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English Bible

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Trace The English Bibles and give a commentary on each



Share my testimony about how I never went to church
Dad used to bribe us with kfc
I was listening to Danny last week and he was talking about a little about the negative aspects of trying to translate the language of the bible into english as it does not really do justice for the imagery in languages such as greek and hebrew which the Bible was originally written in.
Now getting the Bible into English would be a huge task when it comes to translating it from the original language but I thank God that while it may not be perfect as some might expect we are seeing this English Bible being used by the Holy Spirit to draw people to him.
I thank God for the Bible more so the English Bible
So how did this English Bible come into being?
The Bible text in the original languages and early translations gives way to the particular trans- mission of the text in the English language. For although the Old Testament was recorded primarily in Hebrew, and the New was written basically in Greek, more modern translations of the Bible are in English than any other language. The Eng- lish language of today reflects many centuries of development in England and North America, and an international scale that makes it the most universal lan- guage for modern Bible translations.¹

Where Did The English Language Come From?

English is a sort of tag-end dialect of Low German,
In order to place it in its proper setting, it is necessary for us to sketch the background of the English language and the place of the Bible in it.

Partial Translations In Old And Middle English

The Late Development Of The English Language

Just how the English language developed is not known for certain, but most schol- ars follow the lead of the Venerable Bede (ca. 673–735), who dates its beginning to about 450 CE. The period 450–1100 is called Anglo-Saxon, or Old English, because it was dominated by the influence from the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes in their var- ious dialects (using runes but not written language). Following the Norman inva- sion of England in 1066, the language again came under the influence of the Scan- dinavian dialects, and the period of Middle English appeared from 1100–1500. This was the period of both Geoffrey Chaucer (1340–1400) and John Wycliffe (ca. 1320– 1384). Following the invention of a movable typeset by Johann Gutenberg (ca. 1454), English entered into its third period of development: Modern English (1500 to the present). This period of development was precipitated by the great vowel shift (the effect of which was to bring the pronunciation within measurable dis- tance of that which prevails today)² during the century following the death of Chaucer and preceding the birth of William Shakespeare. With this background in mind, our survey of the various translations of the Bible into English should be more meaningful.³
Old English (Anglo-Saxon) Partial Translations (ca. 450–ca. 1100)
At the beginning of this period some five hundred different Bible translations ex- isted. With the disintegration of the Roman Empire in the West, however, they were diminished to Latin, the only officially recognized translation of the church. The Bible was presented to the laity in oral form and later in written form. At first only pictures, wood carvings, paintings, preaching, poems, and paraphrases were em- ployed to communicate the message of the Bible to the Britons. Later on, stained glass windows depicted biblical stories. “The classics of medieval Englishmen were to be found in the Bible. It existed in a learned language, accessible only to an elite, but the moderately educated person, usually a monk, a clergy by definition, seldom saw the Bible as a whole.” The early translation of portions of the
Scriptures were based on the Old Latin and Vulgate translations rather than the original Hebrew and Greek languages, and none of them contained the text of the entire Bible. Nevertheless, they do illustrate the manner by which the Bible entered into the English tongue.
Caedmon (d. ca. 680).
The story of Caedmon is recorded in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People. It involves an ungifted laborer at the monastery at Whitby in Yorkshire, Northumbria, who left a party one night for fear that he might be called upon to sing. Later that night he dreamed that an angel had commanded him to sing about how things were first created. Other paraphrases and poems sung by Caedmon included the full story of Genesis, Israel’s exodus from Egypt, the incarnation, passion, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord, the coming of the Holy Spirit, the teachings of the apostles, etc. His work became the basis for other poets, writers, and translators, for it became the popularized people’s Bible of the day. As a result, Caedmon’s songs were memorized and disseminated throughout the land.
Aldhelm (640–709)
Aldhelm was the first bishop of Sherborne in Dorset. Shortly after 700 he translated the Psalter (Latin Vulgate) into Anglo-Saxon (Old English). It was the first straightforward translation of any portion of the Bible into the Eng- lish language.
Egbert (fl. ca. 700)
Egbert of Northumbria became archbishop of York shortly before the death of Bede. He was also the teacher of Alcuin of York, who was later called by Charlemagne to establish a school at the court of Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen). About 705, Egbert translated the Gospels into Old English for the first time.
Alfred the Great (849–901)
Alfred was a scholar of the first rank as well as being king of England (870–901). During his reign the Danelaw was established under the Treaty of Wedmore (878). The treaty contained only two stipulations for the new subjects: Christian baptism and loyalty to the king. Along with his translation of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History from Latin into Anglo-Saxon (Old English), he also translated the Ten Commandments, extracts from Exodus 21–23, Acts 15:23–29, and a negative form of the Golden Rule. It was during his reign that Britain experienced a revival of Christianity.

Middle English Partial Translations (ca.1150–1500)

The Middle English period (ca.1150–1500) was “marked by momentous changes in the English language, changes more extensive and fundamental than those that have taken place at any time before or since.
Orm, or Ormin (fl. ca. 1200) Orm was an Augustinian monk who wrote a poetic paraphrase of the Gospels and Acts with an accompanying commentary. This work, The Ormulum, is preserved in only one manuscript of 20,000 words. Al- though the vocabulary is purely Teutonic, the cadence and syntax show Norman influence.
Richard Rolle (fl. ca. 1320–1340) Rolle is known as the “Hermit of Hampole.” He was responsible for the second literal translation of the Scriptures into English. Liv- ing near Doncaster, Yorkshire, he translated the Scriptures from the Latin Vulgate into the North English dialect. His translation of the Psalter was widely circulated, and it reflects the development of English Bible translation to the time of John Wycliffe.


Although no complete Bibles existed in English prior to the fourteenth century, several indicators suggest one would soon appear. Rolle’s literal Psalter circulated widely at the very time the papal court was experiencing struggles associated with the so-called Babylonian Captivity (1309–1377) and the Great Schism (1378–1417). This event and its aftermath provided a backdrop for the work of other Bible trans- lators. The decision to translate the Bible into English must be seen in the context of the rise of lay literacy, the emergence of a vernacular culture, and the opposition to biblical translation.

Fourteenth and Fifteenth Century Bible Translations

John Wycliffe (ca. 1320–1384) Wycliffe, “the Morning Star of the Reformation,” lived during the “Babylonian captivity,” along with Geoffrey Chaucer (ca. 1340– 1400) and John of Gaunt (1340–1399). they would challenged the moral laxity and wealth of recently established monastic orders. They also opposed the extreme theory of dominion (dominium) advanced by Giles of Rome (ca. 1243/47–1316) who claimed that papal authority overrides temporal authority.
In his recoil from the spiritual apathy and moral degeneracy of the clergy in Eng- land, Wycliffe was thrust into the limelight as an opponent of the papacy and the established church. He opposed their requirement of an intermediary (priest or pope) between God and mankind. Late in life (ca. 1379–1381) Wycliffe took up his controversial position by rejecting the Eucharistic doctrine of transubstantiation.
Like so many of his forebears and colleagues, Wycliffe cast aside scholastic Latin as a vehicle of communication and directed his appeal to the English people in their common language. His appeal was directed through the Lollards, an order of itinerant preachers, also known as the “poor priests.” The Lollards identified them- selves with Wycliffe¹³ as they went throughout the countryside preaching, reading, and teaching the English Bible. In order to help them with their task, a new
translation of the Bible was needed. After judicious study, Mary Dove reinforces the view that Wycliffe instigated the project begun in the early 1370s in the Queen’s College, Oxford, and that Wycliffe, Nicholas of Hereford, and John Trevisa all played a part in the translation. This concurs with early evidence which became ob- scured in pre-Reformation copies. “Only twenty complete Wycliffite Bibles survive, with evidence of perhaps seventeen more.”¹⁴ The New Testament translation was completed in 1380. The Old Testament appeared in 1382. A second edition of the New Testament was published in 1388.
Apparently the first edition (Earlier Version) was never intended to be a trans- lation in its own right, and translators of the second edition (Later Version) lost control of the first edition during the early 1380s
In 1850 Josiah Forshall and Frederic Madden completed The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, with the Apocryphal Books, in the Earliest English Versions Made from the Latin Vulgate by John Wycliffe and His Followers.¹⁶ They presented two versions of the translation side by side. The Earlier Version is a closely literal rendering of the Latin Bible¹⁷ and the much more numerous copies of the Later Version provide a more id- iomatic revision. “As a result of the Wycliffite enterprise, the biblical canon in its entirety was made accessible for the first time to the reader literate in English but not in Latin.”¹⁸
John Purvey (ca. 1354–1428)
John Purvey served as Wycliffe’s secretary and is credited with making a revision of the Earlier Wycliffite Bible (Plate 42). This revi- sion is commonly known as the Later Wycliffite Version (LV), and the first as the Earlier Wycliffite Version (EV), although the term version does not strictly apply to either. The translator who represents himself as being in charge of the production of the Later Version composed two English prologues: a prologue to the Prophets (prefixed to the book of Isaiah) and a prologue to the Bible as a whole. However, the consensus attributes the latter Prologue to Purvey without evidence. Purvey’s revision replaced many Latinate constructions by native English idiom. It also re- placed the preface of Jerome by an extensive prologue written by Purvey.
According to David Daniell, an English Bible, was under the severest censorship in the country’s history.”¹⁹ Hounding John Wycliffe and the Lollards, Thomas Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury, summoned a synod at Oxford (1408) resulting in The Constitutions of Oxford (1409),²⁰ which forbade anyone to translate, or even read, a vernacular version of the Bible in whole or in part without the approval of his diocesan bishop or of a provincial council.²¹ With the national disruption and political instability accompanying the Wars of the Roses, the net result was a continued weakening of papal influence over the Eng- lish people. In broader form, the first complete English Bible was published, re- vised, and circulated prior to the work of John Hus (ca. 1369–1415) in Bohemia. It was also published before the invention of Johann Gutenberg (ca. 1454), a revolu- tionary development which had a dampening effect on the spread of the Wycliffite translations.


About 1500, the Spanish scholar Cardinal Francesco Ximénes de Cisneros founded—and paid for—the first trilingual university in Spain, devoted to the three ancient biblical languages, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. He assembled scholars at Alcalá de Henares (Complutum in Latin). By July 1517, they had made and set up in print a set of six remarkable large volumes”²² (see discussion in chap. 12). Indeed, the setting was such that a scholarly man was needed to fashion the Hebrew and Greek originals into a fitting Eng- lish idiom, for no mere rendering of the Latin text would suffice to meet the de- mands of the situation.
William Tyndale (ca. 1492–1536) William Tyndale was the man who could do what was needed, and he had the faith and courage to persist whatever the cost. Following unsuccessful attempts to complete his translation in England, and the firm attitude of Henry VIII (1509–1547) against any translation of Scriptures into English, Tyndale sailed to the European continent (1524) and visited Martin Luther (1525). After further difficulties he finally printed the New Testament at Cologne in late February 1526. It was followed by a translation of the Pentateuch at Marburg (1530) and of Jonah in a commentary at Antwerp (1531). The influences of Wycliffe and Luther were evident in Tyndale’s work, and these kept him under constant threat. In addition, these threats were such that Tyndale’s translations had to be smuggled into England. Once they arrived there, copies were purchased by Cuth- bert Tunstall, bishop of London, who had them burned publicly at St. Paul’s Cross. Even Sir Thomas More (1478–1535),²³ humanist Lord Chancellor of England under Henry VIII and author of the Utopia, attacked Tyndale’s translation as belonging to the same “pestilent sect” as did Luther’s German translation.²⁴
“Tyndale’s gift, not only to English speaking New Testament Christians, but to language and literature, secular as well as religious, came from his unique ability as a translator,” writes David Daniell. “He had the technical skills of fluent and accu- rate Greek, Hebrew, Latin and German (and other languages) and the machinery of recent dictionaries and grammars. He had a complete understanding of the com- plex art of rhetoric.”²⁸ While in Germany in 1526, Tyndale translated the whole New Testament into English from the original Greek for the first time. His translation method has come to be known as “dynamic equivalence” rather than “formal
equivalence.”²⁹ In 1534 Tyndale published his revision of Genesis and began work on a revision of the New Testament. Shortly after completing this revision, he was kidnapped in Antwerp and taken to the fortress at Vilvorde in Flanders. There the imprisoned Tyndale began translation of the Apocrypha and continued translating the Old Testament, but was unable to complete it. In August 1536, he was found guilty of heresy, degraded from his priestly office, and turned over to the secular authorities for execution. This was carried out on October 6, when he was strangled and burned alive at the stake. At the time of his execution, Tyndale cried out, “Lord, open the King of Eng- land’s eyes.” Indeed, events in England were working together to bring to pass the translator’s last request. In 1534, Henry VIII became the head of the Church of Eng- land newly separated from the Church of Rome. During the next half century, Eng- land became the most Protestant country in Europe.
Miles Coverdale (1488–1569 Miles Coverdale, Tyndale’s assistant and proof- reader at Antwerp became the key individual in printing the first complete English Bible in 1535. He continued translating those portions of the Bible (including the Apocrypha) Tyndale was unable to complete. This work was barely a revision of Tyndale’s translation, with added insights from the German and Latin translations. It was a handsome folio edition that included the Old and New Testaments and Apocrypha, as did all major English Bibles until the twentieth century (Plates 48-49).
Coverdale introduced chapter summaries and some new expressions into the text of his translation. He also set the precedent of separating the Old Testament from the Apocrypha in those Bibles translated after the Latin Vulgate came into its position of dominance in the Western church. Coverdale’s translation was reprint- ed twice in 1537, again in 1550, and once again in 1553. The Coverdale Diglot (Latin and English) was published in Paris (1538). In its prologue Coverdale wrote of the value of differing translations of the Scriptures.
He wrote: Now for thy part, most gentle reader, take in good worth that I here offer thee with good will, and let this present translation be no prejudice to the other that out of the Greek have been translated afore, or shall be hereafter. For if thou open thine eyes and consider well the gift of the Holy Ghost therein, thou shalt see that one translation declareth, openeth and illustrateth another, and that in many cases one is a plain commentary unto another.³⁰
Thomas Matthew (ca. 1500–1555) Thomas Matthew was the pen name of John Rogers, who was burned alive as the first martyr of the persecutions under Mary Tudor (1553–1558). He too had been an assistant to Tyndale. In 1537 he published another English Bible by combining the Old Testament texts of Tyndale and Coverdale (including for the first time Tyndale’s Old Testament historical books— Joshua through 2 Chronicles³¹—with the 1535 revision of Tyndale’s New Testa- ment.) This “Tyndale-Coverdale Bible” became the basis of all English Bible trans- lations (revisions) to the present. Richard Grafton and Edward Whitchurche of London were the designated printers.³² It was published as a slightly revised edi- tion in 1549. In 1551 a Bible called “Matthew’s” on the title page appeared con- taining Taverner’s New Testament and the 1548 edition of Tyndale’s New Testa- ment (Plates 51-52).
Although John Rogers refused to attach his given name to work done by others, he added copious notes and references and published it using the pen name Thomas Matthew. In addition to the editions of Tyndale and Coverdale, he bor- rowed heavily from the French editions of Lefèvre (1534) and Olivétan (1535). When he published his 1537 edition, he was licensed to do so from Henry VIII. With its re- lease, there were two licensed English Bibles in circulation within a year of Tyn- dale’s execution. His assistants had carried on the work of their martyred asso- ciate, and others would follow in their train.

Different Bibles Back Then

The Great Bible (1539). The notes and prologues to the two major translations of the printed English Bible in circulation in 1539, Coverdale’s and Matthew’s, gave af- front to so many groups in England that Henry VIII was frequently besought to pro- vide a new translation free from interpretations. Thomas Cromwell (ca. 1485–1540), Protestant Lord Chancellor under Henry VIII, was authorized to proceed with such an undertaking. With further approval by Thomas Cranmer (1489–1556), first Protestant archbishop of Canterbury, Miles Coverdale was willing to prepare a new text for it and to use the work of others—Matthew’s Bible (1537)—in preference to his own, published two years earlier.
Under the direction of Coverdale, the Great Bible was offered as a means of eas- ing the tensions stemming from the Bible situation in England. It received its name because of its great size and format, for it was larger than any previous edition and was elaborately decorated. Its title page was a fine woodcut attributed to Hans Holbein that depicts Henry VIII, Cranmer, and Cromwell distributing Bibles to the people who in turn cry, “Vivat rex” (“Long live the king”), and “God save the king” (Plate 53). The Bible contained no dedication and had only simple prefaces.
In addition, the Apocrypha was removed from the remainder of the Old Testa- ment text and placed in an appendix entitled “hagiographa” (holy writings). The situation was extremely awkward since most of the bishops of the church were still Roman Catholic. The Great Bible was “authorized to be read in the churches” in 1538. Nevertheless, its delicate position was threatened by the fact that it was nei- ther a version nor a revision of a version; it was a revision of a revision.
The Geneva Bible (1557, 1560). During the persecutions under Mary Tudor many reformers fled to the Continent for safety. Among those who settled at Geneva were scholars and Bible lovers, like Miles Coverdale and John Knox (ca. 1513–1572). They produced a revision that was to have a great influence on the people of England. In 1557 one of their group, William Whittingham, a brother-in-law to John Calvin, pro- duced a stopgap revision of the New Testament. This was the first time the English New Testament had been divided into verses, although it had been so divided in the 1551 Greek Testament of Stephanus as well as earlier editions in Latin and He- brew. Long prologues were added to the translation, along with chapter summaries and copious marginal notes. Italics were introduced into the translation to indicate where English idiom required words that were not in the original text.
Shortly after the New Testament was published at Geneva, work was begun on a careful revision of the entire Bible. In 1560 the Old Testament and a revision of the New were completed that included the latest textual evidence, and the long and eventful history of the Geneva Bible began (Plate 54). In 1576 a revised edition of the Geneva Bible was published by Laurence Tomson, the secretary to Elizabeth I’s secretary of state, Sir Francis Walsingham. It is noteworthy for introducing the demonstrative pronoun “that” for the Greek definite article 📷 (ho, “the” in Matt. 16:16). In 1598, Francis Junius, Huguenot divine, introduced annotations on the book of Revelation. By 1644 the Geneva Bible had gone through at least 144 edi- tions.
The Geneva Bible was the Bible of William Shakespeare, John Milton, John Bun- yan, the colonists at Jamestown (1606), the Pilgrims (1620), and the Puritans (1630s–1640s). Although its notations were milder than those of Tyndale, they were too Calvinistic and anti-Catholic for either Elizabeth I (1558–1603) or James I (1603–1625). Nevertheless, it was so popular that it withstood the Bishops’ Bible (1568) and the first generation of the so-called Authorized Version (AV, 1611).
The Bishops’ Bible (1568). The Geneva Bible was not sponsored by the estab- lished church, but it quickly became the household Bible of the realm. Its imme- diate success made this new revision of the Great Bible the authorized Bible of the churches. The work was given to a group of scholars including about eight bish- ops, hence the name the Bishops’ Bible. They were to use the Great Bible as the basis of their revision and, while the intention was to make only slight alterations, some of the bishops went beyond their instructions. The revisers were better scholars in Greek than Hebrew, and their work in the New Testament is superior to that in the Old (Plates 55-56).
The Bishops’ Bible was published in London “cum privilegio regiae majestatis,” although the device does not appear on the title page of either the 1568 or 1569 Bishops’ Bible. From the beginning of his reign the first Tudor, Henry VII (1485– 1509), concerned himself with printing and the book trade. He granted “privileges” (privilegio) to protect the work of his royal printer. The Tudors were interested in and controlled the press by issuing licenses, or privileges, to the new printing class that moved into England in the late fifteenth century.³³ Each Tudor monarch named a royal printer at the beginning of his or her reign. With Henry VIII’s break with Rome in 1538, and the rise to power of Thomas Cromwell, cum privilegio ad imprimendum solum (with exclusive license to imprint) became widespread by Henrician proclamation (16 November 1538) that called for licensing of all printed works. “The proclamation’s clear end was to institute pre-print censorship of scrip- ture, and other religious texts and to prevent the printing of objectionable texts … by sundry strange persons called Anabaptists and Sacramentaries.”
The Bishops’ Bible New Testament portion was published on thicker paper than the Old Testament in order to withstand greater wear. It contained two prefaces, Cranmer’s and one by Matthew Parker, then archbishop of Canterbury. Following the Great Bible, it had few marginal notes. The Convocation of 1571 ordered that copies be placed throughout the land, in the houses of every bishop and arch- bishop, and in each cathedral and every church if possible. From 1568 to 1611 this compromise translation was generally found in the churches. Nevertheless, the Geneva Bible had already won over the households of the land. Its insurmountable disadvantage, however, did not keep the Bishops’ Bible from being the basis for the famous 1611 revision.
The Rheims-Douay (Douai-Rheims, Douay-Rheims) Bible (1582, 1609) Douay- Rheims-Challoner Bible (1749–1750)
In 1568 a group of Roman Catholic exiles from England founded the English Col- lege at Douay in Flanders. They sought to train priests and others who would pre- serve their Catholic faith. William Allen (1532–1594), Oxford canon during Mary Tu- dor’s reign, led in the founding of this college and in its move to Rheims, France, when political troubles arose in 1578. At Rheims the English College came under the direction of another Oxford scholar, Richard Bristow (1538–1581), who had gone to Douay in 1569. During this time Allen was called to Rome where he founded an- other English College and was later made cardinal. In 1593 the English College at Rheims returned to Douay.
The Roman hierarchy desired an English translation of the Latin Vulgate, and Allen expressed this wish in a letter to a professor at the college in Douay in 1578. Gregory Martin (d. 1582), still another Oxford scholar, undertook the task. Martin had received his M.A. in 1564. He then renounced his Protestantism and went to Douay to study. In 1570 he became lecturer in Hebrew and Holy Scripture, and pro- ceeded with his translation of the Old Testament at the rate of about two chapters a day until his death in 1582. Just before his death, the New Testament was published with many notations. These notes were the work of Bristow and Allen. They were joined in their efforts by another Protestant turned Catholic, William Reynolds, al- though his role in the task is not fully known.
While the Rheims New Testament translation (1582) was designed to counteract the existing English translations of the Protestants (Plate 57), it had some serious limitations. It was a poor rendition of the text into English and was based on still another translation (the Latin Vulgate) rather than the original language of the New Testament. The translators guarded themselves “against the idea that the Scrip- tures should always be in our mother tongue, or that they ought, or were ordained by God, to be read indifferently by all.” Not only that, the translators made no se- cret that they were making a polemic work, as their copious notes indicate. The New Testament was republished in 1600, 1621, and 1633.
In the meantime, the Old Testament, actually translated before the New, was de- layed until 1609, as several new editions of the Vulgate text were published (Plate 58). A second edition was released in 1635. The actual translation was begun by Martin and probably completed by Allen and Bristow, with notes apparently furnished by Thomas Worthington, although the details are so obscure that these matters cannot be determined with certainty. It was based on the unofficial Louvain Vulgate text (1547), edited by Henten, but conformed to the Sixtene-Clementine text of 1592. The translation itself was uniform throughout, including the over-literal use of Latinisms. The annotations were basically designed to bring the interpre- tation of the text into harmony with the decrees of the Council of Trent (1546– 1563). “The dogmatic intentions of the translators found expression in the preface and in the notes that accompany the text. Annotations in the form of marginalia and notes at the end of chapters rival those of the Geneva Bible in profuseness and exceed them in polemic nature.”³⁴
The Rheims New Testament was in circulation long enough to have an impor- tant influence on the English Bible translators of 1611. The Douay Old Testament translation, however, was not published in time to influence those translators. With a Protestant queen on the throne and a Protestant king as her successor, the Douay-Rheims Bible had little possibility of competing with or replacing the Protes- tant translations already available. The scarcity of reprints of the Douay-Rheims Bible indicates that Catholics had “no fear that the few available copies would be found in the hand of every husbandman.” After 1635 several reprints were made, but the second revised edition did not appear until 1749–1750, and the third in 1752, when Richard Challoner, bishop of London, removed its literalistic Latinisms and united the Old and New Testaments and Apocrypha in five volumes (Plate 60).
The King James Bible (1611)
In January 1604 James I was summoned to the Hampton Court Conference in re- sponse to the Millenary Petition, which he received while on his way from Edin- burgh to London following the death of Elizabeth I. Nearly one thousand Puritan leaders had signed a list of grievances against the church of England, and James desired to be peacemaker in his new realm and placed himself above all religious parties. He treated the Puritans with rudeness at the conference until John Reynolds, Puritan President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, raised the question of having an authorized version of the Bible for all parties within the church. The king expressed his support for the translation because it would help him to be rid of the two most popular translations and raise his esteem in the eyes of his sub- jects. A committee was named, following the example of the Geneva Bible, which King James regarded as the worst of all existing translations. It and the Bishops’ Bible were the Bibles he hoped to replace in the church.
Six companies of translators were chosen: two at Cambridge to revise 1 Chron- icles through Ecclesiastes and the Apocrypha; two at Oxford to revise Isaiah through Malachi, the Gospels, Acts, and the Apocalypse; and two at Westminster to revise Genesis through 2 Kings and Romans through Jude. Only forty-seven of the fifty-four men chosen actually worked on this revision of the Bishops’ Bible. They were instructed to follow the text of the Bishops’ Bible unless they found that the translations of Tyndale, Matthew, Coverdale, Whitchurche,³⁵ and Geneva more closely agreed with the original text. That original text was based on few if any of the superior texts of the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries, since it followed the 1516 and 1522 editions of Erasmus’s Greek text, including his interpolation of 1 John 5:7. Using the Bishops’ Bible as its basis meant that many old ecclesiastical words would be retained in the new revision. In an unofficial way, the recent publication of the Rheims Bible would influence the reintroduction of many Latinisms into the text. The Douay Old Testament was not published until 1609 (see previous discus- sion).
Few marginal notes were affixed to the new revision, and the so-called Autho- rized Version was never actually authorized, nor was it actually a version. It was a revision “Appointed to be read in Churches.” In recent years it has come to be known as the King James Bible (KJB; see Plate 59 for title page).³⁶ It replaced the Bishops’ Bible in the churches because no editions of it were published after 1606. Being cast in the same format as the Geneva Bible gave the 1611 publication added influence, as did its use of precise expression. In the long run the grandeur of its translation was able to successfully compete with and overpower the influence of the Geneva Bible of the Puritans, its chief rival. Three editions of the new trans- lation appeared in 1611. Further editions were published in 1612, and its popularity continued to call forth new printings.
During the reign of Charles I (1625–1649), the Long Parliament established a commission to consider either revising the Authorized Version or producing a new translation altogether. “Over the centuries the three most important publishers of the KJV (KJB)³⁷ have been the king’s (or queen’s) printer, Cambridge University Press, and Oxford University Press…. The Cinderella Press is the king’s printer.”³⁸ Notable for careful editorial work were the Cambridge revisions of 1629 and 1638, with other minor revisions in 1653 and 1701. More comprehensive corrections were completed by F. S. Parris of Cambridge (1762).
In 1769 Dr. Benjamin Blayney of Oxford produced what has come to be the stan- dard edition of the King James Bible. His revisions varied in about 75,000 details from the text of the 1611 edition.
Slight changes have continued to appear in the text. A revision edited for the Syndics of the [Cambridge] University Press by F. H. A. Scrivener, The Cambridge Paragraph Bible (1873), included the Apocrypha but failed to achieve popular ap- peal. It was republished and edited by David Norton to become The New Cam- bridge Paragraph Bible: with the Apocrypha, King James Version (2005). The current standard text of the Paragraph Bible departs from the 1611 text approximately 11,000 times, yet is still “the most faithful presentation of the King James Bible.”³⁹ As with its counterparts, the Paragraph Bible title page says it is “translated out of the original tongues and with former translations diligently compared and revised by His Majesty’s Special Commandment. Appointed to be read in Churches. Cum privilegio.”
Weaknesses of the King James according to scholars
Several weaknesses of the King James made more recent revisions necessary.
1. The King James Version rests on an inadequate textual base. This is especially true with reference to the Greek text for the New Testament. The text underlying the King James was essentially a medieval text that contained a number of scribal mistakes that had accumulated through the years. Most of these textual variations were small in significance and did not materially affect the Bible message, but others deserved no place in the Holy Scriptures. An example of this, as we have seen, is 1 John 5:7 (see chapter 9). The revisers of 1611 are not at fault here. They simply did not have at their disposal the many manuscripts that are now known. It is important to remember that three of the most valuable witnesses on the New Testament text (the Vatican, the Sinaitic, and the Alexandrian Manuscripts) were not available when the King James translation was made. Nor were many other important manuscripts accessible to the translators, including the very early papyrus documents. All of this means the King James is a translation of an inferior Greek text, and therefore a revision of it based on earlier manuscripts was imperative.
2. The King James Version contains many archaic words whose meanings are either obscure or misleading. Some obsolete expressions are still intelligible, although they are extremely cumbersome and distracting to the modern reader: “howbeit,” “holden,” “peradventure,” “because that,” “for that,” “thee,” “thou,” “thy,” “thine,” and many others. At other times, however, the King James uses words that in the seventeenth century meant something different than they do today. The word “allege” was used for “prove,” “communicate” for “share,” “suffer” for “allow,” “allow” for “approve,” “let” for “hinder,” “prevent” for “precede,” “conversation” for “conduct,” and so forth. Such words are grossly misleading today.
Much of the grammar of the King James Version is not in current usage. “Which” was characteristically employed for “who”; thus in Philippians 4:13 the King James reads, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Likewise “his” was used for “its”; so the King James reads, “salt has lost his savour” (Matt. 5:13). “Cherubims” is found in Hebrews 9:5 instead of the correct plural form, “cherubim.”
3. The King James Version includes errors of translation. In the seventeenth century Greek and Hebrew had only recently become subjects of serious study in many universities of Western Europe. At times, therefore, the translators were confronted with puzzling problems. Many of these problems were solved with skill, but others were not solved at all. For example, Mark 6:20 of the King James says that Herod put John the Baptist in prison and “observed him,” but what is meant is that he “kept him safe.” “Abstain from all appearance of evil” is the way the King James treats 1 Thessalonians 5:22. A more correct rendering would be, “Abstain from every form of evil.”
The King James translation also inaccurately represented the text by creating distinctions in English that are not found in the Greek. Who would know that “Areopagus” and “Mars’ Hill” (Acts 17:19, 22) are different renderings of the same Greek word? The King James in Matthew 25:46 reads, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal,” as though in the Greek text a distinction is made between “everlasting” and “eternal.” The King James refers to “Jeremiah” (Matt. 27:9), “Jeremias” (Matt. 16:14), and “Jeremy” (Matt 2:14), so it is possible for one to suppose that there were several Old Testament prophets with similar names instead of one “Jeremiah.” On other occasions the King James fails to preserve the distinctions present in the Greek text. One of the best examples of this is the persistent rendering of “hell” for both “Hades” and “Gehenna.” In this way “death” and “hell” are made to be thrown into “the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:14), but a more correct translation would substitute “Hades” for “hell.”

Modern English Bible Translations

Revised Version, RV, English Revised Version, ERV (1881, 1885, 1895)
With advances in biblical scholarship during the nineteenth century, including the accumulation of earlier and better manuscripts, archaeological discoveries in the ancient world as a whole, and changes in English society and its language, the revision of the King James Bible on a more “official” basis was becoming manda- tory. Before this could be accomplished, however, a group of outstanding scholars published The Variorum Edition of the New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (1880). The editors of this work, R. L. Clark, Alfred Goodwin, and W. Sanday, made this revision at “his majesty’s special command.” Their task was to revise the King James Bible in light of the various readings from the best textual authorities. As a result, The Variorum Bible followed the tradition of Tyndale, Coverdale, Great, Geneva, Bishops’, and the various editions of the KJB. It also prepared the way for an English Revised Version (ERV), the Revised Version (RV).
The widespread desire for a full-fledged revision of the Authorized Bible (AV) re- sulted in a convocation of the Province of Canterbury in 1870. Samuel Wilberforce, bishop of Winchester, proposed to revise the New Testament where Greek texts re- vealed inaccurate or incorrect translations in the King James text. Bishop Ollivant enlarged the motion to include the Old Testament and Hebrew texts. As a result, two companies were appointed. Originally there were twenty-four members in each company, but they were later enlarged to include some sixty-five revisers from var- ious denominations. They began their work in 1871, and in 1872 a group of Amer- ican scholars joined the enterprise in an advisory capacity. Oxford and Cambridge University presses absorbed the costs of the project with the provision that they had exclusive copyright privileges to the finished product. Over three million copies of the revision were sold in the United States and Great Britain in less than a year. The Revised Version (RV) New Testament was released in 1881, the Old Testament in 1885, and the Apocrypha in 1895 (1898 in the United States without the Apocrypha), and the entire Revised Version Bible was published in 1898. While the text of the revision was much more accurate than the KJB, it would take several generations for acceptance of the altered words and rhythms. Oxford University Press published The Interlinear Bible: The Authorized Version and The Revised Version, together with the marginal notes of both versions and central references (1898).
American Standard Version, ASV (1901)
Some of the renderings of the English Revised Bible (ERV, RV) were not completely favored by the American revision committee, but they had agreed to give for four- teen years “no sanction to the publication of any other editions of the Revised Ver- sion than those issued by the University Presses of England.” In 1901 the American Standard Edition of the Revised Version (ASV) was published, indicating there had been some unauthorized or nonstandard editions published previously. Further revisions were made by the American committee, such as changing the names Lord to Jehovah and Holy Ghost to Holy Spirit. Paragraph structures were revised and shortened, and short page headings were added. Slowly this ASV won acceptance in the United States and even began to be imported into Great Britain. Unlike the RV, the ASV omits the Apocrypha, and an appendix indicates differences between the RV and ASV translations at the end of the Old Testament.
According to the preface, the ASV incorporates a number of revisions originally adopted by the RV revisers but later rejected by them; they return numerous read- ings to agree with the AV; they sometimes returned their readings to the RV; and sometimes went beyond the literalness demanded by their appendix as a matter of consistency, English idiom, accuracy, marginal treatment of readings from ancient sources, marginal parallel and illustrative passages, as well as paragraph division and punctuation. Yet another appendix at the close of the New Testament presents a “list of Readings and Renderings which appear in the Revised Version New Testa- ment of 1881 in place of those preferred by the American New Testament Revision Company.”
The ASV committee proposed it work under four heads: Text, Translation, Lan- guage, and Marginal Notes. For the text, the ASV was served by members from dif- ferent schools of criticism, who finally adopted a rule that differences between the text underlying the AV and the RV would retain the AV rendering unless a change was decided by two-thirds majority; translation was governed by “revision” not “re- translation”; language expression was governed, as far as possible, in the language of the AV or the versions preceding it; significant developments were introduced into marginal notes.
Like its English counterpart, the ASV lacks the beauty of the KJB, but its more accurate readings have made it quite acceptable to teachers and students of the Bible. In 1929 its copyright passed to the International Council of Religious Educa- tion and they revised the text again. Like the earlier translations building on the foundation laid by William Tyndale, the ASV was the work of many hands and sev- eral generations. “The RV and ASV, though appreciated for their scholarly improve- ments, lacked the rhythms and cadences of the AV/KJV and were deemed too excessively literal. And all the others were basically private or personal translations intended for personal use.” (See chap. 20 discussion of eighteenth- to twentieth- century translations.)
Revised Standard Version (RSV, 1952, 1957, 1977)
Half a century after the English Revision (ERV, RV) of the KJB was published, a new era in the history of English Bible translation began with the RSV, a Bible produced “with widespread denominational support and not just by keen individuals.”¹⁴ The International Council of Religious Education obtained the copyright for the ASV and expressed its desire to utilize the great advances in recent biblical scholarship (see chaps. 12 and 13). The Westcott-Hort text of the New Testament (see chap. 14) had been sharply modified as a result of the papyrus and new manuscript discov- eries. In addition, ongoing changes in English literary style and taste made a new revision necessary. In 1937 the International Council authorized a committee to proceed with such a revision. The revision committee consisted of twenty-two out- standing scholars who were to follow the meaning of the American Standard Ver- sion unless two-thirds of the committee agreed to change the reading. Among the guidelines were to use simpler and more current forms of pronouns except in reference to God and a more direct word order.
Delayed by World War II (1939–1945), the New Testament did not appear until 1946; the Old Testament was published in 1952
In contrast to the ASV, the RSV was accused of blurring traditional messianic passages, such as the substitution of “young woman” for “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14. Criticism of the New Testament was not so sharp, although it was sharp enough. All the criticism notwithstanding, the RSV provided the English-speaking church with an up-to-date revision of the Bible based on the “critical text” (see chap. 14). All that was changed, however, with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) in the caves at Qumran (1947) and Documents in the Judean Desert (DJD) in the 1950s (see chaps. 12 and 13). Among other things, these discoveries opened the door to reevaluation of the underlying texts of Scripture and divergent translations of those texts illustrated in the following discussion.
The New American Standard Bible (NASB, 1963–1977, UPDATE 1995)
Beginning in 1959, still another revision of the ASV was undertaken by the Lockman Foundation in an attempt to revive as well as revise the ASV. Its translation com- mittee set forth its fourfold purpose in the preface accompanying the New Testa- ment (1963). The entire New American Standard Bible (NASB, 1971) was published using the same twofold purpose: “to adhere as closely as possible to the original languages of the Holy Scriptures, and to make the translation in a fluent and read- able style according to current English usage.” Their fourfold aim sought to be true to the original Hebrew and Greek texts, be grammatically correct, be under- standable to the masses, and give proper place to the Lord Jesus Christ. The NASB retained the ASV paragraph structure but reintroduced a single-column format used by F. H. A. Scrivener, The Cambridge Paragraph Bible (1879), and David Nor- ton, The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible (2005).
Although NASB translators attempted to renew the American Standard Version, their translation does not equal the literary work of other standard versions. It is, however, an accurate and faithful heir of the ASV. The Old Testament translation utilizes Rudolf Kittel’s Biblia Hebraica, as well as cognate languages and the Dead Sea Scrolls (see chap. 12). Recent developments in New Testament textual crit- icism enabled the translation committee to employ the latest Nestle–Aland (NA26) Greek text (see chap. 12). The editorial board continued to function after the NASB was published. Reviews and evaluations were sought and carefully considered to improve renderings of contemporary English grammar and terminology in the “up- date” edition (1995).
New International Version, NIV (1973, 1978, 1984) The NIV Study Bible, NIVSB (1985) New International Version Inclusive, NIVI (1997) Today’s New International Version, TNIV (2002, 2005, 2011)
Another independent translation, The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV), was made under the sponsorship of the New York Bible Society. The New Testa- ment portion was released in 1973, and the Old Testament in 1976. The third and final edition was published in 1979. For a generation this was the most popular English Bible.
As early as 1953, two committees had formed to consider how an evangelical edi- tion of the RSV might be suited for evangelistic work. Soon inquiries were made about the proposed project, one by the Christian Reformed Church (1956) and the other by the National Association of Evangelicals (1957). A joint committee of the two groups formed in 1961. In 1966 the RSV Committee denied an evangelical edi- tion of the RSV, although a Catholic edition appeared that same year.¹⁶ The Berke- ley Version (see below) and the still incomplete NASB were deemed unsuitable. When the New York Bible Society moved to Colorado Springs and was renamed the International Bible Society (IBS), it chose to begin its own translation (1965). The result was the NIV New Testament, published in 1973. The complete NIV ap- peared in 1978 and was revised in 1983.
The NIV reverted to the two-column paragraph format with a center column of cross-references. According to the preface, the NIV “is a completely new trans- lation of the Holy Bible made by over a hundred scholars working directly from the best available Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts…. International and trans denomi- national scholars … safeguard the translation from sectarian bias…. Translators were united in their commitment to the authority and infallibility of the Bible as God’s Word in written form.” Concern for clear and natural English—that the NIV should be idiomatic but not idiosyncratic, contemporary but not dated—motivated translators and consultants. Although not in the Tyndale/KJV style, the NIV is not far removed from it as its contemporary, the God News Bible (GNB), the NIV translators have declared it to be a translation that strives for a balance between “Accuracy, Beauty, Clarity and Dignity.”¹⁷
TNIV (2002)
In 2002 the IBS announced publication of Today’s New International Version, TNIV, complete with “gender-accurate” language. The New Testament was released in 2002, and the first edition of A Reader’s Greek New Testament (2002) was pub- lished to support its eclectically reconstructed text (see previous discussion). Three specific changes in terminology illustrate sensitive issues causing difficulties for the TNIV. One is the frequent substitution of “Messiah” for “Christ” in the Gospels and Acts, although “Christ” is retained in the Epistles. Another is the vari- ety of terms used as substitutions for the word “saints” in the New Testament. The third issue is the removal of nearly all vocative O’s and the elimination of most in- stances of the generic use of masculine nouns and pronouns; the so-called sin- gular “they/their/them” and “anyone” or “everyone” or some other equivalent is generally used as well.¹⁹ “In places, the TNIV seems to move slightly to the direc- tion of a form-driven philosophy: the translation is often tighter. But elsewhere, when compared to the NIV, it moves in a meaning-driven direction,” notes Dewey.²⁰


Literal Translation

Also referred to as a word-for-word translation, the goal of this type of translation is to stay as close as possible to the words and phrases used in the original language. Where possible, this translation will attempt to find a single English word to use for each Hebrew or Greek word in the original (earliest available) manuscripts. This kind of translation keeps the historical distance at a minimum, and it keeps the translator’s opinion at a minimum.
However, these kinds of translations can sometimes be more difficult to read. Often a word-for-word translation from one language to another (even among modern languages) is not as smooth and fails to communicate fuller concepts and ideas where there is no exact one-for-one exchange of terminology. When you ask someone who is bilingual with English as a second language what a certain term means, you’ll often find that they have to explain the idea due to the lack of an accurate English word to describe the concept.
Examples of this type include King James Version (KJV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), and the English Standard Version (ESV).

Dynamic Equivalent

Also referred to as a thought-for-thought translation, the goal of this type of translation is to find precise equivalents for words, idioms, and grammatical constructions from the original languages. It attempts to keep historical and factual matters intact while updating language, grammar, and style to improve the communication of ideas into something easier to read and understand by the modern reader.
While improving the communication of ideas and thoughts from the Biblical texts, it also increases the historical distance a bit and allows more room for the opinion of the translator to come through. In order to accommodate for this, we tend to see translation committees with a variety of theological backgrounds and a broad scope of experience come together in order to minimize opinion in the best of these types of translations.
Examples of this type of translation include the New International Version (NIV), the New Living Translation (NLT), and the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

Free Translation

Also referred to as a paraphrase, the goal of this type of translation is to communicate ideas from one language to another without trying to maintain the exact structure and word use. This form of translation intentionally increases the historical distance as a way to bring the ideas closer to us as it relates to cultural relevance. They tend to be among the easiest translations to read and understand.
The downside of this type of translation is also an increase in historical distance. This increase means there is greater opportunity for the translator’s opinion to creep in and present factual and historical differences from the original intent. The best translations of this type still take a great amount of care and work hard to account for this linguistic and cultural gap by applying solid exegetical and hermeneutical principles when communicating the ideas of the scriptures.
Examples of this type of translation include the Phillips Version, The Living Bible (LB), and The Message (MSG).

Which Translation is the “Right” Translation?

Considering the strengths and weaknesses of each type of Bible translations, I believe that the right one is… all of them! Each adds its own value to understanding the original, plain meaning of the Biblical texts. That’s why when we link to Scripture passages at, we usually link to a parallel copy with a literal (usually ESV or NASB), a dynamic equivalent (usually NIV), and a free (usually The Message), so the passage can be read side-by-side. This usually paints a clear picture of the ideas being presented.
The key here is that you fully understand the strengths and limitations of whichever translation you are reading. There are some (like the TNIV) which have come under a great deal of fire in recent years because of how it has taken liberty with things like changing some terms into gender-neutral references (i.e. “son” into “child”). These types of changes can change the meaning, resulting in a more free translation.
It’s not likely that I would ever build a theological belief based on the reading of a passage in The Message. It will, however, improve my understanding of a passage that I’m studying, and/or add value in a more relaxed, devotional reading. When looking for theological understanding, it’s better to lean on a good literal translation, with the help of a good dynamic equivalent for greater depth of concepts.
We see a great deal of debate today about which of the Bible translations is the right one. Some are staunch KJV-only advocates. Others may even opt only for an NIV for reading and study. Each side of the argument fights hard to defend their preferred style of translation.
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