These notes were originally developed by John and Zora Darrow for an adult Sunday School class in 1988, and updated to include the TNIV for a CBE presentation in 2002.
History of Translation
The OT was written in Hebrew, with a few sections in Aramaic. The need for translation arose early, as the language of the people changed. The people who returned to Jerusalem under Ezra and Nehemiah spoke Aramaic rather than Hebrew; thus we read in Nehemiah 8:7-8: "The Levites instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read." (translating it)
The OT was translated into Greek at Alexandria about 250 BC. It was called the Septuagint ("Seventy") based on translation by around 70 scholars (LEGEND says that independently all 70 came out identical. Manuscripts in existence now differ, with some even leaving YHWH in Hebrew characters). References to the Septuagint are abbreviated with Roman numerals as LXX. The LXX included what we call Apocrypha (other books beyond the 39) - Jews outside Palestine (Hellenistic Jews blending Judaism and Greek culture) often accepted these books.
In Jesus’ day, the Jews in Palestine spoke Aramaic; scribes would study Hebrew and explain Scriptures to hearers. Jews elsewhere throughout the Roman Empire spoke Greek and used the Septuagint.
Jesus quoted often from the OT.
Christians adopted the Hebrew OT, not LXX. Melito (170 AD) traveled to Palestine to determine which books were in the Hebrew scriptures. (Melito refers to Matthew being in Aramaic.)
Our OT 39 books reflect the content of the Hebrew OT, with the order found in the Latin Vulgate. (Hebrew has Chronicles last.)
The NT was written in Greek (with a few Aramaic phrases).
There were early translations of the Bible into other Middle Eastern languages; these are one of the sources scholars use to understand meaning.
The Gospels and OT were translated into Latin in the 4th Century AD by Jerome, a young scholar-priest commissioned by Pope Damasus, so the Bible could be understood by the common people. Jerome used the Greek NT and the Hebrew OT instead of the LXX, which earlier Latin translations had used based on the theory that God had preserved His Word as it was translated. Translations by others into Latin were also gathered, and this translation is called the Vulgate. (A bishop in Tripoli authorized use of Jerome’s translation for use in his area. When the people heard the Old Testament lesson from Jonah, it was so unfamiliar because of its Hebrew source instead of the LXX that they protested the bishop’s innovation by rioting in the streets. One particular example: Jerome used a Latin word for "ivy" instead of a "gourd" as in earlier translations.) Jerome rejected the Apocrypha. He stated: "As the Church reads the books of Judith and Tobit and Maccabees but does not receive them among the canonical Scriptures, so also it reads Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus for the edification of the people, not for the authoritative confirmation of doctrine." St. Augustine was one of the opponents of Jerome’s work.
Some early English translations were done as early as the 7th Century. The first complete English Bible was done by John Wycliffe in 1395 from Latin. He wanted the Bible to be in the common language so each one could be directly responsible to God. Wycliffe’s translation was revised by Wycliffe's secretary John Purvey after Wycliffe's death and published. The Bible in common language ("vernacular") was outlawed soon after, but Wycliffe's translation remained popular into the early 16th Century. Wycliffe's followers were called Lollards ("mumblers").
Three events contributed to further translation and publishing efforts:
The Geneva Bible in 1560 was the first entire Bible in English to be translated from the original languages. It was very popular. It had the first verse divisions, and used italics to show words added in English, a practice continued in the King James. It included variant readings in the margins. It was a revision of Tyndale's NT and Great Bible OT, and was used by the Pilgrims, who rejected the later KJV. The Geneva Bible also included notes and commentary. Here's a link to the Geneva Bible online.
Church leaders who were opposed to the Geneva Bible notes and commentary produced the Bishops’ Bible in 1568. It was never popular.
The King James Version (KJV) was produced in 1611. It was also called the Authorized Version, since it was authorized by the King of England as a revision of the 1602 edition of the Bishops' Bible. It set the style of "Bible English", and continued to be revised and updated until 1769, which is the KJV in common use today. As with the Bishops' Bible, this translation came about because of objections to the notes in the Geneva Bible: King James particularly objected to a marginal note for Exodus 1:9 which indicated that the Hebrew midwives were correct in disobeying the Egyptian king's orders.
The Douai-Reims Bible was a Roman Catholic Translation from the Latin Vulgate, with the NT in 1582 and the OT in 1609-1610. The Challoner revisions to the Douai-Reims from 1749-1772 brought its language style into line with KJV. The Confraternity Bible, 1941-1969, was a Roman Catholic translation still from the Latin Vulgate. The New American Bible, 1970, was a Roman Catholic revision of the Confraternity using original languages
After KJV, from 1650-1850 there was a lot of research on the NT text & manuscripts. Several individual/private translations were produced. Then came a new round of "church sponsored" translations. The English Revised produced the NT in 1881 and the OT in 1885. The American Revised, also called American Standard, came in 1901. In 1947 came the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, providing much earlier manuscript evidence of the OT than previously available, and shedding light on some of the culture in NT days. The Revised Standard Version NT was produced in 1946 and the OT in 1952. It was a revision from the KJV and ASV.
In 1970, the New English Bible broke from the Tyndale/KJV language tradition. Its general director was C.H. Dodd, known for his formulation of the kerygma, or common themes in the preaching of the early church.
The New American Standard was produced in 1971 as a revision of the 1901 ASV.
The Living Bible which began in 1962 with Living Letters came out in 1971. This was a paraphrase or "free" translation done by Kenneth Taylor who was trying to develop a readable translation for his children. The process was to concentrate on developing readable wording, then have Hebrew/Greek/Aramaic scholars check for accuracy. Most translations do the reverse, concentrating first on accuracy, then polishing the style.
The Good News Bible/Today's English Version NT came out in 1966 and the OT in 1976.
The New International Version (NIV) NT was produced in 1973 and the OT in 1978; it was revised in 1984. Three groups were involved: 1) the International Bible Society (IBS) sponsored it and provided funds; 2) Zondervan published the NIV and also provided funds; 3) the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) consists of the scholars who did the actual translation.
Types of translations:
TNIV (Today's New International Version)
The reasons for the TNIV version, from a public meeting with IBS, CBT, Zondervan, included:
The types of changes in the TNIV from the NIV are:
Examples of text not being understood, both by adults and children
-"if any man" – boy asked pastor ‘what about boys? Do I have to wait until I’m grown?’
- "Why is Bible just written for boys?" – young girl
-"I’m going to be a fisher of women" (4-year-old)
Our culture no longer thinks "people" when hearing "men", "man", or "he", but thinks "male".
General criticisms of the TNIV and responses
Criticism: Caving to feminists, making leadership open to women
Here's an excerpt, in which Kohlenberger shows Paul using some of the techniques criticized in the World article:
But in 1850, English grammarians decided, "Don't do that anymore. We're telling you now, the masculine pronoun he is gender inclusive." So for 150 years we've used "he" in a gender-inclusive sense, just like we've used "man" in a gender-inclusive sense. That worked for more than a century, but as language has developed, and especially in the latter half of this century, people hear "he" as exclusively masculine; they hear "man" as exclusively masculine; and they can misunderstand Bible texts if they're not translated in a gender-appropriate way."