word. He initiated it purely to those inspired by the Spirit, and he will keep it. Of course there have been false interpretations and even false translations of his word (which we will get to next), but that does not change his ability to keep his word pure for his people.
Translated, As It Should Be
The original languages that the text was written in are referred to as the “autographs” by scholars. These are the inerrant words of God. We do not have them, but rather we have multiple manuscripts of them. That is what comprises the translation of our Bibles. Not having the autographs does not keep us from being able to read the actual word of God. Scholars can look at the many manuscripts available, and using textual criticism, translate the scriptures into other languages in an accurate way. And translation is the correct thing to do!
Studying the original languages can certainly be of great benefit. For pastors it’s incredibly helpful to go deep in those things as we prepare sermons. And there is also nothing wrong with any church member studying. It is good and useful. But you are not a bad or uneducated Christian if you do not study Hebrew and Greek. The translated English Bible you have is enough for you to read and know God through his word. A team of scholars worked for countless hours to put together the Bible you hold in your hands. We should be very thankful for that and read our English bibles fully trusting that we have the Word of God!
No translation is inerrant. Only those original autographs. But we have the word of God. He has preserved it throughout the ages, and the enlightenment did not stop him. There are translations that should be avoided because they do not seek to accurately translate the manuscript evidence, but instead interject their own ideas into the text to fit their theology rather than getting their theology from the manuscripts. The New World Translation and the Passion translation are some that come to mind that I would suggest you avoid. You can have confidence in your ESV Bible, or any of the other solid translations out there (KJV, NKJV, NASB, CSB, etc). So read with confidence, and know God is faithful to give his children good gifts.