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The Bible was written across a period of several centuries in the languages of Hebrew and Aramaic (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament). With the changing of nations and cultures across the centuries, these original writings have been translated many times to make the Bible available in different languages. Following are the major versions and translations of the Bible that have been issued during the past 2,200 years. Just as God inspired people to write His Word, He also has preserved the Bible by using human instruments to pass it on to succeeding generations.

Ancient Versions. Ancient versions of the Bible are those that were produced in classical languages such as Greek, Syriac, and Latin. The following ancient versions were issued during a 600-year period from about 200 B.C. to A.D. 400.

Greek - The oldest Bible translation in the world was made in Alexandria, Egypt, where the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew into Greek for the benefit of the Greek-speaking Jews of that city. A Jewish community had existed in Alexandria almost from its foundation by ALEXANDER the Great in 331 B.C. In two or three generations this community had forgotten its native Palestinian language. These Jews realized they needed the Hebrew Scriptures rendered into the only language they knew-Greek. The first section of the Hebrew Bible to be translated into Greek was the PENTATEUCH, or the first five books of the Old Testament, some time before 200 B.C. Other parts were translated during the next century. 

This version is commonly called the SEPTUAGINT, from septuaginta, the Latin word for 70 (LXX). This name was selected because of a tradition that the Pentateuch was translated into Greek by about 70 elders of Israel who were brought to Alexandria especially for this purpose.  Only a few fragments of this version survive from the period before Christ. Most copies of the Greek Old Testament belong to the Christian era and were made by Christians. The John Rylands University Library, Manchester, England, owns a fragment of Deuteronomy in Greek from the second century B.C. Another fragment of the same book in Greek dating from about the same time exists in Cairo. Other fragments of the Septuagint have been identified among the texts known as the DEAD SEA SCROLLS, discovered in 1947.

When Christianity penetrated the world of the Greek-speaking Jews, and then the Gentiles, the Septuagint was the Bible used for preaching the gospel. Most of the Old Testament quotations in the New Testament are taken from this Greek Bible. In fact, the Christians adopted the Septuagint so wholeheartedly that the Jewish people lost interest in it. They produced other Greek versions that did not lend themselves so easily to Christian interpretation. 

The Septuagint thus became the "authorized version" of the early Gentile churches. To this day it is the official version of the Old Testament used in the Greek Orthodox Church. After the books of the New Testament were written and accepted by the early church, they were added to the Old Testament Septuagint to form the complete Greek version of the Bible. The Septuagint was based on a Hebrew text much older than most surviving Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament. Occasionally, this Greek Old Testament helps scholars to reconstruct the wording of a passage where it has been lost or miscopied by scribes as the text was passed down across the centuries. An early instance of this occurs in Gen 4:8, where Cain's words to Abel, "Let us go out to the field," are reproduced from the Septuagint in the RSV and other modern versions. These words had been lost from the standard Hebrew text, but they were necessary to complete the sense of the English translation. 

Aramaic targums - The word targum means "translation." After their return from CAPTIVITY in Babylon, many Jews spoke Aramaic, a sister-language, instead of the pure Hebrew of their ancestors. They found it difficult to follow the reading of the Hebrew Scriptures at worship. So they adopted the practice of providing an oral paraphrase into Aramaic when the Scriptures were read in Hebrew. The person who provided this paraphrase, the Turgeman, was an official in the synagogue.  One of the earliest examples of such a paraphrase occurs in Neh 8:8. Because of the work of Ezra, the Pentateuch, or the first five books of the Old Testament, was officially recognized as the constitution of the Jewish state during the days of the Persian Empire. This constitution was read publicly to the whole community after their return to Jerusalem. The appointed readers "read distinctly [or, with interpretation] from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them understand the reading."  The phrase "with interpretation" appears as a marginal reading in several modern versions (for example, the RSV), but it probably indicates exactly what happened. The Hebrew text was read, followed by an oral paraphrase in Aramaic so everyone would be sure to understand.

This practice continued as standard in the Jewish synagogue for a long time. The targum, or paraphrase of the Hebrew, was not read from a written document, lest some in the congregation might think the authoritative law was being read. Some religious leaders apparently held that the targum should not be written down, even for use outside the synagogue.

In time, all objections to a written targum disappeared. A number of such paraphrases began to be used. Official Jewish recognition was given to two in particular-the Targum of Onkelos on the Pentateuch and the Targum of Jonathan on the Prophets. Some were far from being word-for-word translations. As expanded paraphrases, they included interpretations and comments on the biblical text.  Some New Testament writers indicate knowledge of targumic interpretations in their quotations from the Old Testament. For example, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay" (Rom 12:19; Heb 10:30) is a quotation from Deut 32:35; but it conforms neither to the Hebrew text nor to the Greek text of the Septuagint. This particular phrase comes from the Targum. Again, the words of Eph 4:8, "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men," are taken from Ps 68:18. But the Hebrew and Septuagint texts speak of the receiving of gifts. Only the Targum on this text mentions the giving of gifts. 

Syriac - The term Syriac describes the Eastern Aramaic language spoken in Northern Mesopotamia, the land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers northeast of the land of Palestine. Large Jewish settlements were located there. At some point, the Old Testament must have been translated into Syriac for their benefit. 

As Christianity expanded, this area became an important center of Christian life and action. The Christians in northern Mesopotamia inherited the Syriac Old Testament and added a Syriac translation of the New Testament to it. This "authorized version" of the Syriac Bible is called the Peshitta (the "common" or "simple" version). In its present form, it goes back to the beginning of the fifth century A.D. But there were earlier Syriac translations of parts of the New Testament. Two important manuscripts of the Gospels exist in an Old Syriac version, which probably goes back to about the second century A.D. 

The Syriac-speaking church was very missionary-minded. It carried the gospel into Central Asia, evangelizing India and parts of China. It translated portions of the Bible from Syriac into the local languages of these areas which it evangelized. The earliest forms of the Bible in the languages of Armenia and Georgia (north of Armenia) were based on the Syriac version. 

Coptic - Coptic was a highly developed form of the native language of the ancient Egyptians. Christianity was planted in Egypt while some of the twelve apostles were still alive, although there is no record of how it was carried there. With the development of a Christian community in Egypt, the need arose for a Bible in the Coptic tongue. To this day the Coptic Church of Egypt uses the Bohairic version of the Coptic Bible, translated in the early centuries from the Septuagint and the Greek New Testament into the dialect of Lower Egypt. Earlier still is the Sahidic version, in the dialect of Upper Egypt. 

Gothic - Across the Rhine and Danube frontiers of the Roman Empire lived a race of people known as the Goths. The evangelization of the Ostrogoths, those who lived north of the Danube River, began in the third century. About A.D. 360 Bishop Ulfilas, "the apostle of the Goths," led his converts south of the Danube to settle in what is now Bulgaria. There he translated the Bible into their language. The Gothic version was the first translation of the Bible into a language of the Germanic family. English, German, Dutch, and Scandinavian belong to this language group. 

Latin - The need for a Latin Bible first arose during the second century A.D., when Latin began to replace Greek as the dominant language of the Roman Empire. The first Old Testament sections of the Latin Bible were considered unreliable, since they were actually a translation of a translation. They were based on the Septuagint, which, in turn, was a translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek. Since the New Testament was written originally in Greek, it was translated directly into the Latin language. Several competing New Testament translations were in use throughout the Latin-speaking world as early as about A.D. 250. 

The task of producing one standard Latin Bible to replace these competing translations was entrusted by Damasus, bishop of Rome (366-384), to his secretary Jerome. Jerome undertook the task unwillingly, knowing that replacing an old version with a new is bound to cause offense, even if the new is better. He began with a revision of the gospels, followed by the Psalms. After completing the New Testament, Jerome mastered the Hebrew language in order to translate the Old Testament into Latin. He completed this work in A.D. 405. 

Jerome's translation of the Bible is known as the Latin Vulgate. It did not win instant acceptance. Many were suspicious of it because it varied so much from the version with which they were familiar. But in time its superior merits caused it to gain popularity.

The best surviving manuscript of the Latin Vulgate, the Codex Amiatinus, is now in the Laurentian Library of Florence, Italy. Written in a monastery in Northumbria, England, it was presented to Pope Gregory II in 716. 

The Latin Vulgate is especially important because it was the medium through which the gospel arrived in Western Europe. It remained the standard version in this part of the world for centuries In 1546 the Council of Trent directed that only "this same ancient and vulgate edition...be held as authentic in public lecture, disputations, sermons and expository discourses, and that no one make bold or presume to reject it on any pretext." Until the 20th  century no translations of the Bible except those based on the Vulgate were recognized as authoritative by the Roman Catholic Church. 

The Old English Versions. Until the beginning of the 16th  century, all Bible versions in the language of the masses of Western Europe were based on the Latin Vulgate. Among these, the Old English versions are of special interest. Most of these version consisted of only parts of the Bible, and even these had limited circulation. In this period few of the people of ancient England could read. Many of the familiar stories of the Bible were turned into verse and set to music so they could be sung and memorized.

Caedmon, the unlettered poet of Whitby, is said to have turned the whole history of salvation into song in the seventh century. Bede, the monk of Jarrow, the most learned man of his day in Western Europe, devoted the last ten days of his life to turning the gospels into English so they could be read by the common man. 

Alfred the Great, king of a large part of southern and western England, defeated the Danish invaders in 878. He published a code of laws that was introduced by an Old English translation of the Ten Commandments and other brief passages from the Bible.

The parts of the Bible most favored for translating during this period were those often read or recited during worship services, especially the Psalms and the gospels. An Old English version of the Psalms by Bishop Aldhelm dates from soon after 700. A manuscript called the Wessex Gospels dates from the middle of the tenth century. 

Some of the earliest Old English versions of Scripture were written between the lines of Latin language manuscripts. The manuscript known as the Lindisfarne Gospels (now in the British Museum, London) was produced originally in Latin shortly before 700. Two and a half centuries later a priest named Aldred wrote between the lines of the text a literal translation in the Northumbrian dialect of Old English. Bible texts of this type, with some letters decorated in gold and silver, are known as illustrated manuscripts. 

Wycliffe's Versions. In the early Middle Ages, parts of the Bible were translated from Latin into several of the dialects of Western Europe. These included versions in the Bohemian, Czech, and Italian languages, as well as the Provincial dialect of southeastern France. But none of these compare in importance with the work of John Wycliffe, pioneering reformer who translated the entire Bible from Latin into the English language. 

Wycliffe (c. 1330-1384), master of Balliol College, Oxford, was a distinguished scholar and preacher. But he was also a social reformer who wanted to replace the feudal organization of state and church with a system that emphasized man's direct responsibility to God. The constitution of this new order would be the law of God, which Wycliffe equated with the Bible. Before this could happen, the law of God had to be accessible to the laity as well as the clergy, the unlearned as well as the learned. This called for a Bible in English as well as Latin so Wycliffe and his associates undertook the task of translating the entire Bible from the Latin Vulgate into contemporary English. 

There were actually two Wycliffe versions of the Bible-an earlier one, produced between 1380 and 1384 during Wycliffe's lifetime, and a later version completed in 1395, 11 years after his death. 

The earlier version is a thoroughly literal translation. Wycliffe followed the Latin construction without attempting to render the meaning into good English idiom. The translators produced a literal version because it was intended to serve as the law book of the new order. The Latin text of the law book was already established, and the English text had to follow it word for word. About two thirds of this version was produced by one of Wycliffe's supporters, Nicholas of Hereford. Wycliffe himself may have done some of the translation work on the remaining portion. By the time this first translation was completed, the movement with which this English social reformer was associated was condemned by the authorities. 

The second Wycliffe version was the work of his secretary, John Purvey. It was based on the earlier version, but it rendered the text into idiomatic English. Purvey's version became very popular, although its circulation was restricted by church officials. It was suppressed in 1408 by a document known as the "Constitutions of Oxford," which forbade anyone to translate or even to read any part of the Bible in English without the permission of a bishop or a local church council. These constitutions remained in force for more than a century. 

From Wycliffe to King James. More than 200 years passed from the time that Wycliffe's second English version was issued (1395) until the historic King James Version was published in 1611. These were fruitful years for new versions of the Bible. The stage was set for the monumenta1 King James Bible by five different English translations that were issued during these years.

Tyndale - The years from about 1450 onward brought exciting cultural changes in Western Europe. The revival of interest in classical and biblical learning was already under way when it received a stimulus from the migration of Greek scholars to the West after the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453. With the invention of printing in Germany, the promoters of the new learning found a new technology at their disposal. 

Among the first products of the printing press were editions of the Bible. The first major work to be printed was the famous Gutenberg edition of the Latin Bible, in 1456. The following decades brought printed editions of the Hebrew Bible, the Greek New Testament, and the Septuagint. The leaders of the Protestant Reformation were quick to take advantage of this new invention to help advance their efforts in church reform. 

Making the Bible available in the tongue of the common people was a major strategy in the Reformers' policy. Martin Luther, leader of the Reformation, translated the New Testament from Greek into German in 1522 and the Old Testament from Hebrew into German in the following years. What Luther did for the Germans, William Tyndale did for the people of England. 

After completing his studies at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, William Tyndale (c. 1495-1536) devoted his time and talents to providing his fellow Englishmen with the Scriptures in their own language. He hoped that Bishop Tunstall of London would sponsor his project of translating the Bible, but the bishop refused to do so. Tyndale then went to Germany in 1524 to undertake his project. By August of 1525 his English New Testament was complete. 

Tyndale began printing his new version at Cologne, but this was interrupted by the city authorities. The printing work was then carried through by Peter Schoeffer in Worms, who produced an edition of 6,000 copies. Soon this new Bible was selling in England, although it had been officially banned by the church. 

Tyndale's translation differed in two important respects from the versions of Wycliffe. It was rendered not from the Latin language but from the Greek original, and it circulated in printed form, not as a hand copied manuscript. From the New Testament, Tyndale moved to the Old, issuing an edition of the Pentateuch, then the Book of Jonah, and a revision of Genesis. Later, in 1534, Tyndale issued a revision of his New Testament, justly described as "altogether Tyndale's noblest monument."

A further revision of the New Testament appeared in 1535. In May of that year Tyndale was arrested. After an imprisonment of 17 months, he was sentenced to death as a heretic; he was strangled and burned at the stake at Vilvorde, near Brussels, on October 6, 1536. 

Tyndale started a tradition in the history of the English Bible that has endured to this day. What is commonly called "Bible English" is really Tyndale's English. His wording in those portions of the Bible which he translated was retained in the King James Version to a great degree. The latest in the succession of revisions which stand in the Tyndale tradition is the New King James Version. But even those versions that did not set out to adhere to his tradition, such as the New International Version, show his influence. 

Coverdale and Matthew - At the time of Tyndale's death, a printed edition of the English Bible, bearing a dedication to King Henry VIII, had been circulating in England for nearly a year. This was the first edition of the Bible issued by Miles Coverdale (1488-1568), one of Tyndale's friends and associates. This English version reproduced Tyndale's translation of the Pentateuch and the New Testament; the rest of the Old Testament was translated into English from Latin and German versions.

Coverdale's Bible of 1535 was the first complete English Bible in print. A second and third edition appeared in 1537. The title page bore the words: "Set forth with the King's most gracious license." But this was not the only English Bible to appear in 1537 with these words on the title page. Another of Tyndale's associates, John Rogers, published an edition of the Bible that year under the name, "Thomas Matthew." "Matthew's Bible" was similar to Coverdale's with one exception: its translation of the historical books from Joshua to 2 Chronicles was one that Tyndale had finished without publishing before his death. 

The Great Bible - Official policy toward the translation and circulation of the Bible in England changed quickly. King Henry's break with the Roman Catholic pope in Rome in 1534 had something to do with it, but deeper factors were also involved. A landmark in the history of the English Bible was the royal injunction of September 1538, directing that "one book of the whole Bible of the largest volume in English" should be placed in every parish church in England where the people could have access to it. When this decree was issued, another version of the Bible-the "Great Bible"-was being prepared so this commandment could be followed. 

Publication of the Great Bible was delayed because French officials halted its production in Paris, where it was being printed. The printing was then transferred to London, where the Great Bible appeared in 1539. The Great Bible was Coverdale's revision of Matthew's Bible, which means that it was essentially a copy of Tyndale's translation. It quickly became the "authorized version" of the English Bible. 

One part of the Great Bible remained in use long after the version as a whole had been replaced by later and better versions. To this day the Psalter in the Book of Common Prayer that is sung in the services of the Church of England is the Psalms contained in the Great Bible. 

The Geneva Bible - During the reign of Mary Tudor of England (1553-1558), many English Reformers sought refuge in other parts of Europe because of her policy of persecution. One community of English refugees settled in Geneva, Switzerland, where John Knox was pastor of the English congregation and where John Calvin dominated theological study. Many of these English refugees were fine scholars, and they began work on a new English version of the Bible. A preliminary edition of the New Testament (Whittingham's New Testament) was published in 1557. This was the first edition of any part of the English Bible to have the text divided into verses. The whole Bible appeared in 1560. 

This "Geneva Bible" was the first English Bible to be translated in its entirety from the original biblical languages. Widely recognized as the best English version of the Bible that had yet appeared, it quickly became the accepted version in Scotland. In England it also attained instant popularity among the people, although it was not accepted by church officials. After the publication of the King James Version in 1611, the Geneva Bible remained popular. This was the Bible which the Pilgrims took with them to the new world in 1620; 

to them the King James Version was a compromise and an inferior production. The Geneva Bible was printed until 1644 and was still found in use 30 years later. 

The Bishops' Bible - The rival version to the Geneva Bible sponsored by church leaders in England was published in 1568. It was called the Bishops' Bible because all the translators were either bishops at the time or became bishops later. It was a good translation, based throughout on the original languages; but it was not as sound in scholarship as the Geneva Bible. 

The King James Version - Shortly after James VI of Scotland ascended the throne of England as James I (1603), he convened a conference to settle matters under dispute in the Church of England. The only important result of this conference was an approval to begin work on the King James Version of the English Bible (KJV). 

A group of 47 scholars, divided into six teams, was appointed to undertake the work of preparing the new version. Three teams worked on the Old Testament; two were responsible for the New Testament; and one worked on the Apocrypha. They used the 1602 edition of the Bishops' Bible as the basis of their revision, but they had access to many other versions and helps, as well as the texts in the original biblical languages. When the six groups had completed their task, the final draft was reviewed by a committee of 12. The King James Version was published in 1611. 

The new version won wide acceptance among the people of the English-speaking world. Nonsectarian in tone and approach, it did not favor one shade of theological or ecclesiastical opinion over another. The translators had an almost instinctive sense of good English style; the prose rhythms of the version gave it a secure place in the popular memory. Never was a version of the Bible more admirably suited for reading aloud in public. 

Although there was some resistance to the King James Version at first, it quickly made a place for itself. For more than three centuries, it has remained "The Bible" throughout the English-speaking world. 

Catholic Versions. A generation before the appearance of the King James Bible, an English version of the Bible for Roman Catholics was undertaken by the faculty of the English College at Douai, France. Unlike the Geneva Bible, which was translated from the original languages, the Douai (or Douay) Bible was translated from the Latin Vulgate. The translator of the Douai Bible was Gregory Martin, formerly an Oxford scholar, who translated two chapters a day until the project was finished. Each section was then revised by two of his colleagues. The New Testament portion of this version was issued in 1582 and the Old Testament in 1609-10. 

The Douai Bible was scholarly and accurate, but the English style and vocabulary were modeled on Latin usage. It would not have become popular among the Catholic laity if it had not been for the work of Richard Challoner (1691-1781), who revised it thoroughly between 1749 and 1772. What has generally been called the Douai Bible since Challoner's day is in fact the Douai Bible as revised by Challoner. In several respects it was a new version. Until 1945 this Douai revision by Challoner remained the only version of the Bible officially sanctioned for English-speaking Catholics. 

Nineteenth Century Revisions. During the 18th  century and the earlier part of the 19th  century, several private attempts were made at revising the King James Version. The reasons for revision included the outdated English of the KJV, the progress made by scholars in understanding the original languages of the Bible, and the availability of better texts in the original biblical languages, especially the Greek text of the New Testament. 

One of the most influential private revisions was Henry Alford's New Testament (1869). In the preface to this translation, Alford expressed the hope that his work would be replaced soon by an official revision of the KJV. 

This hope was fulfilled in 1870 when the Church of England initiated plans for a revision. Two groups of revisers were appointed, one for the Old Testament and one for the New. Representatives of British churches other than the Church of England were included on these committees. Before long, parallel companies of revisers were set up in the United States. At first these groups worked under the hope that one version might be produced for both England and the United States. But this was not to be. The American scholars, conservative as they were in their procedure, could not be bound by the stricter conservatism of their British counterparts. The three installments of the British revision (RV) appeared in 1881, in 1885, and in 1894. The American revision, or American Standard Version (ASV), was released in 1901, but did not include the Apocrypha. 

The RV and ASV were solid works of scholarship. The Old Testament revisers had a much better grasp of Hebrew than the original translators of the King James Bible. The New Testament revision was based on a much more accurate Greek text than had been available in 1611. Although the RV and ASV were suitable for Bible study, they did not gain popular acceptance, mainly because their translators paid little attention to style and rhythm as they rendered the biblical languages into English. 

Twentieth Century Enterprises. The first half of the 20th  century was marked by a succession of brilliant private enterprises in translation-both for the New Testament alone and for the whole Bible. 

Twentieth Century New Testament - The earliest of these was the Twentieth Century New Testament, a project conducted by a group of intelligent laypersons who used Westcott and Hort's edition of the Greek New Testament (1881) as their basic text. They were concerned that no existing version (not even the RV) made the Bible plain to young people, and they set out to supply this need. They completed their work in 1901; a revised edition appeared in 1904. 

Weymouth - Richard Francis Weymouth, a Greek scholar, published an edition of the Greek New Testament called The Resultant Greek Testament in 1886. Later he issued a translation of this text, The New Testament in Modern Speech, which appeared in 1903, shortly after his death. The "modern speech" into which this translation was rendered was dignified contemporary usage and it paid special attention to accuracy in the translation of details such as the definite article and tenses. 

Moffatt - Much more colloquial than Weymouth's version was The New Testament: A New Translation (1913) by James Moffatt. Moffatt was a Scot, and his translation bore traces of the idiom of his native land. While his unique expressions shocked some readers accustomed to more dignified Bible English, they brought home the meaning of the text with greater clarity than ever before.

In 1924 Moffatt added The Old Testament: A New Translation; in 1928 the whole work appeared in one volume, entitled A New Translation of the Bible. In both Testaments Moffatt occasionally took greater liberties with the wording and order than was proper for a translator; yet to this day one of the best ways to get a quick grasp of the general sense of a book of the Bible is to read it through in Moffatt's translation. 

Goodspeed - Edgar J. Goodspeed of the University of Chicago produced The New Testament: An American Translation in 1923. He was convinced that most Bible versions were translated into "British English"; so he tried to provide a version free from expressions that might be strange to Americans. A companion work, The Old Testament: An American Translation, edited by J. M. Powis Smith and three other scholars, was issued in 1927. In 1938 Goodspeed's translation of the Apocrypha appeared. This was the final contribution to The Complete Bible: An American Translation. 

The Revised Standard Version. The Revised Standard Version (RSV) is one of the last versions in the long line of English Bible translations that stem from William Tyndale. Although it is a North American production, it has been widely accepted in the whole English-speaking world. 

The RSV was launched as a revision of the KJV (1611), RV (1885), and ASV (1901). Authorized by the International Council of Religious Education, it is copyrighted by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches in the USA. The New Testament first appeared in 1946, the two Testaments in 1952, and the Apocrypha in 1957. A new edition in 1962 incorporated 85 minor changes in wording. 

A Catholic edition of the RSV New Testament appeared in 1964, followed by the whole Bible in 1966. In 1973 a further edition of the RSV appeared (including revisions made in the 1971 edition of the New Testament). This version of the Bible was approved for use by Protestants, Roman Catholics, and the Greek Orthodox Church, making it an English Bible for all faiths. 

New Catholic Versions. Several new versions of the English Bible designed especially for Catholic readers have appeared during the 20th century. 

Knox - In 1940 Ronald Knox, an English priest with exceptional literary gifts, was commissioned by his superiors to undertake a new Bible translation. At that time it was out of the question for a translation for Catholic readers to be based on anything other than the Latin Vulgate. The Vulgate served as the base of Knox's version, but he paid attention to the original Greek and Hebrew texts. His New Testament appeared in 1945, followed by the Old Testament in 1949. 

Knox had a flair for adapting his English expressions to the rigid restrictions of the Latin Vulgate style. But the progress of the biblical movement in the Catholic Church in recent years has made his translation outdated. No longer must all Catholic versions of the Bible be based on the Latin Vulgate. 

The Jerusalem Bible - The Jerusalem Bible was originally a French translation of the Bible, sponsored by the Dominican faculty of the Ecole Biblique et Archeologique in Jerusalem. A one-volume edition of the work, with fewer technical notes, was issued in 1956. The English counterpart to this volume, prepared under the editorship of Alexander Jones, was published in 1966. The biblical text was translated from the Hebrew and Greek languages, although the French version was consulted throughout for guidance where variant readings or interpretations were involved. 

The Jerusalem Bible is a scholarly production with a high degree of literary skill. While it is the work of Catholic translators, it is nonsectarian. Readers of many religious traditions use the Jerusalem Bible. 

The New American Bible - The New American Bible (NAB) was launched as a revision of the Douai (or Douay) Bible for American readers. In the beginning the revision was sponsored by the Episcopal Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, and the resulting work was called the Confraternity Version. The translators were scholars who belonged to the Catholic Biblical Association of America.

The New Testament of this translation first appeared in 1941. While it was a revision of the Douai text, which was based in turn on the Latin Vulgate, the translators at times went back to the Greek text behind the Latin. They drew attention in their notes to places where the Greek and Latin texts differed. 

As the project progressed, the translators moved away from the Latin Vulgate as their text, basing it instead on the Greek and Hebrew text. So radical was this fresh approach that a new name seemed appropriate for the version when the entire Bible was completed in 1970. It was no longer called the Confraternity Version but the New American Bible. This new name may have been influenced also by the title of the New English Bible, which had appeared earlier in the same year. 

The New English Bible. When the copyright of the British Revised Version was about to expire (1935), the owners of the copyright, the Oxford and Cambridge University Presses, consulted scholars about the possibility of a revision to bring this translation up to date. Later the scope of the project changed so that an entirely new translation, rather than a revision of an old translation, was commissioned. 

The initiative in this enterprise was taken by the Church of Scotland in 1946. It approached other British churches, and a joint committee was set up in 1947 to make plans for a new translation of the Bible into modern English. The joint committee included representatives of the principal non-Roman churches of Great Britain and Ireland, agents of Bible societies, and officials of Oxford and Cambridge University Presses. The translators' goal was to issue a version "genuinely English in idiom...a 'timeless' English, avoiding equally both archaisms and transient modernisms." 

The New Testament of the New English Bible (NEB) was published in March 1961; the whole Bible, together with the Apocrypha, appeared in March 1970. Between 1961 and 1970 the New Testament received some further revision. 

In one respect the New English Bible reverted to the policy of the translators of the King James Version; sometimes they rendered the same Hebrew or Greek word with different English words. This means the student who cannot use the Hebrew or Greek texts will be unable to use this version for detailed word study. Sometimes the NEB makes a useful distinction in its selection of words, as when "church" is reserved for the universal company of Christian believers and "congregation" is used for a local group of believers. But a useful distinction made by the RV, ASV, and RSV is sometimes obscured by the NEB. A good example is when the same word, "devil or devils," is used by the NEB for Satan as well as the beings which should more correctly be called "demons." Two different Greek words for these beings are used in the original texts, and there is no good reason why they should be called the same thing by the NEB. 

Paraphrases and Simplified Versions. Some translators have attempted to bring out the meaning of the biblical text by using either simplified or amplified vocabularies. Other translations that fall into this category are those that use lists of words considered basic to the English language. 

Williams - Charles B. Williams, in The New Testament in the Language of the People (1937), tried to express the more delicate shades of meaning in Greek tenses by using a fuller wording. Thus, the command of Eph 4:25, "Let every one speak the truth with his neighbor" (RSV), is expressed, "You must...each of you practice telling the truth to his neighbor." 

Wuest - What Williams did for Greek tenses, Kenneth S. Wuest did for all parts of speech in his Expanded Translation of the New Testament (1956-59). In this translation, the familiar Bible phrase, "Husbands, love your wives" (Eph 5:25) appears as, "The husbands, be loving your wives with a love self-sacrificial in its nature." 

Amplified Bible - In The Amplified Bible(1958-65), a committee of 12 editors working for the Lockman Foundation of La Habra, California, incorporated alternative translations or additional words that would normally appear in margins or footnotes into their translation of the text. One fault of this translation is that it gives the reader no guidance to aid in choosing the proper alternative reading for specific passages. 

New Testament in Basic English - Basic English is a simplified form of the language, created by C. K. Ogden, which attempts to communicate ideas with a simplified vocabulary of 850 words. In the 1930 s Ogden's foundation, the Orthological Institute, commissioned an English biblical scholar, S. H. Hooke, to produce a Basic English version of the Bible. For this purpose the basic vocabulary of 850 words was expanded to 1,000 by adding special Bible words and others helpful in the reading and understanding of poetry. The New Testament in Basic English appeared in 1940; the complete Bible was published in 1949. 

Williams - Charles Kingsley Williams, who had experience in teaching students whose native tongue was not English, produced The New Testament: A New Translation in Plain English in 1952. He used a "plain English" list of less than 1,700 words in this translation. 

Phillips - J. B. Phillips, an Anglican clergyman, relieved the tedium of fire-watching and similar night-time duties during World War II by turning Paul's letters into English. This work was not a strict translation but a paraphrase that made the apostle's arguments meaningful for younger readers. He published Letters to Young Churches in 1947, and it became an instant success. The style was lively and forceful; the apostle Paul came across as a real man who had something important to say. 

Phillips followed up on his initial success by releasing other parts of the New Testament. The Gospels in Modern English followed in 1952; The Young Church in Action (the Book of Acts) appeared in 1955; and The Book of Revelation was published in 1957. In 1958 the whole work appeared in one volume, The New Testament in Modern English. A completely revised edition of this paraphrase was issued in 1972, but many readers prefer the earlier edition. 

The Living Bible - Like J. B. Phillips' work, The Living Bible is a paraphrase that began with a rendering of the New Testament letters-Living Letters (1962). The translator, Kenneth N. Taylor, prepared this paraphrase initially for his own children, who found it difficult to follow the apostle Paul's thought when his letters were read in family worship. Taylor went on to paraphrase the rest of the New Testament, then the Old Testament, unti1 The Living Bible was published complete in 1971. This paraphrase is especially popular with young people. Many adults have also found that it brings the message of the Bible home to them in language they can understand. 

The Good News Bible - In 1966 the American Bible Society issued Today's English Version (also entitled Good News for Modern Man), a translation of the New Testament, in simple, contemporary English. The aim of this version was similar to the preceding basic English and plain English versions, but The Good News Bible used no limited vocabulary list. In 1976 the entire Bible in Today's English Version was published. 

The translators of The Good News Bible worked to achieve "dynamic equivalence." They wanted this translation to have the same effect on modern readers that the original text produced on those who first read it. The Good News Bible has gained wide acceptance, and similar translations have been produced in a number of other languages. 

Miscellaneous Simplified Versions - Other simplified translations of the Bible include Clarence Jordan's Cotton Patch Version (1968-70), which renders portions of the New Testament into the unique idiom of the American South. Also included in this category is Carl Burke's God Is For Real, Man (1967) and Treat Me Cool, Lord (1969). These were written in the unique language of prison inmates while Burke was serving as a jail chaplain. 

New American Standard Bible. An editorial board of 54 scholars began work on this translation in the 1960 s. They were determined to issue a new and revised translation based on the American Standard Version of 1901 in order to keep that version alive and usable among the Bible-reading public. Sponsored by the Lockman Foundation, the complete Bible of the NASB was published in 1971 after 11 years of careful, scholarly work. The translators used the most dependable Hebrew and Greek texts available. The editorial board has continued to function since publication of the Bible, making minor revisions and refinements in the translation as better texts of the original languages of the Bible became available. 

New International Version. The New International Version (NIV) is a completely new translation of the Bible, sponsored by the New York International Bible Society. It is the work of an international and transdenominational team of scholars, drawn mainly from the United States but also including scholars from Canada, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. The sponsors of the NIV claim it is "written in the language of the common man," but its language is more literary than the "common English" of the Good News Bible.

The translators of the NIV were familiar with traditional Bible English. They used the language of the King James Version where it was "accurate, clear, and readable." But they made many significant changes. Unlike the RSV and NEB (which retained "thee," "thou," and "thy" when God was being addressed), the NIV uses "you" and "your." The New Testament of this version was published in 1973; the whole Bible appeared in 1978. 

New King James Version. The original King James Version, first published in 1611, has been the favorite translation among English-speaking peoples for more than three centuries. During its long history, the King James Bible has been updated and revised several times to reflect changes in speech as well as growing knowledge of the original text of the Scriptures. Previous major revisions of this translation were issued in 1629, 1638, 1762, and 1769. 

During the 1970 s, Thomas Nelson Publishers of Nashville, Tennessee, sensed the need for a fifth major revision. Over 130 Bible scholars were selected to work on the New King James Version. The translators worked from the earliest and most trustworthy Hebrew and Greek texts available and also used the 1769 King James revision as a general guide to make sure the new edition preserved the majestic style and devotional quality of the original King James. 

The most noticeable change in the New King James is replacement of the "thee's" and "thou's" and other archaic pronouns with their modern English equivalent. The "-est" and "-eth" verb endings also were eliminated in favor of more contemporary English idioms. The New Testament with Psalms was released in 1980, followed by the Old Testament in 1982. 

Miscellaneous Translations. Many English translations have not been mentioned in this article. Among Jewish translations of the Hebrew Bible, special reference should be made to A New Translation of the Holy Scriptures according to the Masoretic Text, produced in installments since 1963 by a committee working under the chairmanship of H. M. Orlinsky. The Authentic New Testament (1955) is a translation by a well-known Jewish scholar, Hugh J. Schonfield. 

Brief mention should also be made of the following translations: The Penguin Classics edition of The Four Gospels, by E. V. Rieu (1952) and The Acts of the Apostles, by C. H. Rieu (1957); the Berkeley Version (New Testament, 1945; Bible, 1959), revised as The Modern Language Bible (1969); the New World Translation of Jehovah's Witnesses (1961); The New Testament in the Language of Today, by William F. Beck, a Lutheran scholar (1963); and The New Testament in the translation of William Barclay (1968-69).


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