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Medieval and Modern Versions of the Bible


Early medieval versions (eighth century to the eleventh)

In the period between the making of the ancient VSS of the Bible and modern times, the Scriptures (esp. parts of the Bible) were tr. much more frequently than is commonly realized. Certain powerful stimuli for tr. activity may have been absent to some extent in the middle period, but occasion nevertheless arose not infrequently for vernacular renderings of Biblical material. Translation work of a sort, or paraphrase was called for by codes of law, which took account of the Ten Commandments, by historical surveys, which might include both Biblical and non-Biblical narrative, by the vernacular religious drama, by epics, gospel harmonies, homilies, and other works. The Lat. Vul. was, of course, the dominant VS in the W, but even this dominance, although from one point of view stultifying, may have made some contribution to the tr. of the Scriptures into the vernacular. To assist in the mastery of the Lat. text, vernacular glosses or rudimentary trs., may, in the first instance, have been written in the MSS. Missionary activity and the emergence and development of certain languages in the Middle Ages, such as the Romance languages, presented new fields and needs for tr. work.

Manuscripts surviving from as early as the 8th and 9th centuries contain the tr. of Biblical material into vernacular languages of Europe. From the 8th cent. or the beginning of the 9th there is a fragmentary survival of the gospel according to Matthew in a Bavarian dialect. The MS is bilingual, with a Lat. as well as a Ger. text. Also from the 8th cent. is a Lat. MS with a small number of glosses in French. This is quite remarkable, for it comes from the earliest days of the French language. At an early time, Ger. glosses and Irish glosses appeared in Lat. MSS. Biblical material in Old Irish has been preserved in homilies. A late 8th-cent. MS contains the Lord’s Prayer in Allemannic. A rendering of the Prayer into Bavarian dates from the beginning of the 9th cent. Still a third VS—in Rhenish Franconian—survives in MSS from the early 9th cent.

A VS of the gospel harmony of Tatian, the Diatessaron, with a Lat. text and a close rendering into E Franconian was made in Fulda c. 830. The 9th-cent. Heliand, a Saxon work in alliterative v. form, used the Diatessaron as its chief source. Of a similar type from this period was the Old Saxon epic, Genesis.

The beginning of Bible tr. in Old Church Slavonic may be assigned to the latter part of the 9th cent. At this time the missionaries Cyril and Methodius tr. parts of the Bible and formed the basic Slavic VS, later amplified and accommodated to dialectal developments. In the latter part of the 9th cent. also the monk Otfrid of Weissenburg completed his Liber Evangeliorum, a poem which combines Scriptural and other material and provides a considerable amount of interpretation.

In the early part of the 10th cent. a v. paraphrase of Psalm 138 was prepared in Bavarian and at about the same time a v. treatment was written concerning Christ and the woman of Samaria. It survives in fragmentary form in a text which unites both Allemannic and Franconian dialectal traits. A fragment of the Song of Solomon in Rhenish Franconian is extant in a MS from the latter part of the 10th cent. In the 9th or 10th cent. twenty-five psalms were tr. into Low Franconian. The Psalter was very popular in the Middle Ages. As early as the 10th cent. parts of the Bible were in use in Old Netherlands dialects. The earliest is possibly a VS of the Psalms from the beginning of the cent. With noteworthy ability the monk Notker (c. 950-1022) tr. the Psalms into Alemannic. He is also to be credited with a tr. of Job. An Old Frisian VS of the Psalms, perhaps from the 11th cent., has survived. In the second half of that century Abbot Williram of Ebersberg made a very popular paraphrastic rendering of the Song of Solomon in E Franconian. In addition to the Ger. text Williram included the Vul. and Lat. paraphrase.

In this early period, then, there was no considerable use of vernacular languages to set forth Biblical material. Significant foundations were laid for important developments to come.

Late medieval versions (twelfth century to the fifteenth)

In the following centuries (12th to 15th) up to the Reformation of the 16th cent. there was a large amount of tr. work of a sort. “Historical Bibles” stemming from Peter Comestor’s Historia Scholastica, including vernacular treatments of Biblical and other material, were popular. Lives of Christ and the Psalter were in demand. There continued to be an interest in glossing, commenting, paraphrase, and in the use of v. for presenting Biblical content. By the end of the period there was a serious concern about tr. proper, and a notable effort to tr. extensive sections of the Biblical text, even to the entire Bible. The Renaissance and the invention of printing from movable type had, of course, an influence on the tr. and the dissemination of the vernacular Scriptures. The large number of Biblical MSS and printed edd. of the Bible at the close of the Middle Ages formed a fitting prelude to the Reformation.

German versions.

Among the Ger. trs. of this period, mention might be made of an interlinear VS of the Psalms from the latter part of the 12th cent. and the numerous other Psalters of this period, including the very popular and accomplished VS of Henry of Mügeln in the latter part of the 14th cent., the high Ger. VS of the entire NT, the “Augsburg Bible” of 1350; the Codex Teplensis, a MS of the NT from c. 1400, perhaps of Waldensian background; and the Wenzel Bible (1389-1400), which contained OT material. A great many MSS survive from the 15th cent. The first of the printed Ger. Bibles, the Mentel Bible of 1466, was the first of eighteen printed edd. of the entire Bible in Ger. which antedated Luther’s VS. It made use of a text from the 14th cent.

Dutch (and Flemish) versions.

About the middle of the 13th cent. the Diatessaron was tr. into Dutch from a text significantly different from that of the Lat. Vul. It is found in a liège MS of c. 1270. It is a work of considerable literary merit. In 1271 appeared the meritorious Rijmbijbel by Jacob van Maerlant, which drew chiefly on Comestor’s Historia Scholastica. It is the precursor of the later “History Bible” in Dutch. From the same time comes a popular Southern Dutch Psalter. By 1300 the gospels and epistles had been tr. into Southern Dutch. From the latter part of the 14th cent. on noteworthy Dutch “History Bibles” appeared. In 1383 Gerard Groote included trs. of Biblical material in his Book of Hours. In the following year Johan Schutken produced his very popular VS of the NT and Psalms. A tr. of the OT without the Psalms was published at Delft in 1477, the first Biblical VS to be printed in Dutch. Its text is basically that of a previous cent., perhaps dating from c. 1300.


There was much tr. activity in France in the 12th and 13th centuries. The Psalter was tr. at the beginning of the 12th cent. In France as well as elsewhere, the Psalter was popular in the Middle Ages. Toward the end of the 12th cent. Peter Waldo and some of his followers issued trs. of parts of the Bible. In the early part of the 13th cent. the entire Bible was tr. at the University of Paris. In the latter part of that cent., Guyard des Moulins undertook a free tr. of Comestor’s Historia Scholastica. He supplied additional material and otherwise modified it. This introduced the French “historical Bible,” the Bible historiale, which was popular for centuries. It was frequently revised. What had been credited with being the first full Bible in French, La Grande Bible, was printed c. 1487 and went through many editions.


Gospel harmonies in Italian are preserved in MSS from the 13th and 14th centuries. The Psalter was also tr. at an early date. It may be that the Bible, in its entirety, had been tr. into Italian by the middle of the 13th cent. The first Bible to be printed in Italian was the VS of Nicolo di Malherbi, which was published in 1471 and often reissued in the following cent. Another VS was also published in that year, but it did not obtain similar acceptance.

The v. form was employed in Italy as well as elsewhere in the Middle Ages as a vehicle for Biblical material. A v. rendering of the Psalms dates back to the 13th cent. and a Diatessaron in v. to the end of the 14th cent.

Spanish and Catalan versions.

There is evidence to support the view that at least part of the Bible had been tr. into Spanish by the 13th cent. Notable in the medieval period is the vast historical work, the General Estoria, which dealt with Biblical and other material after the fashion of Comestor’s Historia Scholastica. It was the longest of the medieval historical Bibles. Noteworthy also is the use of the Heb. text in trs. of the OT.

Bonifatius Ferrer in the early 15th cent. tr. the Bible into Valencian. This Catalan Bible was printed in 1478, but the Inquisition succeeded in destroying every copy. Only one leaf survives. A Psalter printed in 1480 offers a somewhat revised reissue of this book of the Valencian Bible. Another important Psalter was published in 1490. Among other VSS there was a rhymed Bible in Catalan, a type of work popular in France.


The first trs. known in Portuguese are of portions of the Bible which date back perhaps as far as the 13th cent. A harmony of the gospels was printed in 1495. Portuguese texts of the gospels, Acts, and epistles soon followed.

Scandinavian versions.

The oldest surviving trs. into the languages of Scandinavia were free renderings made from the Lat. Vul. Attention might be called to an Old Norwegian VS of Genesis-Kings which dates back to c. 1300, a 14th-cent. Swedish VS of the Pentateuch and Acts, a Swedish tr. of portions of the Bible dating from the late 15th or early 16th cent., and a Danish MS from the latter part of the 15th cent. of Genesis-Kings.

Hungarian versions.

The oldest survivals of tr. of Biblical material into Hungarian come from the 15th cent. Surviving from the early part of that cent. are portions of a VS made by two monks. The VS made by Ladislas Batori likewise dates from the earlier half of the 15th cent.

Slavic versions.

At the end of the 15th cent. the first complete Bible in Church Slavonic appeared. In the 14th cent. Bohemian or Czech trs. were made of the Psalter, and of other Biblical material. The NT printed in 1475 was the fruit of the work of revision performed by Hus and a number of his followers. The entire Bible was published in 1488. The Psalter was tr. into Polish by the 14th cent. A Croatian VS of NT pericopes appeared in 1495.

Other versions.

In the 14th cent. some Biblical material was tr. into Welsh. By the 15th cent. a NT VS in Breton had made its appearance. In the 13th cent. the Pentateuch was tr. from Heb. into Arab. In the 14th cent. the gospels were tr. into Heb.

By the end of the 15th cent. and the dawn of the Reformation, the Scriptures had been introduced into language after language in Europe in a very substantial way—even to VSS of the entire NT and the whole Bible. The Middle Ages had performed a very important work of ground-breaking. The way had been prepared for the period of distinguished tr. activity that was to come with the Reformation.

Versions of the Reformation (sixteenth century)

Without the preparation which had been made in the preceding centuries, the accomplishment of the Reformation in tr. work would not have been so spectacular as it was. The Reformation did not disdain to draw fruitfully on the work that had been done before. But for all that, it brought a fresh and original development. It brought renewal of zeal and an impassioned sense of urgency for giving the Bible to all the people in their own language. The familiar story of Tyndale’s pledge to make the Scriptures understood by the plowboy expresses the true sentiment of the Reformation. In the Reformation memorial in Geneva, Calvin is represented with other Reformers, standing as it were on the foundation Christ Jesus with an open Bible in his hands. In the background in letters of heroic size are the words POST TENEBRAS LUX. In the opening of the Bible and in the diffusion of the Light, the tr. work brought forth by the Reformation was to play an exceedingly important part. It is not inappropriate that vernacular VSS of the Lord’s Prayer are included in the memorial.

German versions.

One of the greatest events in the history of Bible trs. was the appearance of Luther’s VS. Its outstanding contribution to the knowledge and dissemination of the Scriptures in Germany and elsewhere and its influence on the language, lit., and general culture of the Ger. people can hardly be overstated. Luther had already tr. portions of the Bible before he determined to prepare a VS of the whole Bible. He began his work on the entire NT at the close of 1521, and in September of 1522 published at Wittenberg his tr. of the NT, his “September Testament” or Septemberbibel, as it has been called. The OT was published in stages beginning in 1523. The whole Bible with the addition of the Apoc. was published in 1534. In his tr. of the OT Luther made use, among other things, of the Brescian ed. of 1494, and for the NT he made use of the second ed. of Erasmus’ Gr. NT of 1519. For the remainder of his life, Luther revised his tr.

Other Ger. VSS of the 16th cent. were unable to displace Luther’s tr. from its well-merited preeminence; in fact, some of them were themselves greatly influenced by Luther’s work. A meritorious VS of the prophets from the Heb. by the Anabaptists Ludwig Hätzen and Hans Denck was published in 1527, some years before Luther’s own VS of the prophets was ready, and he took account of it in his work. The Bible published in Zurich (in parts, 1525-1529; entire Bible, 1530) drew on Luther’s Bible to the extent that it was then available, and provided its own VS of the prophets. Emser published a Roman Catholic NT in 1527, which was essentially Luther’s text brought into conformity with the Vul. Another Roman Catholic work was the Bible assembled by Johann Dietenberger which was published in 1534. The NT section was Emser’s revision of Luther’s VS. In the OT, considerable use was made of Luther’s work and of the VS of Hätzen and Denck with revisions to align the text to the Vul.

Dutch versions.

The first NT to be printed in Dutch appeared in 1522. It was based on the Lat. Vul., but did take account of the Gr. text. Shortly after its issuance Luther’s NT was tr. into Dutch (1523). In 1525 an OT was published which made use of Luther’s text to the extent that it had then been issued and also of the Delft Bible of 1477. The first complete Bible to be published in Dutch, a work which follows Luther closely and apparently uses also a Low German Bible of c. 1480, was printed in 1526. This Bible became very popular and was frequently reprinted. For marginal notes of a strongly Protestant character the publisher, Van Liesveldt, was put to death.

Several Roman Catholic edd. of the NT appeared between 1527 and 1539, and a Roman Catholic VS of the entire Bible was published in 1548 at Cologne and Louvain. This formed the basis for the edd. used by Roman Catholics in following centuries.

The tr. of the NT prepared by Jan Utenhove (in which he had been aided by Godfried van Wingen) and published in 1556 did not attain much popularity. More warmly received and more widely used was the so-called Deus-aes Bible of 1561-1562. The designation of this Bible is derived from a marginal note (taken from Luther) on Nehemiah 3:5. This Bible, dependent on Luther, did not give full satisfaction, and need for a superior VS was expressed at synods of the Reformed churches. The Bible generally used by the Mennonites up until the 18th cent. was first printed in 1558 and was published in 1560 by Nicolaes Biestkens, from whom it receives the designation “Biestkens Bible.” It was often reprinted.

French versions.

Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples made a revision of the Bible historiale in the early 16th cent. He was prob. the tr. of the anonymous VS of the NT, which was published in Paris in 1523. His tr. of the Bible was published in 1530 at Antwerp. The most illustrious work of the period was the highly meritorious VS of the entire Bible made by a cousin of Calvin, Pierre Robert Olivetan, and published at Waldensian expense in Switzerland in 1535. Calvin himself wrote some introductory material for this VS. The ed. of 1553, issued by Robert Estienne, the Parisian printer, was marked by the introduction of his ch. and v. divisions, the first complete Bible to have these aids. The NT made considerable use of Lefèvre’s work, but did give some attention to the Gr. text. In the OT Olivetan consulted the Heb. text and Pagnini’s Lat. tr. of the Heb. His French was of a better grade than Lefèvre’s. As revised in Geneva in 1588, it became known as the “Geneva Bible.” The favored text for French Protestants, it was reprinted many times during the following two centuries.

In 1550 the Louvain Bible appeared, a Roman Catholic revision of Lefèvre’s work. An extensive further revision appeared in 1578, the foundation for Roman Catholic Bibles to follow.

Italian versions.

Antonio Brucioli, who had been influenced by the Reformation, published Italian VSS of the NT in 1530, of the Psalms in 1531, and of the entire Bible in 1532. In 1536 there appeared the Zaccaria NT, tr. from the Gr., and in 1538 the Bible prepared by Marmochini was published. The text of this Bible, whatever its particular sources, has a Vulgate orientation. M. Teofilo in 1551 issued a NT tr. from the Gr. This VS was included in revised form in the first Protestant issue of the entire Bible in Italian (Geneva, 1562). The OT of this Bible was a revision of Brucioli’s VS. Numerous trs. of parts of the Bible in Italian were published in the latter part of the 16th cent. The most distinguished of Italian VSS, that of Diodati, was soon to follow—in 1607 at Geneva.

Spanish and Catalan versions.

The Spanish Inquisition adversely affected tr. work in Spain, but it failed to suppress it completely. Ecclesiastical opposition to VSS in the vernacular languages whether in Spain, Italy, or elsewhere may at times have necessitated the publication of VSS in more congenial places such as Geneva, Basel, and Antwerp; but trs. were nevertheless made, published, and used. Montesino issued a Spanish VS of the liturgical epistles and gospels at Alcalá in the early 16th cent. Francisco de Enzinas in 1543 at Antwerp published a NT tr. from Erasmus’ Gr. NT. Juan Pérez de Pineda produced a NT from the Gr. in 1556, making use of Enzinas’ version. He also published a tr. of the Psalms in 1557. Translations of Romans and 1 Corinthians by Juan de Valdés were issued in 1556 and 1557. In 1553 the Ferrara Bible, a close tr. of the Heb. OT, was published. It is a revision of an older Jewish VS.

The first complete printed Bible (with Apoc.) in Spanish was published in 1567-1569 in Basle. It was prepared by Cassiodoro de Reyna, a Lutheran who had been a monk in Seville. His OT was a revision of the Ferrara Bible. A light revision of this work was made by Cipriano de Valera, who likewise had been a monk in Seville. The NT was published in London in 1596 and the Bible with Apoc. in Amsterdam in 1602. This became the popular Protestant VS, and has been the basis of numerous later Spanish Bibles.

Portuguese versions.

The first printed VS of Biblical material in Portuguese was a VS of the Vita Christi, the gospel harmony of Ludolph of Saxony, which was published at Lisbon in 1495. A VS of the Acts and Catholic epistles was issued in 1505, and a tr. of the Liturgical epistles and gospels was published c. 1510.

Scandinavian versions.

In the Scandinavian countries the influence of Luther’s VS was very great. Some use of Luther’s NT was made in the first Danish NT, which was prepared by Hans Mikkelsen and Kristian Winther (1524). In 1528 a Danish Psalter tr. by Frans Wormordsen was issued. In 1535 Hans Tausen published a tr. of the Pentateuch made from Luther’s VS. Christen Pedersen is to be credited with a unique contribution to the Danish Bible. In 1529 he published a tr. of the NT in smooth Danish, in which he made use of the work of Mikkelsen, of Luther, and of Erasmus. In 1531 his metrical VS of the Psalter appeared. Pedersen’s part was large in the preparation of the first complete Danish Bible (1550), a VS which held closely to Luther’s tr. A popular work, it was later revised and was reprinted for centuries.

The first printed NT in Swedish (1526) was based on Luther’s VS, but it did give attention to the Gr. text, the Lat. VS supplied by Erasmus, and to the Lat. Vul. The first Swedish Bible, the “Gustaf Vasa Bible” was published in 1540-1541. It was based on Luther’s Bible. It was accepted as the Bible of the Church of Sweden until the 20th cent.

An Icelandic NT was published in 1540 and a Bible, influenced by Luther’s work, in 1584, a VS which has been highly regarded for its style. It has undergone numerous revisions down to the 20th cent.

Hungarian versions.

The first printed book in the Hungarian language was a tr. of Paul’s epistles made from the Vul. (1533). Among the 16th-cent. VSS might be mentioned the first Hungarian NT, which was based on the Gr. text (1541), and the first full Bible in Hungarian, the VS made by Károlyi from the Gr. and Heb. with consideration of the Lat. Vul. and other trs. (1590). This became the favorite VS of Protestants, and was often reprinted.

Slavic versions.

A recension of the Old Church Slavonic VS is represented by the Ostrog Bible of 1581. Among the 16th-cent. Czech VSS, mention might be made of the highly influential Kralice or Kralitz Bible which was made from the original languages by the Moravian Brethren (1579-1593). Of the Polish VSS of the 16th cent., attention might be called to the first NT to be printed in Polish (1553), to the Cracow Bible of 1561, the first Polish Bible, and to the Brest Bible of 1563 tr. from the Heb. and Gr., a VS which did not obtain general acceptance. Of great importance, esp. to Roman Catholics, was the work of J. Wujek, a Jesuit. Wujek tr. the Vul., but did give attention to the original languages. His NT was published in 1593, his Psalter in 1594, and his OT in 1599. His became the accepted Roman Catholic VS, and it has been used even by Protestants. In the early 16th cent., F. Skorina tr. many of the books of the Bible into (White) Russian. A VS of the NT in Lower Sorbic was published in 1547. In the second half of the 16th cent., the NT was tr. into Serbo-Croatian. Also in the latter part of the 16th cent., the NT was tr. into Slovenian by the Reformer P. Truber and the OT was tr. by the Lutheran J. Dalmatin. Jan Bretkun tr. the entire Bible into Lithuanian (1579-1590), but only the Psalms were published.

Other versions.

A follower of Luther, M. Agricola, published in 1548 a tr. of the NT into Finnish from the Gr. with the help of Luther’s VS. One of the first works printed in Basque was a Protestant tr. of the NT (1571). The first Welsh NT appeared in 1567 and the whole Bible in 1588. Translations of Biblical material into other languages, such as Lat., Modern Gr., and Heb., were made in the 16th cent.; but enough detail has been given to indicate the extent and the vitality of the tr. work of the Reformation period.

Versions from the seventeenth century to the present

The Reformation, as has been noticed, brought in a new and distinguished period of trs. of the Bible. The zeal which marked the period for giving the Scriptures to all the people in their own tongues and the spiritual discernment essential for the making of great VSS were assisted among other things by improved knowledge of the original languages of Scripture, genius and brilliance on the part of trs., and maturing vernacular languages which afforded fresh and vigorous media for tr. The accomplishment was distinguished and enduring. The 16th and early 17th centuries produced VSS that were long to be dominant and which influenced immeasurably the spiritual, intellectual, and cultural life of nations.

The period that has followed has been one of great activity and of multiple revisions and new trs. As advances were made in textual and other Biblical studies and as the vernacular languages themselves have changed, the need has often been felt to revise or to tr. anew in order that the Bible, with all the new light available, might be presented to the men of a new day in language quite intelligible to them. The extensive missionary activity of the church since the Reformation has called for the tr. of the Bible in whole or in part into a vast number of tongues throughout the world. The time spent, the labors, and the volume of trs. have been prodigious since the 16th and early 17th cent., but for genius and brilliance the Reformation period must still be granted the preëminence.

German versions.

A great many German VSS, Protestant and Roman Catholic, have appeared since Johannes Piscator opened the 17th cent. with his uneven Latinate VS (1602-1603). It is not to our purpose to attempt to catalogue them all here. Mention might be made, however, of 19th- and 20th-cent. revisions of Luther’s Bible and of the 17th-cent. Roman Catholic revisions of Dietenberger’s VS, the Zurich revision (1931), and VSS by F. E. Schlachter (1903-1904), H. Albrecht (NT, 1920), H. Menge (Bible, 1926; subsequently revised), F. Tillmann (NT, 1927), A. Schlatter (NT, 1931), L. Thimme (NT, 1946), and P. Parsch Bible (1952).

Dutch versions.

The Synod of Dort felt the need of a new VS of the Bible that would be made from the original languages of Scripture. The result was the most important VS in the history of the Dutch Bible. The new tr. was issued in 1637 with the government, the States-General, paying the expense. It was officially approved and authorized by the States-General, and therefore has been called the Staten-Bijbel. It attained widespread favor in the Netherlands and has been admired elsewhere. As one of the illustrious fruits of the Reformation, it has continued in use into the 20th century. Adolf Visscher’s VS from Luther’s text (1648) was revised in 1823, and has continued to be in use by Lutherans into the 20th cent. A noteworthy VS in modern Dutch was completed under the auspices of the Netherlands Bible Society. The NT was published in 1939 and the Bible in 1951.

A tr. of the Bible into Afrikaans was published in 1943.

French versions.

In the 17th cent. there was a paucity of Protestant tr. work in French. Revisions of the dominant Geneva Bible were made by Diodati (1644), Des Marets (a lighter revision than Diodati’s, 1669), and Martin (NT, 1696; entire Bible, 1707). Roman Catholic efforts were more numerous in this period. Among the Roman Catholic trs. were Jacques Corbin (entire Bible from the Vul. 1643), François Véron (NT, 1647), de Marolles (Psalms and Song of Solomon, 1644; NT, 1649; certain books of the OT, 1677-1678), and Amelote (NT, 1666-1670). Special mention should be made of the meritorious VS associated with Port-Royal and Louis Isaac le Maistre de Sacy and others (NT, 1667; OT, 1672-1696). Ecclesiastical opposition did not prevent this able work from becoming one of the most highly esteemed of the French VSS down to the present cent.

The 18th cent., although a somewhat barren time in general for Bible trs., did bring forth such VSS as those of Richard Simon (NT, 1702), Barneville (NT, 1719), Mésenguy (1729), Beausobre and Lenfant (NT, 1718), and Le Cene (Bible, 1696-1741). Influential revisions of the Geneva Bible were those of David Martin (mentioned above [NT, 1696 Bible, 1707]) and of Ostervald (1744). Based mainly on these is the revision made by Louis Segond (1874-1880) which has been widely used by Protestants. In 1910 a revision of Ostervald’s VS was published, and has since been revised a number of times. Of recent VSS mention might be made of Abbé Crampon’s popular Roman Catholic VS (1894-1904; revised 1907), of Decoppet’s tr. of the NT based on the Gr. text of Westcott and Hort (1903), of the tr. of the NT by Goguel and others (1929) of the Bible du Centenaire de la Jeunesse (1947), and of the Bible de Jérusalem (1948-1954).

Italian versions.

The first complete Protestant Bible in Italian was that of Giovanni Diodati (Geneva, 1607). The tr. was faithfully made from the Heb. and Gr. into excellent Italian. It is not strange that this exceptionally praiseworthy VS has been cherished and used by Italian Protestants into the 20th cent. The VS made by Antonio Martini (NT, 1769-1771; OT, 1776-1781) was based on the Lat. Vul. (although in the NT note was taken of the Gr. text). It has frequently been reprinted and has been honored with the status of an Italian classic.

Of other Italian VSS mention might be made of A. Guerra’s revision of Malermi’s (Malherbi’s) Bible (1773), a VS of the Port-Royal Bible (1775-1785), a revision of the Diodati VS (1925), G. Luzzi’s tr. of the entire Bible (1921-1930), and the tr. from the original languages into modern Italian made under the auspices of the Pontifical Biblical Institute (1923-1958).

Spanish and Catalan.

The Valera VS of 1602 has been reprinted and revised even to recent years. The first complete Bible in Spanish to be printed in Spain was that of Felipe Scio de San Miguel (1790-1793, revised 1794-1797), a VS of the Lat. Vul. In 1825 Felix Torres Amat published a tr. of the Vul. in which he gave some attention to the Heb. and Gr. texts. Among more recent VSS have been the Hispano-Americano tr. of the NT from the Nestle Gr. text (1916), the VSS of Guillermo Juenemann (NT from the Gr.; Chile, 1928) and Juan Staubinger (NT from the Gr.; Argentina, 1944), the Bible tr. for the Pontifical University of Salamanca from the Heb. and Gr. texts (1944), and the VS of the Bible from the original languages by Jose M. Bover and Francisco Cantera (1947).

A fresh tr. of the Bible into contemporary Spanish is to be prepared by the Wycliffe Bible Translators under the auspices of Scriptures Unlimited, an organization founded by the World Home Bible League and the New York Bible Society.

In 1832 a Protestant tr. of the NT into Catalan was published. In the 20th cent. Roman Catholic Catalan VSS of the Bible have appeared.

The gospel according to Luke was tr. by George Borrow into Gitano or Spanish Romany (1837). Biblical material has been tr. into numerous other types of Romany.

Portuguese versions.

The first tr. of the entire Bible into Portuguese was made by J. Ferreira d’Almeida. The NT was published in 1681 in Amsterdam; the OT incomplete at the time of d’Almeida’s death, was finished by others and published in 1753. The VS of the Vul. by A. Pereira de Figueiredo was issued in Lisbon toward the end of the 18th cent.—it was completed in 1790. This was the first Portuguese VS of the Bible to be printed in Portugal. A number of trs. of the NT have been made in Brazil. An important revision of the d’Almeida Bible was published there (NT, 1910; OT, 1914). Another revision of the NT appeared in 1949, and the Bible Society of Brazil issued a revision of the NT in 1951 and of the OT in 1958.

The entire Bible was tr. from the Vul. by Matos Sooares (1927-1930), and other VSS of note have been published.

Scandinavian versions.

In the early 17th cent. Hans Paulsen Resen made a Danish VS from the Heb. and Gr. texts (1607). It was revised by H. Savne in 1647. This Bible, further revised a number of times, obtained great and prolonged favor. In the 20th cent. a new VS made from the original languages (OT, 1931; NT, 1948) has received official authorization. Among other trs. into Danish are C. Bastholm (NT, 1780), O. H. Guldberg (NT, 1794), J. C. Lindberg (OT, 1837-1853; NT, 1856), C. Kalkar (entire Bible, 1847), K. F. Viborg (gospels, 1863), T. S. Rördam (NT, 1886), and A. S. Poulsen and J. L. Ussing (NT, 1897).

In the 19th cent. a VS was made into Danish-Norwegian on the initiative of the Norwegian Bible Society (OT, 1842-1887, revised 1891; NT, 1870-1904). A VS of the NT in New Norwegian appeared in 1889. The OT followed in 1921, and a revised ed. in 1938. A Roman Catholic VS in Danish-Norwegian was issued in 1902, and revised by taking account of the original languages in 1938.

H. M. Melin published a new Swedish VS which took notice of the original languages and of Luther’s tr. (1858-1865). In 1917 as the culmination of more than a cent. of effort, a fresh tr. from the original languages was published. It received official ecclesiastical approval and became the Bible of the Swedish Church.

The 1584 Icelandic Bible has undergone revision down to the 20th cent.

Hungarian versions.

The first Roman Catholic VS of the entire Bible in Hungarian appeared in 1626, and has been revised down to the 20th cent.

New Hungarian VSS have appeared in the 20th cent.

Slavic versions.

The Ostrog Bible (Old Church Slavonic) has been revised a number of times, very notably in the “Elizabeth Bible” (so named from its connection with the Empress Elizabeth) in 1751.

The St. Wenceslaus Bible, a Roman Catholic tr. into Czech, was issued 1677-1715. It was extensively revised 1778-1780, taking account of the Protestant Kralitz Bible.

Of the VSS in modern vernacular Bulgarian, attention might be called to the fresh tr. sponsored by the Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church which was published in 1925.

The Brest Bible gave way to the Danzig Bible in Polish (Danzig, 1606-1632), a VS which won the high esteem of Protestants. It has been reprinted frequently and has continued in use into the 20th cent. A new VS of the NT from the Vul. was published in 1947.

In the 19th cent., a tr. was made of the entire Bible into vernacular Russian. It took more than fifty years to complete.

The first VS in Ruthenian was a tr. of the Pentateuch by P. A. Kulisch (1869). After his death his tr. of the whole Bible, to which others had made some contribution, was published in 1903.

In 1709 a VS of the NT in Sorbic was issued by Gottlieb Fabricius. In revised form it was published by the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1860. A VS of the NT in Wendish (Upper Sorbic) appeared in 1706 and the whole Bible in 1728. A Roman Catholic tr. of the NT from the Vul. was issued in 1887-1892.

The Bible was first published in its entirety in Serbian and Croatian in the early part of the 19th cent. (1804, 1831). Special mention should be made of the NT VS made by Vuk (1847) in a style that has been highly commended.

A tr. from the Vul. into Slovenian was published in 1784-1802. Another Roman Catholic tr. (from the Ger. VS of Allioli) appeared in 1856-1859. A Slovakian VS of the Vul. was published in 1829 and 1832. It was superseded in 1926 by another Roman Catholic VS. A Protestant NT was issued in 1913 and the Bible in 1936.

Other VSS.

A Finnish VS of the Bible was published in 1642, and has been frequently revised up to the 20th cent. Translations of the Bible in its entirety or in part into Estonian, were published in the 17th and 18th centuries and have often been revised.

In 1727 the NT was first published in Lithuanian, and the entire Bible in 1735. There have been frequent revisions. Revisions of the Lettish Bible appeared in 1877, 1899, and 1902. In the 18th and 19th centuries, trs. of the NT and of the OT appeared in Lapp dialects.

And so the record of Bible trs. in the period since the Reformation continues. It would seem impossible to make it even approximately complete. The record should take notice of VSS in Rumanian, Albanian, Maltese, Arabic, modern Greek, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Manx, Cornish, Breton, Hebrew, and more than a thousand other languages or dialects. The global extent of the missionary activity in the period since the Reformation has brought with it trs. into a vast number of tongues. In some of them multiple VSS or revisions have already appeared. This account has been concerned chiefly with a limited section of the world and the great history of tr. work there. New tongues are constantly being trained to speak of the wonderful works of God. The chronicler of trs. must now prepare himself to write many new chapters.


J. W. Beardslee, The Bible Among the Nations (1899); Sherk II (reprint, 1952), 134-156; F. E. Schelling, Elizabethan Playwrights (1925), 1-18; O. M. Norlie, ed., The Translated Bible 1534-1934 (1934); The Bible Translator (1950); W. Schwarz, Principles and Problems of Biblical Translation (1955); E. F. Flack, B. M. Metzger, et al., The Text, Canon, and Principal Versions of the Bible (1956); M. Toyoda, A Short History of the Japanese Translations of the Bible (1957); W. J. Kooiman, Luther and the Bible, tr. J. Schmidt (1961); IDB, IV (1962), 771-782; S. L. Greenslade, ed., The Cambridge History of the Bible: The West from the Reformation to the Present Day (1963); J. H. P. Reumann, The Romance of Bible Scripts and Scholars (1965), 55-92; New Catholic Encyclopedia, II (1967), 414-491; P. Y. De Jong, ed., Crisis in the Reformed Churches (1968), 95-114; G. MacGregor, A Literary History of the Bible from the Middle Ages to the Present Day (1968); G. W. H. Lampe, ed., The Cambridge History of the Bible II (1969), 338-491.