One of the most common questions asked by both Christians and non-Christians is, “Why are there so many Bible translations?” Are they necessary? Isn’t it overkill to have so many? The answer is, they are necessary. Without them, only a select few would be able to read the Bible.
The Bible was originally written in three different languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. The Old Testament was written in mostly Hebrew, with a few passages written in Aramaic. The New Testament was written in Greek. This can be hard to grasp since the Bibles we hold today are typically written in our native language. In an effort to ensure that all people are able to read the Bible in their own language, various Christian translators have translated the Bible into many tongues and dialects.
The first Bible translations were of the Hebrew Bible, translated fully into Aramaic. These were called Targums. Later, when the Greek language became prominent, the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek, and this translation was called the Septuagint. The Septuagint was in heavy use by Jews who spoke Greek and later by Christians. The next major popular translation was Jerome’s Vulgate, which was a Latin translation of the Bible.
John Wycliffe is credited with being the first to translate the full Bible into English, though there were other lesser known translations prior to this. His Bible was known as the Wycliffe Bible. After this came multiple English translations, including the Tyndale Bible, the Coverdale or Great Bible, the Geneva Bible, the Bishop’s Bible, and then the beloved King James Bible, which was published in 1611.
According to Ethnologue, there are 7,097 known languages in the world. The complete Bible has been translated into approximately 700 languages, while the New Testament has been translated into well over 1,500 languages. Smaller portions of the New Testament have been translated into over 1,000 languages. At least one part of the Bible has been translated into 3,312 of the 7,097 languages.
Wycliffe Associates is an international organization that has made significant advancements in Christian translations of the Bible. They have several collaborative translation workshops called Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation (MAST). These workshops have significantly reduced the time it takes to translate the Bible into new languages. For example, a team of translators can translate the New Testament in only a few months. In early 2018, Wycliffe announced its intention to translate the Bible into 600 languages. The organization has stated that more than 7,000 languages in more than 70 countries still need the Bible translated into their languages.
There have been multiple Bibles published in the languages of Africa, China, Europe, France, India, Russia, and the languages of Native Americans. Many of our popular English translations have been translated into Spanish, such as the 21st Century King James Version, American Standard Version, Amplified Bible, Christian Standard Bible, Common English Bible, and Contemporary English Version. Some of the other non-English translations are as follows:
- Book of Life – Arabic
- La Bible du Semeur – French
- Martin Luther’s translation – German
- La Parola è Vita – Italian
- IBS translation – Korean, Dutch, Farsi,
- Nova Versão Internacional – Portuguese
- Bibeln eller Den Heliga Skrift Konungen År) – Swedish
- New Russian Translation – Russian
- 1934 Vietnamese Bible – Vietnamese
- Chinese Contemporary Bible – Chinese
- Det Norsk Bibelselskap – Norwegian
- Korean Living Bible – Korean
- Japanese Living Bible – Japanese
- Hungarian Bible: Easy-to-Read Version – Hungarian
- The Westminster Leningrad Codex – Hebrew
- SBL Greek New Testament – Greek
With so many Bibles available in various languages, we are well on our way to spreading the message of the Gospel to the world.