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This English Bible History Article & Timeline is ©2002
by author & editor: John L. Jeffcoat III. Special thanks
is also given to Dr. Craig H. Lampe for his valuable contributions
to the text. This page has been freely reproduced in whole, electronically,
with credit and appreciation given to www.GreatSite.com.
- English Bible History
- Original Article: http://www.greatsite.com/timeline-english-bible-history
- The fascinating
story of how we got the Bible in its present form actually starts
thousands of years ago, as briefly outlined in our Timeline
of Bible Translation History. As a background study, we recommend
that you first review our discussion of the Pre-Reformation
History of the Bible from 1,400 B.C. to 1,400 A.D., which
covers the transmission of the scripture through the original
languages of Hebrew and Greek, and the 1,000 years of the Dark
& Middle Ages when the Word was trapped in only Latin. Our
starting point in this discussion of Bible history, however,
is the advent of the scripture in the English language with the
Morning Star of the Reformation, John Wycliffe.
- John Wycliffe
first hand-written English language Bible manuscripts were produced
in the 1380's AD by John Wycliffe, an Oxford professor,
scholar, and theologian. Wycliffe, (also spelled Wycliff &
Wyclif), was well-known throughout Europe for his opposition
to the teaching of the organized Church, which he believed to
be contrary to the Bible. With the help of his followers, called
the Lollards, and his assistant Purvey, and many other faithful
scribes, Wycliffe produced dozens of English language manuscript
copies of the scriptures. They were translated out of the Latin
Vulgate, which was the only source text available to Wycliffe.
The Pope was so infuriated by his teachings and his translation
of the Bible into English, that 44 years after Wycliffe had died,
he ordered the bones to be dug-up, crushed, and scattered in
- John Hus
- One of Wycliffes
followers, John Hus, actively promoted Wycliffes ideas: that
people should be permitted to read the Bible in their own language,
and they should oppose the tyranny of the Roman church that threatened
anyone possessing a non-Latin Bible with execution. Hus was burned
at the stake in 1415, with Wycliffes manuscript Bibles used as
kindling for the fire. The last words of John Hus were that,
in 100 years, God will raise up a man whose calls for reform
cannot be suppressed. Almost exactly 100 years later, in
1517, Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 Theses of Contention
(a list of 95 issues of heretical theology and crimes of the
Roman Catholic Church) into the church door at Wittenberg. The
prophecy of Hus had come true! Martin Luther went on to be the
first person to translate and publish the Bible in the commonly-spoken
dialect of the German people; a translation more appealing than
previous German Biblical translations. Foxes Book of Martyrs
records that in that same year, 1517, seven people were burned
at the stake by the Roman Catholic Church for the crime of teaching
their children to say the Lords Prayer in English rather than
- Johann Gutenberg
- Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 1450's,
and the first book to ever be printed was a Latin language Bible,
printed in Mainz, Germany. Gutenbergs Bibles were surprisingly
beautiful, as each leaf Gutenberg printed was later colorfully
hand-illuminated. Born as Johann Gensfleisch (John Gooseflesh),
he preferred to be known as Johann Gutenberg (John Beautiful
Mountain). Ironically, though he had created what many believe
to be the most important invention in history, Gutenberg was
a victim of unscrupulous business associates who took control
of his business and left him in poverty. Nevertheless, the invention
of the movable-type printing press meant that Bibles and books
could finally be effectively produced in large quantities in
a short period of time. This was essential to the success of
- Thomas Linacre
- In the
1490s another Oxford professor, and the personal physician to
King Henry the 7th and 8th, Thomas Linacre, decided to learn
Greek. After reading the Gospels in Greek, and comparing it to
the Latin Vulgate, he wrote in his diary, Either this (the original
Greek) is not the Gospel& or we are not Christians. The Latin
had become so corrupt that it no longer even preserved the message
of the Gospel& yet the Church still threatened to kill anyone
who read the scripture in any language other than Latin&
though Latin was not an original language of the scriptures.
- John Colet
1496, John Colet, another Oxford professor and the son of the
Mayor of London, started reading the New Testament in Greek and
translating it into English for his students at Oxford, and later
for the public at Saint Pauls Cathedral in London. The people
were so hungry to hear the Word of God in a language they could
understand, that within six months there were 20,000 people packed
in the church and at least that many outside trying to get in!
(Sadly, while the enormous and beautiful Saint Pauls Cathedral
remains the main church in London today, as of 2003, typical
Sunday morning worship attendance is only around 200 people&
and most of them are tourists). Fortunately for Colet, he was
a powerful man with friends in high places, so he amazingly managed
to avoid execution.
- In considering the experiences of Linacre and Colet, the
great scholar Erasmus was so moved to correct the corrupt Latin
Vulgate, that in 1516, with the help of printer John Froben,
he published a Greek-Latin Parallel New Testament. The Latin part was not the corrupt Vulgate, but
his own fresh rendering of the text from the more accurate and
reliable Greek, which he had managed to collate from a half-dozen
partial old Greek New Testament manuscripts he had acquired.
This milestone was the first non-Latin Vulgate text of the scripture
to be produced in a millennium& and the first ever to come
off a printing press. The 1516 Greek-Latin New Testament of Erasmus
further focused attention on just how corrupt and inaccurate
the Latin Vulgate had become, and how important it was to go
back and use the original Greek (New Testament) and original
Hebrew (Old Testament) languages to maintain accuracy& and
to translate them faithfully into the languages of the common
people, whether that be English, German, or any other tongue.
No sympathy for this illegal activity was to be found from Rome&
even as the words of Pope Leo X's declaration that "the
fable of Christ was quite profitable to him" continued through
the years to infuriate the people of God.
- William Tyndale
- William Tyndale was the Captain of the Army of Reformers,
and was their spiritual leader. Tyndale holds the distinction
of being the first man to ever print the New Testament in the
English language. Tyndale was a true scholar and a genius, so
fluent in eight languages that it was said one would think any
one of them to be his native tongue. He is frequently referred
to as the Architect of the English Language, (even more so than
William Shakespeare) as so many of the phrases Tyndale coined
are still in our language today.
- Martin Luther
- Martin Luther had a small head-start on Tyndale, as Luther
declared his intolerance for the Roman Churchs corruption on
Halloween in 1517, by nailing his 95 Theses of Contention to the Wittenberg Church door.
Luther, who would be exiled in the months following the Diet
of Worms Council in 1521 that was designed to martyr him, would
translate the New Testament into German for the first time from
the 1516 Greek-Latin New Testament of Erasmus, and publish it
in September of 1522. Luther also published a German Pentateuch
in 1523, and another edition of the German New Testament in 1529.
In the 1530s he would go on to publish the entire Bible in German.
- William Tyndale wanted to use the same 1516 Erasmus text
as a source to translate and print the New Testament in English
for the first time in history. Tyndale showed up on Luther's
doorstep in Germany in 1525, and by year's end had translated
the New Testament into English. Tyndale had been forced to flee
England, because of the wide-spread rumor that his English New
Testament project was underway, causing inquisitors and bounty
hunters to be constantly on Tyndale's trail to arrest him and
prevent his project. God foiled their plans, and in 1525-1526
the Tyndale New Testament became the first printed edition of
the scripture in the English language. Subsequent printings of
the Tyndale New Testament in the 1530's were often elaborately
- They were burned as soon as the Bishop could confiscate them,
but copies trickled through and actually ended up in the bedroom
of King Henry VIII. The more the King and Bishop resisted its
distribution, the more fascinated the public at large became.
The church declared it contained thousands of errors as they
torched hundreds of New Testaments confiscated by the clergy,
while in fact, they burned them because they could find no errors
at all. One risked death by burning if caught in mere possession
of Tyndale's forbidden books.
- Having God's Word available to the public in the language
of the common man, English, would have meant disaster to the
church. No longer would they control access to the scriptures.
If people were able to read the Bible in their own tongue, the
church's income and power would crumble. They could not possibly
continue to get away with selling indulgences (the forgiveness
of sins) or selling the release of loved ones from a church-manufactured
"Purgatory". People would begin to challenge the church's
authority if the church were exposed as frauds and thieves. The
contradictions between what God's Word said, and what the priests
taught, would open the public's eyes and the truth would set
them free from the grip of fear that the institutional church
held. Salvation through faith, not works or donations, would
be understood. The need for priests would vanish through the
priesthood of all believers. The veneration of church-canonized
Saints and Mary would be called into question. The availability
of the scriptures in English was the biggest threat imaginable
to the wicked church. Neither side would give up without a fight.
- Today, there are only two known copies left of Tyndales 1525-26
First Edition. Any copies printed prior to 1570 are extremely
valuable. Tyndale's flight was an inspiration to freedom-loving
Englishmen who drew courage from the 11 years that he was hunted.
Books and Bibles flowed into England in bales of cotton and sacks
of flour. Ironically, Tyndales biggest customer was the Kings
men, who would buy up every copy available to burn them&
and Tyndale used their money to print even more! In the end,
Tyndale was caught: betrayed by an Englishman that he had befriended.
Tyndale was incarcerated for 500 days before he was strangled
and burned at the stake in 1536. Tyndales last words were, "Oh
Lord, open the King of Englands eyes". This prayer would
be answered just three years later in 1539, when King Henry VIII
finally allowed, and even funded, the printing of an English
Bible known as the Great Bible. But before that could happen&
- Myles Coverdale
- Myles Coverdale and John Thomas Matthew Rogers had remained
loyal disciples the last six years of Tyndale's life, and they
carried the English Bible project forward and even accelerated
it. Coverdale finished translating the Old Testament, and in
1535 he printed the first complete Bible in the English language,
making use of Luther's German text and the Latin as sources.
Thus, the first complete English Bible was printed on October
4, 1535, and is known as the Coverdale Bible.
- John Rogers
- John Rogers went on to print the second complete English
Bible in 1537. It was, however, the first English Bible translated
from the original Biblical languages of Hebrew & Greek. He
printed it under the pseudonym "Thomas Matthew", (an
assumed name that had actually been used by Tyndale at one time)
as a considerable part of this Bible was the translation of Tyndale,
whose writings had been condemned by the English authorities.
It is a composite made up of Tyndale's Pentateuch and New Testament
(1534-1535 edition) and Coverdale's Bible and some of Roger's
own translation of the text. It remains known most commonly as
the Matthew-Tyndale Bible. It went through a nearly identical
second-edition printing in 1549.
- Thomas Cranmer
- In 1539, Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, hired
Myles Coverdale at the bequest of King Henry VIII to publish
the "Great Bible". It became the first English Bible
authorized for public use, as it was distributed to every church,
chained to the pulpit, and a reader was even provided so that
the illiterate could hear the Word of God in plain English. It
would seem that William Tyndale's last wish had been granted...just
three years after his martyrdom. Cranmer's Bible, published by
Coverdale, was known as the Great Bible due to its great size:
a large pulpit folio measuring over 14 inches tall. Seven editions
of this version were printed between April of 1539 and December
- King Henry VIII
- It was not that King Henry VIII had a change of conscience
regarding publishing the Bible in English. His motives were more sinister& but
the Lord sometimes uses the evil intentions of men to bring about
His glory. King Henry VIII had in fact, requested that the Pope
permit him to divorce his wife and marry his mistress. The Pope
refused. King Henry responded by marrying his mistress anyway,
(later having two of his many wives executed), and thumbing his
nose at the Pope by renouncing Roman Catholicism, taking England
out from under Rome's religious control, and declaring himself
as the reigning head of State to also be the new head of the
Church. This new branch of the Christian Church, neither Roman
Catholic nor truly Protestant, became known as the Anglican Church
or the Church of England. King Henry acted essentially as its
Pope. His first act was to further defy the wishes of Rome by
funding the printing of the scriptures in English& the first
legal English Bible& just for spite.
- Queen Mary
- The ebb and flow of freedom continued through the 1540's...and
into the 1550's. After King Henry VIII, King Edward VI took the
throne, and after his death, the reign of Queen Bloody Mary was
the next obstacle to the printing of the Bible in English. She
was possessed in her quest to return England to the Roman Church.
In 1555, John "Thomas Matthew" Rogers and Thomas Cranmer
were both burned at the stake. Mary went on to burn reformers
at the stake by the hundreds for the "crime" of being
a Protestant. This era was known as the Marian Exile, and the
refugees fled from England with little hope of ever seeing their
home or friends again.
- John Foxe
- In the 1550's, the Church at Geneva, Switzerland, was very
sympathetic to the reformer refugees and was one of only a few safe havens for a desperate people.
Many of them met in Geneva, led by Myles Coverdale and John Foxe
(publisher of the famous Foxe's Book of Martyrs, which is to
this day the only exhaustive reference work on the persecution
and martyrdom of Early Christians and Protestants from the first
century up to the mid-16th century), as well as Thomas Sampson
and William Whittingham. There, with the protection of the great
theologian John Calvin, Calvins Institutes of the Christian Religion
and John Knox, the great Reformer of the Scottish Church, the
Church of Geneva determined to produce a Bible that would educate
their families while they continued in exile.
- John Calvin
- John Calvin, the author of the most famous theological book
ever published, Calvins Institutes of the Christian Religion.
The New Testament was completed in 1557, and the complete Bible
was first published in 1560. It became known as the Geneva Bible.
Due to a passage in Genesis describing the clothing that God
fashioned for Adam and Eve upon expulsion from the Garden of
Eden as "Breeches" (an antiquated form of "Britches"),
some people referred to the Geneva Bible as the Breeches Bible.
- John Knox
- John Knox, is known as the great Reformer of the Scottish
Church. The Geneva Bible was the first Bible to add numbered
verses to the chapters, so that referencing specific passages
would be easier. Every chapter was also accompanied by extensive
marginal notes and references so thorough and complete that the
Geneva Bible is also
considered the first English "Study Bible". William
Shakespeare quotes hundreds of times in his plays from the Geneva
translation of the Bible. The Geneva Bible became the Bible of
choice for over 100 years of English speaking Christians. Between
1560 and 1644 at least 144 editions of this Bible were published.
Examination of the 1611 King James Bible shows clearly that its
translators were influenced much more by the Geneva Bible, than
by any other source. The Geneva Bible itself retains over 90%
of William Tyndale's original English translation. The Geneva
in fact, remained more popular than the King James Version until
decades after its original release in 1611! The Geneva holds
the honor of being the first Bible taken to America, and the
Bible of the Puritans and Pilgrims. It is truly the Bible of
the Protestant Reformation. Strangely, the famous Geneva Bible
has been out-of-print since 1644, so the only way to obtain one
is to either purchase an original printing of the Geneva Bible,
or a less costly facsimile reproduction of the original 1560
- With the end of Queen Mary's bloody reign, the reformers
could safely return to England. The Anglican Church, now under
Queen Elizabeth I, reluctantly tolerated the printing and distribution
of Geneva version Bibles in England. The marginal notes, which
were vehemently against the institutional Church of the day,
did not rest well with the rulers of the day. Another version,
one with a less inflammatory tone was desired, and the copies
of the Great Bible were getting to be decades old. In 1568, a
revision of the Great Bible known as the Bishop's Bible was introduced.
Despite 19 editions being printed between 1568 and 1606, this
Bible, referred to as the rough draft of the King James Version,
never gained much of a foothold of popularity among the people.
The Geneva may have simply been too much to compete with.
- By the 1580's, the Roman Catholic Church saw that it had
lost the battle to suppress the will of God: that His Holy Word
be available in the English language. In 1582, the Church of
Rome surrendered their fight for "Latin only" and decided
that if the Bible was to be available in English, they would
at least have an official Roman Catholic English translation.
And so, using the corrupt and inaccurate Latin Vulgate as the
only source text, they went on to publish an English Bible with
all the distortions and corruptions that Erasmus had revealed
and warned of 75 years earlier. Because it was translated at
the Roman Catholic College in the city of Rheims, it was known
as the Rheims New Testament (also spelled Rhemes). The Douay
Old Testament was translated by the Church of Rome in 1609 at
the College in the city of Douay (also spelled Doway & Douai).
The combined product is commonly referred to as the "Doway/Rheims"
Version. In 1589, Dr. William Fulke of Cambridge published the
"Fulke's Refutation", in which he printed in parallel
columns the Bishops Version along side the Rheims Version, attempting
to show the error and distortion of the Roman Church's corrupt
compromise of an English version of the Bible.
- King James I
- With the death of Queen Elizabeth I, Prince James VI of Scotland
became King James I of England. The Protestant clergy approached
the new King in 1604 and announced their desire for a new translation
to replace the Bishop's Bible first printed in 1568. They knew that the Geneva Version had won the hearts
of the people because of its excellent scholarship, accuracy,
and exhaustive commentary. However, they did not want the controversial
marginal notes (proclaiming the Pope an Anti-Christ, etc.) Essentially,
the leaders of the church desired a Bible for the people, with
scriptural references only for word clarification or cross-references.
- This "translation to end all translations" (for
a while at least) was the result of the combined effort of about
fifty scholars. They took into consideration: The Tyndale New
Testament, The Coverdale Bible, The Matthews Bible, The Great
Bible, The Geneva Bible, and even the Rheims New Testament. The
great revision of the Bishop's Bible had begun. From 1605 to
1606 the scholars engaged in private research. From 1607 to 1609
the work was assembled. In 1610 the work went to press, and in
1611 the first of the huge (16 inch tall) pulpit folios known
today as "The 1611 King James Bible" came off the printing
press. A typographical discrepancy in Ruth 3:15 rendered a pronoun
"He" instead of "She" in that verse in some
printings. This caused some of the 1611 First Editions to be
known by collectors as "He" Bibles, and others as "She"
Bibles. Starting just one year after the huge 1611 pulpit-size
King James Bibles were printed and chained to every church pulpit
in England; printing then began on the earliest normal-size printings
of the King James Bible. These were produced so individuals could
have their own personal copy of the Bible.
- John Bunyan
- The Anglican Churchs King James Bible took decades to overcome
the more popular Protestant Churchs Geneva Bible. One of the greatest ironies of history, is that
many Protestant Christian churches today embrace the King James
Bible exclusively as the only legitimate English language translation&
yet it is not even a Protestant translation! It was printed to
compete with the Protestant Geneva Bible, by authorities who
throughout most of history were hostile to Protestants& and
killed them. While many Protestants are quick to assign the full
blame of persecution to the Roman Catholic Church, it should
be noted that even after England broke from Roman Catholicism
in the 1500s, the Church of England (The Anglican Church) continued
to persecute Protestants throughout the 1600s. One famous example
of this is John Bunyan, who while in prison for the crime of
preaching the Gospel, wrote one of Christian historys greatest
books, Pilgrims Progress. Throughout the 1600s, as the Puritans
and the Pilgrims fled the religious persecution of England to
cross the Atlantic and start a new free nation in America, they
took with them their precious Geneva Bible, and rejected the
Kings Bible. America was founded upon the Geneva Bible, not the
King James Bible.
- Protestants today are largely unaware of their own history,
and unaware of the Geneva Bible (which is textually 95% the same
as the King James Version, but 50 years older than the King James
Version, and not influenced by the Roman Catholic Rheims New
Testament that the King James translators admittedly took into
consideration). Nevertheless, the King James Bible turned out
to be an excellent and accurate translation, and it became the
most printed book in the history of the world, and the only book
with one billion copies in print. In fact, for over 250 years...until
the appearance of the English Revised Version of 1881-1885...the
King James Version reigned without much of a rival. One little-known
fact, is that for the past 200 years, all King James Bibles published
in America are actually the 1769 Baskerville spelling and wording
revision of the 1611. The original 1611 preface is deceivingly
included by the publishers, and no mention of the fact that it
is really the 1769 version is to be found, because that might
hurt sales. The only way to obtain a true, unaltered, 1611 version
is to either purchase an original pre-1769 printing of the King
James Bible, or a less costly facsimile reproduction of the original
1611 King James Bible.
- John Eliot
- Although the first Bible printed in America was done in the
native Algonquin Indian Language by John Eliot in 1663; the first English language Bible to be printed
in America by Robert Aitken in 1782 was a King James Version.
Robert Aitkens 1782 Bible was also the only Bible ever authorized
by the United States Congress. He was commended by President
George Washington for providing Americans with Bibles during
the embargo of imported English goods due to the Revolutionary
War. In 1808, Roberts daughter, Jane Aitken, would become the
first woman to ever print a Bible& and to do so in America,
of course. In 1791, Isaac Collins vastly improved upon the quality
and size of the typesetting of American Bibles and produced the
first "Family Bible" printed in America... also a King
James Version. Also in 1791, Isaiah Thomas published the first
Illustrated Bible printed in America...in the King James Version.
For more information on the earliest Bibles printed in America
from the 1600s through the early 1800s, you may wish to review
our more detailed discussion of The Bibles of Colonial America.
- Noah Webster
- While Noah Webster, just a few years after producing his
famous Dictionary of the English Language, would produce his
own modern translation of the English Bible in 1833; the public
remained too loyal to the King James Version for Websters version
to have much impact. It
was not really until the 1880s that Englands own planned replacement
for their King James Bible, the English Revised Version(E.R.V.)
would become the first English language Bible to gain popular
acceptance as a post-King James Version modern-English Bible.
The widespread popularity of this modern-English translation
brought with it another curious characteristic: the absence of
the 14 Apocryphal books.
- Up until the 1880s every Protestant Bible (not just Catholic
Bibles) had 80 books, not 66! The inter-testamental books written
hundreds of years before Christ called The Apocrypha were part
of virtually every printing of the Tyndale-Matthews Bible, the
Great Bible, the Bishops Bible, the Protestant Geneva Bible,
and the King James Bible until their removal in the 1880s! The
original 1611 King James contained the Apocrypha, and King James
threatened anyone who dared to print the Bible without the Apocrypha
with heavy fines and a year in jail. Only for the last 120 years
has the Protestant Church rejected these books, and removed them
from their Bibles. This has left most modern-day Christians believing
the popular myth that there is something Roman Catholic about
the Apocrypha. There is, however, no truth in that myth, and
no widely-accepted reason for the removal of the Apocrypha in
the 1880s has ever been officially issued by a mainline Protestant
- The Americans responded to Englands E.R.V. Bible by publishing
the nearly-identical American Standard Version (A.S.V.) in 1901.
It was also widely-accepted and embraced by churches throughout
America for many decades as the leading modern-English version
of the Bible. In the 1971, it was again revised and called New
American Standard Version Bible (often referred to as the N.A.S.V.
or N.A.S.B. or N.A.S.). This New American Standard Bible is considered
by nearly all evangelical Christian scholars and translators
today, to be the most accurate, word-for-word translation of
the original Greek and Hebrew scriptures into the modern English
language that has ever been produced. It remains the most popular
version among theologians, professors, scholars, and seminary
students today. Some, however, have taken issue with it because
it is so direct and literal a translation (focused on accuracy),
that it does not flow as easily in conversational English.
- For this reason, in 1973, the New International Version (N.I.V.)
was produced, which was offered as a dynamic equivalent translation
into modern English. The N.I.V. was designed not for word-for-word
accuracy, but rather, for phrase-for-phrase accuracy, and ease
of reading even at a Junior High-School reading level. It was
meant to appeal to a broader (and in some instances less-educated)
cross-section of the general public. Critics of the N.I.V. often
jokingly refer to it as the Nearly Inspired Version, but that
has not stopped it from becoming the best-selling modern-English
translation of the Bible ever published.
- In 1982, Thomas Nelson Publishers produced what they called
the New King James Version. Their original intent was to keep
the basic wording of the King James to appeal to King James Version
loyalists, while only changing the most obscure words and the
Elizabethan thee, thy, thou pronouns. This was an interesting
marketing ploy, however, upon discovering that this was not enough
of a change for them to be able to legally copyright the result,
they had to make more significant revisions, which defeated their
purpose in the first place. It was never taken seriously by scholars,
but it has enjoyed some degree of public acceptance, simply because
of its clever New King James Version marketing name.
- In 2002, a major attempt was made to bridge the gap between
the simple readability of the N.I.V., and the extremely precise
accuracy of the N.A.S.B. This translation is called the English
Standard Version (E.S.V.) and is rapidly gaining popularity for
its readability and accuracy. The 21st Century will certainly
continue to bring new translations of Gods Word in the modern
- As Christians, we must be very careful to make intelligent
and informed decisions about what translations of the Bible we
choose to read. On the liberal extreme, we have people who would
give us heretical new translations that attempt to change Gods
Word to make it politically correct. One example of this, which
has made headlines recently is the Todays New International Version
(T.N.I.V.) which seeks to remove all gender-specific references
in the Bible whenever possible! Not all new translations are
good& and some are very bad.
- But equally dangerous, is the other extreme& of blindly
rejecting ANY English translation that was produced in the four
centuries that have come after the 1611 King James. We must remember
that the main purpose of the Protestant Reformation was to get
the Bible out of the chains of being trapped in an ancient language
that few could understand, and into the modern, spoken, conversational
language of the present day. William Tyndale fought and died
for the right to print the Bible in the common, spoken, modern
English tongue of his day& as he boldly told one official
who criticized his efforts, If God spare my life, I will see
to it that the boy who drives the plowshare knows more of the
scripture than you, Sir!
- Will we now go backwards, and seek to imprison Gods Word
once again exclusively in ancient translations? Clearly it is
not Gods will that we over-react to SOME of the bad modern translations,
by rejecting ALL new translations and throwing the baby out with
the bathwater. The Word of God is unchanging from generation
to generation, but language is a dynamic and ever-changing form
of communication. We therefore have a responsibility before God
as Christians to make sure that each generation has a modern
translation that they can easily understand, yet that does not
sacrifice accuracy in any way. Lets be ever mindful that we are
not called to worship the Bible. That is called idolatry. We
are called to worship the God who gave us the Bible, and who
preserved it through the centuries of people who sought to destroy
- Consider the following textual comparison of the earliest
English translations of John 3:16, as shown in the English Hexapla
Parallel New Testament:
- 1st Ed. King James (1611): "For God so loued the world,
that he gaue his only begotten Sonne: that whosoeuer beleeueth
in him, should not perish, but haue euerlasting life."
- Rheims (1582): "For so God loued the vvorld, that he
gaue his only-begotten sonne: that euery one that beleeueth in
him, perish not, but may haue life euerlasting"
- Geneva (1560): "For God so loueth the world, that he
hath geuen his only begotten Sonne: that none that beleue in
him, should peryshe, but haue euerlasting lyfe."
- Great Bible (1539): "For God so loued the worlde, that
he gaue his only begotten sonne, that whosoeuer beleueth in him,
shulde not perisshe, but haue euerlasting lyfe."
- Tyndale (1534): "For God so loveth the worlde, that
he hath geven his only sonne, that none that beleve in him, shuld
perisshe: but shuld have everlastinge lyfe."
- Wycliff (1380): "for god loued so the world; that he
gaf his oon bigetun sone, that eche man that bileueth in him
perisch not: but haue euerlastynge liif,"
- Anglo-Saxon Proto-English Manuscripts (995 AD): God lufode
middan-eard swa, dat he seade his an-cennedan sunu, dat nan ne
forweorde de on hine gely ac habbe dat ece lif."
- Timeline of Bible Translation
BC: The first written Word of God: The Ten Commandments delivered
- 500 BC: Completion of All Original Hebrew Manuscripts which
make up The 39 Books of the Old Testament.
- 200 BC: Completion of the Septuagint Greek Manuscripts which
contain The 39 Old Testament Books AND 14 Apocrypha Books.
- 1st Century AD: Completion of All Original Greek Manuscripts
which make up The 27 Books of the New Testament.
- 315 AD: Athenasius, the Bishop of Alexandria, identifies
the 27 books of the New Testament which are today recognized
as the canon of scripture.
- 382 AD: Jerome's Latin Vulgate Manuscripts Produced which
contain All 80 Books (39 Old Test. + 14 Apocrypha + 27 New Test).
- 500 AD: Scriptures have been Translated into Over 500 Languages.
- 600 AD: LATIN was the Only Language Allowed for Scripture.
- 995 AD: Anglo-Saxon (Early Roots of English Language) Translations
of The New Testament Produced.
- 1384 AD: Wycliffe is the First Person to Produce a (Hand-Written)
manuscript Copy of the Complete Bible; All 80 Books.
- 1455 AD: Gutenberg Invents the Printing Press; Books May
Now be mass-Produced Instead of Individually Hand-Written. The
First Book Ever Printed is Gutenberg's Bible in Latin.
- 1516 AD: Erasmus Produces a Greek/Latin Parallel New Testament.
- 1522 AD: Martin Luther's German New Testament.
- 1526 AD: William Tyndale's New Testament; The First New Testament
printed in the English Language.
- 1535 AD: Myles Coverdale's Bible; The First Complete Bible
printed in the English Language (80 Books: O.T. & N.T. &
- 1537 AD: Tyndale-Matthews Bible; The Second Complete Bible
printed in English. Done by John "Thomas Matthew" Rogers
- 1539 AD: The "Great Bible" Printed; The First English
Language Bible Authorized for Public Use (80 Books).
- 1560 AD: The Geneva Bible Printed; The First English Language
Bible to add Numbered Verses to Each Chapter (80 Books).
- 1568 AD: The Bishops Bible Printed; The Bible of which the
King James was a Revision (80 Books).
- 1609 AD: The Douay Old Testament is added to the Rheims New
Testament (of 1582) Making the First Complete English Catholic
Bible; Translated from the Latin Vulgate (80 Books).
- 1611 AD: The King James Bible Printed; Originally with All
80 Books. The Apocrypha was Officially Removed in 1885 Leaving
Only 66 Books.
- 1782 AD: Robert Aitken's Bible; The First English Language
Bible (KJV) Printed in America.
- 1791 AD: Isaac Collins and Isaiah Thomas Respectively Produce
the First Family Bible and First Illustrated Bible Printed in
America. Both were King James Versions, with All 80 Books.
- 1808 AD: Jane Aitken's Bible (Daughter of Robert Aitken);
The First Bible to be Printed by a Woman.
- 1833 AD: Noah Webster's Bible; After Producing his Famous
Dictionary, Webster Printed his Own Revision of the King James
- 1841 AD: English Hexapla New Testament; an Early Textual
Comparison showing the Greek and 6 Famous English Translations
in Parallel Columns.
- 1846 AD: The Illuminated Bible; The Most Lavishly Illustrated
Bible printed in America. A King James Version, with All 80 Books.
- 1885 AD: The "English Revised Version" Bible; The
First Major English Revision of the KJV.
- 1901 AD: The "American Standard Version"; The First
Major American Revision of the KJV.
- 1971 AD: The "New American Standard Bible" (NASB)
is Published as a "Modern and Accurate Word for Word English
Translation" of the Bible.
- 1973 AD: The "New International Version" (NIV)
is Published as a "Modern and Accurate Phrase for Phrase
English Translation" of the Bible.
- 1982 AD: The "New King James Version" (NKJV) is
Published as a "Modern English Version Maintaining the Original
Style of the King James."
- 2002 AD: The English Standard Version (ESV) is Published
as a translation to bridge the gap between the accuracy of the
NASB and the readability of the NIV.
- Created: 01.09.2009 Updated: