3. Bible Translation Before Anyone Spoke English

DiscHere’s what to do ..

Watch the Video Presentation: “The Bible in English – an Introduction”

It is under 14 minutes in length and provides an introduction to the subject of the Bible in English. It looks briefly at the history of Bible translation before English was spoken and considers some of the basic problems of textual transmission.

For a review of the basic material (number of books, names of books, etc.) see Unit One.

The Factsheet

Old Testament passages in Aramaic: Daniel 2:4 – 7:28; Ezra 4:8 – 6:18; 7:12-26, and Jeremiah 10:11.

The Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles states that the Apocrypha has some value because “the Church doth read [the Apocrypha] for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine.”

Key texts:

The Septuagint was a translation of the Hebrew scriptures into Greek, the lingua franca (“common language”) of the Eastern Mediterranean region, made towards the end of the second century BC. It is always abbreviated as “LXX” as it was believed to have been translated by seventy (Latin LXX) Alexandrian rabbis over seventy days.

Targums (some scholars prefer the plural Targumim) were Aramaic versions of the Hebrew Bible from around the same time as the Septuagint but prepared and used further east.

The Vulgate was a Latin translation of the Bible prepared by Jerome (“Hieronymus” in Greek) at the request of Pope Damasus towards the end of the fourth century.

The Problem of Textual Transmission

For more on the Dead Sea Scrolls (“DSS”) see:

Vermes, Geza (translator and editor), The Dead Sea Scrolls in English (Harmondsworth: Allen Lane, 1997).

Davies, Philip R. et al, The Complete World of The Dead Sea Scrolls (London: Thames & Hudson, 2002).

For examples of early Christian quotations from the Bible see, among many:

Staniforth, Maxwell (translator), Early Christian Writings (Harmondsworth: Penguin Classics, 1968).
Thirteen key documents in full.

Stevenson, J., (editor), A New Eusebius – Documents illustrative of the history of the Church to A.D. 337 (London: SPCK, 1957).
A standard collection of more than three hundred extracts.

For the reliability of the New Testament text see, among many:

Bruce, F. F., The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?
 (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1943 and revised and updated many times since).

Copley, Terence, “How did it reach us?” pages 69-92 of The Bible: The Story Of The Book (Swindon: Bible Society, 1990).

McDowell, Josh, The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict (Nashville TN: Nelson, 1981).

< Assignment Instructions   English Bible History >