Most of us take the presence of our English Bibles for granted. But the stories behind its existence are dramatic, nearly unbelievable, and inspiring. Hear how our New Testament made its way through the ages to finding its way into our homes, and hopefully, into our hearts.
Greatest best-seller of all time! Not so much a book but a library of 66 books!
After Jesus returned to heaven, accounts of His life were written, as were letters about the early years of the church. Some were real, some were not. Some of the books we have in our New Testament were also questioned before being accepted.
By the late 300s and early 400s, the list we know today as the canon was accepted.
The Vulgate–a more modern Latin version done by Jerome, also known as St. Jerome, was commissioned in 382 to translate and update some Christian writings into Latin. This eventually turned into a more modern language Latin version of the entire Bible. This was the Bible that has been used for the longest time in Christian history. This was the version used when the Gutenberg Bible was printed. It was the only Bible people were reading for more than 1000 years.
Some words were mistranslated to fit into Catholic practice. Repent was turned into “do penance” “elder” was turned into “priest,” and “congregation” was turned into “church.” Plus it included the Apocrypha, which we don’t consider inspired.
John Wycliffe (1331-1384)–British theologian who began to disagree with a number of the medieval church’s beliefs. Eventually began to recognize the authority of Scripture and worked to bring an English version of the Vulgate into existence. The Middle Ages church was against this work, because it was used by those who attacked the teachings and practices of the church. Also, the church was concerned that uneducated people wouldn’t interpret the Bible correctly.
In spite of five papal instructions to arrest him, he avoided arrest. But 43 years after his death, his remains were dug up and burned, and the ashes were thrown into a river.
William Tyndale (1500s), got upset at the ignorance of some of the local clergy, and wanted to make use of original Hebrew and Greek texts to create an easily readable English translation. He correctly translated some of the same terms has Wycliffe had, and included some notes from Reformation writers, which made the religious leaders angry.
In 1535, he was betrayed and arrested. The next year, he was strangled and burned at the stake. But he spoke a prophetic prayer as he was dying: “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes!”
He is real father of the English bible. 90% of his translation was incorporated into King James Version, and about 75% into more recent Revised Standard Version.
Wycliffe’s prayer was answered. King Henry VIII required the clergy to set up an English translation of the Bible in each parish. Translations at this time included the Coverdale Bible, the Matthew Version and the Great Bible.
But after Henry came his daughter Queen Mary–”Bloody Mary.” Many believers fled to the Continent of Europe to escape. The more Reformation-minded Protestants settled in Geneva, Switzerland, where they produced their own Bible, the Geneva Bible. A much better translation than ever before, but by far the most controversial because of what was called the “hot,” very Protestant notes, some of which were anti-Catholic. This was the Bible that Shakespeare read, and that the Pilgrims brought to America.
When Queen Elizabeth came to the throne in 1558, she commissioned a new Bible that she hoped would bring everyone together. This was the Bishops’ Bible, which was officially sanctioned by the Queen, but it didn’t replace the Geneva Bible.
So what about the King James Bible?
In 1603, King James came to power, and the Puritan party asked for new Bible. It was agreed that a new translation might be needed, but no marginal notes that might cause problems. The King wanted to find something acceptable to both the Church of England and the Puritans.
A group of 47 scholars did the work, based on the Bishops’ Bible, with reference to the the best original Greek and Hebrew sources. They also made extensive use of the Tyndale Bible, the Geneva Bible, and even the Rheims New Testament (Catholic Bible). This made the KJV the most accurate Bible up to that time.
Great care was given to the style, and because of that, the KJV is probably the most influential work ever on the English language. Melville, Dickens, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and even Handel’s Messiah, were all greatly influenced by it.
This was revised in the 1880s with the Revised Version. Since then, there have been many translations of varying quality. New King James, the New International Version, New Living Translation, New American Standard, The Message and many more.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, the Protestant missionary movement spurred a lot more translations in other languages. Today’s translators have access to Hebrew manuscripts from the time of Jesus and Greek manuscripts from the 3rd and 4th centuries.
So what about us?
First, this is a gift to us from God, and we need to constantly ask God’s forgiveness for taking it for granted.
We need to have a personal relationship not only with Jesus, but with His word to us! If you want more of God, get more into His word.
EVERYONE should have a study Bible! Go to a Christian bookstore and look around. There are lots.
Having a Bible is great. Reading it is even better. Studying it is even better than that. But perhaps the best advice was found in the preface of a 1734 edition of the Greek New Testament–best advice one could receive: “Apply yourself totally to the text; apply the text totally to yourself.”