Bible, the English

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Apart from paraphrases attributed to Caedmon and the translation by Bede of part of the Gospel of St John, the earliest attempts at translation into English of the Holy Scriptures are the 9th‐ and 10th‐cent. glosses and versions of the Psalms, followed by the 10th‐cent. glosses and versions of the Gospels (the Durham Book, or Lindisfarne Gospels, and the West‐Saxon Gospels), and Slfric's translation of the OT at the close of the same century. After this little was done until the time of Wyclif, to whom and his followers we owe the two 14th‐cent. versions associated with his name, the first complete renderings into English of the Scriptures.

Tyndale was the first to translate the NT into English from the Greek text; this he probably did in Wittenberg, the translation being printed first at Cologne, and when this was interrupted, at Worms (1525–6). The Authorized Version (see below) is essentially the text of Tyndale. The complete English Bible that bears the name of Coverdale was printed in 1535. The Prayer Book text of the Psalms is largely Coverdale's version.

The ‘Great Bible’, also called ‘Cranmer's Bible’, was brought out in 1539 under the auspices of Henry VIII; Coverdale was placed by Cromwell in charge of its preparation. The printing of it was begun in Paris and finished in London.

During Mary's reign, the reformers took refuge, some in Frankfurt am Main, some in Geneva, where in 1560 appeared the Genevan or ‘Breeches’ Bible. It had a marginal commentary which proved agreeable to the Puritans.

The ‘Authorized Version’ arose out of a conference at Hampton Court, convened by James I in 1604, between the High Church and Low Church parties. The so‐called ‘Authorized Version’ (it was not authorized by any official pronouncement) appeared in 1611. It is practically the version of Tyndale with some admixture from Wyclif.

In 1870 the Convocation of Canterbury appointed a committee to consider the question of revision, and as a consequence of their report two companies were constituted to revise the authorized versions of the OT and NT respectively. The Revised Text was published, of the NT in 1881, of the OT in 1885. That of the NT was unfavourably received, owing to many irritating and apparently unnecessary alterations of familiar passages. The Revised Version of the OT, though not altogether free from these, was in many respects an improvement on the Authorized text. In 1922 the Revd James Moffatt produced a ‘New Translation of the New Testament’, and in 1924 ‘The Old Testament, a new Translation’, both of which caused some controversy. R. Knox published a new translation of the Bible based on the Vulgate text, the NT in 1945 and the OT in 2 vols in 1949.

The Revised Standard Version (RSV), a translation produced in the United States and published between 1946 and 1957, stood in the tradition of the Authorized Version, but aimed to eliminate excessively archaic language. The RSV became the standard text in many churches and scholarly communities, and remained in widespread use until the early 1990s, when a further revision, the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) was published (1990). This brought the text into more contemporary language, and adopted a gender‐inclusive style; an Anglicized edition was published in 1995.


Subjects: Christianity.

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