Bible, English translations
The first English translation of the Bible was undertaken by
John Wycliffe (1320-1384). By 1380 he had finished the translation of the NT;
however, his translation of the OT was incomplete at the time of his death.
Friends and students completed the task after his death. His translation was not
from the original Greek and Hebrew texts; instead he made use of the Latin
Vulgate. Many translations followed:
- William Tyndale's translation of the Bible again
relied heavily on the Vulgate; however, he was a good Greek scholar and thus he
did make use of Erasmus' Greek text and some other helps that had been
unavailable to Wycliffe. The NT was completed in 1525 and the Pentateuch in
1530. He was martyred before he could complete the
- Miles Coverdale, a friend of Tyndale,
prepared and published a Bible dedicated to Henry VIII in 1535. The NT is based
largely on Tyndale's version.
- Matthew's Bible
appeared in 1537. Its authorship is somewhat unclear; it is probable that it was
produced by John Rogers, a friend of Tyndale. Apparently Rogers came into
possession of Tyndale's unpublished translations of the historical books of the
OT and so included these in this version, which again rests heavily on the work
of Tyndale, as well as Coverdale.
- The Great
Bible of 1539 was based on the Tyndale, Coverdale and Matthew's Bibles. It was a
large volume, chained to the reading desk in churches, and from this fact
derives its name.
- The Geneva Bible of 1560 was
produced by scholars who fled to Geneva, Switzerland, from England during the
persecution instigated by Queen Mary. It was a revision of the Great Bible.
- The Bishops' Bible of 1568 was produced under
the direction of the Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of Elizabeth I.
It is to a large extent simply a revision of the Great Bible, with some
influence of the Geneva Bible. It was used chiefly by the clergy and was
unpopular with the average person.
- The Douay
Bible was a Roman Catholic version translated from the Latin Vulgate. The NT was
published at Rheims in 1582 and the OT at Douay in 1609-1610. It contains
controversial notes and until recently was the generally accepted English
version for the Catholic Church.
- The King James
(or Authorized) Version was published in 1611. It was produced by 47 scholars
under the authorization of King James I of England. The Bishops' Bible served as
the basis for this version, though the translators did study the Greek and
Hebrew texts and consulted other English translations. It was the most popular
translation in English for well over three hundred years, undergoing at least
three revisions before 1800. The New King James Version appeared in 1982. The NT
had been published in 1979. One hundred nineteen scholars worked on the project,
sponsored by the International Trust for Bible Studies and Thomas Nelson
Publishers. They sought to preserve and improve the 1611 version.
- The Revised Version was published between 1881
and 1885. It was made by a group of English and American scholars. It was to a
large extent a revision of the King James translation, though the scholars
involved did check the most ancient copies of the original scriptures, using
manuscripts that were unavailable at the time the King James Version was
- The American Standard Version of
1900-1901 is the American version of the Revised Version, with those renderings
preferred by the American members of the Revision Committee of 1881-1885.
- The Revised Standard Version was published in
1952. In 1928 the copyright of the American Standard Version was acquired by the
International Council of Religious Education, which authorized a revision by a
committee of 32 scholars. The NT was issued in 1946, the complete Bible in 1952.
The copyright is currently owned by the Division of Education of the National
Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. The Revised
Standard Version Bible Committee is a continuing body, which is both ecumenical
and international, with active Protestant and Catholic members from Great
Britain, Canada, and the United States. Additional revisions were made in the NT
in 1971 and in 1990 the New Revised Standard Version was issued.
- The Berkeley Version was published in 1959. The
NT was originally translated into modern English by a single individual, Gerrit
Verkuyl in 1945. With a staff of 20 translators, including professors from
various Christian colleges and seminaries, all under his direction, a
translation of the OT was rendered.
Amplified Bible appeared in 1965. It was commissioned by the Lockman Foundation
and is unusual -- even idiosyncratic -- in that it has bracketed explanatory
words to try to explain somewhat difficult passages.
- The Jerusalem Bible was published in 1966. It is
a Roman Catholic work originally done in French at the Dominican Biblical School
in Jerusalem in 1956. The French title was La Bible de Jerusalem. The English
version was translated from the original Hebrew and Greek texts, but it follows
the French version on most matters of interpretation. It is the only major
English translation that makes use of the divine name "Yahweh" in the OT. The
translation includes the Apocrypha. A revision called The New Jerusalem Bible
came out in 1989.
- The New English Bible was
published in 1970. It was produced by a joint committee of Bible scholars from
leading denominations in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, assisted by the
university presses of Oxford and Cambridge. Twenty-two years were spent in the
work of translation, with the NT arriving in 1961. The full Bible includes the
Apocrypha. It is printed in paragraphed, single-column format, with verse
numbers along the outside margin of the pages. A revision of this translation,
called the Revised English Bible, appeared in 1989.
- The New American Standard Bible was published in
1971. It is a revision of the American Standard Version and was commissioned by
the Lockman Foundation. A group of Bible scholars worked for 10 years,
translating from the original texts and attempting to render the grammar and
terminology of the American Standard Version into more contemporary English,
except when God is addressed. Then it reverts to King James style language. The
NT appeared in 1963.
- The Living Bible appeared in
1971. It is a paraphrase by Kenneth N. Taylor; he sought to express what the
writers of scripture meant in the simplest modern English possible. It scarcely
needs to be said that sometimes he got it terribly wrong! It is a paraphrase of
the American Standard Version; it is not a translation from the original
- Today's English Version (Good News
Bible) was published in 1976. The NT, entitled Good News For Modern Man, was
published in 1966 by the American Bible Society. A translation committee of
Bible scholars was appointed to work with the United Bible Societies to make a
similar translation of the OT. Their objective was to provide a faithful
translation into natural, clear, and simple contemporary English. American and
British editions of the complete Bible appeared in 1976. In 1995 an updated
version was produced, called the Contemporary English Version, which is notable
for removing anything that might be misunderstood as anti-semitic from its
translation of the NT.
- The New International
Version was published in 1978. The Committee enlisted Bible scholars from a
broad range of denominations and countries and has become the most widely used
of the modern translations.