A Brief History of English Bible Translations

Laurence M. Vance

Published by Vance Publications
ISBN 10: 0962889814 / ISBN 13: 9780962889813
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Synopsis: A brief history that is as complete as it is concise, this book traces the origin and development of English Bible translations from before the invention of printing to the present day. A brief synopsis of all modern translations is provided as well as an extended treatment of all essential and significant versions found throughout history. An exhaustive appendix is included listing each translation by year and author. A survey of the formation and establishment of the printed editions of the Hebrew and Greek texts is also included since they are the primary foundation upon which all translations are based. The book contains five chapters, along with a preface, introduction, epilogue, appendix, and bibliography.

From the Publisher: Is the Bible the word of God? In previous decades, this question concerned the conservative declaration that the Bible was the verbally inspired, authoritative word of God. This affirmation was in opposition to the liberal position that the Bible only contained the word of God and the neo-orthodox view that the Bible merely becomes the word of God. Although this debate still rages in some circles, it is not the occupation of this book.

With the ongoing proliferation of English translations of the Bible, the question at hand takes on an entirely new meaning. The doctrine of the inspiration and authority of the Bible being presupposed, the query now becomes: Which Bible is the word of God? The alarming propensity at which each new translation finds acceptance among one group or another has even given rise to "specialty" versions which have been adapted to the assorted theological persuasions, lifestyles, and presuppositions of the reader. Aside from the obvious proclivity toward the corruption and misappropriation of the word of God, this practice further renders it necessary to not only inquire, but to ascertain which Bible or Bibles constitute the word of God.

The history of English translations of the Bible is a long and often controversial one. In the beginning, the objection was not to the character and constitution of the translation or the motive and methods of the translators, but to the actual fact of the existence of an unauthorized, vernacular translation of the Bible in English. In contrast, the predicament at the present time is not one of availability and acceptance, but of abundance and saturation.

By the time translations first appeared in the English language, the Bible had already been widely copied and circulated for hundreds of years in many different forms. Copies of portions of the Old Testament, which was originally written in Hebrew, were usually in the form of a scroll that would be unwound for reading. These scrolls were initially made from leather, and later from papyrus and vellum or parchment. The invention of the book-like codex provided another element to copy the Scriptures on. There are extant manuscripts in Hebrew both of the scroll and codex. The oldest known manuscript of the entire Hebrew Old Testament is the Leningrad Codex from about the year 1000.

Since it came later in time, the New Testament, which was originally written in Greek, is to be found copied extensively in codices. Most of these were constructed from papyrus. The extant manuscripts of the Greek New Testament, from which a text is established, consist of several types. Majuscules or uncials were written in block capital letters while minuscules or cursives approximate smaller cursive script. The Papyri are papyrus fragments that may contain entire books or only a few verses. In addition to these types of manuscripts, which number more than 3000, there are three other witnesses to the text of the New Testament. Lectionaries are books that contain selected passages of Scripture designed to be used in public church services throughout the year. Patristic citations are scriptural quotations included in the commentaries, sermons, and other writings of the Church Fathers. The final witness to the text of the New Testament is ancient versions, which are nothing more than translations of the Bible from Greek into languages including Coptic, Armenian, Georgian, Ethiopic, Gothic, Latin, Syriac, and Slavonic.

With the necessary materials available for the construction of the Hebrew and Greek texts, and the canon of Scripture being already decided, the actual formation and establishment of the biblical texts and their subsequent translation into the English Bible was ready to begin. It is here that we commence our historical examination, with only brief attention given to the period before.

There are several notable works that undertake to provide an exhaustive history of English Bible translations. The trouble is that their size and magnitude, together with their unavailability and expense, render them arduous to obtain. They are also usually somewhat antiquated and hence fail to adequately treat relatively modern translations. On the other end of the spectrum, there are readily obtainable publications that merely provide an analysis of a select few English versions. In between, we have treatments of the English Bible that are part of larger works on Bible manuscripts, Bible history, or ancient versions. These works are by their very nature inadequate for the pursuit of an exhaustive account of English Bible translations. Other works of singular purpose are likewise incomplete because of an emphasis on major translations or certain time periods. Exclusive issues of papers or articles are of negligible value due to their limited circulation. Not that all! of this material is not useful. It is the fact that all this material is required to reach a conclusion that this work has been undertaken.

The intention of this book is to trace the origin and development of English Bible translations from before the invention of printing to the present day. It is the history and composition and not the motive and accuracy of these English Bible translations that is the primary concern. Conclusions drawn from this history are treated in an epilogue. A brief synopsis of all modern translations is provided as well as an extended treatment of all essential and significant versions found throughout history: the disparity in the material regarding each translation being directly related to the importance and availability of information on each respective version. An appendix containing a comprehensive tabulation of all English translations of the Bible, both extant and extinct, supplements the work.

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Title: A Brief History of English Bible ...
Publisher: Vance Publications
Binding: Paperback
Book Condition: POOR

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