English Translations from Greek and Latin text

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Once the content of the Canon of Scripture was finally settled at Chalcedon in 451, translations of the text became the next challenge, and the subject of much opposition and debate.

Events like the Papal Babylonian Captivity and schism, the Renaissance, the rise of nationalism, exploration, and discovery, had all affected change within the Church opening the way to make scripture more accessible.

English translations associated with John Wycliff came as early as the 14th Century. His New Testament in 1380 and his Old Testament in 1388.
Wycliff translated from the Vulgate (a hard-to-read direct Latin translation based on poor Latin manuscripts).

Moveable type for the printing press was invented during the 15th century which made copying texts less of a task. In fact the first book ever printed was the Gutenberg Bible (Latin) in 1455, and the first Lexicon was published in 1492. It was at this time that the study of Greek (the language of NT text) was introduced at the University of Paris.
Over eighty editions of the Latin Bibles (generally rendered from the Latin Vulgate) appeared in Europe before 1500 - all within a generation of the new printing method being introduced into England.

However, it was Tyndale, (picture) in the 16th century, who saw the need to translate the hard-to-read text into ‘the common every day language’. Tyndale translated from Erasmus’ received text of 1516, a compiled selection of Greek manuscripts dating from the 12th century, (the same source Martyn Luther used when translating into German).
Dutch scholar, Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (1466-1536), despite achieving his work in editing five editions of the Greek New Testament, was described by some as “a humanist with Christian overtones”.
Tyndales’ translation came from the third edition of the five Erasmus produced. The Church, still under Papal authority opposed putting the bible into the hands of the Laity, so after receiving no support from the bishop of London, Tyndale sailed to Europe in 1524. He completed his New Testament translation in Cologne in February 1526.

Tyndale smuggled fifteen thousand copies (comprising of six editions) into England between 1525 and 1530, which found their way into the hands of the general populace. He was captured in 1535 in Antwerp, having just finished his final New Testament edition, and while in prison continued his work attempting, unsuccessfully to finish translating the Old Testament before he was martyred in 1536.

Ninety percent of the New Testament in the King James Version (KJV) is Tyndale's translation. Where subsequent revisions of the KJV departed from Tyndale's wording, the English Revised Version (ERV) of 1881 went back to it. Without question, Tyndale's first printed English New Testament is the basis of most subsequent works of translation.

As a result of the pioneering works of Wycliff (14th C) and Tyndale (16th C), the English language became the most significant vehicle of bible translation. The first ‘complete English Bible’ was finished in 1535, under the direction of Miles Coverdale, Tyndale’s assistant (picture). Coverdale finished translating the rest of the Bible; however, not being a Hebrew or Greek scholar, his work was based on intermediate Latin and German translations rather than the original Greek and Hebrew.

It was Coverdale who eventually separated the Apocrypha from the other Old Testament books into a separate section of its own. The Apocrypha remained part of subsequent printings of the Tyndale-Matthews Bible, the Great Bible, the Bishops Bible, the Protestant Geneva Bible, and the King James Bible until its removal from Protestant bibles in 1885.
The original 1611 King James bible contained the Apocrypha. In fact, King James threatened anyone who dared to print the Bible without the Apocrypha with heavy fines and a year in jail.
Only for the last 120 years or so has the Protestant Church openly rejected the Apocrypha in total.

Although Coverdale’s English Bible was reprinted twice, the ‘Great Bible’ of 1539 eventually replaced it in popularity. This may have been due to the fact that the defamed Anne Boleyn favored the Coverdale Bible (who was the wife of, and executed by, King Henry VIII).

The Great Bible was the bible appointed to read in the Church of England, and was the authoritative text of the common book of prayer during the latter reign of King Henry VIII. During its translation, debate arose between the Catholics and the Protestants concerning which text should be used to translate it from (ie. the Latin Vulgate, or the Hebrew and Greek text). The issue was initially over a Greek word, which the Protestants translated as ‘repent’, whereas Jerome, a Catholic, had translated it ‘penance’.

During Mary’s reign (bloody Mary), England forwarded Protestants persecution, while Geneva was offering Protestant refuge. John Knox (picture) led a group of Protestant exiles to Geneva to assist in the preparation of another English version.
In 1557 a new edition was produced; the Geneva Bible. It followed the OT Hebrew more closely, was the first to divide the text into the divisions of verses, and provided notes alongside. It went through 140 editions before 1644. The Puritans used this bible extensively.

It was Coverdale who eventually separated the Apocrypha from the other Old Testament books into a separate section of its own. The Apocrypha remained part of subsequent printings of the Tyndale-Matthews Bible, the Great Bible, the Bishops Bible, the Protestant Geneva Bible, and the King James Bible until its removal from Protestant bibles in 1885.
The original 1611 King James bible contained the Apocrypha. In fact, King James threatened anyone who dared to print the Bible without the Apocrypha with heavy fines and a year in jail.
Only for the last 120 years or so has the Protestant Church openly rejected the Apocrypha in total.

Although Coverdale’s English Bible was reprinted twice, the ‘Great Bible’ of 1539 eventually replaced it in popularity. This may have been due to the fact that the defamed Anne Boleyn favored the Coverdale Bible (who was the wife of, and executed by, King Henry VIII).

The Great Bible was the bible appointed to read in the Church of England, and was the authoritative text of the common book of prayer during the latter reign of King Henry VIII. During its translation, debate arose between the Catholics and the Protestants concerning which text should be used to translate it from (ie. the Latin Vulgate, or the Hebrew and Greek text). The issue was initially over a Greek word, which the Protestants translated as ‘repent’, whereas Jerome, a Catholic, had translated it ‘penance’.

During Mary’s reign (bloody Mary), England forwarded Protestants persecution, while Geneva was offering Protestant refuge. John Knox (picture) led a group of Protestant exiles to Geneva to assist in the preparation of another English version.
In 1557 a new edition was produced; the Geneva Bible. It followed the OT Hebrew more closely, was the first to divide the text into the divisions of verses, and provided notes alongside. It went through 140 editions before 1644. The Puritans used this bible extensively.

Protestants were not alone in the production of English translations. In 1582 the Catholics compiled the Douay Bible, translated of course from Jerome’s Latin Vulgate (which had by now enjoyed a thousand-year reign).
The first complete bible to be translated from the Hebrew and Greek by the Catholics was the New American Bible in 1970 – also known as the Jerusalem Bible (not the ‘New American Standard’ Bible).

King James VI of Scotland, (later King James I of England) suffered much sickness having crippling arthritis, weak limbs, abdominal colic, gout, and a number of other chronic illnesses. He also had physical handicaps that affected his legs and tongue. He was known among the clerics to have held much of the Papacy’s dogma with contempt resulting with numerous attempts on his life by Roman Catholic clerics. This demanded he required constant attention and care.
King James said in Basilicon Doron:
"I am no papist as I said before...Now faith...is the free gift of God (as Paul sayeth). It must be nourished by prayer, which is no thing else but a friendly talking to God. Use oft to pray when ye are quiet, especially in your bed..."

In 1604 King James, having just taken the English throne, was the first to use the term “Great Britain”, and supported a venture of having a bible that would be acceptable to all parties in the Church. This came about, in part in response to a thousand-signature grievance from the Puritan Party. He commissioned a new version of the English bible, known as the King James Version.

Having the wholehearted support of the king; six companies of men, made up of fourty seven chosen scholars of the day, did the work of revision. They primarily followed Erasmus’s text (picture).
Although fifty-four men were nominated, only forty-seven were known to have taken part in the work of translation. The translators were organized into the six groups, and met at Westminster, Cambridge, and Oxford.
Ten at Westminster were assigned Genesis through 2 Kings; seven had Romans through to Jude. At Cambridge, eight worked on 1 Chronicles through to Ecclesiastes, and seven, the Apocrypha. Oxford employed seven to translate Isaiah through Malachi; eight translated the Gospels, Acts, and Revelation.

As the translators themselves acknowledged, they had a multitude of sources from which to draw from, and stated:
"Neither did we think much to consult the Translators or Commentators, Chaldee, Hebrew, Syrian, Greek, or Latin, no nor the Spanish, French, Italian, or Dutch." The Greek editions of Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza were all accessible, as were the Complutensian and Antwerp Polyglots, and the Latin translations of Pagninus, Termellius, and Beza”.
The translators expressed that they were "poor instruments to make God's holy truth to be yet more and more known" while at the same time recognising that "Popish persons" sought to keep the people "in ignorance and darkness."
Four years was spent on the preliminary translation.

It should be noted, however, that contention arose over the inclusion and authenticity of segments contained in 1 John 5:7-8. This is because no original Greek text contained the passage, and neither did they appear in any translations prior to the fifteenth century which was when it entered the Latin Vulgate for the first time. The Johannine Comma (also called the Comma Johanneum) is the name given to these verse segments.

Because the original Greek did not contain 1 John 5:7-8, the passage was also absent from the manuscripts of all subsequent ancient versions, although the verse itself had been around for a long time.
The earliest instance of the passage being quoted as a part of the actual text of the Epistle was in a fourth century Latin treatise entitled Liber Apologeticus (chap. 4), and attributed either to the Spanish heretic Priscillian who died around 385, or to his Bishop, Instantius.
Additionally, there is no evidence of the verse ever being quoted by the Church during the fourth century defense of Arius’s attack on the doctrine of the Trinity, which some claim proves its absence.
Its first appearance in Greek was in a Greek version of the Acts of the Lateran Council in 1215.
Erasmus in the fifteenth century left the verse out of the first edition of his Greek manuscript stating “it did not occur in any of the originals”. He relented however and ‘under pressure’ included it in the second and subsequent editions from which most translations stem.

In the editions where the Johannine Comma appear, the original Greek reads [brackets around the extra words]:
“oti treiV eisin oi marturounteV [en tw ouranw o pathr o logoV kai to agion pneuma kai outoi oi treiV en eisin. 8 kai treiV eisen oi marturounteV en th gh] to pneuma kai to udwr kai to aima kai oi treiV eiV to en eisin”.
The King James Version, which was based upon such editions, gives the following translation:
“For there are three that bear record [in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth], the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one”.
It is generally agreed, because of their absence in the original text, that John did not write these portions, and outside of the possibility of Gods providence, they have therefore, no manuscript authority. It is assumed that they may have originated as a marginal note or commentary before being inserted into the Vulgate.

Albeit, the King James Version (KJV) was completed in 1611, and included the Johannine Comma along with the Apocrypha. Once completed, it was widely acclaimed for its simplicity and style. During James’ reign, anyone found not reading from this version, or persistently truanting church, risked having their ears and nose sliced or cut off.

The Catholics vehemently opposed the KJV, because they saw it as King James’s apparent support of the Protestant cause. This was highlighted on Nov 5, 1605 when Guy Fawkes, (picture) a Roman Catholic soldier, was arrested departing from the House of Lords having planted 36 barrels of gunpowder. Fawkes was hoping to blow up King James during the state opening of Parliament. Under torture, he revealed his fellow conspirators and a number of them were hung.

In the years that followed the KJV underwent several revisions, departing from Tyndale’s version only to return to it in 1881-1885 for The English Revised Version (EVR). In competition among the laymen of England, however, the KJV ran headlong into the popular Geneva Bible of the Puritans.
(The Geneva Bible is textually 95% the same as the King James Version but 50 years older).

Throughout the 1600’s, as the Puritans and the Pilgrims fled the religious persecution of England to cross the Atlantic and start a new free nation in America, they took with them the Geneva Bible. America was founded therefore upon the Geneva Bible.
However, the grandeur and simplicity of the KJV translation ultimately swept all opposition aside. Though often referred to as the ‘Authorised Version’ (AV), it was never officially sanctioned by the English monarchy, or the clerical hierarchy of the Church of England.
Whist it is no longer under copyright in most parts of the world, it is under perpetual Crown copyright in the United Kingdom. The KJV, almost immediately, had a profound impact on English literature and on most English translations that followed it.

The New King James Version (NKJV) was published in 1982.
NKJV incorporated changes, which resulted from not only removing archaisms etc, but also changes which reveal that the NKJV translators departed from the original KJV and its underlying Greek text ‘The Textus Receptus’. They opted for the same wording found in versions translated from other disputed Greek texts criticised by some for lacking the same degree of accuracy.
The following references are examples.

Titus 3:10-KJV reads,
"A man that is an heretic...reject."
NKJV changes the word "heretic" to "divisive man".
The argument cited is: The one who holds to heresy is to be rejected, not the one who ‘exposes’ or ‘contends with’ those propagating false doctrine. Hence, the new NKJ version, to some, confuses who is in mind here.

And, 2 Corinthians 10:5 - KJV reads, "Casting down imaginations."
NKJV changes "imaginations" to "arguments."
Here, the passage relates to the subject’s mind, and the context of the text implies demonic strongholds; however the latter could more readily imply conduct and arguments with ‘other people’.

Some argue that these changes, and numerous ones like them to the NKJV, do not affect any fundamental Bible doctrine. However, many strongly disagree, and as a result some biblical scholars today reject the NKJV as a worthy translation because it changed doctrinal emphasis in too many important verses.

In 1973, the New International Version (N.I.V.) was produced, which was presented as a “dynamic modern equivalent to The New American Standard Bible (NASB)”.
The New American Standard Bible was acclaimed as the most accurate ‘modern day English’ to the original Greek and Hebrew text but was still not as easy to read as some desired.
The N.I.V, on the other hand, was designed not for “word-for-word” accuracy, but rather, for “phrase-for-phrase” accuracy, and ease of reading. It was meant to appeal to a broader (and in some instances less-educated) cross-section of the general public. Critics of the N.I.V. often jokingly refer to it as the “Nearly Inspired Version”, but that has not stopped it from becoming the best-selling modern-English translation of the Bible.
 

Timeline of Bible Translation History.

500 BC:    Completion of all original Hebrew Manuscripts, which make up the 39 Books of the Old

                  Testament.

200 BC:    Completion of the Septuagint Greek Manuscripts, which contain The 39 Old Testament

                  Books and the 14 Books of the Apocrypha.

90 AD      (approx) theRules of Faith” believed to have been received from Peter.

170            Muritorian Cannon compiled as the recognised inspired word of God (author unknown, but

                  published in 1740 by L.A.Muritori)

190            Churches accept OT alongside NT as one fulfilling the other.

367           Council of Laodicea identified 27 books of the New Testament which are

                  today recognised as the canon of scripture. Councils of 393, 397 affirmed the same.

382 :         Jerome's Latin Vulgate Produced. 80 Books (39 OT plus 14 Apocrypha plus 27 N.T).

600 :          Latin determined to be the only language allowed for Scripture.

995 :         Anglo-Saxon (Early Roots of English Language) Translations of  The New Testament

                 Produced.

1384 :       Wycliffe, the First Person to Produce a manuscript Copy of the Complete Bible; All 80 Books.

1455 :       Gutenberg invents the Printing Press; Books now can be mass-produced. The first book ever

            printed was the Gutenberg Bible (Latin).

1516 :       Erasmus’s Greek/Latin Parallel New Testament.

1522 :       Martin Luther's German New Testament.

1526 :       William Tyndale's New Testament; The first New Testament printed in the English language.

1535 :       Myles Coverdale's Bible; The first ‘complete’ Bible printed in the English language (80 Books: O.T. plus N.T. plus Apocrypha).

1537 :       Tyndale-Matthews Bible; The second complete Bible printed in English, by John Thomas

                 Matthew Rogers (80 Books).

1539 :       The "Great Bible"; The First English language Bible authorized for public use (80 Books).

1560 :       The Geneva Bible; The First English language Bible to add numbered verses to each chapter (80 Books).

1568 :       The Bishops Bible; The Bible of which the King James was a revision (80 Books).

1609 :       The Douay Old Testament is added to the Rheims New Testament (of 1582) making the first complete English Catholic Bible; Translated from the Latin Vulgate (80 Books).

1611 :       The King James Bible; Originally with all 80 Books. The Apocrypha was officially removed in 1885 leaving the now 66 Books.

1782 :       Robert Aitken's Bible; The first English language Bible (KJV) printed in America.

1791 :       Isaac Collins and Isaiah Thomas respectively produce the first Family Bible and first illustrated Bible printed in America. Both were King James versions, with All 80 Books.

1808 :       Jane Aitken's Bible (Daughter of Robert Aitken); The First Bible to be printed by a woman.

1833 :       Noah Webster's Bible; After producing his famous Dictionary, Webster printed his own revision of the King James Bible.

1841 :       English Hexapla New Testament; an early textual comparison showing the Greek and 6x renoun English translations in Parallel Columns.

1846 :       The Illuminated Bible; The most lavishly illustrated Bible printed in America (KJV).

1885 :       The "English Revised Version" Bible; The first major English revision of the KJV.

1901 :       The "American Standard Version"; The first major American Revision of the KJV.

1971 :       The "New American Standard Bible" (NASB) published as a modern and accurate “word for word” English translation of the Bible.

1973 :       The "New International Version" (NIV) is published as a modern and accurate “phrase for phrase” English translation of the Bible.

1982 :       The "New King James Version" (NKJV) published as a modern English version maintaining the style of the KJV.

2002 :       The English Standard Version (ESV) is published as a translation to bridge the gap between the accuracy of the NASB and the readability of the NIV.

 

500 BC:    Completion of all original Hebrew Manuscripts, which make up the 39 Books of the Old

                  Testament.

200 BC:    Completion of the Septuagint Greek Manuscripts, which contain The 39 Old Testament

                  Books and the 14 Books of the Apocrypha.

90 AD      (approx) theRules of Faith” believed to have been received from Peter.

170            Muritorian Cannon compiled as the recognised inspired word of God (author unknown, but

                  published in 1740 by L.A.Muritori)

190            Churches accept OT alongside NT as one fulfilling the other.

367           Council of Laodicea identified 27 books of the New Testament which are

                  today recognised as the canon of scripture. Councils of 393, 397 affirmed the same.

382 :         Jerome's Latin Vulgate Produced. 80 Books (39 OT plus 14 Apocrypha plus 27 N.T).

600 :          Latin determined to be the only language allowed for Scripture.

995 :         Anglo-Saxon (Early Roots of English Language) Translations of  The New Testament

                 Produced.

1384 :       Wycliffe, the First Person to Produce a manuscript Copy of the Complete Bible; All 80 Books.

1455 :       Gutenberg invents the Printing Press; Books now can be mass-produced. The first book ever

            printed was the Gutenberg Bible (Latin).

1516 :       Erasmus’s Greek/Latin Parallel New Testament.

1522 :       Martin Luther's German New Testament.

1526 :       William Tyndale's New Testament; The first New Testament printed in the English language.

1535 :       Myles Coverdale's Bible; The first ‘complete’ Bible printed in the English language (80 Books: O.T. plus N.T. plus Apocrypha).

1537 :       Tyndale-Matthews Bible; The second complete Bible printed in English, by John Thomas

                 Matthew Rogers (80 Books).

1539 :       The "Great Bible"; The First English language Bible authorized for public use (80 Books).

1560 :       The Geneva Bible; The First English language Bible to add numbered verses to each chapter (80 Books).

1568 :       The Bishops Bible; The Bible of which the King James was a revision (80 Books).

1609 :       The Douay Old Testament is added to the Rheims New Testament (of 1582) making the first complete English Catholic Bible; Translated from the Latin Vulgate (80 Books).

1611 :       The King James Bible; Originally with all 80 Books. The Apocrypha was officially removed in 1885 leaving the now 66 Books.

1782 :       Robert Aitken's Bible; The first English language Bible (KJV) printed in America.

1791 :       Isaac Collins and Isaiah Thomas respectively produce the first Family Bible and first illustrated Bible printed in America. Both were King James versions, with All 80 Books.

1808 :       Jane Aitken's Bible (Daughter of Robert Aitken); The First Bible to be printed by a woman.

1833 :       Noah Webster's Bible; After producing his famous Dictionary, Webster printed his own revision of the King James Bible.

1841 :       English Hexapla New Testament; an early textual comparison showing the Greek and 6x renoun English translations in Parallel Columns.

1846 :       The Illuminated Bible; The most lavishly illustrated Bible printed in America (KJV).

1885 :       The "English Revised Version" Bible; The first major English revision of the KJV.

1901 :       The "American Standard Version"; The first major American Revision of the KJV.

1971 :       The "New American Standard Bible" (NASB) published as a modern and accurate “word for word” English translation of the Bible.

1973 :       The "New International Version" (NIV) is published as a modern and accurate “phrase for phrase” English translation of the Bible.

1982 :       The "New King James Version" (NKJV) published as a modern English version maintaining the style of the KJV.

2002 :       The English Standard Version (ESV) is published as a translation to bridge the gap between the accuracy of the NASB and the readability of the NIV.

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This site was last updated 10/30/08