There are many translations available today for use by the modern Bible reader. Some seek to stay close to the original words and sentence structure, others are more concerned with keeping the idiom and general force and meaning of the original. They range from the majestic language of the beloved King James version, to the quirky modern prose of ‘The Message’.
Most versions have some features which can be helpful to the Bible Scholar, but a basic understanding of the differences can be helpful.
For serious study an accepted translation is recommended, the New King James or New American Standard being some of the most accurate modern translations.
Students are recommended to build a library of translations to which they can refer, however, as each can help to aid our understanding of a particular passage. We will consider this in more detail in the next session when we talk about methods of study.
The Overwhelming Preciousness of the Scriptures
We will not here go into minute detail concerning the formation of the Scriptures in the English tongue. However, we do want to stress that many men gave their lives in order that we today could enjoy the scriptures in our mother tongue.
Great scholars like Wycliffe and Tyndale particularly shine out among the pioneers of Bible translation, even, as they were, under penalty of jail or death for their efforts. Wycliffe, heralded today as the forerunner of the Reformation, was the first to produce a version of the entire New Testament in the English tongue. William Tyndale was responsible for the first printed New Testament, translated directly from the Greek. In 1535, Coverdale, who worked closely with Tyndale, then published the first full Bible in English.
Other versions followed before the publication of the Authorised King James Version, in 1611. This was distinguished from earlier printed versions in that a committee of devout scholars, as opposed to individuals, produced it. The King James has become one of the most loved and reproduced books in the history of mankind, and set a standard that all others have either reached for or built upon.
We here present in diagram the history of these first English translations. In the next session we will list some of the modern English translations, which have followed.