Wednesday, January 27, 2010

History of the English Bible

• 4th century – Jerome translates Greek manuscripts into the Latin Vulgate; this becomes the standard for centuries.

• 10th century – Earliest known Anglo-Saxon Bible authorized by King Alfred; only fragments now exist.

• 14th century – First translations into English by anonymous translators. At least two translations done by followers of John Wycliffe (1330-1384); not widely distributed.

• 1530s – William Tyndale (1494-1536) uses Greek, Latin, and Luther’s German bibles to make a comprehensive English translation; Tyndale is arrested and executed by Henry VIII to prove his loyalty to Rome.

• 1539 – “Great Bible” based on works by Miles Coverdale; the translation is authorized by Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556), Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VIII. Cranmer wrote the first Book of Common Prayer and authorized this English Bible to go with it.

• 1542 – Bishop Stephen Gardiner (1497-1555), heads reaction against Cranmer and the “Great Bible,” and restores the Latin Vulgate during Mary Tudor’s short reign (“Bloody Mary”); Cranmer burned at the stake.

• 1560 – “Geneva Bible” dedicated to Queen Elizabeth I during the return to Cranmer’s Protestant Book of Common Prayer.

• 1611 “Authorized Version” (AV) English translation by a committee of Oxford scholars; based largely on Tyndale’s Bible; The committee was “authorized” by King James, hence the bible’s popular name “King James Version.” This is the accepted English translation for generations.

• 1881-1885 – Updated “Authorized Version” with corrected spellings and changes in English usage. Most 20th century “King James” bibles are really this 19th century bible.

• 1901 – “American Standard” (AS) first effort at a completely new English translation since the 17th century. The American Standard, however, preserves much of the difficult Elizabethan language and incomprehensibility.

• 1946-1957 – “Revised Standard” (RSV) contemporary English translation word-for-word from Hebrew and Greek. Still considered by biblical scholars as the most accurate general translation.

• 1989 – New Revised Standard (NRSV) updated contemporary translation and is the version read in worship services in most English-speaking Protestant and Catholic churches; phrase-for-phrase translation, and is not considered as reliable for scholarship as the RSV.

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