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History of the English Bible

The following table (it's a little long!) is a brief overview of the development of the English Bible.  It notes the major language used and/or translated from and to.   The "Work" column describes very briefly the major translation work done.   I'll try to add more notes to this later.

A History of the English Bible to 1946*

Year Language Translator(s) Work
Before 450 AD Teutonic/Saxon
450 AD Old English/Saxon
680 Caedmon Paraphrases and poems of Creation, Exodus, Incarnation, Death and Resurrection of Christ
700 From Latin Aldhelm The Psalter
700 From Latin Egbert Matthew, Mark, Luke
674-735 From Latin Venerable Bede John
870-901 Latin to Anglo Saxon Alfred the Great Ten Commandments; parts of Exodus; passage from Acts
950 Latin to Northumbrian Aldred Interlinear gloss of Latin to Northumbrian in the Gospels
? to Old English The Wessex Gospels
1000 Latin to English Aelfric 1st 7 books of OT; other OT passages
1066 Normal Conquest
1100 Middle English
1200 Teutonic vocab. with Norman syntax Orm(in) Poetic paraphrase of the Gospels and Acts
1320 Southern dialect of English William of Shoreham Psalter? First "literal" translation into English
1320-1340 Latin Vulgate to North English Richard Rolle Literal translation; The Psalter
1380 Latin Vulgate to John Wycliffe The New Testament
1388 English (completed by Nicholas of Hereford) The Old Testament
1395 John Purvey Revision of Wycliffe’s translations into smoother English — First complete Bible in English
1454 Gutenberg [Invention of moveable type]
1500 Modern English
1526 Greek to English The New Testament — the basis for all subsequent revisions from 16th cen. to today!
1530 Hebrew to English William Tyndale The Pentateuch
1531 Hebrew to English Jonah
1534-1536 Revisions of Old and New Testament
1535 Vulgate, Luther’s German, other Bibles to English Miles Coverdale Complete Bible — based on Tyndale’s work
1535 (Borrowed from French versions) John Rogers (a.k.a. Thomas Matthew) Tyndale and Coverdale’s OT combined with Tyndale’s revised New Testament. Controversial notes and prologues.
Year Language Translator(s) Work
1539 Greek to English Richard Taverner Improved Rogers’ New Testament
1539 (A revision of Rogers’ work) (directed by Coverdale) The Great Bible (so called because of its size); approved by the King of England). Received with great prestige; considered authoritative by Church authorities.
1557 Based on Tyndale’s work, revised with new Greek analysis (directed by John Knox; primary translator was William Whittingham) The Geneva Bible - New Testament. Introduced italicized words; divided chapters into verses.
1560 The Geneva Bible - Old Testament with revised New Tesament. 140 editions before 1644; more popular than Bishop’s Bible (1568) and KJV (1611). First work of a committee of translators.
1568 (Hebrew and Greek work in comparison with The Great Bible) Committee of bishops The Bishops’ Bible - Revision of The Great Bible. Could not usurp the popularity of The Geneva Bible. Not printed after 1602. Official basis of the revision of 1611.
1582 Latin Vulgate to English Richard Bristow, William Allen (and William Reynolds?) Rheims New Testament. Roman Catholic work motivated to combat the Protestant Bibles. Poor English. Republished in 1600, 1621, 1633
1609/10 Latin Vulgate to English; new Vulgate manuscripts Gregory Martin (d. 1582), William Allen Douay Old Testament. More an English reading of Latin than a translation into English. Second edition in 1635
1611 Hebrew and Greek to English, guided by Bishops’ Bible (basis for KJV) Authorized by James I; committee of 54 men, 47 of whom did the revision. King James Version. A revision of Bishops’ Bible with translations from Hebrew and Greek with reference to Tyndale, Coverdale, Rogers, Geneva, etc. Numerous revisions.
1718 Latin Vulgate to English Cornelius Nary Revised translation of the New Testament.
1730 Robert Whitman Revised Rheims New Testament
1749/50 Latin Vulgate to English Richard Challoner Rheims-Douay-Challoner Bible. Second edition of the Rheims-Douay Bible. Almost a completely new translation from Latin.
1762 Dr. Paris Revision of KJV
1769 Dr. Blayney Revision of KJV (differs from 1611 edition in at least 75,000 details — spelling, typos, etc.). Basis of today’s KJV.
1880 Greek NT to English ed. by R.L. Clark, Alfred Goodwin, W. Sanday The Variorum Bible. Revision of KJV;
1881 Greek; revision of KJV Committee (European and USA) Revised English Version. New Testament.

(Revised KJV)

1885 Hebrew; revision of KJV Committee (European and USA) Revised English Version. Old Testament. (Revised KJV). Entire Bible printed in 1898.
1901 Hebrew, Greek American committee American Standard Version.
1946 Committee Revised Standard Version. (Revised KJV)

*Adapted from A General Introduction to the Bible, by Norman Geisler and William Nix (1977). Michael C. Beard


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