Monday, October 14, 2013

The English Bible

The interesting thing about the Bible is the number of translations, and how the stories have changed over the years - and also the people who translated them. There are several important English Bibles:

The Wycliffe Bible

Hand written between 1382-1395 by John Wycliffe, a priest and Oxford professor, with the possible help of his friends. It was the first Bible in the English language. Although it followed the Latin version of the Catholic Church, it was illegal because the church didn't want common people knowing the Bible. They only wanted priests who speak Latin to be able to read it.

Wycliffe's work was very controversial. He lost his position at Oxford, and was sent to the village of Lutterworth, where he died of a stroke in the middle of giving mass (omša). 30 years later, a council decided to call him a heretic. They dug up his body, burned it, and threw his ashes into the River Swift. They also hunted and killed his many followers.

The Tyndale Bible

Written between 1522-1536 by the English scholar, William Tyndale. It was the first printed Bible in English, and also the first translated directly from Greek and Hebrew, ignoring the Latin version authorized by the Catholic Church. He changed several important words, for example, from 'church' to 'congregation', 'priest' to 'elder', 'do penance' to 'repent', and 'charity' to 'love'.

Tyndale's work was illegal, and he was considered a heretic. He had to hide in different countries in Northern Europe, constantly on the run, while he worked. Tyndale was caught and killed in 1536. He was publically strangled and burned at the stake. His last words were, "Lord, open the king of England's eyes!"

The Great Bible

First written in 1538, was the first English version authorized by the king - no one was killed for writing it. It borrowed greatly from the Tyndale Bible, changing the little differences to match the Latin version of the Catholic Church. Basically, this was needed when King Henry VIII split from the Catholic Church, starting the Anglican Church, so he could divorce his wife.

The Geneva Bible

Printed in 1557. When Henry VIII died, queen Mary I (Bloody Mary) took his place, and ended the Anglican church, rejoining England with the Catholics. All the leaders of the Anglican church that survived ran away to Geneva where they wrote another bible, similar to the Great Bible. It became very popular. This is the version Shakespeare used in his plays.

Mary I, by Antonis Mor, painted in 1554

The Bishop's Bible

with Queen Elizabeth on the cover

Written in 1568, after Queen Elizabeth took the throne, bringing back all the Anglican prostitants from Geneva, etc. This version took out all the parts from the Catholic Latin translation, using instead the Greek versions that Tyndale had translated forty years earlier - basically completing his work. It also supported the idea of an Episcopal clergy. But, this version was too big and expensive, so most people preferred the Geneva Bible.

The Old King James Bible

Written between 1604-1611. It was basically a cheaper version of the Bishop's Bible, meant to be popular and supporting the English church. It worked. The King James Bible is the version most people look for and use today.

The Standard, Authorized King James Bible

Printed in 1769, this version simply updated the spelling, vocabulary, and grammar. It's the version commonly thought of as the King James Bible today.

The New King James Bible

First printed in 1950, is another update of the vocabulary and grammar. Some traditionalists don't like it.

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