Things were beginning to heat up, no pun intended. The Church was getting very concerned that the study of theology was becoming uncontrolled. They had many examples of schisms within the church, such as Arianism, and more recent Catharsis of southern France. The best solution at the time was to declare them heretics and burn them at the stake.
This new threat was not particularly regional, as the above examples, but more about the changes in technology. The system that produced copies of Bibles was altered forever with the printing press.
True, the Catholic Church benefitted from the invention of printing. Thousands of monks no longer had to sit in Scriptoriums all over the world, to produce by hand the Bible. Gutenberg’s invention now allowed the bulk of printing to be done to through mass production, leaving the monks to apply gold leaf and create the illuminated page details.
The actual content of the Bible was still in Latin and it was still the Vulgate. When John Wycliffe opened the door by translating the Vulgate into the vernacular, then the Church truly lost control because the vernacular (common tongue) belonged to the people, not the Church.
It’s interesting to note that possibly the printing press producing literate works in the vernacular was more responsible for defining borders of countries than all the Kings, Popes, and wars combined.
If you spoke, wrote, and read French, then it meant that you lived in France (mostly).
Following the need for an English Bible, William Tyndale turned his attention to the problem. He was born in England in 1494, well after Gutenberg’s invention, and he was 23 when Martin Luther published his 95 thesis’s, which began the Reformation. Tyndale spoke and wrote in at least seven languages and had already published many articles and books.
Europe and England had changed forever with the Protestant belief taking hold in the North countries. It still wasn’t regional in the same way as a political rebellion. One city in Germany might be Catholic, and the very next city could be Protestant. In Holland there was a heavy Spanish Catholic influence, and the Dutch Reformed Protestants were also very strong.
With the Catholic Church actively persecuting those who did not use the Vulgate Bible, it soon spilled over as a political concern, with civil wars now being fought across Europe on a faith basis. They were still Christians, but now the bloodshed was based on what translation was used for the Bible.
To be sure, the fears of the Catholic Church remain today. Many untrained pastors lead church in unusual ways, with many interpretations of scripture. Sometimes the concerns are less when the pastors are from the main denominations. Although when I tell individuals that I attend a non-denominational church, I have gotten the response, “Oh, that’s where you get to believe in anything you want?” They are implying that there is no overarching authority to control the direction of belief.
It is truly a minefield, and there are too many examples of cults to dismiss this concern entirely.
When Tyndale turned his attention to an English translation of the Bible, he knew the risks. His life was at stake (no pun) but he still applied his considerable talents to the task. Just as Jerome rejected the Greek Septuagint as unfit, Tyndale rejected the Latin Vulgate. Using the Masoretic and the older Hebrew sources, he found that English actually was closer in many instances to the original Hebrew. The vernacular English was much more flexible than Latin.
There were times that even English could not convey what Tyndale thought the Hebrew was conveying. In those cases he simply invented an English word or phrase. This was not as unusual as it might seem. Creating a printed word in the vernacular was actually an exercise in how to spell what was for centuries an oral tradition. It was quite easy to go from learning how to spell a spoken word, to the creation of a new word for a new concept.
Tyndale was in contact with Sir Thomas More and Erasmus, as well as other scholars of the age. Erasmus collected “phrases” that had been created and then became common in the vernacular.
In Erasmus’s Adagia there are many phrases from Tyndale that became poplar because of his Bible translation. William Shakespeare also created these phrases found in his published work. Because a phrase is in 17th century English, many people think the phrase is from Shakespeare, and if not Shakespeare then the Bible (King James), when actually it came from William Tyndale’s work, including his Bible.
The following phrases were created by Tyndale: “let there be light, and there was light,” “male and female created he them,” “who told thee that thou wast naked?” “my brother’s keeper,” “the Lord bless thee, and keep thee: the Lord make his face shine upon thee,” “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, with all thy soul and with all thy might,” “the salt of the earth,” “the powers that be,” “a law unto themselves,” “filthy lucre,” and “fight the good fight.”
In addition he created the words Jehovah, mercy seat, atonement, scapegoat and Passover.
It’s interesting that even Passover is more often used by Jewish people, even though there is still the perfectly good Hebrew word of pesach.
The word of atonement was created to help explain Yom Kippur. In the section that describes sending the live goat sacrifice into the wilderness, Tyndale create two new words, “scapegoat” to describe the goat, and “atonement” to describe how the priests laid the sins of the people upon the goat below sending the goats away.
Even more curious is that the word “atonement” could be pronounced in the fashion that is more in keeping with Tyndale’s invention. It should be thought of as “at-one-ment”, and “atone” is more correctly pronounced as “at-one“.
It is very hard to separate the political world, the religious split, and the abundance of translations from each other. They are all interwoven. Certainly the Geneva Bible translation of 1560 was the main Bible of the Reformation in Europe. In England, there were several, and initially the Wycliffe was used until the Tyndale/Coverdale Bible was published.
Then, in 1611, the first edition of the King James Bible began to be used, and surpassed all others as the authorized Bible of the Church of England.
About 76 percent of the Old Testament and 84 percent of the New Testament text of the King James Version is based on the words of Tyndale.
Additionally, the House of Stuart, to which James belonged, had Scottish roots and was primarily Catholic. So, there are some places in the King James Version that seems closer to the Vulgate than Tyndale.
The first edition from 1611 is also famous for not having a single “J” throughout the entire book. There was King Iames on the first page and references to Ioshua, Ionah, and Iesus, but nothing with a “J”.
The letter “J” had been invented by Italian scribes 200 years before the King James Version, but it was thought too common to be used in an important Christian book. However the very next edition, the letter “J” replaced all those capitol “I’s”.
The King James still has a huge market and many people feel the uncommon beauty that comes across in passages. In fact, in many cults that have a “Word from God”, it appears that God speaks 17th century English, similar to the text of the King James.
In 2012, the top five translations that were sold were…
1. New International Version
2. King James Version
3. New Living Translation
4. New King James Version
5. English Standard Version
In 2014, a study found the top five bibles that were used in Bible studies were…
1. King James Version (55%)
2. New International Version (19%)
3. New Revised Standard Version (7%)
4. New American Bible (6%)
5. The Living Bible (5%
The following is not a complete list, but it does show 100 of the most common translations of the Bible into English.
* Abbreviated Bible – TAB – 1971, eliminates duplications, includes the Apocrypha
* American Standard Version – ASV – 1901, a.k.a. Standard American Edition, Revised Version, the American version of the Holy Bible, Revised Version
* American Translation (Beck) – AAT – 1976
* American Translation (Smith-Goodspeed) – SGAT – 1931
* Amplified Bible – AB – 1965, includes explanation of words within text
* Authentic New Testament – ANT – 1958
* Barclay New Testament – BNT – 1969
* Basic Bible – TBB – 1950, based upon a vocabulary of 850 words
* Bible Designed to Be Read as Literature – BDRL – 1930, stresses literary qualities of the Bible, includes the Apocrypha
* Bible Reader – TBR – 1969, an interfaith version, includes the Apocrypha
* Cassirer New Testament – CNT – 1989
* Centenary Translation of the New Testament – CTNT – 1924, one of the few versions translated solely by a woman
* Common English New Testament – CENT – 1865
* Complete Jewish Bible – CJB – 1989, a Messianic Jewish translation
* Concordant Literal New Testament – CLNT – 1926
* Confraternity of Christian Doctrine Translation – CCDT – 1953, includes the Apocrypha
* Contemporary English Version – CEV – 1992, includes Psalms and Proverbs
* Coptic Version of the New Testament – CVNT – 1898, based on translations from northern Egypt
* Cotton Patch Version – CPV – 1968, based on American ideas and Southern US culture, only contains Paul’s writings
* Coverdale Bible – TCB – 1540, includes the Apocrypha
* Darby Holy Bible – DHB – 1923
* Dartmouth Bible – TDB – 1961, an abridgment of the King James Version, includes the Apocrypha
* De Nyew Testament in Gullah – NTG – 2005
* Dead Sea Scrolls Bible – DSSB – 1997, translated from Dead Sea Scrolls documents, includes the Apocrypha
* Documents of the New Testament – DNT – 1934
* Douay-Rheims Bible – DRB – 1899
* Emphasized Bible – EBR – 1959, contains signs of emphasis for reading
* Emphatic Diaglott – EDW – 1942
* English Standard Version – ESV – 2001, a revision of the Revised Standard Version
* English Version for the Deaf – EVD – 1989, a.k.a. Easy-to-Read Version, designed to meet the special needs of the deaf
* English Version of the Polyglott Bible – EVPB – 1858, the English portion of an early Bible having translations into several languages
* Geneva Bible – TGB – 1560, the popular version just prior to the translation of the King James Version, includes the Apocrypha
* Godbey Translation of the New Testament – GTNT – 1905
* God’s Word – GW – 1995, a.k.a Today’s Bible Translation
* Holy Bible in Modern English – HBME – 1900
* Holy Bible, Revised Version – HBRV – 1885, an official revision of the King James Version which was not accepted at the time
* Holy Scriptures (Harkavy) – HSH – 1951
* Holy Scriptures (Leeser) – HSL – 1905
* Holy Scriptures (Menorah) – HSM – 1973, a.k.a. Jewish Family Bible
* Inclusive Version – AIV – 1995, stresses equality of the sexes and physically handicapped, includes Psalms
* Inspired Version – IV – 1867, a revision of the King James Version
* Interlinear Bible (Green) – IB – 1976, side-by-side Hebrew/Greek and English
* International Standard Version – ISV – 1998
* Jerusalem Bible (Catholic) – TJB – 1966, includes the Apocrypha
* Jerusalem Bible (Koren) – JBK – 1962, side-by-side Hebrew and English
* Jewish Bible for Family Reading – JBFR – 1957, includes the Apocrypha
* John Wesley New Testament – JWNT – 1755, a correction of the King James Version
* King James Version – KJV – 1611, a.k.a. Authorized Version, originally included the Apocrypha
* Kleist-Lilly New Testament – KLNT – 1956
* Knox Translation – KTC – 1956, includes the Apocrypha
* Lamsa Bible – LBP – 1957, based on Peshitta manuscripts
* Lattimore New Testament – LNT – 1962, a literal translation
* Letchworth Version in Modern English – LVME – 1948
* Living Bible – LB – 1971, a paraphrase version
* McCord’s New Testament Translation of the Everlasting Gospel – MCT – 1989
* Message – TM – 1993, a.k.a. New Testament in Contemporary English, a translation in the street language of the day, includes Psalms and Proverbs
* Modern Reader’s Bible – MRB – 1923, stresses literary qualities, includes the Apocrypha
* Modern Speech New Testament – MSNT – 1902, an attempt to present the Bible in effective, intelligible English
* Moffatt New Translation – MNT – 1922
* New American Bible – NAB – 1987, includes the Apocrypha
* New American Standard Version – NAS – 1977
* New Berkeley Version in Modern English – NBV – 1967
* New Century Version – NCV – 1987
* New English Bible – NEB – 1970, includes the Apocrypha
* New Evangelical Translation – NET – 1992, a translation aimed at missionary activity
* New International Version – NIV – 1978
* New Jerusalem Bible – NJB – 1985, includes the Apocrypha
* New JPS Version – NJPS – 1988
* New King James Version – NKJ – 1990
* New Life Version – NLV – 1969, a translation designed to be useful wherever English is used as a second language
* New Living Translation – NLT – 1996, a dynamic-equivalence translation
* New Millenium Bible – NMB – 1999, a contemporary English translation
* New Revised Standard Version – NRS – 1989, the authorized revision of the Revised Standard Version
* New Testament in Plain English – WPE – 1963, a version using common words only
* New Testament: An Understandable Version – NTUV – 1995, a limited edition version
* New Translation (Jewish) – NTJ – 1917
* New World Translation – NWT – 1984
* Noli New Testament – NNT – 1961, the first and only book of its kind by an Eastern Orthodox translator at the time of its publication
* Norlie’s Simplified New Testament – NSNT – 1961, includes Psalms
* Original New Testament – ONT – 1985, described by publisher as a radical translation and reinterpretation
* Orthodox Jewish Brit Chadasha – OJBC – 1996, an Orthodox version containing Rabbinic Hebrew terms
* People’s New Covenant – PNC – 1925, a version translated from the meta-physical standpoint
* Phillips Revised Student Edition – PRS – 1972
* Recovery Version – RcV – 1991, a reference version containing extensive notes
* Reese Chronological Bible – RCB – 1980, an arrangement of the King James Version in chronological order
* Restoration of Original Sacred Name Bible – SNB – 1976, a version whose concern is the true name and titles of the creator and his son
* Restored New Testament – PRNT – 1914, a version giving an interpretation according to ancient philosophy and psychology
* Revised English Bible – REB – 1989, a revision of the New English Bible
* Revised Standard Version – RSV – 1952, a revision of the American Standard Version
* Riverside New Testament – RNT – 1923, written in the living English language of the time of the translation
* Sacred Scriptures, Bethel Edition – SSBE – 1981, the sacred name and the sacred titles and the name of Yahshua restored to the text of the Bible
* Scholars Version – SV – 1993, a.k.a. Five Gospels; contains evaluations of academics of what are, might be, and are not, the words of Jesus; contains the four gospels and the Gospel of Thomas
* Scriptures (ISR) – SISR – 1998, traditional names replaced by Hebraic ones and words with pagan sources replaced
* Septuagint – LXX – c. 200 BCE, the earliest version of the Old Testament scriptures, includes the Apocrypha
* Shorter Bible – SBK – 1925, eliminates duplications
* Spencer New Testament – SCM – 1941
* Stone Edition of the Tanach – SET – 1996, side-by-side Hebrew and English
* Swann New Testament – SNT – 1947, no chapters, only paragraphs, with verses numbered consecutively from Matthew to Revelation
* Today’s English New Testament – TENT – 1972
* Today’s English Version – TEV – 1976, a.k.a. Good News Bible
* Twentieth Century New Testament – TCNT – 1904
* Unvarnished New Testament – UNT – 1991, the principal sentence elements kept in the original order of the Greek
* Versified Rendering of the Complete Gospel Story – VRGS – 1980, the gospel books written in poetic form, contains the four gospels
* Westminster Version of the Sacred Scriptures – WVSS – 1929
* Wiclif Translation – TWT – 1380, a very early version translated into English
* William Tindale Newe Testament – WTNT – 1989, an early version with spelling and punctuation modernized
* William Tyndale Translation – WTT – 1530, early English version, includes the Pentateuch
* Williams New Testament – WNT – 1937, a translation of the thoughts of the writers with a reproduction of their diction and style
* Word Made Fresh – WMF – 1988, a paraphrase with humour and familiar names and places for those who have no desire to read the Bible
* Worrell New Testament – WAS – 1904
* Wuest Expanded Translation – WET – 1961, intended as a comparison to, or commentary on, the standard translations
* Young’s Literal Translation, Revised Edition – YLR – 1898, a strictly literal translation