Amy Choate-Nielsen: Words of God: The challenges of translation

Published: Friday, Dec. 16 2011 11:00 a.m. MST

Current top 10 best-selling Bibles in the United States, based on unit sales, according to Association for Christian Retail:

1. New International Version

2. King James Version

3. New King James Version

4. New Living Translation

5. English Standard Version

6. Holman Christian Standard Bible

7. New International Readers Version

8. New American Standard Bible update

9. The Message

10. Common English Bible


20th century B.C. Abraham's story and those of the other founders of Israel were preserved by word of mouth before they were incorporated into the first five books of the Old Testament.

13th century B.C. God revealed the Ten Commandments to Moses at Mount Sinai.

10th-2nd century B.C. The Old Testament was compiled from a variety of sources, including written and spoken narratives, court archives, personal memoirs, eye-witness accounts, genealogies, laws and poetry.

3rd and 2nd century B.C. The first translation of the Old Testament into Greek, known as the Septuagint, was made by Jewish scholars at Alexandria in Egypt.

1st century A.D. The Apostle Paul wrote letters of instruction that scholars generally agree were the first New Testament books written. The letters were kept by the churches that received them, but other churches wanted copies, so they were collected, copied and circulated.

Mid– to late-1st century A.D. As the eye-witnesses who could recount the stories of Jesus grew old, written accounts to preserve his teaching and life were created.

2nd century A.D. Thousands of copies of New Testament manuscripts were made, first in Greek and then in other languages as the church spread beyond Greek-speaking peoples.

Mid-4th century A.D. Pope Damascus commissioned an official Latin version to be used by the church throughout the Latin-speaking empire. Jerome, his secretary, revised the existing texts of the Gospels by comparing them with the Greek. In 386 A.D. he translated the Old Testament directly from Hebrew, and the version is called the "Vulgate."

14th century A.D. John Wycliffe and his followers translate the complete Bible from Latin into English, so that ordinary people can read and understand it. This is the first complete Bible in English and it was copied by hand.

1516 A.D. The first Greek New Testament manuscript was compiled and printed.

1532 A.D. Martin Luther publishes the standard German Protestant Bible

1526 A.D. William Tyndale's English translation of the Bible was smuggled into England. Tyndale started translating the Old Testament but did not finish before he was betrayed, arrested and finally burned for it in 1536.

1611 A.D. The King James Version, translated by 50 translators, is published

1978 A.D. The New International Version, best-selling Bible in America, translated from Hebrew and Greek texts, is published

Information from Bible Society, U.K.

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