Versions / Translations


Early Christians following the example of Jesus and the apostles, accepted the Old Testament writings as inspired and authoritative scripture. They used the Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament. Latin translations of this became available late in the second century. Other works such as the 'Wisdom of Solomon', and 'Ecclesiasticus' were also used at times. Later, Christian congregations began to appreciate the writings of Paul, and the other apostles. The first complete 'gospels' or life of Jesus didn't appear until around 60 A.D., but collections of sermons and writings were partly available some time before this. After the 'canonization' of the Bible as we know it (see the Old Testament and New Testament sections for more information) were formed, the Bible had taken shape. There are no original manuscripts of any of the books of the Bible in existance today. Many of the handwritten texts in Greek however are available from these early times. The earliest complete manuscript of the New Testament, is the Codex Sinaiticus which dates from about the fourth century. Less complete manuscripts date as far back as the late second century or about 130 A.D.. There are more copies of scripture and manuscripts available from the earliest times for the Bible than any other ancient writings. From the many numerous manuscripts available, scholars try to achieve the most complete and accurate wording of the books of the Bible into modern languages. The earliest translations of the New Testament were the Syriac, Latin, and Coptic versions. These translations were not as good as some more modern translations since the translators did not appear to have a good command of the original languages, such as Greek.

Throughout the Middle Ages, the Bible was known almost exclusively in Latin known as the Vulgate. The Jews were the first to print the Old Testament in Hebrew (the original language) in 1488. About 1514, the Greek text of the New Testament was printed, although it was not widely released. The first widely released Greek New Testament was printed by Froben with the text work completed by Erasmus about 1516. This became known as Erasmus' New Testament and underwent many improvements and editions. Meanwhile, the Latin version known as the Vulgate continued and was confirmed by the Council on Trent in 1546, although it continued to have revisions and improvements to accuracy.

With the invention of printing, the circulation of the Bible expanded rapidly. With the Reformation, the wish to have the Bible available in people's own language became stronger. One such early work was the 'Luther Bible' written in German. The 'Reformers' did not accept the Apocrypha as scripture and did not include it in their versions of the Bible. The first French Bible appeared about 1523 and at first only contained the New Testament, but was followed a few years later by the Old Testament.

The pioneer of the English Bible is William Tyndale who published the New Testament in 1525. Complete Bibles appeared as early as 1535 such as Miles Coverdale's edition. Thomas Cromwell had the Matthew Bible another English version of the time revised by Coverdale to become the Great Bible in 1539. It is interesting to note that about 90 percent of Tyndale's original translation made it into the King James Version that we know today. King James had sponsored a new translation of the Bible at request of the Puritans in 1604. It appeared in 1611, but apparently drew heavily on previous translations.

Today there are many translations, each claiming a special merit to accuracy to the original Greek, or wording to make it more understandable to an intended audience. Frequently it is necessary to look at multiple translations and versions of particular passages to establish the true meaning. Most all the modern translations publishers have sites on Internet which may be explored. A great site to compare passages is the WWW Bible Gateway.