Compare Bible Translations

The King James Version of the Bible, printed in 1611, was one of the first English translations of the scriptures ever accomplished. This text took four years to translate, starting in 1607. However, the English King James Bible is not the very first translation of the scriptures printed. The English version is considered the "Authorized Version", and utilizes the English in use during the 1600's. This English scripture is often referred to as "the King's English" which uses "thee" and "thou" for the modern word "you", and for present-tense words, adds "eth" at the end of adjectives and verbs. Today Christians often use the King James Version of the Bible as the anchor text when the objective is to compare Bible translations. Interestingly, the word "Bible" is never used in the original ancient texts, but rather the word "Bible" is referred to as "the Holy Scriptures", "the Word", and "the Law and the Prophets", among other references.

To compare Bible translations with a modern view, think about looking at the very first translation of the original holy texts, which was completed about 285 B.C., and was translated from Hebrew into Greek. Later on, about 400 A.D., the "Vulgate" came into existence, and was a translation of both the Old Testament and New Testament into Latin. Not until over 800 years later did the Roman Catholic Church divide the scriptures into verses and chapters. The reason many Protestant churches use only the King James, is that it was the first English "Authorized Version", and great care was taken in the translation. There are many other translations of the scriptures which have appeared in modern times that are just as good, and actually help the reader extract deeper meaning, without having to wade through the meaning of the more difficult to read King James scriptures.

Most advantageous is to retrieve varying texts of the scriptures in order to compare Bible translations. Doing so can prepare Christians for questions that may arise when speaking to non-Christians about the veracity of the various translations available. Understanding many versions will greatly aid scripture students, providing several sources from which to draw scriptural comparisons. One of the first modern works completed was undertaken in 1966 by a group of Biblical scholars, and was underwritten by the New York Bible Society. Scholars from five countries contributed their efforts and included several denominations, some of which were Baptists, Wesleyans, Presbyterians, Evangelical Free and Assemblies of God. Including so many denominations ensures that one denomination in particular does not dominate the translation. This first twentieth-century translation is called "The New International Version" of the Word. When translating this version, Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic texts were used. The translators were careful to keep intact the meaning that the original authors intended to convey to the reader, and ensured that sentence structure and grammar were also true to form.

The Oxford Annotated Bible with The Apocrypha Revised Standard Version can also be used to compare translations. This is the first translation accepted by both Protestants and Catholics in the English speaking world. There are books called "The Apocrypha" which are appended to the end of this work, and which are not considered to be the authentic God-inspired scriptures, or "canon". The Apocrypha is valuable in aiding readers to understand the inspired books in scripture. Those who read the Word should keep in mind the following two verses: "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:20-21 KJV).

A decidedly free, rather than literal translation came about beginning in the late 1940's. The New English Bible-New Testament was translated directly from the Greek New Testament by a joint committee of delegates from the Church of Scotland, Church of England, Baptist, Methodist and what is called the Congregationalist churches. The desire was to create a new translation, keeping as much as possible to the original meaning of the Greek, while also utilizing other early Christian writings and early translations of the Greek from other languages. Another desired end-result was to follow as closely as possible, the original meaning or intent of what the author meant to say, rather than a word-for-word translation. This is why the text is considered to be a free translation. These translators considered that the King James Version of the Bible was flawed, because the scribes who wrote the pages over and over again were subject to many possibilities of error. Therefore, if this translation is used, the student should take care to remember that when the time comes to compare Bible translations, the New English Bible-New Testament will not follow the more literal translations as closely.

There is a very interesting modern translation called the "New Testament in Modern Speech" published in 1978, which was first introduced at Winona Lake with timid acceptance, but accepted it was. The community to which this work was introduced was considered a staunch King James Version group of user, and so acceptance by this group of Christians was considered an acid-test of usability. The modern language in this version was refreshing, and provided an insightful view of the scriptures which previously had not been available. Just as the King James Version of the Bible somewhat reflects the culture of that time, so the New Testament in Modern Times reflects the culture of today, inculcating the benefits of the language currently used among most modern English speaking people. It has the benefit of using word pictures to more deeply describe what was literally translated into English before now.

The few versions we have used here to compare Bible translations are but a drop in the bucket. There are many interesting and scholarly versions available for serious study, and so the student can confidently choose any and find the one that suits according to taste and need.

History Of The King James Bible

An in depth study of the history of the King James Bible not only reveals the monarchy's desire to make the Holy Scriptures accessible to the common man, but also to strengthen the Episcopal structure of the Church of England. The sentiments of King James I are apparent in the following statement written by translators: "There are infinite arguments of this right Christian and religious affection in Your Majesty; but none is more forcible to declare it to others than the vehement and perpetuated desire of accomplishing and publishing of this work, which now with all humility we present unto Your Majesty. For when Your Highness had once out of deep judgment apprehended how convenient it was, that out of the Original Sacred Tongues, together with comparing of the labours, both in our own, and other foreign Languages, of many worthy men who went before us, there should be one more exact Translation of the holy Scriptures into the English Tongue; Your Majesty did never desist to urge and to excite those to whom it was commended, that the work might be hastened, and that the business might be expedited in so decent a manner, as a matter of such importance might justly require."

Since man first began to put ink to paper, many great books have been written; but none can compare to the Word of God. The history of the King James Bible records the efforts of godly men dedicated to making the inspired Word of God accessible to common English-speaking people. King James I sought "to deliver God's book unto Gods' people in a tongue which they could understand."
Heretofore, scriptural manuscripts had only been available to the Church of England, British royals, and wealthy aristocrats. Unlike great books penned by mortal man, the Holy Scriptures are composed of words breathed by the Spirit of God into the hearts of men who wrote the scriptures as the Spirit gave utterance. The Word of God has the ability to penetrate the deepest, darkest heart and shed the living light of Jesus Christ into the crevices of a man's conscious to bring deliverance, peace, renewed hope, and eternal salvation. No other book, no other manuscript, no other word has the power to ignite the soul and empower the human spirit to be transformed into the image and likeness of Jesus Christ. "For the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12)."

While many Christians believe that the Authorized King James version is the oldest published English translation from original Hebrew and Greek texts, the history of the Bible proves that this is not the case. The Latin Vulgate was the first written Translation, but it was accessible only to those who could read and understand Latin. The history of the Bible also references the Wulfila Bible, translated in German by a missionary in the 4th century as a witnessing tool to the Scandinavian Goths. The Goths invaded the Roman Empire during the early formation of the New Testament Christian church. It was not until 1409 that John Wycliffe succeeded in translating the scriptures of the Latin text into English. Since the printing press had not been invented in the 15th century, Wycliffe's English translation was actually used in manuscript form, undoubtedly painstakingly copied by monks or scribes. The Wycliffe manuscript would have been rare and inaccessible to commoners. Nearly 120 years later, the history of the Bible credits William Tyndale with translating the New Testament into English, followed by the Old Testament ten years later. Tyndale set the standard for all subsequent early modern English translations, including Myles Coverdale's 1539 edition. Tyndale's work culminated in the first authorized version accepted and disseminated by the Church of England, called the Great Bible.

In 1604, King James I, newly ascended to the throne of England, determined to issue a more complete text free of discrepancies raised by the Puritans, a sect within the Church of England. The history of the King James Bible states that nearly 50 scholars were commissioned by the King to produce a new English version, which supplanted the Great Bible, the Bishop's Bible, and all other previous translations. A narrative from these scholars appears in the first paragraph of this article. Referred to as the "Authorized Version" in Great Britain, the King James Bible was published in 1611. One major requirement of the new text was an adherence to the Episcopal structure of the Church of England, including its mandates for ordained clergy. In complying with the King's demands, fifteenth century scholars set the standard for church structure from then until this present day. Like its predecessors, the New Testament is an English translation of the Textus Receptus series of Greek scriptures. The Old Testament was translated from the Masoretic Hebrew text.

Nearly 400 years after the history of the King James Bible traces its inception and adaptation by the Church of England; clergymen, royalty, and people from all walks of life still treasure the work wrought by learned scholars to deliver the inspired Word of God to the common man. While the history of the Bible references numerous English translations before the Authorized King James, modern times have produced several additional texts. The New International Version (NIV) in 1978, The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) in 1990, The Good News Bible in 1976, The Living Bible in 1971, and The Message in 2002. However, no other translation has captivated Christians and non-Christians to the degree of the Authorized King James. The translation's longevity and enduring inspiration have endeared it to millions over the four decades of its existence.

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