Well, this IS veering off-topic, but...
What actually constitutes the original?
The "original" is probably lost forever, true. But unimportant. We don't have the autograph copies of Homer's Odyssey and Iliad, Caesar's Gallic Wars, or any other ancient document, either, but there's no real dispute about what they say.
The New Testament, on the other hand, is the best-attributed document from antiquity, comparable in size to the writings of Homer, with 100x the documentary evidence. The work in the 19th, 20th, and 21st century textual criticism of the texts, based on still-extant early manuscripts and papyri, on early translations, and on the citations of the early church writers, has produced a consensus critical document that is source of most of the modern translations. (Look up Nestle-Aland 28 and UBS-5.) The citations of the early writers are quite important--with them alone, all but about 3 verses of the entire NT can be verified.
This results in a level of certainty approaching or exceeding 99% of the accuracy of the transmitted/reconstructed text, as well as validating that the Textus Receptus on which the KJV is based is STILL approximately 95% correct. And those places where there is still any uncertainty do not affect any doctrinal statements.
There's no question anymore that the documents said exactly what they say, and no question remaining of "errors creeping in over thousands of copies".
The Old Testament is harder. The texts in the Masoretic tradition were shown by the find of the Dead Sea Scrolls to have been meticulously and faithfully transmitted, even though the tradition prescribed destroying the original when the copy was completed. Further, the Septuagint, a translation into Greek by Jewish scholars approximately 220 BC, gives us a good idea of the complete OT text from before Christ. These are the major basis for the critical OT text.
Jesus probably spoke Aramaic, but his words weren't recorded until many years or decades later, in Latin and Greek.
Jesus certainly spoke Aramaic, that being the language in use in Judea at the time. He certainly ALSO read, understood, and probably spoke Hebrew, as that was part of the religious training of Jewish men. He probably also spoke some Greek, since that was the language of the Roman occupation and Jesus had no problem talking to Roman soldiers or to Pontius Pilate, who probably didn't go out of their way to learn Aramaic. He may even have spoken a little Coptic, since he spent part of his early childhood in Egypt.
The writings of the NT as extant are entirely Greek, with occasional Aramaic words thrown in. The earliest NT writing is probably 1 Thessalonians, by Paul of Tarsus, from the mid-50s.
However, Mark was probably being written about the same time, since Mark apparently predates Luke, and Luke obviously predates Acts, and Acts dead-ends at about the year 67. The most likely explanation of the abrupt termination of Acts is that it had been brought up to date, and there was nothing to add. Acts is also in many places an eyewitness account, as testified by the use of the pronoun "we".
Furthermore, the hypothetical "Q" document, if it existed, must ALSO have been extant by the time of the composition of Luke. That puts the recording of the sayings, actions and life of Jesus at no more than about 25 years after they occurred, well within the living memory and testimony of eyewitnesses, in a culture where memorization and oral transmission of tradition was more practiced than today. After all, if we want to remember something, we write it down--or email it to ourselves...
There are no texts attributed to Jesus.
Well, there are, but there's no reason to think they are genuine. The documentary evidence is much too late.
And most of his Apostles couldn't write, either.
The Jewish men were probably the most uniformly well-educated peasants in the entire world, as they were religiously required to be able to read Hebrew. But in any case, Matthew was a tax collector, Peter, James and John were businessmen, and Mark's family was associated with the High Priest. There is NO reason to assume they were not at least marginally literate.
But that's beside the point, anyway. Most writers used secretaries; Paul had at least two, and Mark was traditionally writing for Peter. It was true in the Roman world, and doubly so in Judaism, where there was an entire business class of Scribes.
It's hypothesized that the words of Jesus were recorded in a document, known as Q, from which the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke borrowed from. While the Gospel of Thomas (not in the Bible) takes the form of a document like Q, the actual document hasn't been found and might not exist. The Gospel of John is a later document, many decades after Jesus.
The Gospel of John, at least, claims to be an eyewitness account. Actually, the EARLIEST fragment of NT text we have is a small piece of John, dated about 125AD and found in Egypt. The traditional location of composition of the Gospel of John is Ephesus, so the current approximate date of composition is about 95AD, although it could be somewhat earlier. It is uniformly agreed that the other three Gospels came BEFORE John, and more or less in a group, and must therefore be 1st century accounts.
"Q" may not ever have existed outside the memories of the eyewitnesses.
The Gospel of Thomas is dated to the mid-to-late 2nd century, and has no possibility of being an eyewitness record.
There are also many early Gospels that weren't included in the Bible, including the Gospels of Thomas, Mary Magdalene, Peter, Philip, and Judas. These decisions were made by the early Catholic Church.
The decisions of which documents should be included or excluded actually predate the Catholic Church, except in the "small-c" sense of "catholic", or "universal". The canon was established in practice before the schism between the East and West churches. The Gospels, as "memoirs of the apostles" (Justin Martyr), were in common use in the early 2nd century. Collections of Pauline epistles were circulating by the end of the 1st century. The process of canonization essentially rubber-stamped the value the early church placed on this set of documents; they were useful, the others were not. Before 253AD, the canon had already taken form, with the exception of 4 small books to add (James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John) and one to remove--and if you WANT to read "The Shepherd Of Hermas", look it up online. There are still people who read it devotionally.
These decisions were not entirely arbitrary. The following criteria seem to have been followed, although they may have been retroactively derived:
- Apostolic Origin
- Universal Acceptance
- Liturgical Use
- Consistent Message
There isn't a one to one equivalence of words from Hebrew, Latin, or Greek to modern English or any other modern language. There are also differences in the meaning of words and idioms that would have made sense at the time of authorship but don't have meaning today. There is a lot of flexibility for a translator to try to convey the meaning and make the text understandable in modern languages. Any translation of that scale is a unique work of the translator, so it's legitimate for it to be copyrighted. Some great authors have contributed their efforts to translate the Bible, including Tolkien.
And so we have the rich multitude of translations available today in English. Everything from "formal equivalence", which attempts to achieve word-for-word exactitude, through "dynamic equivalence", which aims for thought-for-thought conveyance of meaning. The New American Standard Bible is on the "formal" end of the spectrum; the Contemporary English Version is on the "dynamic" end; and the New International Version is somewhere in the middle. Having so many translations is a GOOD thing, because it's NOT possible to translate EXACTLY what the original said. Multiple translations capture nuances.
Also, if you are looking for a modern, public-domain translation, the World English Bible is fairly good.
The loss of the Great Library of Alexandria probably took some of the manuscripts with it, and was a tremendous loss to history. Really, it's a matter of faith.
I seriously doubt that the autographs of the NT documents were part of the Great Library. More likely, they were cherished to death by individuals. But they're not necessary! The text is there, and the main message is clear:
We are separated from God by sin.
Jesus took the penalty for our sin.
We can be reunited with God.
That is where faith happens: Believe It, Or Not.