GOD'S WORD THE BIBLE: New Testament Text

The history of the English Bible starts in Briton the "mother" of the English language. This story might best be explained within the context of the periods of the development of the English language itself.


During this time period a number of portions of scripture were translated into the English language based on the Latin manuscripts available. These translation were partial in nature but were an important first step in the birth of the English Bible. During this period of time nobody managed to translate a complete copy of the Bible into the native tongue. The Venerable Bede (674-735) considered by some to be one of the greatest scholars of Europe and the greatest in England was probably one of the best known people to contribute something of significance to these early English scriptures with his translation of the gospel of John.


1. John Wycliffe (1320 - 1384) Credit for the first complete English Bible goes to John Wycliffe sometimes known as the morning star of the reformation. This man wanting to see the scriptures available to all men in their native tongue labored to that end until his death. Wycliffe, an Oxford scholar and teacher until relieved of his post, found himself at odds with the religious establishment of his day which had become corrupted in many ways. His translation was made from the Latin Vulgate and was completed after his death by his associate Nicholos of Hereford.

2. William Tyndale (1492 - 1536) Known as the Father of the English Bible William Tyndale appeared at an opportune time in history as the Renaissance brought with it a new interest in the classics and the study of the Greek language. While the church opposed the translation of the Bible into English Tyndale set himself, no matter the cost, to accomplish this task.. His desire however was to provide a Bible based on the original languages rather than the Latin translations in circulation. He managed to complete the entire New Testament and part of the Old Testament with a revision. He was finally kidnapped and burned at the stake for his efforts. He was the first to produce a translation of the New Testament from Greek to English and also the first to have the New Testament printed in English.

3. Miles Coverdale (1488 - 1569) This man who was assistant and proof reader for William Tyndale has the distinction of being credited with producing the first complete English Bible to be printed. His translation also can be noted for the fact that it was the first allowed to be circulated by the official church. A number of other English translations emerged in this time period many of which were interrelated in some way and all of which set the stage for the most important English Bible of modern times, the King James version.

4. The Rheims - Douai Translation ( 1582 ) The emergence of the many English Protestant translations led to the production of a Catholic English Version. The New testament was completed at the English college of Rheims in 1582. Sometime later at the college of Douai the Old Testament was completed. Hence the first authorized English version of the Catholic Bible was complete being named the Rheims-Douai Bible. This translation however was not based on the original languages of Hebrew and Greek but on the Latin translation still popular with the Catholic Church.


1. The King James Bible (1611) With a number of English translation now in circulation a decision was made by King James I in 1604 to make an "Authorized Version" to be used for both public and private use that would be acceptable to all concerned parties. About forty eight choice Hebrew and Greek scholars were chosen and divided to work independently at Westminster, Oxford and Cambridge. Finally in 1611 the King James Version was complete and destined to become the most influential English translation of modern times.

2. The English Revised Version (1885) By the mid 1800's the English language was developing such that the vocabulary and style of the King James was becoming more archaic. Furthermore as more recent scholarship brought new manuscript evidence to light there was a need to revise the King James Version. In 1870 a decision was made to make the revision. This was primarily a revision made for the English continent having some input from American scholars. In May of 1885 the work was complete resulting in the English Revised Version.

3. The American Standard Version (1901) The same American scholars who collaborated with the English in the English Revised Version continued to meet and fourteen years later in 1901 produced the American Standard Version. This version was almost identical to it's English counterpart but was refined to be more suitable to the characteristics of the English spoken in America.

4. The Revised Standard Version (1952) In 1929 discussions began regarding another revision of the American Standard Version. Scholars felt there was still more work to be done to make the modern English translation an accurate but readable text for the American people. Many new Greek manuscripts had been found which were shedding new light on the text of the New Testament. Finally on September 30th 1952 the work was complete.

A number of other modern translation have also been made in the English language. It is outside the scope and purpose of this web site to go further in discussing them. One important point should be noted. All the English translation since the King James translation of 1611 have one important thing in common: they all have had benefit of Greek manuscripts which were not available to the translators of the King James version. Furthermore, the more recent translations of the English Bible have been able to utilize the knowledge gained from the science of modern textual criticism based on many more new Greek manuscripts and the discovery of the dead sea scrolls.

Care also should be taken to understand the difference between a translation and a paraphrase. A number of paraphrases of the Bible, such as the "Living Bible", have emerged in recent years. These Bibles are not literal translations but paraphrases which, based upon the interpretation of the editor's, take liberty in adding words and phrases in order to better communicate the meaning of the text as they have interpreted it.