The Uniquely, Authentic, and Inspired Word of God - Part IV

Jan 2012

  It was John Wycliffe who published the first complete Bible in English in 1382.  Alfric of Bath had only produced an English translation of the Gospels in A.D. 1000.  Unfortunately the Roman Catholic Church condemned Wycliffe’s work and burned many of the handwritten copies leaving only 150 surviving copies, but only one is complete.

William Tyndale was successful in printing an English translation of the New Testament at Cologne, Germany in 1525.  Due to his close friendship with Martin Luther, Roman authorities attempted to halt the project.  Tyndale had to flee and sadly British agents captured him in Belgium, strangled him, and burned his body at the stake.

1539 – “THE GREAT BIBLE”: 
King Henry the VIII provided support in 1535 to Englishman Miles Coverdale to publish an English translation of the whole Bible in the city of Zurich.  Many of Coverdale’s passages supported Angelican Catholic doctrine and undermined the use of the Latin Vulgate.  It was in 1539 when Coverdale completed his work on what would be called “The Great Bible”.  The huge Bible (in size) was prepared to incorporate the best of Tyndale and other English translators, as well as insights from Greek and Hebrew manuscripts.  The British government ordered clergy to display the book in churches throughout the land.  The result of this effort stirred popular interest in the Scriptures. 

Mary I, the daughter of King Henry VIII, acceded to the throne and the antipapal laws of her father were repealed.  She banned the use of all English Bibles in favor of Latin ones.  Coverdale and other Bible translators fled to Geneva, Switzerland.

William Whittingham of Geneva organized several of these Scholars to begin work on a New English Bible, which they published in 1560.  It was the first Bible to divide the Scriptures into verses.  This became known as the Geneva Bible.  Their translation was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth I who had taken the throne of England in 1558.

When King James VI of Scotland became king, Dr. Reynolds proposed a New English translation of the Bible be issued in honor of the King for his efforts to bring peace between hostile religious factions.  For the Old Testament, they relied on the Textus Receptus, ben Hayyim’s edition of the ben Ashur text.  For the New Testament, they relied upon the Greek text of Erasmus and a bilingual Greek-and-Latin text of the Sixth Century found by Beza.  The translators followed chapter divisions by Archbishop Stephen Langton in 1551 and verse divisions by Robert Estinne.  The Bible was published in 1611 and became known as the Authorized Version.  It was revised in 1615, 1629, 1638, and in 1762.  In 1701 Bishop William Lloyd published a King James Version with notes in the margins.  He also added Archbishop James Ussher’s Chronology that dated creation at 4004 B.C.

The 1762 version is what most people know as the King James Version (KJV).

The result of new manuscript discoveries in the Nineteenth Century and improved knowledge of Hebrew words and grammar precipitated the work on the Revised Version, (RV) and the American Standard Version (ASV).  Both of these translations attempted to maintain the dignity of the language that had become the hallmark of the KJV.  They also sought to exclude obsolete words and usages left over from the Tudor speech of the KJV.

Two committees were headed up by Bishop Harold Browne and Bishop C.J. Ellicott, both respected Angelican leaders, in the 1870’s to revise the KJV.  In 1872 they were joined by an American committee.  The public in both the USA and England enthusiastically greeted the New Testament Revised Version at its completion in 1881.  The entire Bible was issued in 1885.  The RV had a reputation of being oriented toward the British spelling and figures of speech and lost appeal in the USA.

The American committee for the RV bonded together to produce their own version of the KJV.  American expressions were substituted for British sayings.  The committee used a word for word translation of the Greek and Hebrew wherever possible.  The project was headed by J. Henry Thayer and was published in 1901.

In an attempt to eliminate archaic expressions used in the KJV, that made it difficult to read, Thomas Nelson published the New King James Version (NKJV) based on the 1894 edition of the Textus Receptus.  The publisher accomplished preserving the integrity of the text.

The Nineteenth Century brought forth its vigor towards Bible translations.  As the English language progressed throughout the Nineteenth Century words typically used to express a specific meaning were semantically highjacked and used by movements which characterized the opposite meaning.  In order to make the Bible readable, translators modernized the Bible and often failed to express the true contextual meaning once delivered within the manuscripts.  Instead of a literal translation Bible translators adopted a new concept, the dynamic equivalence method.  Eugene A. Nida was considered the father of the dynamic equivalence method.  He separated exegesis, the interpretation of a text and hermeneutics, and methodological interpretation of a text, for a thought for thought evaluation of the Bible text being translated.  Its voguish acceptance, measured by sales of Bibles, has been used to prove its success.

As we examine the modern translations we must keep in mind that it is easy to find fault within any translation.  I do not want to be complicit with translations where interpretation instead of translation is evident, however, it is wise for us to recognize that the translations are not the problem.  It is our approach and interpretation that must be scrupulous and vigilant.  Therefore, I recommend using the translations as tools to help you learn and develop your comprehension of God’s Word. 

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