Timeline of Bible Translation History

The fascinating story of how we got the Bible in its present form actually starts thousands of years ago, as briefly outlined in our Timeline of Bible Translation History.

Moses and the Ten Commandments

The first recorded instance of God’s Word being written down, was when the Lord Himself wrote it down in the form of ten commandments on the stone tablets delivered to Moses at the top of Mount Sinai. Biblical scholars believe this occurred between 1,400 BC and 1,500 BC… almost 3,500 years ago. The language used was almost certainly an ancient form of Hebrew, the language of Old Covenant believers.

The earliest scripture is generally considered to be the “Pentateuch”, the first five books of the Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, & Deuteronomy… though there is some scholarly evidence to indicate that the Old Testament Book of Job may actually be the oldest book in the Bible. The Old Testament scriptures were written in ancient Hebrew, a language substantially different than the Hebrew of today.

When the entire Pentateuch is present on a scroll, it is called a “Torah”.





An entire Torah Scroll, if completely unraveled, is over 150 feet long!Hebrew has one thing in common with English: they are both “picture languages”. Their words form a clear picture in your mind.

By approximately 500 BC, the 39 Books that make up the Old Testament were completed, and continued to be preserved in Hebrew on scrolls.
By the end of the First Century AD, the New Testament had been completed. It was preserved in Greek on Papyrus, a thin paper-like material made from crushed and flattened stalks of a reed-like plant. The word “Bible” comes from the same Greek root word as “papyrus”. The papyrus sheets were bound, or tied together in a configuration much more similar to modern books than to an elongated scroll.

These groupings of papyrus were called a “codex” (plural: “codices”). The oldest copies of the New Testament known to exist today are: The Codex Alexandrius and the Codex Sinaiticus in the British Museum Library in London, and the Codex Vaticanus in the Vatican. They date back to approximately the 300’s AD. In 315 AD, Athenasius, the Bishop of Alexandria, identified the 27 Books which we recognize today as the canon of New Testament scripture.

In 382 AD, the early church father Jerome translated the New Testament from its original Greek into Latin.The Apocrypha was kept as part of virtually every Bible scribed or printed from these early days until just 120 years ago, in the mid-1880’s, when it was removed from Protestant Bibles. By 500 AD the Bible had been translated into over 500 languages. Just one century later, by 600 AD, it has been restricted to only one language: the Latin Vulgate! The only organized and recognized church at that time in history was the Catholic Church of Rome, and they refused to allow the scripture to be available in any language other than Latin.

Pope Leo the Tenth established a practice called the “selling of indulgences” as a way to extort money from the people. He offered forgiveness of sins for a fairly small amount of money. For a little bit more money, you would be allowed to indulge in a continuous lifestyle of sin, such as keeping a mistress. Also, through the invention of “Purgatory”, you could purchase the salvation of your loved-one’s souls.

selling of indulgences

selling of indulgences

Where was the true church of God during these Dark Ages?

On the Scottish Island of Iona, in 563 AD, a man named Columba started a Bible College. For the next 700 years, this was the source of much of the non-Catholic, evangelical Bible teaching through those centuries of the Dark and Middle Ages. The students of this college were called “Culdees”, which means “certain stranger”.

Culdee – Joseph of Aremethia

The Culdees were a secret society, and the remnant of the true Christian faith was kept alive by these men during the many centuries that led up to the Protestant Reformation.

In fact, the first man to be called a “Culdee” was Joseph of Aremethia. The Bible tells us that Joseph of Aremethia gave up his tomb for Jesus. Tradition tells us that he was actually the Uncle of the Virgin Mary, and therefore the Great-Uncle (or “half-Uncle” at least) of Jesus. It is also believed that Joseph of Aremethia traveled to the British Isles shortly after the resurrection of Christ, and built the first Christian Church above ground there. Tradition also tells us that Jesus may have spent much of his young adult life (between 13 and 30) traveling the world with his Great Uncle Joseph… though the Bible is silent on these years in the life of Jesus.

Morning Star of the Reformation

In the late 1300’s, the secret society of Culdees chose John Wycliffe to lead the world out of the Dark Ages. Wycliffe has been called the “Morning Star of the Reformation”.

Protestant Reformation

That Protestant Reformation was about one thing: getting the Word of God back into the hands of the masses in their own native language, so that the corrupt church would be exposed and the message of salvation in Christ alone, by scripture alone, through faith alone would be proclaimed again.

This concludes our overview of the Pre-Reformation history of the Bible.

Timeline of Bible Translation History

1,400 BC: The first written Word of God:
The Ten Commandments delivered to Moses.

500 BC: Completion of All Original Hebrew
Manuscripts which make up The 39 Books of the Old Testament.

200 BC: Completion of the Septuagint Greek
Manuscripts which contain The 39 Old Testament Books AND 14 Apocrypha Books.

1st Century AD: Completion of All Original
Greek Manuscripts which make up The 27 Books of the New Testament.

315 AD: Athenasius, the Bishop of Alexandria,
identifies the 27 books of the New Testament which are today recognized
as the canon of scripture.

382 AD: Jerome’s Latin Vulgate Manuscripts
Produced which contain All 80 Books (39 Old Test. + 14 Apocrypha + 27 New

500 AD: Scriptures have been Translated into
Over 500 Languages.

600 AD: LATIN was the Only Language Allowed
for Scripture.

995 AD: Anglo-Saxon (Early Roots of English
Language) Translations of The New Testament Produced.

1384 AD: Wycliffe is the First Person to
Produce a (Hand-Written) manuscript Copy of the Complete Bible; All 80 Books.

1455 AD: Gutenberg Invents the Printing Press;
Books May Now be mass-Produced Instead of Individually Hand-Written. The
First Book Ever Printed is Gutenberg’s Bible in Latin.

1516 AD: Erasmus Produces a Greek/Latin
Parallel New Testament.

1522 AD: Martin Luther’s German New Testament.

1526 AD: William Tyndale’s New Testament;
The First New Testament printed in the English Language.

1535 AD: Myles Coverdale’s Bible; The First
Complete Bible printed in the English Language (80 Books: O.T. & N.T.
& Apocrypha).

1537 AD: Tyndale-Matthews Bible; The Second
Complete Bible printed in English. Done by John “Thomas Matthew”
Rogers (80 Books).

1539 AD: The “Great Bible” Printed;
The First English Language Bible Authorized for Public Use (80 Books).

1560 AD: The Geneva Bible Printed; The First
English Language Bible to add Numbered Verses to Each Chapter (80 Books).

1568 AD: The Bishops Bible Printed; The Bible
of which the King James was a Revision (80 Books).

1609 AD: The Douay Old Testament is added
to the Rheims New Testament (of 1582) Making the First Complete English
Catholic Bible; Translated from the Latin Vulgate (80 Books).

1611 AD: The King James Bible Printed; Originally
with All 80 Books. The Apocrypha was Officially Removed in 1885 Leaving
Only 66 Books.

1782 AD: Robert Aitken’s Bible; The First
English Language Bible (KJV) Printed in America.

1791 AD: Isaac Collins and Isaiah Thomas
Respectively Produce the First Family Bible and First Illustrated Bible
Printed in America. Both were King James Versions, with All 80 Books.

1808 AD: Jane Aitken’s Bible (Daughter of
Robert Aitken); The First Bible to be Printed by a Woman.

1833 AD: Noah Webster’s Bible; After Producing
his Famous Dictionary, Webster Printed his Own Revision of the King James

1841 AD: English Hexapla New Testament;
an Early Textual Comparison showing the Greek and 6 Famous English Translations
in Parallel Columns.

1846 AD: The Illuminated Bible; The Most
Lavishly Illustrated Bible printed in America. A King James Version, with
All 80 Books.

1863 AD: Robert Young’s “Literal” Translation; often criticized for being so literal that it sometimes obscures the contextual English meaning.

1885 AD: The “English Revised Version”
Bible; The First Major English Revision of the KJV.

1901 AD: The “American Standard Version”;
The First Major American Revision of the KJV.

1952 AD: The “Revised Standard Version” (RSV); said to be a Revision of the 1901 American Standard Version, though more highly criticized.

1971 AD: The “New American Standard
Bible” (NASB) is Published as a “Modern and Accurate Word for
Word English Translation” of the Bible.

1973 AD: The “New International Version”
(NIV) is Published as a “Modern and Accurate Phrase for Phrase English
Translation” of the Bible.

1982 AD: The “New King James Version”
(NKJV) is Published as a “Modern English Version Maintaining the Original
Style of the King James.”

1990 AD: The “New Revised Standard Version” (NRSV); further revision of 1952 RSV, (itself a revision of 1901 ASV), criticized for “gender inclusiveness”.

2002 AD: The English Standard Version (ESV)
is Published as a translation to bridge the gap between the accuracy of

the NASB and the readability of the NIV.

REFERENCE SITE : http://www.greatsite.com/timeline-english-bible-history/


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