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1.5 The Bible Today

Our knowledge of the Bible has increased immensely through the research work made by many people. Modern techniques of historical, textual and linguistic research have produced Hebrew and Greek texts close to the original words of the authors. Translators working from these texts have produced easily readable versions in all the known languages and dialects. Until the beginning of the nineteenth century, the world in which the prophets such as Abraham, Mose, David and Jesus lived, was virtually unknown. Only the Scriptures and some limited information coming from Greek and Latin authors, or brought back from the crusades, were available. Today we have at our disposal a large amount of information brought forwards by archaeologists, geographers, historians, sociologists, … As a result the Bible is more alive that ever as the millions of copies sold every year testify. (1)

The King James Version of the Bible is still considered one of the best translation made in the English language. The spelling, punctuation and grammar have been revised many times to adapt the text to the changes. However there is no doubt that it is antiquated. The discovery of better Hebrew and Greek texts, as well as the new skill in translation, led the way to requests for new translations.

The following new Bibles are considered as the best in the English language:

-The Revised Version was written by sixty-five English and Scottish scholars. The New Testament was published in 1881, the Old Testament in 1885 and the Apocrypha in 1898. An American adaptation, the American Standard Version, was produced in 1901. These versions were never very popular.

– James Moffatt edited a New Translation of the Bible on his own (New Testament in 1913; Old Testament in 1924; final revised edition in 1935). Although Moffatt took some liberties with the text, his work was beautiful and well accepted.

– Some Jewish scholars led by Max L. Margolis wrote a new translation of the Old Testament called “The Holy Scriptures According to the Massoretic Text” in 1917 (revised in 1955). This was published by the Jewish Publication Society.

– The Jewish Publication Society of America sponsored also another English translation of the Old Testament that was published between 1962 to 1974. The final text should replace the previous one of 1955.

– The University Chicago Press published “The Bible: An American Translation” in 1931. It includes: Edgar J. Goodspeed’s New Testament of 1923; The Old Testament of 1927 translated by Powis-Smith, Gordon, Meek and Waterman. It is published as a contemporary book in modern day language. When Goodspeed’s translation of the Apocrypha was added it was published again under the new name of “The Complete Bible: An American Translation” in 1939.

– Ronald A. Knox from Oxford published “The Holy Bible, A Translation from the Latin Vulgate in the Light of the Hebrew and Greek Originals” in 1945 (New Testament) and 1949 (Old Testament). It was published in one book in 1956.

– Thirty-one Biblical American scholars sponsored by the International Council of Religious Education wrote “The Revised Standard Version” (New Testament, 1946; Old Testament, 1952; Apocrypha, 1957). It is the latest version of the Tyndale-King James-Revised Version family of English Bibles. Three special editions should be noted for their ecumenical interest:
.The catholic Edition of the Revised Standard Version, that is more or less the same text as read by the Protestants, but with the books arranged in the Vulgate order. It was published in 1965-1966.
.The Revised Standard Version Common Bible of 1973 is the first version approved by the Roman Catholics, Protestants and Eastern Orthodox.
.The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha: An Ecumenical Study Bible of 1973 was published in one volume by the Oxford University Press.

– The New Testament in Modern English of 1958 and The Old Testament Prophets of 1963 are the informal translations of J.B. Phillips, a Church of England vicar.
– The Jerusalem Bible was written in 1966 by Father Alexander Jones of Christ College, Liverpool, assisted by twenty-seven scholars of the Newman Association. It is the first complete English translation by Roman Catholics working directly from Hebrew and Greek texts rather that from the Vulgate. It is the English counterpart of “La Bible de Jerusalem” written in 1961 by the Dominican Bible School in Jerusalem.

– The New English Bible (New Testament, 1961; Old Testament and Apocrypha, 1970)was published by the University Press of both Oxford and Cambridge. It is a new translation from the Hebrew and Greek texts. It was done at the request of the chief Protestant Churches of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales with Observers of the Roman Catholic Church. It is a clear, fluent, accurate and beautiful version.

– The New American Bible of 1970 is also a new translation from the original texts. It was produced by members of the Catholic Biblical Association of America assisted by four Protestant scholars.

– The Living Bible has been published in 1971; it is a paraphrase of the King James Version by Kenneth N. Taylor. It was written to be read by everybody including children. Twenty-two million copies were sold in its first seven years.

– Today’s English Version also known as The Good News Bible was published in 1976. Another edition containing the Apocrypha was issued in 1979. This work was sponsored by the American Bible Society. It is in contemporary English and gives meaning-to-meaning equivalence instead of word-to-word translation.

– The Holy Bible, New International Version was published in 1978 under the sponsorship of the New York International Bible Society. The committee of 115 persons involved in the writing aimed to “faithfulness to the original language, beauty of style and suitability for public and private use”. Modern language was used to express traditional theology. Six million copies were sold in four years.

– The New American standard Bible written between 1960 and 1973 is a revision of the “American Standard Version” of 1901. It aims to be a faithful translation of the Hebrew and Greek texts in a clear contemporary style. (1)