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The Bible in Translation: Ancient and English Versions

ISBN: 9781441254290

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The Bible in Translation outlines the development of biblical translation, including a careful analysis of more than fifty versions of the Bible. Author Bruce Metzger, one of the most respected biblical scholars, explores the circumstances under which each translation was produced and offers insight into its underlying objectives, characteristics, and strengths.

Metzger begins this engaging survey with the earliest translations of the Old and New Testaments before proceeding to English versions dating from the eleventh century to the present. Having served on a number of modern translation committees, his insights into the evolution of Bible translation flow not only from careful research, but also from personal experience.

Translations under consideration include the Septuagint, Coptic versions, the Wycliffite Bible, the Geneva Bible, the King James Bible, Weymouth’s New Testament in Modern Speech, the New International Version, Peterson’s The Message, and many others.

Students, pastors, and interested readers will discover the history of the written Word and gain useful insight into which modern translations best serve their own needs.

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Top Highlights

“The Targums are interpretive renderings of all the books of the Hebrew Scriptures (with the exception of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel) into Aramaic.” (Page 20)

“It was the Bible of the early Christian church, and when the Bible is quoted in the New Testament, it is almost always from the Septuagint version.” (Page 18)

“The form of the Syriac Bible that came to prevail in Eastern churches has, since the ninth century, been called the Peshitta, meaning ‘simple’ or ‘common.’” (Page 26)

“Both Protestants and Roman Catholics are heirs of terminology that Jerome either coined or baptized with fresh significance—words such as salvation, regeneration, justification, sanctification, propitiation, reconciliation, inspiration, Scripture, sacrament, and many others.” (Page 30)

“In 1603 when King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England, the text of the Bible, current in a variety of English translations, was a source of division among religious parties in England rather than a bond of unity. In order to reconcile differences among the various parties, the king called for a conference to be held in January 1604 at Hampton Court. Both bishops and Puritan clergy alike were invited to consult together on the subject of religious toleration.” (Page 70)

Praise for the Print Edition

This clearly written, enjoyable book belongs on the shelves of all lay people, pastors, and even scholars who want an expert overview of Bible translation from its beginnings in Greek, Syriac, and Latin to its many manifestations in the modern English-speaking world.

—Michael J. Gorman, The Princeton Seminary Bulletin

Felicitous is an appropriate description of this flowing work by this world renowned biblical scholar and author. It reads with smooth facility that is fascinating in its affair with the translation history of the Bible. . . . This is truly an exciting history of the translation of the Bible. It reads like a novel, captivating the interest of the reader from the first page to the end. Filled with historical data, it is an engaging experience for anyone interested in the history of ancient and English versions of the Bible.

—Richard Allison, Ashland Theological Journal

A highly informative and interesting account of the history of the English Bible. Professor Metzger has pointed out the qualities--good and bad--of all the versions, from that of John Wycliffe to the New Revised Standard Version of 1990. He has not neglected the Jewish translations of the twentieth century or the simplified, easy-to-read versions, and even includes the various paraphrases of the English Bible. All of this is done with clarity, humor, and sound judgment. His book will be a valuable vade mecum for all pastors, students, scholars, and general readers.

—Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J., Catholic University of America

Any comments by Bruce Metzger about the Bible are worth heeding with greatest care. This is especially true for what Metzger, one of the key translators of the Revised Standard Version and the New Revised Standard Version, has to say about other translations--both ancient and modern, both English and in other languages. All who know how important it is to read the Bible in one's own language will appreciate the learned yet accessible descriptions that make up this book.

—Mark A. Noll, Wheaton College

Metzger has done here what few books of this nature have done; namely, reviewed the ancient versions of the Old Testament made for use by Jews, including the Septuagint and Targums. And, more particularly, he has addressed the ancient versions that were intended chiefly for Christians, including the Syriac and Latin versions, through the Coptic, Gothic, Armenian, Georgian, Ethiopic, Arabic and Sogdian, to the Old Church Slavonic and Nubian versions. In each case he has tersely, yet clearly, provided the necessary details regarding each language's contribution to the Bible's accessibility to an ever-widening public. . . . Metzger's footnotes are an invaluable resource to the person pursuing further information regarding many of these translations. . . . I cannot recommend this book too highly to those interested in just what it says. It will be my quick reference guide regarding the various versions from now on.

—Bible Editions & Versions

Bruce Metzger has been associated with Bible translation for over fifty years. . . . Due to his writings on textual criticism and the canon of the NT, he has established a reputation for being one of the foremost NT scholars of the twentieth century. No one is more eminently qualified academically and by personal experience to write a general history of how the Bible has been translated from Hebrew and Greek into other languages. . . . I heartily commend this volume to pastors, scholars and students of the Word.

—The Master's Seminary Journal

This is a very readable attempt to help us understand the history of our English versions of the Bible and would have a useful place in anybody's library.

—Peter Ballantine, Anvil

Product Details

  • Title: The Bible in Translation: Ancient and English Versions
  • Author: Bruce M. Metzger
  • Publisher: Baker
  • Publication Date: 2001
  • Pages: 200
Bruce M. Metzger

Bruce M. Metzger (1914–2007) was a New Testament scholar and professor. He earned several degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary and later taught at Princeton for 46 years, retiring as professor of New Testament language and literature emeritus. In 1939, Metzger was ordained in the Presbyterian Church.

An expert in ancient biblical manuscripts, he participated in three major Bible translation projects, including the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament. He was on the board of the NRSV translation committee, the American Bible Society, and the United Bible Societies. Metzger wrote several books, including Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek, The Making of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, and The Bible in Translation: Ancient and English Versions.

Sample Pages from the Print Edition


23 ratings

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  1. Matt DeVore

    Matt DeVore


  2. Matt DeVore

    Matt DeVore


  3. James C.

    James C.


  4. Aaron



  5. DavePL HI Haoli KI
  6. Rector: Trinity Anglican Church, Sarnia
  7. Andy Day

    Andy Day


    Excellent, easy to read resource that helps the reader to understand how the Bible came to be in so many forms. Highly recommended.
  8. SanfordH



  9. Richard Summitt
  10. JT




Print list price: $22.00
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