The phrase “the bible” comes from the Greek “ta biblia” meaning “the books.” Indeed, it is a collection of “books” (writings that can be categorized into genres such as historical record, love poetry, ancient biography, and epistle).
But truth be told, there is no “the bible”. There are only bibles – different translations based on different interpretations from different collections of manuscripts transcribed by different transcribers to form different canons.
There’s an Italian saying, “traduttore, traditore.” Translated this says, “translator, traitor.” Essentially it means that perfect translation from one language to another is impossible. Even the translation of this saying demonstrates its truth, as the full rhyming of the two words is lost in the English. This saying holds even truer for extinct languages, such as Koine Greek (the primary language the New Testament was written in), because it is impossible for people such as ourselves to grasp them to the extent that we do our native tongues (as the original writers and readers did).
Every translator is also an interpreter, because there is no translation without interpretation. It is impossible to translate without preconceived notions and biases interfering, regardless of whether their interference is intentional or not. Further, translation trivializes the currently popular doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy/infallibility because such properties do not carry over into translated products. Even if the original manuscripts, which are forever inaccessible to us, had such properties, their transcripts and subsequent translations (what we have) are not.
But even if we do not translate and instead read the transcripts (which are not the original manuscripts) in the languages they were originally written in, since the languages are not native to us, nor are we people living during that time period, nor do we know the full context in which they were written, nor do we have relationships with the authors – all of which were true of the original readers – our understanding of the writings would not only be limited but most surely flawed as well (in some ways, at least). This remains true no matter how much academic effort is made to study the languages.
(A note on past transcriptions and modern publications: Most past transcribers were and most modern bible publishing companies are profit-making ventures, often very profitable. To think that everyone involved in transcription and translation knew or knows Jesus personally is an assumption. Thus, we don’t know their true motivation for transcribing and translating. We would have to assume that unbiased accuracy was and is the transcribers’ and translators’ highest priority because, for example, translations that would seem to promote unpopular doctrines might be more likely to be discarded, even if they seem more accurate, since they could negatively affect sales.)
“The bible” give the impression that there exists a single authoritative entity. But if there really is such a thing, where is it? If it really does exist, please show it to me; I would like to see it!
Naw, it ain’t real. “The bible” is only a figment of religious imagination.
Some might object that ultimately it is not up to our rational minds but up to Holy Spirit to open our eyes as we read bibles. To that, I would agree. Yet I would add a question: Since it’s up to Holy Spirit, why, as has often been assumed, does it have to be through this one particular book that he teaches us truth? I don’t believe it does. God is not limited by a book in communicating with us (as the scriptures themselves attest), nor has he ever claimed that he would reveal himself to us primarily through a book (although humans have claimed so).
He communicates with and reveals himself to us primarily through Jesus.
“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…the exact representation of [God’s] being” (Hebrews 1:1-3).