ChristianAnswers.Net WebBible Encyclopedia

Versions of the Bible

a translation of the holy Scriptures

The word “version” is not found in the Bible, nevertheless, but our encyclopedia frequently references various ancient and modern versions of the Bible. [Editor’s Note: This article is not yet completed; it is a work in progress.]

The Targums

  • After the return from the Captivity, the Jews, no longer familiar with the old Hebrew, required that their Scriptures should be translated for them into the Chaldaic or Aramaic language and interpreted. These translations and paraphrases were at first oral, but they were afterwards reduced to writing, and thus targums, i.e., “versions” or “translations”, have come down to us. The chief of these are…

    • The Onkelos Targum, i.e., the targum of Akelas = Aquila, a targum so called to give it greater popularity by comparing it with the Greek translation of Aquila mentioned below. This targum originated about the second century after Christ.

    • The targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel comes next to that of Onkelos in respect of age and value. It is more a paraphrase on the Prophets, however, than a translation. Both of these targums issued from the Jewish school which then flourished at Babylon.

Greek versions

  • SEPTUAGINT—The Septuagint is oldest of these, and is sometimes refered to as the “LXX” (the 70). The origin of this, the most important of all the versions, is involved in much obscurity. It derives its name from the popular notion that 72 translators were employed on it by the direction of Ptolemy Philadelphus, king of Egypt, and that it was accomplished in 72 days, for the use of the Jews residing in that country. There is no historical warrant for this notion.

    It is, however, an established fact that this version was made at Alexandria; that it was begun about 280 B.C., and finished about 200 or 150 B.C.; that it was the work of a number of translators who differed greatly both in their knowledge of Hebrew and of Greek; and that from the earliest times it has borne the name of “The Septuagint”, i.e., The Seventy.

    This version, with all its defects, must be of the greatest interest as…

    • preserving evidence for the text far more ancient than the oldest Hebrew manuscripts

    • the means by which the Greek Language was wedded to Hebrew thought

    • the source of the great majority of quotations from the Old Testament by writers of the New Testament.

  • The New Testament manuscripts fall into two divisions, Uncials, written in Greek capitals, with no distinction at all between the different words, and very little even between the different lines; and Cursives, in small Greek letters, and with divisions of words and lines. The change between the two kinds of Greek writing took place about the 10th century. Only 5 manuscripts of the New Testament approaching to completeness are more ancient than this dividing date.

    1. Alexandrian manuscript—Though brought to this country by Cyril Lucar, patriarch of Constantinople, as a present to Charles I, it is believed that it was written, not in that capital, but in Alexandria; whence its title. It is now dated in the 5th century A.D.

    2. Vatican manuscript—see Vaticanus Codex

    3. Ephraem manuscript—so called because it was written over the writings of Ephraem, a Syrian theological author, a practice very common in the days when writing materials were scarce and dear

      It is believed that it belongs to the 5th century, and perhaps a slightly earlier period of it than the manuscript A.

    4. Manuscript of Beza—so called because it belonged to the reformer Beza, who found it in the monastery of St. Irenaeus at Lyons in 1562 A.D.

      It is imperfect, and is dated in the 6th century.

    5. Sinaitic manuscript—see Sinaiticus Codex

Syriac/Aramaic versions


Latin versions

  • OLD LATIN—A Latin version of the Scriptures, called the “Old Latin,” which originated in North Africa, was in common use in the time of Tertullian (A.D. 150). Of this there appear to have been various copies or recensions made. That made in Italy, and called the Itala, was reckoned the most accurate. This translation of the Old Testament seems to have been made not from the original Hebrew, but from the Septuagint.

    This version became greatly corrupted by repeated transcription, and, to remedy the evil, Jerome (A.D. 329-420) was requested by Damasus, the bishop of Rome, to undertake a complete revision of it.

  • VULGATE—This version met with opposition, at first, but was at length, in the 7th century, recognized as the “Vulgate” version.

    It appeared in a printed from about A.D. 1455, the first book that ever issued from the press. The Council of Trent (1546) declared it “authentic.” It subsequently underwent various revisions, but that which was executed (1592) under the sanction of Pope Clement VIII was adopted as the basis of all subsequent editions. It is regarded as the sacred original in the Roman Catholic Church. All modern European versions have been more or less influenced by the Vulgate.

    This version reads ipsa_ instead of _ipse in Genesis 3:15, “She shall bruise thy head.”

Other ancient versions

There are several other ancient versions which are of importance to Biblical critics, but which we need not mention particularly, such as the…

  • 4th century A.D.: Ethiopic—from the Septuagint

  • 4th century A.D.: 2 Egyptian versions—the Memphitic, circulated in Lower Egypt, and the Thebaic, designed for Upper Egypt, both translated from the Greek

  • Gothic, written in the German language, but with the Greek alphabet, by Ulphilas (died 388 A.D.), of which only fragments of the Old Testament remain
  • about 400 A.D.: Armenian
  • 9th century: Slavonic—for ancient Moravia
  • Arabic
  • Persian
  • Anglo-Saxon

English versions

  • 1388 A.D.: Wycliffe’s Bible (Wyckliffe)—The history of the English versions begins properly with Wycliffe; it is to him that the honor belongs of having first translated the whole Bible into English. This version was made from the Vulgate, and renders Genesis 3:15 after that Version, “She shall trede thy head.”

  • 1525-1534: Tyndale Bible—William Tyndale’s translation

    He was martyred by the Roman Catholic Church, who banned his work and burned copies of his translations.

  • 1535-1553: Coverdale Bible—published by Miles Coverdale

  • 1537: Matthew Bible or Matthew’s Version—published by Hebrew and Syriac scholar John Rogers, using the pen name “Thomas Matthew,” to avoid execution

    He was the first martyr under the reign of Catholic Queen Mary I of England—“Bloody Mary.”

    This was properly the first King James Version, Henry the 8th having ordered a copy of it to be received by every church. This took place in less than a year after Bible scholar William Tyndale was martyred for the crime of translating the Scriptures.

  • 1539: Taverner’s Bible—published by Richard Taverner as a minor revision of Matthew’s Bible

  • 1539: The Great Bible—so called because of its large size

    It was also called Cranmer’s Bible.

    In the strict sense, the “Great Bible” is “the only King James Version; for the Bishops’ Bible and the King James Version never had the formal sanction of royal authority.”

  • 1560: Geneva Bible—all of the Old Testament was translated directly from Hebrew

    This Bible was the primary version used by John Knox (minister and theologian), John Bunyan (Pilgrim’s Progress), William Shakespeare and most English-speaking Protestants in the 1500s.

  • 1568: Bishops’ Bible—produced under the authority of the Church of England and later revised in 1572 and 1602

    This translation was done by Archbishop of Canterbury Matthew Parker, and other bishops.

  • 1582, 1610: Douay–Rheims Bible (DR)—published under Roman Catholic auspices, using “a densely Latinate vocabulary, to the extent of being in places unreadable.” It was later revised by Richard Challoner (a Roman Cathloic bishop). The result is known as the Douay-Rheims Bible (Challoner Revision) (DRC).

  • 1611: King James Version (KJV or AV)
  • 1885: Revised Version or Revised King James Version (RV)—a revised version of the King James Version

  • 1890: Darby Bible (DARBY or DBY)—also known as The Holy Scriptures: A New Translation from the Original Languages

    Formerly an Anglican priest and very well educated, John Nelson Darby was one of the leaders of a conservative, reformed, evangelical, sola scriptura, dispensational, pre-Trib, independent, non-denominational movement that departed from the state church of England (Anglicanism) in the 1800s. His English translation was used as the basis for various foreign language translations.

  • 1901: American Standard Version (ASV)

    “The American Standard Version, which was also known as The American Revision of 1901, is rooted in the work begun in 1870 to revise the Authorized Version/King James Bible of 1611. This revision project eventually produced the Revised Version (RV). An invitation was extended to American religious leaders for scholars to work on the RV project. In 1871, thirty scholars were chosen by Philip Schaff. The denominations represented on the American committee were the Baptist, Congregationalist, Dutch Reformed, Friends, Methodist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Protestant Episcopal, and Unitarian. These scholars began work in 1872.” —Wikipedia text, July 7, 2017

  • 1952: Revised Standard Version (RSV or ERV)

  • 1971, 1995: New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    This translation is one of the most trusted for accuracy among conservative, reformed evangelical pastors and scholars—“revealing what the original manuscripts actually say—not merely what the translator believes they mean.”

    “While preserving the literal accuracy of the 1901 ASV, the NASB has sought to render grammar and terminology in contemporary English. Special attention has been given to the rendering of verb tenses to give the English reader a rendering as close as possible to the sense of the original Greek and Hebrew texts. In 1995, the text of the NASB was updated for greater understanding and smoother reading. …The NASB update continues the NASB’s tradition of literal translation of the original Greek and Hebrew without compromise. Changes in the text have been kept within the strict parameters set forth by the Lockman Foundation’s Fourfold Aim.”

    “The translators and consultants who have contributed to the NASB update are conservative Bible scholars who have doctorates in Biblical languages, theology, or other advanced degrees. They represent a variety of denominational backgrounds.”

  • 1978, 2011 (revised): New International Version (NIV)

    “The New International Version (NIV) is a completely original translation of the Bible developed by more than one hundred scholars working from the best available Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. The initial vision for the project was provided by a single individual—an engineer working with General Electric in Seattle by the name of Howard Long.”

  • 1982: New King James Version (NKJV)

    “Commissioned in 1975 by Thomas Nelson Publishers, 130 respected Bible scholars, church leaders, and lay Christians worked for 7 years to create a completely new, modern translation of Scripture, yet one that would retain the purity and stylistic beauty of the original King James. With unyielding faithfulness to the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic texts, the translation applies the most recent research in archaeology, linguistics, and textual studies.”

  • 1995: God’s Word (GW)

  • 2001: English Standard Version (ESV)—a revision of the RSV

  • 2004: Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

  • 2011: International Standard Version (ISV)

  • 2011: Common English Bible (CEB)

  • 2011, 2014: Names of God Bible (NOG)

  • 2014: Modern English Version (MEV)

  • 2017: Christian Standard Bible (CSB)


Article Version: 7.7.2017