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RE:QUEST

A space for resources to help RE teachers and their students explore the Christian faith

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The Bible: Translations

Why has the Bible been translated into many languages?

 

At the end of Jesus’ time on earth, he gave his disciples a job to do. This job has become known as the ‘Great Commission’ and throughout history, the Christian church has believed that every new generation should also take on the same task:

‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’ (Matthew 28:19-20)

Many Christians over the centuries have felt that in order for the Great Commission to be completed successfully it is important that the Bible should be available to ‘all nations’ in their own languages. This has meant that the Bible has been translated into many languages.

A Greek version of the Old Testament called the Septuagint was popular among Greek-speaking Jews at the time of Jesus and was used by the first Christians. Although Jesus and his disciples spoke Aramaic, the New Testament was written in Greek as this was the main language of many of the early Christians.

When the early church was also established in Rome, Christians there used Latin and for many centuries this remained the main language for the church worldwide. Latin was also the language used by scholars throughout the western world, and many books were written in Latin. Saint Jerome’s Latin translation of the Bible is known as the Vulgate, meaning ‘common’ as Latin was seen as the common language at this time.

Although the task of Bible translation is seen as a serious and difficult task, today the Bible has been translated into over 700 languages and is the best-selling book in the world. In England, there are even regional translations, including the 'Scouse Bible', 'the Cockney Bible', the 'Black Country Bible' and the 'Street Bible'.

Did you know? The first part of the Bible to be translated into English was the New Testament, written by William Tyndale in 1525. This was a dangerous task as it was seen as rebelling against the established church at the time, who tightly controlled all aspects of religion.