Versions of the Bible :: Catholic News Agency
Versions of the Bible

Versions of the Bible are translations of the Bible into other languages. The following are the most important versions or translations of the Bible.

1. Septuagint. The oldest Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament is known as the Septuagint, and was made between 300 and 130 B.C. It derives its name from the seventy or seventy two translators to whom it is attributed. According to a legend, Ptolemy II (284-247 B.C.) wished to have a copy of the Law of Moses in his famous library in Alexandria. At his request the high priest sent seventy two scholars (six from each of the twelve tribes) from Jerusalem to Alexandria to translate the Law into Greek.

The Septuagint contains all the forty-five books of the Old Testament. It was used by the Apostles and early Christians and helped greatly in the spread of revealed truths among the Greek pagans. Many Jewish and pagan converts obtained their first knowledge of the Bible through the Septuagint.

2. Old Latin. Since the Christians of Rome and of the Roman Empire needed a Latin Bible for the Liturgy and for private reading, it is probable that as early as the first century the Greek Bible - both the Old and New Testaments - began to be translated into Latin. The Latin Bible which was used in Western Europe prior to the acceptance of St. Jerome's text is commonly known as the "Old Latin."

3. Vulgate. The Latin "Vulgate" ("accepted" or "commonly used") text is the work of St. Jerome (383-405). The New Testament is St. Jerome's revision of the Old Latin text made with the help of ancient Greek manuscripts. Most of the books of the Old Testament are a direct translation of the original Hebrew, while the rest are the Old Latin text. The Council of Trent made the Vulgate the official text of the Catholic Church, and our present edition was brought out by Clement VIII in 1592.

4. The Rheims-Douay Bible. The most widely used English Catholic translation (from the Latin Vulgate) of the Bible is the Rheims-Douay or Douay Version. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth many English bishops, priests and laymen were obliged to seek refuge in France and other European countries. In 1568 a number of illustrious Oxford scholars opened an English College at Douay in France, in order to supply priests for the English missions. In 1578 the College was transferred to Rheims and later back again to Douay. Among the founders of this College were William Allen, principal of St. Mary's Hall at Oxford and later Cardinal; Gregory Martin, fellow of St. John's College of Oxford; Richard Bristow, fellow of Exeter College of Oxford, and others.

The English translation of the Bible was made by Gregory Martin and the work was revised by Allen and Bristow. The New Testament was published at Rheims in 1582, and the Old Testament at Douay in 1609-1610. The language of the text was modernized by Bishop Challoner (1749-1752).

5. The Westminster Version of the Sacred Scriptures - of which Fathers Lattey and Keating of the Society of Jesus are general editors - was published in England. It is a new critical Catholic translation of the New Testament made directly from the Greek. It is a private and not an official version of the Bible.

6. The Confraternity of Christian Doctrine Edition of New Testament. This is not a translation but a revision of the Challoner-Rheims Version undertaken by a group of Catholic scholars under the patronage of the episcopal committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. It aims to bring the language of Challoner's version into conformity with modern English and to render accurately the divine message in the language of our own day.

7. Protestant Versions. a). The King James or Authorized Version (AV) was published in 1611 in the reign of King James I. The Authorized Version is not a new translation but a revision of an English Bible known as the Bishop's Bible and published in 1568. The translation is often colored by anti-Catholic prejudice which in certain instances leads to outright falsifications of the text. The purity of its English, however, has made it the Bible of English Protestantism. b). The Revised Version (RV) (1881-1885) is a modern critical revision undertaken - at the instance of the British Parliament - by a group of English and American Protestant scholars. The committee departed in at least thirty-six thousand instances from the text of 1611. c). In 1901 the American group of the same committee brought out its own text of the Revised Version and this is known as the American Standard Version. (SV).

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