Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bibles, Bibles, Bibles!

What is one to make of all the English versions of the Bible? One book to read is Bruce M. Metzger’s The Bible in Translation – Ancient and English Versions. (Baker 2001).

As the title indicates, Dr. Metzger not only writes about the English versions of the Bible, but also the “Ancient" versions, which is a topic well worth addressing. But this post is about the English versions, and essentially presents that part of the table of contents of Dr. Metzger’s book that deals with the major English versions. It provides a good list, in mostly historical order, of those versions.

1. English Bibles before the King James Version
a. The Beginnings of the English Bible
b. The Wycliffite Bible (1382; 1388)
c. Tyndale and the First Printed English New Testament (1526)
d. Coverdale and the First Completed Bible in English
e. Matthew’s Bible (1537)
f. Taverner’s Bible (1539)
g. The Great Bible (1539)
h. Edmund Becke’s Bibles (1549-1610)
i. The Geneva Bible (1560)
j. The Bishop’s Bible (1568)
k. The Rheims-Douay Bible (1582-1610)

2. The King James Bible (1611)

3. Between the King James Bible and the Revised Version
a. Edward Hardwood’s New Testament (1768)
b. Charles Thomson’s Bible (1808)
c. Noah Webster’s Bible (1833)
d. Julia E. Smith’s Bible (1876)

4. The British Revised Version (1881-85) and the American Standard Version (1901)

5. Early Modern-Speech Versions
a. The Twentieth Century New Testament (1901; 1904)
b. Weymouth’s New Testament in Modern Speech (1903)
c. Moffatt’s Translation of the Bible (1913; 1924-25)
d. Smith and Goodspeed’s American Translation (1923; 1927)

6. The Revised Standard Version (1952)

7. The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

8. The New American Bible (1970)

9. The New English Bible (1970)

10. The New International Version (1978)

11. Jewish Translations
a. Translations Sponsored b the Jewish Publication Society (1917; 1985)
b. Heinz W. Cassirer’s new Testament (1989)
c. David H. Stern’s Complete Jewish Bible (1998)

12. Revision after Revision
a. The New American Standard Bible (1971; updated ed. 1995)
b. The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)
c. Revised New Testament, New American Bible (1986)
d. The Revised English Bible (1989)
e. The New Revised Standard Version (1990)

13. Simplified, Easy-to-Read Versions
a. The Basic English Bible (1949)
b. J.B. Phillips’s Version (1958; rev. ed. 1972)
c. The Good News Bible (Today’s English Version)(1976)
d. The Reader’s Digest Bible (1982)
e. The Contemporary English Version (1995)
f. New International Reader’s Version (1996)

14. Paraphrases of the English Bible
a. Henry Hammond’s Paraphrase and Annotations (1653)
b. Philip Doddridge’s Family Expositor (1739-56)
c. F.F. Bruce’s Expanded Paraphrase of the Epistles of Paul (1965)
d. Kenneth Taylor’s Living Bible Paraphrased (NT 1967; entire bible 1971)
e. Eugene Peterson’s The Message (NT 1993; OT Wisdom books 1997; OT Prophets 2000)

The edition of Metzger’s book from which this list is taken is the 2001 edition. There have been, of course, even more English versions since 2001. The additional versions would include, but certainly not be limited to, the following:

1. Eugene Peterson’s The Message (the entire bible 2002)
2. The NET Bible (First Edition 2005, but continuously revised).

There are Bibles described as “study bibles” as well, although these are mainly bibles that take the text of one of the major English versions (NIV, for example) and then annotate them with study notes, cross-references, maps, concordances and the like. None of those are listed above.

There is a bible that fails in between a “study bible” and simply another version of the bible, and that is the Annotated Bible, the copyright for which is held by the Lockman Foundation. The Annotated Bible uses the New American Standard Bible as its main text, but within the text itself, the AB will provide alternate translations of key words and phrases. I have recently “rediscovered” the AB and am finding it increasingly useful. (Note that the New American Standard Bible, whose copyright is also held by the Lockman Foundation, is also known as NASB, NAS, and New American Standard.)

Certainly, the NET Bible also falls between simply a version and a "study bible."

As my "study bibles," I most often use the NIV Study Bible (10th Anniversary Edition 1995) and the NET Bible. As to the latter, I make liberal use of the web version in my Bible study, but will take along the hard copy First Edition to church.

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