The Bible

Versions and translations

The original texts of the Tanakh were mainly in Hebrew, with some portions in Aramaic. In addition to the authoritative Masoretic Text, Jews still refer to the Septuagint, the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, and the Targum Onkelos, an Aramaic version of the Bible. There are several different ancient versions of the Tanakh in Hebrew, mostly differing by spelling, and the traditional Jewish version is based on the version known as Aleppo Codex. Even in this version there are words which are traditionally read differently from written, because the oral tradition is considered more fundamental than the written one, and presumably mistakes had been made in copying the text over the generations.

The primary biblical text for early Christians was the Septuagint. In addition, they translated the Hebrew Bible into several other languages. Translations were made into Syriac, Coptic, Ethiopic, and Latin, among other languages. The Latin translations were historically the most important for the Church in the West, while the Greek-speaking East continued to use the Septuagint translations of the Old Testament and had no need to translate the New Testament.

The earliest Latin translation was the Old Latin text, or Vetus Latina, which, from internal evidence, seems to have been made by several authors over a period of time. It was based on the Septuagint, and thus included books not in the Hebrew Bible.

According to the Latin Decretum Gelasianum (also known as the Gelasian Decree), thought to be of a 6th-century document[94][95] of uncertain authorship and of pseudepigraphal papal authority (variously ascribed to Pope Gelasius I, Pope Damasus I, or Pope Hormisdas)[96][97][98] but reflecting the views of the Roman Church by that period,[99] the Council of Rome in 382 AD under Pope Damasus I (366–383) assembled a list of books of the Bible. Damasus commissioned Saint Jerome to produce a reliable and consistent text by translating the original Greek and Hebrew texts into Latin. This translation became known as the Latin Vulgate Bible, in the fourth century AD (although Jerome expressed in his prologues to most deuterocanonical books that they were non-canonical).[100][101] In 1546, at the Council of Trent, Jerome's Vulgate translation was declared by the Roman Catholic Church to be the only authentic and official Bible in the Latin Church.

Since the Protestant Reformation, Bible translations for many languages have been made. The Bible continues to be translated to new languages, largely by Christian organizations such as Wycliffe Bible Translators, New Tribes Mission and Bible societies.

Bible translations, worldwide (as of October 2018)[102]
Number Statistic
7,099 Approximate number of languages spoken in the world today
2,659 Number of translations into new languages currently in progress
1,534 Number of languages with a translation of the New Testament
683 Number of languages with a translation of the Bible (Protestant Canon)

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