Versions of the Holy Bible

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Why are there so many versions of the Holy Bible?

Never before have there been so many versions of the Holy Bible. It can become confusing when one goes to purchase a Bible. Is one better than another? Matters of accuracy and readability must be considered. But how does one get this information?

The first attempt to translate the complete 66 books of the Holy Bible into English occurred in 1382 by John Wycliffe. Until then the Holy Bible remained in Latin and was mainly available only to the clergy for nearly a thousand years. Though books at this time were still written by scribes, the English printing of the Bible came later, the Guttenberg Bible being in German.

In the early 40's, the two main English versions of the Holy Bible were the King James Version, published in 1611, and the Douay or Douay-Rheims Bible translated from the Latin Vulgate in 1582 and 1609, used by the Catholic in English-speaking countries. The Douay-Rheims contains additional books known as the Apocryphal books, intertestament books that are not considered part of the official Canon.

Why do we now have so many versions of the Holy Bible? If languages were fixed and unchanged then there would be no need for revisions and new translations. However languages are constantly evolving. Words go out of style, words come into style and words change their meanings and words are borrowed from other languages. The different translations take into account the words that are no longer socially recognizable to modern English speakers. The principle is the same as how native speakers will automatically replace the word trolley with streetcar or train.

The King James Version of the Bible was written in a style easily understood in Shakespeare's day. But the same phrases that make Shakespeare hard to understand for many present a problem in the King James Version. A couple of examples are:
  • SORE: The French word "very" replaced the English word "sore" since the publishing of the King James Version. One example are found in Numbers 22:3 "Moab was sore afraid of the people." In a more modern version, the New International Version (NIV) makes an accurate translation as "Moab was terrified because there were so many people."

  • PECULIAR: This word in the 1600's meant "unique, special" but now it means "odd." In the KJV we read in Exodus 19:5 "...ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me..." whereas in the NIV it reads more accurately, "...you will be my treasured possession...."

  • Since many changes have occurred over the years, new translations have developed. And since the language will continue to change, new translations or revised translations will continue to be forth coming. Some controversy has arisen over the numerous translations. It would be wise to read the information in the introduction of each Bible as to its source material. Is it a translation of the oldest manuscripts or a translation of another English translation? The farther back the source documents are, the more likely the translation will be the closest to the original intent of the Biblical writers.

    Yes, there are many versions of the Holy Bible. But as long as our language changes so will we need revised translations. The Bible doesn't change its meaning, rather, it is our language that changes and the translators are working to keep the Bible as accurate as possible.



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