Bible Translation in History

I’m reading a book right now titled, “The Text of the New Testament, It’s Transmission  Corruption, and Restoration” by Bruce Metzger. In chapter 3,  Metzger talks about witnesses to the Bible that we have from different translations, made throughout history.

Did you know that there have been translations of the Bible as early as the 3rd century AD?  People were translating the Bible into other languages so others could read and understand God’s word as early as the 3rd century! Reading these quotes encouraged me. Knowing that people took God’s word to the nations made me excited to want to do the same!  Here are a few examples of these Bible translations in history.

And yes, some of the below quotes have big words and, yes, some of them aren’t really exciting quotes to read, BUT they prove and illustrate how for the last 2000 years different people have been going out into different countries with different languages and bringing God’s word to them in their native tongue.  Why?  Because the Bible is the very words of God, as 2 Peter 1:21 states:

“For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

The Coptic Translation

“Coptic is the latest form of the ancient Egyptian language, which until Christian times was written in hieroglyphs and their two derivatives, hieratic and demotic script. In the first centuries of the Christian era

During the early Christian period, the old Egyptian language was represented in at least half a dozen dialectal forms throughout Egypt, differing from one another chiefly in phonetics but also to some extent in vocabulary and syntax…

Of these dialects, the Sahidic and the Bohairic are the most important for the study of early versions of the Bible.  About the beginning of the third century, portions of the New Testament were translated into Sahidic, and within the following century most of the books of the New Testament became available in that dialect…” (page 110)


The Gothic Translation

Shortly after the middle of the fourth century, Ulfilas, often called the “apostle to the Goths,” translated the Bible from Greek into Gothic.  For this purpose, he created the Gothic alphabet and reduced the spoken language to written form.  The Gothic version is the earliest known literary monument in a Germanic dialect” (page 115)


The Armenian Translation

“With the exception of the Latin Vulgate, more manuscripts of this version are extant than of any other early version; Rhodes has cataloged 1,244 copies of all or part of the New Testament, and it is known that several hundred more are in libraries within the former Soviet Union.  Traditions differ regarding its origin.  According to Bishop Koriun (died c. 450) and the historian Lazar Pharb (c. 500), it was St. Mesrop (died A.D. 439), a soldier who became a Christian missionary, who created a new alphabet and, with the help of the Cathololicus Sahak (Isaac the Great, 390-439), translated the version from the Greek text” (pg 117)


The Georgian Translation

“The people of Caucasian Georgia, that rough, mountainous district between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, received the Gospel during the first half of he fourth century.  The time and circumstances of the translation of the New Testament into Georgian, an agglutinative language not known to be related to any other are hidden in the mists of legend…” (page 118)


The Slavonic Translation

“With the exception of St. Jerome, more is known of the life and work of SS. Cyril and Methodius, the apostles to the Slavs, than of any other translators of an ancient version of the Bible.  Sons of a wealthy official in Salonica, they are credited with the creation of the Glagolitic alphabet, as well as the so-called Cyrillic alphabet.  Soon after the middle of the ninth century, they began translating the Gospels (probably in the form of a Greek lectionary) into Old Bulgarian, commonly called Old Slavonic” (page 121)


The Arabic Translation

“The earliest translations of the Gospels into Arabic probably date from the eighth century…”



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