GOD'S WORD THE BIBLE: New Testament Text

One of the first commands that Jesus gave to His disciples was to go into all the world to preach the gospel to every nation teaching them to observe all that had been commanded. (Matthew 28:19) This of course would make it necessary for the gospels and the teachings of the Apostles to be translated into the language of the people who were being visited. Therefore quite naturally there appeared a number of early translation of the New Testament into various other languages. The existing copies of these early translations or version is of great value in continuing to verify the accuracy and trustworthiness of the New Testament documents.


The Latin translations are the most important of the early versions. Latin as it has been stated before was the official language of the Roman Empire. As time went on Latin become the predominant language of the west. Because of this the Latin versions soon became the only version to be used by the Church in these regions. There are two Latin versions to be examined.

1. The Old Latin: The first Latin translations are believed to have been made prior to 200AD. This version survives today in some thirty ancient manuscripts. This "Old Latin" translation was not of a high quality and was characterized by many variations in the text. Early church leaders of that time recognized the need to correct and revise this translation to make it accurate and trustworthy. The result is what is known today as the Latin Vulgate.

2. The Latin Vulgate: In 382 Pope Damascus commissioned Jerome an outstanding Bible scholar of his day to begin a revised Latin version which would correct and standardize the numerous Old Latin translations. Jerome was well suited for this task having been trained in the original biblical languages of Greek and Hebrew. When completed this new Latin version became the Bible that was used in the western world for the next 1000 years. It is estimated that there are presently some eight thousand copies of the Latin Vulgate still in existence today.


Another important early translation was the Syriac version. Syrian which was the chief language spoken in the land of Syria and Mesopotamia was almost identical to Aramaic which was the language spoken by Jesus and his disciples. The first translation known as the "Old Syriac" version dates somewhere towards the end of the second century and is survived by two known manuscripts. In contrast the second Syriac version know as the "Peshitta" or "simple" most likely dates to the early fifth century and is represented by some 350 manuscripts.


In addition to these two early versions the Christian scriptures were translated into other languages. Some examples of these other versions are as follows: The Coptic version of Egypt, The Ethiopic of Ethiopia, The Gothic of the Germanic tribes, The Armenian version of the eastern church, the Georgian of Georgia north of Armenia, the Nestorian versions of central and east Asia, and the Arabic and Slavonic versions. There are also several other less important versions which are not here mentioned.