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The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.
4th Century During the 4th century, St. Jerome translated the Bible into Latin- the Vulgate, meaning “common” or “of all people”.
10th Century In the 10th century, some accounts from the New Testament were translated into English.
14th Century In the 14th century, John Wycliffe, professor of theology and philosophy at the University of Oxford, translated the whole Bible into English from Latin.
1525-1534 William Tyndale (1494-1546) became the first to translate the Bible into English from the original languages.
1611 When King James came to power in 1603, he authorized a revision of earlier versions due to their stylistic and doctrinal inconsistencies. This is the King James Version. (KJV) or Authorized Version of 1611.
19th century
to the present
Modifications to the King James Versions include Revised Version (1885), Revised Standard Version (1952), the New Revised Standard Version (1989), and the English Standard Version (2001).
  Today popular English Bible versions include the Living Translation (1971) that translates into contemporary English based on American Standard Version of 1901; the Good News Bible (1976), a modern-day readable translation produced by American Bible Society; and most popular of them all, the New International Version (1978), a translation that goes between the more literal translation of King James Bible and the more informal Good News Bible.

Wycliffe’s Bible
According to historians, he was not the first, but he was certainly the most influential Bible translator at that time.
To Wycliffe and his fellow priests, translating the Bible into idiomatic English to be read by every man and woman was a priority.
Condemned by the Catholic church as heretics, their Bible circulated widely in manuscript form.
Despite the reach and impact of Wycliff’s translation at that time, it was written in a style nearly incomprehensible to modern-day readers.
In Matthew Gospel 5:4: Blessed ben thei that mornen, for they schulen be coumfortid (NIV: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted)
In Matthew Gospel 5:5: Blessed ben mylde men, for they schulen welde the erthe (NIV: Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth)
In Matthew Gospel 7:1 : Nile ye deme, that ye be not demed (NIV: Do not judge, or you too will be judged)

Words that first appeared in this translation: “wordy”, “zeal”, “persuasion”

Tyndale’s Bible
William Tyndale (1494-1546) became the first to translate the Bible into English from the original languages.
Tyndale graduated from Oxford with a Master’s degree in 1515.
Well versed in 8 languages, including Hebrew and Greek, his goal was to translate the Bible that even “the boy that drives the plow” could read it.
Condemned to death in 1536 for translating the English Bible, his last words were “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.”
In 1539 , 3 years after Tyndale’s death, King Henry VIII authorized the Great Bible which includes including Tyndale’s translations. The Great Bible (so called “great” because of its size), prepared by Miles Coverdale, is the first English-language Bible authorized for public use.

Tyndale’s version is more recognizable by modern-day readers:

In Matthew Gospel 5:4: Blessed are they that morne, for they shalbe comforted
In Matthew Gospel 5:5: “Blessed are the meke: for they shall inherit the erth.”
In Matthew Gospel 7:1: “Iudge not lest ye be iudged”

Words and idioms that first appeared in this translation: “stiff-necked”, “Eat, drink and be merry”, “two-edged sword”

Tyndale’s Bible
Geneva Bible of 1560 was very popular at that time because of its portable size
It was produced in Geneva by conservative Protestant exiles during the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary
Known for its simplicity, directness and accuracy, it became the Bible of Elizabethan poets and writers, including Shakespeare.

King James’ Bible (1611)
When King James came to power in 1603, he authorized a revision of earlier versions due to their stylistic and doctrinal inconsistencies
Now loved by readers as a model of English prose, it was not universally loved when first published. It met a barrage of criticism.
Alister McGrath, renowned scholar at Oxford University, notes, “Without the King James Version, there would have been no Paradise Lost, no Pilgrim’s Progress, no Handel’s Messiah, no Negro spirituals and no Gettysburg Address.”


Some verses in Shakespeare are directly taken from the Bible. Let’s look at these parallels:

Malless, Stanley and Jeffrey McQuain. Coined by God : words and phrases that first appear in the English translations of the Bible. New York : W.W. Norton, 2003.

Daniell, David. The Bible in English: Its History and Influence. Yale University Press, 2003


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