The Bible we use is in two parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament was written in the Hebrew language and the New Testament in Greek.
No original manuscript has come down to us from the days of the apostles and prophets. The earliest complete translation of the Bible into English was completed in 1382 by English Bible scholar, John Wycliffe. Other English scholars continued to make improved English translations during the next centuries until in 1611 the King James Version, sometimes called the Authorized Version of the Bible, was published. This translation became immensely popular with Bible readers, and continues to be a great favorite to this day.
The translators in 1611 had fewer than 20 main manuscripts from which to work, some in Hebrew and Greek, some in Latin or Syriac or other languages which in turn had been translated from the original languages.
No original copy has come down to us from the earliest Bible writers. The copies we have in the original languages are copies of copies of copies. Every copy had to be made by hand, and in making these copies, sometimes mistakes were made. The one copying might skip a line, or copy a line twice or misread a blurred passage. Since these early manuscripts didn't perfectly agree, the translators needed to compare them and decide on the most likely original reading of the text.
One of the earliest solutions to this problem was called the Received Text, often called the Textus Receptus. It was published in 1520 with the scholar Erasmus as its editor. Through the years, as more manuscripts were discovered, the Textus Receptus went through a number of revisions. In the succeeding centuries since the King James Bible was translated in 1611, thousands of Bible manuscripts have been discovered. Some of these were older by centuries than the ones available for early Bible translations.
This makes it possible for us to better understand some Bible verses whose meanings were not clear when the King James Version was translated. These new discoveries made it necessary to revise the texts again and again.
Today many new English translations of the Bible are available to us which use more modern speech than that of the King James Version. We have the New English Bible, the Revised Standard Version, the Jerusalem Bible, the New International Version, and many others. In addition to the translations are modern English paraphrases of the Bible.
The most popular paraphrase today is the Living Bible prepared and published by Dr. Kenneth Taylor. Another more recent popular paraphrase of portions of the Bible is called The Message, by Dr. Eugene Peterson. A paraphrase is not strictly a translation, but a free reading that is easier for the average reader to understand.
How can you decide which version is best for you? For easy reading you may want to choose a paraphrase like the Living Bible or The Message. If you want to more seriously study you may want to choose your New International Version. For comparison and accuracy in study, check your Revised Standard Version. If you wish to memorize favorite passages, choose the King James Version. It was translated during the flowering of the English language, and you will rejoice in its majestic cadences.
What is the Apocrypha?
Copyright © 2012. Written by Bob Edwards, Malibu, CA.