Christians refer to the Bible a lot, so it's good to know something about it. Surely the Bible is the Bible? Well, yes and no! The Old Testament was mainly written in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek, so for most of us it has to be translated. The problem is that it's often impossible to get exactly the same meaning in one language as in another, so the translators have to make the best interpretation they can.
It depends what you want from the translation. Do you want a version that's easy to read, or a 'scholarly accurate' translation, even though that may be harder to understand?
Also, words change their meaning over time, eg: 'nice' used to mean 'over fussy' but now means 'pleasant', so an older translation can get out of step with modern meaning and give us a false understanding, or even miss the point altogether.
Sections of the Bible were translated at different times but the first English translation of the whole New Testament (and parts of the Old Testament)
was made by William Tyndale early in the 16th century.
King James I of England directed that a new translation be made by a group of eminent scholars, and in 1611 this became the 'Authorised' or King James Version (KJV)
, still in use today.
In 1970 a new translation into current English was made called the New English Bible (NEB)
. Other mainstream translations include: 1966 the Jerusalem Bible (JB)
often used by Roman Catholics; 1966 the Good News Bible (GNB)
; 1978 the New International Version (NIV)
; 1989 The New Standard Revised Version (NRSV)
; and 1995 the Contemporary English Version (CEV)
– several of these have been updated and re-issued since. Specialist translations have also been made, eg: in 2004 a version that uses common slang (The Word on the Street)
, and even more recently a version in mobile-phone 'Text' shorthand. (Return to top)