Early Modern English Bible translations

From Academic Kids

Early Modern English Bible translations are those translations of the Bible which were made between about 1500 and 1800, the period of Early Modern English. This was the first major period of Bible translation into the English language including the landmark King James Version and Douai Bibles. The Reformation and Counter-Reformation led to the need for Bibles in the vernacular with competing groups each producing their own versions.

  • William Tyndale was the first figure in this period. His translation was begun in England but failed to find support from the church. He fled to Hamburg, Germany where he finished his translation of the New Testament. It was published in 1526 in Cologne. Many copies of Tyndale's Bible were seized and destroyed when they reached England. He worked on a translation of the Old Testament but was jailed for his work in Brussels in 1535. He completed further translation work while in jail but did not finish the Old Testament before he was executed in 1536.
  • Miles Coverdale took Tyndale's New Testament and the portions of the Old Testament available before he was jailed and produced the Coverdale's Bible in 1535. He probably translated the remainder of the Old Testament himself based on Latin and German versions.
  • Matthew's Bible was produced by John Rogers, working under the pseudonym Thomas Matthew for safety, in 1537. It was based on Tyndale's previously published version with the addition of the text Tyndale produced in prison. The remainder used Coverdale's translation. This version received the approval of Henry VIII who had previously banned Tyndale's work. The Great Bible version which appeared first in 1539 became the authorized version in Britain.
  • The Bishops' Bible was an Anglican revision of the Great Bible produced by 9 bishops in a response to the rising popularity of the Geneva Bible. It was produced in 1568 and revised in 1572.
  • The Roman Catholic Church responded to the various Protestant versions by producing the Douai Bible also called the Rheims-Douai Bible. It was translated by English priests in exile in France with the New Testament published in Rheims in 1582 and the Old Testament in Douai in 1610.
  • The King James Version was published in 1611. Translated by the largest group of translators, around 50, and using the widest range of source texts, it became the "Authorized Version" in Britain and the most widely used of the Early Modern English Bible translations. It use has continued in some traditions up to the present. Even though modern scholarship has shown problems with some of the translation, it is widely admired for its style and use of language.
A sample of the King James show the similarity to modern English:
Our father which art in heauen, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in heauen. Giue us this day our daily bread. And forgiue us our debts as we forgiue our debters. And lead us not into temptation, but deliuer us from euill. Amen.
  • The Douai translation was updated in 1750 by Bishop Challoner and while it continued to be known as the Douai version, many consider it to be equivalent to a separate translation. In various updates, this version remained the standard Catholic English language Bible until 1941.

With new standards of scholarship, increasing fragmentation of churches, and discovery of more ancient sources, Modern English Bible translations would proliferate in the Modern English age to a degree never before seen.


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