In 1870 the Church of England authorized a revision of the Old King James Version of the Bible. Fifty four scholars were appointed, most of them Anglicans, but including Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, and one Unitarian. Americans were invited to participate, by correspondence and in 1885 the New King James Version was published. In the New Testament alone there were over 30,000 changes. Many changes stemmed from the discovery of a better Greek text. The Bible was published in special Sunday supplements of the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Times before it was released. The new version even had an appendix, which listed the changes preferred by the American scholars. The American Standard Edition of the revised version was published in 1901. Neither the English nor the American Version replaced the King James Version in church and private usage.
The latest, and probably last, Bible in the King James tradition, is the Revised Standard Version, authorized in 137 by the International Council of Religious Education. The Net Testament was published by 1946, the Old Testament in 1952, and the Apocrypha in 1957. In 1977 an Expanded Edition appeared: in addition to the books considered deuterocanonical by Roman Catholics, it includes also 3 and 4 Macabees and Psalm 151. These additions made this Bible acceptable to Eastern Orthodox Churches. The Revised Standard Version is not so much a new translation as it is a revision, which sought to preserve the language of the King James Version where modern readers could still understand that language. Where it could not, the Revised Standard Version expresses the thought in contemporary language. The â€œPrefaceâ€ published in most copies of the Revised Standard Version gives an extensive account of these matters.
Mention should be made of John Wesleyâ€™s revision of the New Testament of the King James Version in an effort to make it more understandable. In 1833 Noah Webster published a complete King James Version in which he corrected some 150 words and phrases that were either misleading or wrong. In Matthew he correctly identified â€œstrain at a gnatâ€ as a printerâ€™s error and corrected it to â€œstrain out a gnat.â€
Many Bibles and perhaps as many as 250 New Testaments in English have appeared since 1611 when the original Old King James Version first was published. The modern era in Bible translation began with the Twentieth Century New Testament of 1901-02. The translators â€" mostly laymen and laywomen â€" did a remarkable job of producing a scholarly and faithful translation into clear English. One of the consultants of the group was a London classical scholar who in 1866 published an edition of the Greek New Testament. His translation of this text was published after his death in 1902.
Many major translations of the Bible into English have appeared in the United States and Great Britain in the last thirty years. These include: The Jerusalem Bible, the New American Bible, the New English Bible, the Revised Standard Version, the New Revised Standard Version, and The Living Bible. The Living Bible is not technically a translation but it is a paraphrase and is worth mentioning. The culmination of this process was reached in 1978 with the publication of the New International Version, produced by an international team of conservative Protestant scholars â€œwith a high view of Scripture,â€ as they described themselves.
Although the â€œrage to translateâ€ seems to have abated, the translation of the Bible into English will continue because we have or will have better Hebrew and Greek texts from which to translate. Perhaps the greatest current need for the American Bible reading public is a translation that will use the full resources of the language and achieve a level of style, grace, and beauty not yet reached by any American Bible. No translation can be perfect, but better translations can help achieve the goal of the early translators to â€œsee the process, order, and meaning of the text.â€
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