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a) Ancient Translations:

Masoretic Text The traditional authoritative Hebrew version of the Hebrew Bible. The consonantal text dates back to about 100 CE. The system for reading the vowels dates from the 8th -10th cent. CE.

Samaritan Pentateuch A second ancient Hebrew version of part of the Hebrew Bible. It consists only of the Torah or Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, and is connected with the Samaritan community, a Jewish sect.

Dead Sea Scrolls A third source of Hebrew versions of the books of the Hebrew Bible.  The scrolls consist of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek manuscripts, most only fragments of the original documents. All books in the Hebrew Bible are represented except Esther. Apocryphal and pseudepigraphic books such as Tobit, Enoch and Jubilees are also present in the scrolls.

Septuagint or LXX The Greek version of the Hebrew Bible. It is now recognised that the Greek translations of various books of the Hebrew Bible, which we have in modern editions of the LXX, were done at different times, at different places (Egypt, Palestine and possibly Babylon) and under varying criteria.  The Hebrew texts used by the various translators did not always come from the one that became the basis for the Masoretic text. Most of the books of the Hebrew Bible seem to have been translated into Greek by the 1st cent. BCE.

Other ancient versions of the Hebrew Bible are available, often combined with versions of the New Testament.  Versions are extant in Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Ethiopic and Arabic languages.

b) Ancient Jewish Versions

TargumsThese are translations of biblical books into the Aramaic language.  In the early stages these “translations” were made orally in synagogue worship, but were later written down, even as early as the 1st cent. BCE (as we find in some Qumran scrolls).

MidrashThis is a commentary on written scripture. Midrashim began as spontaneous oral interpretations in rabbinic schools.  Gradually these interpretations were written down. Two distinctive types of Midrashim developed: Halakah (the interpretation of biblical legal material) and Aggadah (the interpretation of non-legal biblical material often in homiletic or narrative form).

MishnahThis is the primary source for the Oral Torah in Judaism. It is a collection of sayings, rules and guidelines, which, according to Jewish tradition, represents the oral Torah passed on from Moses. It was first written down in the early 3rd cent. CE. There are two types of commentary on oral Torah, defined according to where it is found in print: the Tosephta (“supplements”) and the Talmud (“study”).

c) Twentieth century English translations

Note: the ‘columns’ below list translations that are related. Those with the same colour are related historically, i.e. the later translations are revisions of the earlier translations in that column. The right hand column lists independent translations, i.e. ones not formally dependent on an earlier English translation. The brackets include some basic information on the translations including as appropriate date, countries involved or represented by translators, and denominational, religious, or institutional affiliations of translators or boards overseeing translation.

American Standard Version (ASV)
 (1901; USA, Protestant)

Revised Standard Version (RSV)
 (1946 NT; 1952 OT; USA, Protestant)

New English Bible (NEB)
(1961 NT; 1970 OT; England, Protestant)

New Jewish Version NJV)
(1962, OT only; USA, Jewish)

Jerusalem Bible (JB)
(1966; England, Catholic, from French translation)

Today's English Version, or Good News for Modern Man(TEV or GNB)
(1966 NT; 1976 OT; American Bible Society)

New American Bible (NAB)
(1970; 1986 NT revised; USA, Catholic)

New International Version (NIV)
(1978; USA, Reformed and Evangelical Churches)

New Jerusalem Bible (NJB)
(1985; England, Catholic, from revised French trans.)

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
(1990; USA, England, Canada; Ecumenical, incl. Jewish)

Revised English Bible (REB)
(1991; England, Ecumenical)

The Bible for Today
(1995; American Bible Society)

The translations above have been the work of committees of scholars. Throughout the century, individual scholars have also made translations, such as:

James Moffatt (1913 NT, 1924 OT)
E.J. Goodspeed (1923 NT, 1927 OT)
J.B. Phillips (1947-57, NT only)
Eugene Peterson ("The Message") (1993, NT only)

© Howard N. Wallace, 2002

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