Jump to: ISBEThesaurusHebrewLibrarySubtopicsTerms
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

ar'-a-bik vur'-shuns: Arabic translations of the Bible must have been made at a very early date, for Christianity and Judaism had penetrated far into Arabia by the 6th century of our era, but the oldest of which a copy has come down to our time is that of Sasdish the Gaon (942 A.D.). This version was made directly from the Massoretic Text and is said to have covered the whole of the Old Testament, but much of it is no longer extant. It is characterized by an avoidance of anthropomorphisms (e.g. Genesis 6:2, "sons of nobles" and "daughters of common people") and by giving modern equivalents, e.g. Turks, Franks, Chinese, for the Hebrew names. Saadiah's Pentateuch was first printed at Constantinople in 1546 and was incorporated into the Paris (1629-45) and London (1657) Polyglots.

When, after the rise of Islam, Arabic became the common language of Syria, Egypt and North Africa, translations were made from the Septuagint, from the Peshitta and from Coptic. In the Polyglots the translation of Joshua is, like the Pentateuch, made from the Massoretic Text, as also portions of Kings and Nehemiah, with interpolations from the Peshitta. Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings (in parts), 1 and 2 Chronicles (?), Nehemiah (in parts) and Job have been translated into Arabic from Syriac. The remaining books (Prophets, Psalms, Proverbs, etc.) are from the Septuagint, and that according to Codex Alexandrinus. In the New Testament the Gospels have been translated from the Vulgate, and the remaining books, although from the Greek, are late. A revised edition of the versions in Walton's Polyglot was published by J. D. Carlyle, professor of Arabic in Cambridge, and printed at Newcastle by Sarah Hodgson in 1811. A very fine translation of the entire Bible in classical Arabic has been issued by the Jesuit Fathers in Beirut, and a simpler version in Arabic which can be understood by the common people, educated and uneducated alike, was made by the late Dr. Cornelius Van Dyck of the Syrian Protestant College and published by the American Press in Beirut. Dr. Van Dyck had the benefit of the help and advice of the Sheikh Nacif al-Yaziji.

A large number of manuscripts of the Bible in Arabic, in whole or in part, are to be found in the British Museum, the Bibliotheque Nationale and the great libraries of the Continent, but none of them are of sufficient age to make them of value for the criticism of the text.

Thomas Hunter Weir


ar-me'-ni-an vur'-shuns, bi'-bl.


1. Circumstances under Which Made

2. The Translators

Apocrypha Omitted

3. Revision

4. Results of Circulation

5. Printed Editions


1. Ararat-Armenian

2. Constantinopolitan-Armenian



I. Ancient Armenian.

1. Circumstances under Which Made:

Armenia was in large measure Christianized by Gregory Lousavorich ("the Illuminator": consecrated 302 A.D.; died 332), but, as Armenian had not been reduced to writing, the Scriptures used to be read in some places in Greek, in others in Syriac, and translated orally to the people. A knowledge of these tongues and the training of teachers were kept up by the schools which Gregory and King Tiridates had established at the capital Vagharshapat and elsewhere. As far as there was any Christianity in Armenia before Gregory's time, it had been almost exclusively under Syrian influence, from Edessa and Samosata. Gregory introduced Greek influence and culture, though maintaining bonds of union with Syria also.

When King Sapor of Persia became master of Armenia (378 A.D.), he not only persecuted the Christians most cruelly, but also, for political reasons, endeavored to prevent Armenia from all contact with the Byzantine world. Hence his viceroy, the renegade Armenian Merouzhan, closed the schools, proscribed Greek learning, and burnt all Greek books, especially the Scriptures. Syriac books were spared, just as in Persia itself; but in many cases the clergy were unable to interpret them to their people. Persecution had not crushed out Christianity, but there was danger lest it should perish through want of the Word of God. Hence several attempts were made to translate the Bible into Armenian. It is said that Chrysostom, during his exile at Cucusus (404-407 A.D.), invented an Armenian alphabet and translated the Psalter, but this is doubtful. But when Arcadius ceded almost all Armenia to Sapor about 396 A.D., something had to be done. Hence in 397 the celebrated Mesrob Mashtots and Isaac (Sachak) the Catholicos resolved to translate the Bible. Mesrob had been a court secretary, and as such was well acquainted with Pahlavi, Syriac and Greek, in which three languages the royal edicts were then published. Isaac had been born at Constantinople and educated there and at Caesarea. Hence he too was a good Greek scholar, besides being versed in Syriac and Pahlavi, which latter was then the court language in Armenia. But none of these three alphabets was suited to express the sounds of the Armenian tongue, and hence, an alphabet had to be devised for it.

2. The Translators:

A council of the nobility, bishops and leading clergy was held at Vagharshapat in 402, King Vramshapouch being present, and this council requested Isaac to translate the Scriptures into the vernacular. By 406, Mesrob had succeeded in inventing an alphabet-practically the one still in use-principally by modifying the Greek and the Pahlavi characters, though some think the Palmyrene alphabet had influence. He and two of his pupils at Samosata began by translating the Book of Proverbs, and then the New Testament, from the Greek Meanwhile, being unable to find a single Greek manuscript in the country, Isaac translated the church lessons from the Peshitta Syriac, and published this version in 411. He sent two of his pupils to Constantinople for copies of the Greek Bible. These men were present at the Council of Ephesus, 431 A.D. Probably Theodoret (De Cura Graec. Affect., I, 5) learned from them what he says about the existence of the Bible in Armenian. Isaac's messengers brought him copies of the Greek Bible from the Imperial Library at Constantinople-doubtless some of those prepared by Eusebius at Constantine's command. Mesrob Mashtots and Isaac, with their assistants, finished and published the Armenian (ancient) version of the whole Bible in 436. La Croze is justified in styling it Queen of versions Unfortunately the Old Testament was rendered (as we have said) from the Septuagint, not from the Hebrew. But the Apocrypha was not translated, only "the 22 Books" of the Old Testament, as Moses of Khorene informs us. This was due to the influence of the Peshitta Old Testament.

Apocrypha Omitted.

Not till the 8th century was the Apocrypha rendered into Armenian: it was not read in Armenian churches until the 12th. Theodotion's version of Daniel was translated, instead of the very inaccurate Septuagint. The Alexandrine text was generally followed but not always.

3. Revision:

In the 6th century the Armenian version is said to have been revised so as to agree with the Peshitta. Hence, probably in Matthew 28:18 the King James Version, the passage, "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you," is inserted as in the Peshitta, though it occurs also in its proper place (John 20:21). It reads "Jesus Barabbas" in Matthew 27:16, 17 -a reading which Origen found "in very ancient manuscripts." It contains Luke 22:43, 44. As is well known, in the Etschmiadzin manuscript of 986 A.D., over Mark 16:9-20, are inserted the words, "of Ariston the presbyter"; but Nestle (Text. Criticism of the Greek New Testament, Plate IX, etc.) and others omit to notice that these words are by a different and a later hand, and are merely an unauthorized remark of no great value.

4. Results of Circulation:

Mesrob's version was soon widely circulated and became the one great national book. Lazarus Pharpetsi, a contemporary Armenian historian, says he is justified in describing the spiritual results by quoting Isaiah and saying that the whole land of Armenia was thereby "filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." But for it, both church and nation would have perished in the terrible persecutions which have now lasted, with intervals, for more than a millennium and a half.

5. Printed Editions:

This version was first printed somewhat late: the Psalter at Rome in 1565, the Bible by Bishop Oskan of Erivan at Amsterdam in 1666, from a very defective MS; other editions at Constantinople in 1705, Venice in 1733. Dr. Zohrab's edition of the New Testament in 1789 was far better. A critical edition was printed at Venice in 1805, another at Serampore in 1817. The Old Testament (with the readings of the Hebrew text at the foot of the page) appeared at Constantinople in 1892.

II. Modern Armenian Versions.

There are two great literary dialects of modern Armenian, in which it was necessary to publish the Bible, since the ancient Armenian (called Grapar, or "written") is no longer generally understood. The American missionaries have taken the lead in translating Holy Scripture into both.

1. Ararat-Armenian:

The first version of the New Testament into Ararat Armenian, by Dittrich, was published by the British and Foreign Bible Society at Moscow in 1835; the Psalter in 1844; the rest of the Old Testament much later. There is an excellent edition, published at Constantinople in 1896.

2. Constantinopolitan-Armenian:

A version of the New Testament into Constantinopolitan Armenian, by Dr. Zohrab, was published at Paris in 1825 by the British and Foreign Bible Society. This version was made from the Ancient Armenian. A revised edition, by Adger, appeared at Smyrna in 1842. In 1846 the American missionaries there published a version of the Old Testament. The American Bible Society have since published revised editions of this version.

III. Armenian Language.

The Armenian language is now recognized by philologists to be, not a dialect or subdivision of ancient Persian or Iranian, but a distinct branch of the Aryan or Indo-European family, standing almost midway between the Iranian and the European groups. In some respects, especially in weakening and ultimately dropping "t" and "d" between vowels, it resembles the Keltic tongues (compare Gaelic A (th)air, Arm. Chair = Pater, Father). As early as the 5th century it had lost gender in nouns, though retaining inflections (compare Brugmann, Elements of Comp. Greek of Indo-German Languages).


Koriun; Agathangelos; Lazarus Pharpetsi; Moses Khorenatsi (= of Chorene); Faustus Byzantinus; Chhamchheants; Chaikakan Hin Dprouthian Patm; Chaikakan Thargmanouthiunk'h Nak'hneants; The Bible of Every Land; Tisdall, Conversion of Armenia; Nestle, Textual Criticism of the Greek New Testament; Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible (five volumes); N.Y. Cyclopaedia of Biblical. and Theol. Lit.; Hauck, Real-encyklopadie fur protest. Theol. und Kirche.

W. St. Clair Tisdall


kop'-tik vur'-shunz:


1. Alphabet

2. Dialects.




I. Language and Alphabet.

1. Alphabet:

The Coptic alphabet consists of the Greek uncial letters, plus seven characters taken from the Egyptian demotic to express sounds not represented in the Greek It can be traced back to the 4th century, as the oldest Coptic manuscripts belong to the end of the 4th or beginning of the 5th century. The language still prevailed in Egypt in the 9th century, but was no longer understood in Middle Egypt in the 12th. Its last speaker died in 1633.

2. Dialects:

There were at least five written dialects and subdialects of Coptic. Of these the most important from a literary point of view was the

(1) Buchairic, the dialect of Lower Egypt, often called Coptic paragraph excellence, and also (wrongly) Memphitic. It is used as the ecclesiastical language in the services of the Coptic church. The other four dialects are somewhat more closely allied to one another than to Buchairic, which shows greater traces of Greek influence. These dialects are,

(2) the Sahidic (Sa`idi, or dialect of upper Egypt), also called Thebaic;

(3) the Bashmuric-or rather Bushmuric-(for which Fayyumic has been suggested);

(4) the Middle Egyptian proper (known from manuscripts found in the monastery of Jeremias near the Theban Serapeum), differing but little from (3); and

(5) the Akhmimic (Akhmim = the ancient Chemmis). Akhmimic is more primitive and more closely related to ancient Egyptian than any other. Only a few fragments in it (of Exodus, Ecclesiastes, 2 Maccabees, the Minor Prophets, and Catholic epistles) have yet been found. The last three dialects are often classed together as "Middle Egyptian" and (4) is then called "Lower Sahidic."

II. Versions.

In all 5 dialects more or less complete versions of the Bible once existed. They were the earliest made after the early Syriac At latest they began in the 3rd century, though some (e.g. Hyvernat) say as early as the 2nd. It is thought that the Sahidic version was the earliest, then the Middle Egyptian and finally the Buchairic. The latter represents an early and comparatively pure Greek text, free from what are generally termed western additions, while the Sahidic, on the other hand, contains most of the peculiar western readings. It sometimes supports Codex Sinaiticus, sometimes Codex Vaticanus (B), sometimes both, but generally it closely agrees with codex D (Bezae), especially in the Acts. A Coptic (Sahidic) MS, written considerably before 350 A.D., and published by the British Museum in April, 1912, contains Deuteronomy, Jonah, and Acts, and is older than any other Biblical manuscript (except a few fragments) yet known to exist. It proves that this Sahidic version was made about 200 A.D. It in general supports the "Western" text of codex Bezae (D). Much of the New Testament especially still exists in Sahidic, though not Revelation. In Bubairic we have the Pentateuch, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, the 12 Minor Prophets, and fragments of the historical books of the Old Testament, besides the whole New Testament, though the Book of Revelation is later than the rest. In the other dialects much less had been preserved, as far as is known. In Bushmuric we have fragments of Isaiah, Lamentations, Ep. Jeremiah, and a good many fragments of the New Testament. In more than one dialect we have apocryphal gospels (see Texts and Studies, IV, number 2, 1896) and Gnostic papyri, etc. The Old Testament was translated from the Septuagint. The Psalms seem to have been translated about 303 A.D.

III. Chief Editions.

The Buchairic Psalms were first published in 1659. Wilkins published the Buchairic New Testament at London in 1716, and the Pentateuch in 1731; Schwartze the Gospels in 1846-47; de Lagarde the Acts and Epistles in 1852. He also edited the Psalms (transliterated) in 1875, 151 in number, of which the last celebrates David's victory over Goliath. He added fragments of the Sahidic Psalter and of the Buchairic Proverbs Tattam published the Minor Prophets in 1836 and the Major in 1852 an edition of the Gospels in London in 1847, and of the rest of the New Testament in 1852 (SPCK), with a literal Arabic version. Horner's edition of the Buchairic New Testament (4 volumes, 1898, etc., Clarendon Press) and of Sahidic Gospels (1910, 3 vols) is the standard edition Ford published part of the Sahidic New Testament in 1799. Various editions of parts of Old Testament and New Testament have since appeared: e.g. Ciasca published fragments of the Sahidic Old Testament (Sacrorum Bibliorum Fragmenta Copto-Sahidica Musei Borgiani) at Rome, 1885-89.


Realencyclopadie fur prot. Theol. und Kirche, III; Hyvernat, Etude sur les versions coptes; Revue biblique, 1896, 1897; Zeitschrift fur agypt. Sprache; Journal of Theol. Studies, I, 3; Nestle, Text. Crit of Greek New Testament; Forbes Robinson, Texts and Studies, IV; Oesterley in Murray's New Bible Dict.

W. St. Clair Tisdall


in'-glish vur'-shunz:


1. Introductory 2. The Bible in Anglo-Saxon and Norman Times 3. John Wycliffe 4. How Far Was the 14th-Century Version Wycliffe's Work? 5. From Wycliffe to Tyndale 6. William Tyndale 7. Miles Coverdale 8. Matthew's Bible 9. Richard Taverner 10. The Great Bible (Cranmer's Bible) 11. Reaction, 1541-57

12. Edward VI 13. Mary 14. The Geneva Bible (the "Breeches Bible") 15. The Bishops' Bible 16. Rheims and Douai Version 17. The Authorized Version 18. The Apocrypha 19. Further Revisions 20. English Revised Version 21. American Revised Version 22. Has the Revised Version (British and American) Displaced the King James Version? 23. LITERATURE


English Versions of the Scriptures.

1. Introductory:

The battle for vernacular Scripture, the right of a nation to have the sacred writings in its own tongue, was fought and won in England. Ancient VSS, such as the Syriac and the Gothic, were produced to meet obvious requirements of the teacher or the missionary, and met with no opposition from any quarter. The same was the case with the efforts of the Anglo-Saxon church to provide portions of Scripture for the use of the people. Even in later times the Latin church seems to have followed no consistent policy in permitting or forbidding the translation of the Scriptures. In one country the practice was forbidden, in another it was regarded with forbearance or permitted under authority (Addis and Arnold, Catholic Dictionary, London, 1884, article "Bible"); and so it came about that the different nations of Europe came by the inestimable boon of an open Bible in different ways. Germany, for example, after the attempts of numerous translators who seem to have been quite untrammeled in their work owed, under Providence, to the faith, the intrepidity and the genius of Luther the national version which satisfied it for more than three centuries, and, after a recent and essentially conservative revision, satisfies it still. In England, as related below, things took a different course. In the Reformation period the struggle turned mainly on the question of the translation of the Bible.

2. The Bible in Anglo-Saxon and Norman Times:

The clergy and learned men had always of course access to the Scriptures in the Vulgate, a translation of the original Scriptures into Latin completed by Jerome at the very beginning of the 5th century; and from this version-the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.)-practically all further translations were made till the days of Luther. Within a century or little more after the landing of Augustine in England and his settlement at Canterbury (597 A.D.) Caedmon, a monk of Whitby, produced (670) his metrical version of the Bible, hardly indeed to be reckoned a version of the Scriptures in the ordinary sense, though it paved the way for such. Bede of Jarrow (672-735) translated the Creed and the Lord's Prayer and, according to the beautiful letter of his pupil, Cuthbert, breathed his last on the completion of his translation of the Gospel of John into the language of the people. Aldhelm, bishop of Sherborne in the county of Dorset (died 709), translated the Psalter in another translation with which the name of King Alfred is associated; and the other efforts of that ruler to spread the knowledge of the Scriptures among his people are well known. Notice, too, should be taken of the glosses. "The gloss," says Eadie (English Bible, I, 14, note), "was neither a free nor yet a literal translation, but the interlinear insertion of the vernacular, word against word of the original, so that the order of the former was really irrespective of idiom and usage." The finest example of these is seen in the Lindisfarne Gospels, which were written in Latin about the year 700, and provided with an interlinear translation about 950 by Aldred, the priest. These with a version of a considerable section of the Old Testament by Aelfric, archbishop of Canterbury about the year 990, comprise the main efforts at Bible translation into English before the Norman Conquest. In Anglo-Saxon there is no proof of the existence of any translation of the complete Bible, or even of the complete New Testament. The sectional VSS, moreover, cannot be shown to have had any influence upon succeeding versions. For nearly three centuries after the Conquest the inter-relations of the different sections of the people and the conditions of the language prevented any real literary progress. The period, however, was marked by the appearance of fragmentary translations of Scripture into Norman French. From some Augustinian monastery, too, in the north of the East Midland district of England, about the year 1200, appeared the Ormulum, a curious metrical work of some 20,000 lines, consisting of a paraphrase of the Gospel of the day and an explanatory homily for 32 days of the year. Like the work of Caedmon the monk, it was not exactly Bible translation, but it doubtless prepared the way for such. Three versions of the Psalter, naturally always a favorite portion of Scripture with the translator, are assigned to the first half of Wycliffe's century. The reformer himself in one of his tracts urges a translation of the Bible to suit the humbler classes of society, on the plea that the upper classes already have their version in French. It was only in the long and splendid reign of Edward III (1327-77), when the two races that had existed in the country since the Conquest were perfectly united, that the predominance of English asserted itself, and the growth of the power and of the mental activity of the people instinctively demanded a new form of expression. The century of Wycliffe, it is to be remembered, was also that of Langland, Gower and Chaucer.

3. John Wycliffe:

Born in Yorkshire about the year 1320, Wycliffe was educated at Balliol College, Oxford, of which he soon became a Fellow and was for a short time Master, resigning the latter position in the year 1361 on his presentation to a living in Lincolnshire. He died at Lutterworth in Leicestcrshire in 1384. It was during the last quarter of his life that he came forward as a friend of the people and as a prolific writer on their behalf. Notwithstanding the external glory of the reign of Edward III, there was much in the ecclesiastical and social circumstances of the time to justify popular discontent. The Pope derived from England alone a revenue larger than that of any prince in Christendom. The nobles resented the extortion and pretensions of the higher clergy; and, according to Green, "the enthusiasm of the Friars, who in the preceding century had preached in praise of poverty, had utterly died away and left a crowd of impudent mendicants behind it." The Black Death, "the most terrible plague the world ever witnessed," fell in the middle of the century and did much further to embitter the already bitter condition of the poor. In France things were no better than in England, and the Turk had settled permanently in Europe. It is not wonderful that Wycliffe began, as is said, his version of the New Testament with the Book of Revelation. With his social teaching the present article is not specially concerned. It probably involved no more than the inculcation of the inherently democratic and leveling doctrines of Christianity, though some of the Lollards, like the Munster peasants in the German Reformation, associated it with dangerous socialistic practice. In any case the application of Christianity to the solution of social problems is not in any age easy to effect in practice. His tracts show (Eadie, I, 59) that it was from what Wycliffe had felt the Bible to be to himself that there sprang his strong desire to make the reading of it possible for his countrymen. To this was due the first English version of the Bible. To this also was likewise due the institution of the order of "poor priests" to spread the knowledge of the Bible as widely as possible throughout the country.

4. How Far Was the 14th-Century Version Wycliffe's Work?:

There is some uncertainty as to the exact share which Wycliffe had in the production of the 14th century version. The translation of the New Testament was finished about the year 1380 and in 1382 the translation of the entire Bible was completed, the greater part of the Old Testament being the work of Nicholas Hereford, one of the reformer's most ardent supporters at Oxford. The work was revised on thoroughly sound principles of criticism and interpretation, as these are explained in the prologue to the new edition, by John Purvey, one of Wycliffe's most intimate friends during the latter part of his life, and finished in 1388. "Other scholars," says Mr. F. G. Kenyon, of the British Museum, "assisted him in his work, and we have no certain means of knowing how much of the translation was actually done by himself. The New Testament is attributed to him, but we cannot say with certainty that it was entirely his own work" (Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, 200, 3rd edition, London, 1898). This entirely corresponds with the position taken up by Forshall and Madden, the editors of the great Oxford edition of Wycliffe's version issued in 4 large quarto volumes in 1850. That work was undertaken to honor Wycliffe and in some measure to repay England's indebtedness to the reformer. The editors were men of the first literary rank; they spent 22 years upon this work; and it is recognized as a credit at once to the scholarship and research of Oxford and of England. Its honest and straightforward Introduction answers by anticipation by far the greater part of the criticisms and claims put forth by Dr. Gasquet (Our Old English Bible and Other Essays, London, 1898; 2nd edition, 1908). The claim is made that the work published in Oxford in 1850 is really not Wycliffe's at all but that of his bitterest opponents, the bishops of the English church who represented the party of Rome. Gasquet's work on this subject is mainly worthy of notice on account of his meritorious research in other departments of the English Reformation. His arguments and statements are met by Kenyon (op. cit., 204-8). The controversy is further noticed in The Age of Wycliffe, by G. M. Trevelyan (2nd edition, London, 1908), a work which cannot be too highly praised for its deep research, its interesting exposition and its cordial appreciation of the reformer and his works. "Nothing," says Trevelyan (Appendix, 361), "can be more damning than the licenses to particular people to have English Bibles, for they distinctly show that without such licenses it was thought wrong to have them." The age of printing, it is to be remembered, was not yet. The Wycliffe Bible was issued and circulated in copies each of which was written by the hand. About 170 copies of this manuscript Bible are still in existence. They form a striking proof of what England and the world owe to the faith, the courage and the labor of John Wycliffe and his "poor priests."

5. From Wycliffe to Tyndale:

It is a remarkable fact that before the year 1500 most of the countries of Europe had been supplied with a version of the Scriptures printed in the vernacular tongue, while England had nothing but the scattered copies of the Wycliffe manuscript version. Even Caxton, eager as was his search for works to translate and to print, while he supplied priests with service-books, preachers with sermons, and the clerk with the "Golden Legende," left the Scriptures severely alone. Nor was there a printed English version, even of the New Testament, for close on half a century after Caxton's death, a circumstance largely due to the energy of the Tudor dictatorship and the severity of the Arundelian Constitutions enacted by Convocation at Oxford in the year 1408:against Wycliffe and his work. These enactments forbade "upon pain of the greater excommunication the unauthorized translation of any text of the Scriptures into English or any other tongue by way of a book, pamphlet, treatise or the reading of such." Meanwhile the study of the new learning, including that of the original languages of Scripture, though generally resisted by the clergy, was greatly promoted by the invention of printing.

6. William Tyndale:

Erasmus, perhaps the chief representative name of the new age in the domain of learning, was professor of Greek at Cambridge from 1509 to 1524, and in the 2nd year of his professorship William Tyndale, an Oxford student in the 26th year of his age, migrated to Cambridge to study Greek. Ten years later Tyndale returned to his native county-Gloucestershire-to take up a private tutorship and there formed the determination which became the one fixed aim of his life-to put an English translation, not of the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) but of the original Greek and Hebrew Scriptures, into the hands of his countrymen. "If God spared him life," he said, "ere many years he would cause a boy that driveth a plow to know more of the Scriptures than the Pope did." Erasmus at Cambridge had uttered a similar aspiration. "He boldly avows his wish for a Bible open and intelligible to all.. `I long for the day when the husbandman shall sing to himself portions of the Scriptures as he follows the plow, when the weaver shall hum them to the time of his shuttle, when thetraveler shall while away with their stories the weariness of his journey' " (Green, History of the English People, 1st edition, 308). In 1522 Tyndale went to London to try to find a patron for his work in Tunstall, bishop of London, who had studied Greek with Latimer at Padua and was one of the most noted humanists of the day. To show himself capable for the work, Tyndale took with him to London a version of a speech of Isocrates. But the Bishop of London's service was full; and after spending a year with a friendly alderman in London, "at last," he says in the Preface to his Five Books of Moses, "I understood not only that there was no room in my Lord of London's palace to translate the New Testament, but also that there was no place to do it in all England." He left the country and never returned to it. He spent the remaining twelve years of his life in exile and for the most part in great hardship, sustained by steady labor and by the one hope of his life-the giving to his countrymen of a reliable version of the Holy Scriptures in their own tongue. He went first to Hamburg, and there, as it seems, issued in the year 1524 versions of Matthew and Mark separately, with marginal notes. Next year he removed to Cologne, and arranged for the printing of the complete New Testament, the translation of which he accomplished alone, from the study of the Greek text of Erasmus in its original and revised editions and by a comparison of these with the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) and several European vernacular versions which, as already stated, had anticipated that of England. The story of the interruption by Cochlaeus of the actual work of printing, and of his warning the King and Wolsey of the impending invasion of England by Lutheranism, reads like a romance. His interference resulted in the prohibition by the city authorities of the printing of the work and in the sudden flight of Tyndale and his assistant, Joye, who sailed up the Rhine with the precious sheets already printed of their 3,000 quarto edition to Worms, the city of the famous Diet in which Luther four years before had borne his testimony before the Emperor. The place was now Lutheran, and here the work of printing could be carried out in security and at leisure. To baffle his enemies, as it seems, a small octavo edition was first printed without glosses; then the quarto edition was completed. The "pernicious literature" of both editions, without name of the translator, was shipped to England early in 1526; and by 1530 six editions of the New Testament in English (three surreptitiously) were distributed, numbering, it is computed, 15,000 copies. The unfavorable reception of Tyndale's work by the King and the church authorities may in some measure be accounted for by the excesses which at the moment were associated with the Reformation in Germany, and by the memories of Lollardism in connection with the work of Wycliffe.

So vehement was the opposition at any rate to Tyndale's work, and so determined the zeal in buying up and burning the book, that of the six editions above mentioned there "remains of the first edition one fragment only;. of the second one copy, wanting the title-page, and another very imperfect; and of the others, two or three copies which are not however satisfactorily identified" (Westcott, History of the English Bible, 45, London, 1868). Meanwhile Tyndale took to working on the Old Testament. Much discussion has taken place on the question whether he knew Hebrew (see Eadie, I, 209). Tyndale's own distinct avowal is that it was from the Hebrew direct that such translation of the Old Testament as he accomplished was made. Very early in 1531 he published separately versions of Genesis and Deuteronomy, and in the following year the whole of the Pentateuch in one volume, with a preface and marginal glosses. In 1534 appeared the Book of Jonah, with a prologue; and in the same year a new version of the New Testament to counteract one made by Joye from the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) This has been described by Westcott (op. cit., 185) as "altogether Tyndale's noblest monument," mainly on account of its short and pregnant glosses. "Bengel himself is not more terse or pointed." A beautifully illuminated copy of this edition was struck off on vellum and presented to Queen Anne Boleyn; and an edition of his revised New Testament was printed in London-"The first volume of Holy Scripture printed in England"-in 1536, the year of the Queen's death. Tyndale had for some time lived at Antwerp, enjoying a "considerable yearly exhibition" from the English merchants there; but his enemies in England were numerous, powerful and watchful. In 1534 he was betrayed and arrested; and after an imprisonment of nearly a year and a half at the castle of Vilorde, about 18:miles from Brussels, he was strangled and then burned in 1536, the same year as that of the death of the Queen. The last days of the hero and martyr may have been cheered by the news of the printing of his revised edition of the New Testament in England.

7. Miles Coverdale:

Miles Coverdale, who first gave England a complete and authorized version of the Bible, was a younger contemporary of Tyndale. Tyndale was a year younger than Luther, who was born in 1483, and Coverdale was four years younger than Tyndale. Born in the North Riding of Yorkshire, he found his way to Cambridge at the time when Erasmus was professor of Greek, and appears at an early date-how is not known-to have got into the good graces of Crumwell, the "malleus monachorum," factotum and secretary to Wolsey, and later on the King's principal abettor in his efforts to render the Church of England thoroughly national, if not to an equal extent Protestant. Adopting the liberal party in the church, he held Lutheran or evangelical views of religion, east off his monastic habit, and, as Bale says, gave himself up wholly to the preaching of the gospel. He is found in 1527 in intimate connection with More and Crumwell and probably from them he received encouragement to proceed with a translation of the Bible. In 1528 he was blamed before Tunstall, bishop of London, as having caused some to desert the mass, the confessional and the worship of images; and seeking safety, he left England for the Continent. He is said by Foxe to have met Tyndale at Hamburg in 1529, and to have given him some help in the translation of the Pentateuch. An uncertainty hangs over Coverdale's movements from 1529 to 1535, a period during which much was happening that could not fail to be powerfully changing opinion in England.

The result of the Assembly held at Westminster by Warham in May, 1530, and of the Convocation held under his successor, Cranmer, in December, 1534, was that in the latter it was petitioned that "his Majesty would vouchsafe to decree that the sacred Scriptures should be translated into the English tongue by certain honest and learned men, named for that purpose by his Majesty, and should be delivered to the people according to their learning." Crumwell, meanwhile, who had a shrewd forecast of the trend of affairs, seems to have arranged with Coverdale for the printing of his translation. However this may be, by the year 1534 "he was ready, as he was desired, to set forth" (i.e. to print) his translation; and the work was finished in 1535. And thus, "as the harvest springs from the seed which germinates in darkness, so the entire English Bible, translated no one knows where, presented itself, unheralded and unanticipated, at once to national notice in 1535" (Eadie, I, 266). It is declared on the title-page to be "faithfully and truly translated out of Douche and Latyn into Englishe: MDXXXV." Coverdale's own statements about his work leave the impression that he was a conspicuously honest man. Unlike Tyndale who regarded himself as, in a way, a prophet, with his work as a necessity Divinely laid upon him, Coverdale describes that he had no particular desire to undertake the work-and how he wrought, as it were, in the language of these days, under a committee from whom he took his instructions and who "required-him to use the Douche (i.e. the German) and the Latyn." He claims further to have done the work entirely himself, and he certainly produced a new version of the Old Testament and a revised version of the New Testament. He used, he says, five sundry interpreters of the original languages. These interpreters were, in all probability, the Vulgate, Luther's version, the Zurich or Swiss-German Bible, the Latin version of Pagninus, and he certainly consulted Tyndale on the Pentateuch and the New Testament. He successfully studied musical effect in his sentences and many of the finest phrases in the King James Version are directly traced to Coverdale. His version of the Psalms is that which is retained and is still in daily use in the ritual of the Church of England. Two new editions of Coverdale's version were issued in 1537 "with the King's most gracious license," and after this the English Bible was allowed to circulate freely. Certain changes in the title-page, prefaces and other details are discussed in the works mentioned at the end of this article.

8. Matthew's Bible:

Convocation meanwhile was not satisfied with Coverdale's translation, and Coverdale himself in his honest modesty had expressed the hope that an improved translation should follow his own. Accordingly in 1537-probably at the suggestion of, and with some support from, Crumwell and certainly to his satisfaction-a large folio Bible appeared, as edited and dedicated to the King, by Thomas Matthew. This name has, since the days of Foxe, been held to be a pseudonym for John Rogers, the protomartyr of the Marian persecution, a Cambridge graduate who had for some years lived in intimacy with Tyndale at Antwerp, and who became the possessor of his manuscript at his death. Besides the New Testament, Tyndale, as above mentioned, had published translations of the Pentateuch, the Book of Jonah, and portions of the Apocrypha, and had left a manuscript version of Joshua to 2 Chronicles. Rogers, apparently taking all he could find of the work of Tyndale, supplemented this by the work of Coverdale and issued the composite volume with the title, "The Bible, which is all the Holy Scriptures, in which are contayned the Olde and Newe Testaments, truely and purely translated into English by Thomas Matthew. Esaye I, Hearken to, ye heavens, and thou earth, geave eare: for the Lord speaketh. MDXXXVII." After the banning and burning of Tyndale's New Testament on its arrival in England 11 years before, it is not easy to account for the royal sanction with which the translation appeared. It was probably granted to the united efforts of Cranmer and Crumwell, aided perhaps by the King's desire to show action independent of the church. The royal sanction, it will be noted, was given in the same year in which it was given to Coverdale's second edition. That version became the basis of our present Bible. It was on Matthew's version that for 75 years thereafter all other versions were based.

9. Richard Taverner:

Matthew's first edition of 1,500 copies was soon exhausted, and a new edition was issued with some revision by Richard Taverner, a cultivated young layman and lawyer who had in his early years been selected by Wolsey for his college at Oxford. He was imprisoned in its cellar for reading Tyndale's New Testament; but he was soon released for his singular musical accomplishments. He was an excellent Grecian, of good literary taste and of personal dignity. For the Old Testament curiously enough he made, good Grecian as he was, no use of the Septuagint; but throughout aimed successfully at idiomatic expression, as also at compression and vividness. Some of his changes are kept in the King James Version, such as "parables" for "similitudes" and in Matthew 24:12, "The love of the many shall wax cold," and others. He also does greater justice to the Greek article. His dedication to the king is manly and dignified and compares most favorably with the dedications of other translators, including that of the King James Version. The book appeared in two editions, folio and quarto, in 1539, and in the same year two editions, folio and quarto, of the New Testament. The Bible and the New Testament were each reprinted once, and his Old Testament was adopted in a Bible of 1551. But with these exceptions Taverner's version was practically outside of influence on later translations.

10. The Great Bible (Cranmer's Bible):

The next Bible to appear was named from its size. Its pages are fully 15 inches long and over 9 inches broad. It was meant to be in a way a state edition, and is known as the Great Bible. As sufficiently good type, paper and other requisites could not be found in England, it was resolved that it should be printed in Paris. Coverdale and Grafton, the printer, went to Paris to superintend the printing; but the French church authorities interfered and the presses, types and workmen had to be transferred to London where the work was finished. It was the outcome of the Protestant zeal of Crumwell who wished to improve upon the merely composite volume of Tyndale and Coverdale. Its origin is not very accurately known, and authorities such as Hume, Burnet and Froude have ventured upon statements regarding it, for which there is really no proof (Eadie, I, 356). The duty of editor or reviser was by Crumwell assigned to Coverdale who, as a pliant man and really interested in the improvement of the English version, was quite willing to undertake a work that might supersede his own. The rapidity with which the work was executed and the proofs of the minute care devoted to it by Coverdale may appear remarkable to those who are acquainted with the deliberate and leisurely methods of the large committee that produced the King James Version in the reign of King James or the Revised Version (British and American) in the reign of Queen Victoria. Of course Coverdale had been over all the work before and knew the points at which improvements were to be applied; and a zealous and expert individual can accomplish more than a committee. Luther translated the New Testament and, after revising his work with Melanchthon, had it printed and published in less than a year. The printing of the Great Bible began in May, 1538, and was completed in April, 1539, a handsome folio, printed in black letter, with the title, "The Byble in Englyshe, that is to say, the contents of all the holy scripture, bothe of the olde and newe testament, truly translated after the veryte of the Hebrue and Greke textes, by the dylygent studye of dyverse excellent learned men, expert in the forsayde tongues. Prynted by Rychard Grafton and Edward Whitchurch. Cum privilegio ad imprimendum solum. 1539." The elaborate notes for which asterisks and various other marks are provided were never supplied; but the actual translation shows devoted attention to the work and much fine appreciation of the original languages and of English. In the New Testament the version derived assistance from the Latin version of Erasmus, and in the Old Testament from Munster and Pagninus. Variations in the text could of course be got from the Complutensian Polyglot. The Great Bible shows considerable improvement upon Tyndale in the New Testament, and upon Coverdale in the Old Testament. "So careful," says Eadie (I, 370), "had been Coverdale's revision and so little attachment had he to his own previous version, that in the 53rd chapter of Isaiah the Bible of 1539 differs in nearly forty places from his version of 1535." The clergy of course had no love for Crumwell and still less for his work, though to avert clerical prejudices, Coverdale had made concessions in his translation. The work was cordially welcomed by the people, and a copy was ordered to be printed for every parish church, the cost to be paid half by the parson and half by the parishioners. A further revision of this version was carried out by Coverdale for a second edition which appeared in April, 1540, and is known as Cranmer's Bible, mainly from the judicious and earnest preface which the archbishop wrote for it. "It exhibits a text formed on the same principles as that of 1539, but after a fuller and more thorough revision" (Westcott, 254). Two other editions followed in the same year and three more in the year following (1541).

11. Reaction, 1541-57:

After the publication of the Great Bible (1539-41) no further advance took place for many years. The later years of Henry VIII indeed were marked by serious reaction. In 1542 Convocation with the royal consent made an attempt, fortunately thwarted by Cranmer, to Latinize the English version and to make it in reality what the Romish version of Rheims subsequently became. In the following year Parliament, which then practically meant the King and two or three members of the Privy Council, restricted the use of the English Bible to certain social classes that excluded nine-tenths of the population; and three years later it prohibited the use of everything but the Great Bible. It was probably at this time that there took place the great destruction of all previous work on the English Bible which has rendered examples of that work so scarce. Even Tunstall and Heath were anxious to escape from their responsibility in lending their names to the Great Bible. In the midst of this reaction Henry VIII died, January 28, 1547. 12. Edward VI:

No new work marked the reign of Edward VI, but great activity prevailed in the printing of previous versions Thirty-five New Testaments and thirteen Bibles were published during his reign of six years and a half; and injunctions were issued urging every person to read "the very lively Word of God" and for a copy of the Great Bible with the English paraphrase of Erasmus to be set up in every church. By royal order a New Testament was to be sold for 22nd, a sum representing as many shillings of present value.

13. Mary:

Less repressive work regarding the translation and diffusion of Scripture than might have been expected occurred in the reign of Mary, though in other directions the reaction was severe enough. According to Lord Burghley, during the three years and nine months of Mary's reign, the number of 400 persons perished-men, women, maidens and children-by imprisonment, torment, famine and fire. Among the martyrs were Cranmer and Rogers; Coverdale escaped martyrdom only by exile and the powerful intervention of the king of Denmark.

Read Complete Article...


e-thi-op'-ik vur'-shuns:

Christianity was introduced into Abyssinia by Tyrian missionaries, who probably spoke Greek, about the time of Constantine the Great. The Bible was translated into Ethiopic, or, to use the native name, Ge`ez, the Old Testament being from the Septuagint, between the 4th and 5th centuries, by various hands, though the work was popularly ascribed to Frumentius, the first bishop. The fact of the Scriptures having been translated into Ethiopic was known to Chrysostom (Hom. II, in Joannem). The versions thus made were revised some time about the 14th century, and corrected by means of the Massoretic Text. The Ethiopic Scriptures contain the books found in the Alexandrine recension with the exception of the Books of Maccabees; but their importance lies in their pseudepigraphic writings, the Ascension of Isaiah, the Book of Enoch and the Book of Jubilees. The 1st edition of the New Testament appeared at Rome in 1545-49 (reprinted in Walton), but a critical edition has yet to be made; one issued by the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1830 contains many errors. The Old Testament canonical books and Apocrypha have been edited by Dillmann (the Octoteuch and 1-4 Kings and Apocrypha), Bachmann (died 1894) (Isaiah, Lamentations, Obadiah and Malachi), and Ludolph (Pss). The Psalter has been often printed from 1513 on. The Book of Enoch was first translated by Richard Laurence and published at Oxford in 1821, but the standard editions are those of Dillmann (Leipzig, 1853) and R. H. Charles (Oxford, 1893). The importance of this work lies in the fact that "the influence of Enoch on the New Testament has been greater than that of all the other apocryphal and pseudepigraphal books taken together" (Charles, 41). Not only the phraseology and ideas, but the doctrines of the New Testament are greatly influenced by it. Of the canonical books and Apocrypha the manuscripts are too poor and too late to be of any value for the criticism of the Greek text.

Thomas Hunter Weir




" 1. Analogy of Latin Vulgate

2. The Designation "Peshito" ("Peshitta")

3. Syriac Old Testament

4. Syriac New Testament

5. Old Syriac Texts

(1) Curetonian

(2) Tatian's Diatessaron

(3) Sinaitic Syriac

(4) Relation to Peshito

6. Probable Origin of Peshito

7. History of Peshito

8. Other Translations

(1) The Philoxenian

(2) The Harclean

(3) The Jerusalem Syriac


As in the account of the Latin versions it was convenient to start from Jerome's Vulgate, so the Syriac versions may be usefully approached from the Peshitta, which is the Syriac Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.)

1. Analogy of Latin Vulgate:

Not that we have any such full and clear knowledge of the circumstances under which the Peshitta was produced and came into circulation. Whereas the authorship of the Latin Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) has never been in dispute, almost every assertion regarding the authorship of the Peshitta, and the time and place of its origin, is subject to question. The chief ground of analogy between the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) and the Peshitta is that both came into existence as the result of a revision. This, indeed, has been strenuously denied, but since Dr. Hort in his Introduction to Westcott and Hort's New Testament in the Original Greek, following Griesbach and Hug at the beginning of the last century, maintained this view, it has gained many adherents. So far as the Gospels and other New Testament books are concerned, there is evidence in favor of this view which has been added to by recent discoveries; and fresh investigation in the field of Syriac scholarship has raised it to a high degree of probability. The very designation. "Peshito," has given rise to dispute. It has been applied to the Syriac as the version in common use, and regarded as equivalent to the Greek (koine) and the Latin Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.)

2. The Designation "Peshito" ("Peshitta"):

The word itself is a feminine form (peshiTetha'), meaning "simple," "easy to be understood." It seems to have been used to distinguish the version from others which are encumbered, with marks and signs in the nature of an apparatus criticus. However this may. be, the term as a designation of the version has not been found in any Syriac author earlier than the 9th or 10th century.

As regards the Old Testament, the antiquity of the Version is admitted on all hands. The tradition, however, that part of it was translated from Hebrew into Syriac for the benefit of Hiram in the days of Solomon is a myth. That a translation was made by a priest named Assa, or Ezra, whom the king of Assyria sent to Samaria, to instruct the Assyrian colonists mentioned in 2 Kings 17, is equally legendary. That the tr of the Old Testament and New Testament was made in connection with the visit of Thaddaeus to Abgar at Edessa belongs also to unreliable tradition. Mark has even been credited in ancient Syriac tradition with translating his own Gospel (written in Latin, according to this account) and the other books of the New Testament into Syriac

3. Syriac Old Testament:

But what Theodore of Mopsuestia says of the Old Testament is true of both: "These Scriptures were translated into the tongue of the Syrians by someone indeed at some time, but who on earth this was has not been made known down to our day" (Nestle in HDB, IV, 645b). Professor Burkitt has made it probable that the translation of the Old Testament was the work of Jews, of whom there was a colony in Edessa about the commencement of the Christian era (Early Eastern Christianity, 71;). The older view was that the translators were Christians, and that the work was done late in the 1st century or early in the 2nd. The Old Testament known to the early Syrian church was substantially that of the Palestinian Jews. It contained the same number of books but it arranged them in a different order. First there was the Pentateuch, then Job, Joshua, Judgess, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Ruth, Canticles, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, Isaiah followed by the Twelve Minor Prophets, Jeremiah and Lamentations, Ezekiel, and lastly Daniel. Most of the apocryphal books of the Old Testament are found in the Syriac, and the Book of Sirach is held to have been translated from the Hebrew and not from the Septuagint.

4. Syriac New Testament:

Of the New Testament, attempts at translation must have been made very early, and among the ancient versions of New Testament Scripture the Syriac in all likelihood is the earliest. It was at Antioch, the capital of Syria, that the disciples of Christ were first called Christians, and it seemed natural that the first translation of the Christian Scriptures should have been made there. The tendency of recent research, however, goes to show that Edessa, the literary capital, was more likely the place.

If we could accept the somewhat obscure statement of Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiastica, IV, xxii) that Hegesippus "made some quotations from the Gospel according to the Hebrews and from the Syriac Gospel," we should have a reference to a Syriac New Testament as early as 160-80 A.D., the time of that Hebrew Christian writer. One thing is certain, that the earliest New Testament of the Syriac church lacked not only the Antilegomena-2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation-but the whole of the Catholic Epistles and the Apocalypse. These were at a later date translated and received into the Syriac Canon of the New Testament, but the quotations of the early Syrian Fathers take no notice of these New Testament books.

From the 5th century, however, the Peshitta containing both Old Testament and New Testament has been used in its present form only as the national version of the Syriac Scriptures. The translation of the New Testament is careful, faithful and literal, and the simplicity, directness and transparency of the style are admired by all Syriac scholars and have earned for it the title of "Queen of the versions."

5. Old Syriac Texts:

It is in the Gospels, however, that the analogy between the Latin Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) and the Syriac Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) can be established by evidence. If the Peshitta is the result of a revision as the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) was, then we may expect to find Old Syriac texts answering to the Old Latin. Such texts have actually been found. Three such texts have been recovered, all showing divergences from the Peshitta, and believed by competent scholars to be anterior to it. These are, to take them in the order of their recovery in modern times, (1) the Curetonian Syriac, (2) the Syriac of Tatian's Diatessaron, and (3) the Sinaitic Syriac.

(1) Curetonian.

The Curetonian consists of fragments of the Gospels brought in 1842 from the Nitrian Desert in Egypt, and now in the British Museum. The fragments were examined by Canon Cureton of Westminster and edited by him in 1858. The manuscript from which the fragments have come appears to belong to the 5th century, but scholars believe the text itself to be as old as the 2nd century. In this recension the Gospel according to Matthew has the title Evangelion da-Mepharreshe, which will be explained in the next section.

(2) Tatian's "Diatessaron."

The Diatessaron of Tatian is the work which Eusebius ascribes to that heretic, calling it that "combination and collection of the Gospels, I know not how, to which he gave the title Diatessaron." It is the earliest harmony of the Four Gospels known to us. Its existence is amply attested in the church of Syria, but it had disappeared for centuries, and not a single copy of the Syriac work survives.

A commentary upon it by Ephraem the Syrian, surviving in an Armenian translation, was issued by the Mechitarist Fathers at Venice in 1836, and afterward translated into Latin. Since 1876 an Arabic translation of the Diatessaron itself has been discovered; and it has been ascertained that the Cod. Fuldensis of the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) represents the order and contents of the Diatessaron. A translation from the Arab can now be read in English in Dr. J. Hamlyn Hill's The Earliest Life of Christ Ever Compiled from the Four Gospels.

Although no copy of the Diatessaron has survived, the general features of Tatian's Syriac work can be gathered from these materials. It is still a matter of dispute whether Tatian composed his Harmony out of a Syriac version already made, or composed it first in Greek and then translated it into Syriac. But the existence and widespread use of a Harmony, combining in one all four Gospels, from such an early period (172 A.D.), enables us to understand the title Evangelion da-Mepharreshe It means "the Gospel of the Separated," and points to the existence of single Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, in a Syriac translation, in contradistinction to Tatian's Harmony. Theodoret, bishop of Cyrrhus in the 5th century, tells how he found more than 200 copies of the Diatessaron held in honor in his diocese and how he collected them, and put them out of the way, associated as they were with the name of a heretic, and substituted for them the Gospels of the four evangelists in their separate forms.

(3) Sinaitic Syriac.

In 1892 the discovery of the 3rd text, known, from the place where it was found, as the Sin Syriac, comprising the four Gospels nearly entire, heightened the interest in the subject and increased the available material. It is a palimpsest, and was found in the monastery of Catherine on Mt. Sinai by Mrs. Agnes S. Lewis and her sister Mrs. Margaret D. Gibson. The text has been carefully examined and many scholars regard it as representing the earliest translation into Syriac, and reaching back into the 2nd century. Like the Curetonian, it is an example of the Evangelion da-Mepharreshe as distinguished from the Harmony of Tatian.

(4) Relation to Peshito.

The discovery of these texts has raised many questions which it may require further discovery and further investigation to answer satisfactorily. It is natural to ask what is the relation of these three texts to the Peshitta. There are still scholars, foremost of whom is G. H. Gwil-liam, the learned editor of the Oxford Peshito (Tetraevangelium sanctum, Clarendon Press, 1901), who maintain the priority of the Peshitta and insist upon its claim to be the earliest monument of Syrian Christianity. But the progress of investigation into Syriac Christian literature points distinctly the other way. From an exhaustive study of the quotations in the earliest Syriac Fathers, and, in particular, of the works of Ephraem Syrus, Professor Burkitt concludes that the Peshitta did not exist in the 4th century. He finds that Ephraem used the Diatessaron in the main as the source of his quotation, although "his voluminous writings contain some clear indications that he was aware of the existence of the separate Gospels, and he seems occasionally to have quoted from them (Evangelion da-Mepharreshe, 186). Such quotations as are found in other extant remains of Syriac literature before the 5th century bear a greater resemblance to the readings of the Curetonian and the Sinaitic than to the readings of the Peshitta. Internal and external evidence alike point to the later and revised character of the Peshitta

6. Probable Origin of Peshito:

How and where and by whom was the revision carried out? Dr. Hort, as we have seen, believed that the "revised" character of the Syriac Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) was a matter of certainty, and Dr. Westcott and he connected the authoritative revision which resulted in the Peshitta with their own theory, now widely adopted by textual critics, of a revision of the Greek text made at Antioch in the latter part of the 3rd century, or early in the 4th. The recent investigations of Professor Burkitt and other scholars have made it probable that the Peshitta was the work of Rabbula, bishop of Edessa, at the beginning of the 5th century. Of this revision, as of the revision which plays such an important part in the textual theory of Westcott and Hort, direct evidence is very scanty, in the former case altogether wanting. Dr. Burkitt, however, is able to quote words of Rabbula's biographer to the effect that "by the wisdom of God that was in him he translated the New Testament from Greek into Syriac because of its variations, exactly as it was." This may well be an account of the first publication of the Syriac Vulg, the Old Syriac texts then available having been brought by this revision into greater conformity with the Greek text current at Antioch in the beginning of the 5th century. And Rabbula was not content with the publication of his revision; he gave orders to the priests and the deacons to see that "in all the churches a copy of the Evangelion da-Mepharreshe shall be kept and read" (ib 161;, 177). It is very remarkable that before the time of Rabbula, who ruled over the Syr-speaking churches from 411 to 435, there is no trace of the Peshitta, and that after his time there is scarcely a vestige of any other text. He very likely acted in the manner of Theodoret somewhat later, pushing the newly made revision, which we have reason to suppose the Peshitta to have been, into prominence, and making short work of other texts, of which only the Curetonian and the Sinaitic are known to have survived to modern times.

7. History of Peshito:

The Peshitta had from the 5th century onward a wide circulation in the East, and was accepted and honored by all the numerous sects of the greatly divided Syriac Christianity. It had a great missionary influence, and the Armenian and Georgian VSS, as well as the Arabic and the Persian, owe not a little to the Syriac. The famous Nestorian tablet of Sing-an-fu witnesses to the presence of the Syriac Scriptures in the heart of China in the 7th century. It was first brought to the West by Moses of Mindin, a noted Syrian ecclesiastic, who sought a patron for the work of printing it in vain in Rome and Venice, but found one in the Imperial Chancellor at Vienna in 1555-Albert Widmanstadt. He undertook the printing of the New Testament, and the emperor bore the cost of the special types which had to be cast for its issue in Syriac. Immanuel Tremellius, the converted Jew whose scholarship was so valuable to the English reformers and divines, made use of it, and in 1569 issued a Syriac New Testament in Hebrew letters. In 1645 the editio princeps of the Old Testament was prepared by Gabriel Sionita for the Paris Polyglot, and in 1657 the whole Peshitta found a place in Walton s London Polyglot. For long the best edition of the Peshitta was that of John Leusden and Karl Schaaf, and it is still quoted under the symbol Syriac schaaf, or Syriac Sch. The critical edition of the Gospels recently issued by Mr. G. H. Gwilliam at the Clarendon Press is based upon some 50 manuscripts. Considering the revival of Syriac scholarship, and the large company of workers engaged in this field, we may expect further contributions of a similar character to a new and complete critical edition of the Peshitta

8. Other Translations:

(1) The Philoxenian.

Besides the Peshitta there are other translations which may briefly be mentioned. One of these is the Philoxenian, made by Philoxenus, bishop of Mabug (485-519) on the Euphrates, from the Greek, with the help of his Chorepiscopus Polycarp. The Psalms and portions of Isaiah are also found in this version; and it is interesting as having contained the Antilegomena-2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Jude.

(2) The Harclean.

Another is the Harclean, which is a revision of the Philoxenian, undertaken by Thomas of Harkel in Mesopotamia, and carried out by him at Alexandria about 616, with the help of Greek manuscripts exhibiting western reading. The Old Testament was undertaken at the same time by Paul of Tella. The New Testament contains the whole of the books, except Rev. It is very literal in its renderings, and is supplied with an elaborate system of asterisks and daggers to indicate the variants found in the manuscripts.

(3) The Jerusalem Syriac.

Mention may also be made of a Syriac version of the New Testament known as the Jerusalem or Palestinian Syriac, believed to be independent, and not derived genealogically from those already mentioned. It exists in a Lectionary of the Gospels in the Vatican, but two fresh manuscripts of the Lectionary have been found on Mt. Sinai by Dr. Rendel Harris and Mrs. Lewis, with fragments of Acts and the Pauline Epistles. The dialect employed deviates considerably from the ordinary Syriac, and the Greek text underlying it has many peculiarities. It alone of Syriac manuscripts has the pericope adulterae. In Matthew 27:17 the robber is called Jesus Barabbas. Gregory describes 10 manuscripts (Textkritik, 523).


Nestle, Syrische Uebersetzungen, PRE3, Syriac VSS, HDB, and Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the Greek New Testament, 95-106; G. H. Gwilliam, Studia Biblica, II, 1890, III, 1891, V, 1903, and Tetraevangelium sanctum Syriacum; Scrivener, Intro4, 6-40; Burkitt, "Early Eastern Christianity," Texts and Studies, VII, 2:1-91, Evangelion da-Mepharreshe, I, II, and "Syr VSS," EB; Gregory, Textkritik, 479-528.

T. Nicol





jor'-ji-an, goth'-ik, sla-von'-ik:

1. The Georgian Version:

Georgia is the name given to the territory extending to the East of the Black Sea, a country that has had an independent national existence of 2,000 years but is now (under the name Grusinia) a part of the trans-Caucasian domain of Russia. The language has no affinities with any of the recognized groups, but is becoming obsolete under Russian pressure. Christianity was introduced into Georgia m the 4th century, and a national conversion followed. A well-supported tradition makes the first translation of the Bible almost contemporaneous with this conversion and refers it to Mesrop (died 441; see ARMENIAN VERSIONS), but the fact is not quite certain and the beginnings of a native version may really be as much as two centuries later. The oldest manuscript extant is a Psalter of the 7th-8th centuries, and the earliest copy of the Gospels is perhaps a century later; in all, Gregory (Textkritik, 573-75) enumerates 17 Georgian manuscripts of the New Testament, but his list is not exhaustive.

The first printed Bible was produced in the ancient alphabet in Moscow in 1743 and has never been reprinted, but other edd, perhaps only of the New Testament, were issued at least in 1816 and 1818, using the nonecclesiastical alphabet. According to Conybeare (ZNTW, XI, 161-66, 232-39 (1910)) the Georgian version was first made from the Old Syriac and then later (11th century) revised from the Greek In 1910 a new edition, based on two manuscripts dated respectively 913 and 995, was begun (Quattuor Ev. versio Georgia vetus, Petersburg). The Georgian version was used by S. C. Malan, The Gospel according to John, translated from the 11 Oldest VSS, London, 1862.

2. The Gothic Version:

Ulfilas, the Arian bishop of the West Goths and the chief agent in their conversion to Christianity, was also the first translator of the Bible into Gothic, a work for which he had even to invent an alphabet. According to tradition, his translation included the entire Bible with the exception of Kings (which he thought unadapted to the already too warlike character of his converts), but there is doubt whether his work actually included more than the New Testament. Too little of the Old Testament has survived to enable a settling of this question, nor is it possible to tell how much revision the New Testament translation has undergone since Ulfilas' work.

A list of the six Gothic manuscripts is given in HDB, IV, 862, to which is to be added a bilingual Latin-Gothic manuscript containing portions of Luke 24, known as the Arsinoe Fragment (published in ZNTW, XI, 1-38 (1910) and separately (Giessen, 1910)). In all there have been preserved in the Old Testament Genesis 5 (in part); Psalm 52:2; Nehemiah 5-7 (in part), and in the New Testament the Gospels and Pauline Epistles (all incomplete), with quotations from Hebrews. The best complete edition is that of Stamm-Heyne(9) (Paderborn, 1896), but as the version is of basic importance for the history of the Germanic languages there are many editions of various portions prepared for philological purposes.

The Old Testament fragments are a translation of a text very closely allied to the Lucianic Greek (see SEPTUAGINT) and are certainly not from the Hebrew New Testament undoubtedly was made from a text of the type used in Antioch (Constantinople) in the 4th century, with very slight variations, none of which are "neutral" (von Soden classes them as of the I-type). Either in making the translation or (more probably) in a subsequent revision an Old-Latin text was used, of the type of Codex Brixianus (f), and certain Old-Latin readings are well marked. For brief lists of these peculiarities see Burkitt in Journal Theological Studies, I, 129-34 (1900), or von Soden, Schriften des New Testament, I, 1469 (1906).

3. The Slavonic Version:

It is definitely known that the first Slavonic translation of the Bible was commenced in 864 or earlier by the two brothers Cyril (died 869) and Methodius (died 885), and that the latter worked on it after the former's death. Their work was undertaken for the benefit of the Balkan Slavs, and at first only the liturgical portions (Gospels, Acts, Epistles and Psalms) were translated, but, after the completion of this, Methodius carried the translation farther to include larger portions of the Old Testament. How much of this he accomplished is obscure, but he seems not to have finished the Old Testament entirely, while almost certainly he did not translate Revelation. Uncertain also is the exact dialect used for this work; although this dialect was the basis of the present liturgical language of the Russian church, it has undergone much transformation before arriving at its final stage. At different times the translation of the Bible was revised to conform to the changes of the language, in addition to other revisional changes, and, as a result, the manuscripts (some of which go back to the 10th century) exhibit very varying types of text that have not been satisfactorily classified.

An attempt to bring the discrepant material into order was made about 1495 by Archbishop Gennadius, but he was unable to find Slavonic manuscripts that included the entire Bible and was forced to supply the deficiencies (Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther and most of Jeremiah and the Apocrypha) by a new translation made from the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) This Bible of Gennadius was the basis of the first printed edition, made at Ostrog in 1581, although the liturgical portions had been printed earlier (Acts and Epistles first of all in 1564). The Ostrog edition followed Gennadius fairly closely, but Esther, Canticles, and Wisdom were new translations made from the Septuagint. The next revision was undertaken by order of Peter the Great and was performed by using the Greek (Old Testament and New Testament), although the resulting text was not printed until 1751. A slightly emended edition of 1756 is still the official Bible of the Russian church.

This Slavonic version is to be distinguished from the version in the true Russian language, begun first in 1517, revised or remade at various times, with an excellent modern translation first published complete in 1876. See , on the whole subject, especially Bebb in Church Quart. Rev., XLI, 203-25, 1895.


On all three versions see HDB, IV, 861-64, 1902, and the article "Bibelubersetzung" in PRE3, III (1897), with the important supplement in XXIII (1913).

Burton Scott Easton


an-glo-sax'-on vur'-shuns. See ENGLISH VERSIONS.



Strong's Hebrew
582. enosh -- man, mankind
... It is often unexpressed in the English versions, especially when used in apposition
with another word. Compare 'iysh. see HEBREW 'anash. see HEBREW 'adam. ...
/hebrew/582.htm - 6k

Editions and Versions.
... Chapter III Eusebius' Church History. Section 4. Editions and Versions. The original
Greek of Eusebius' History has been published in many editions. ...
/.../pamphilius/church history/section 4 editions and versions.htm

The Early Versions Examined, and Found to Yield Unfaltering ...
GENUINENESS OF THESE VERSES. ... To early Versions, the second place was assigned. ...
/.../chapter iv the early versions.htm

The Early Versions Examined, and Found to Yield Unfaltering ...
GENUINENESS OF THESE VERSES. ... To early Versions, the second place was assigned. ...
/.../chapter iv the early versions.htm

Later Greek Versions.
... CHAPTER II. LATER GREEK VERSIONS. ... 9. The relation of the two extant Greek versions
of Daniel is a perplexing problem which calls for further consideration. ...
/.../chapter ii later greek versions.htm

The Greek Versions as Aids to Biblical Study.
by the Ancient Versions, but especially by the Septuagint. ...
/.../chapter iv the greek versions.htm

The Versions of Tauler's Sermons
... INTRODUCTION V. The Versions of Tauler's Sermons. That the editors and
translators of Tauler have also been perforce to some extent ...
// inner way/v the versions of taulers.htm

Ancient Versions of the New Testament.
1. A peculiar interest attaches to the early Latin versions. ...
/.../barrows/companion to the bible/chapter xxviii ancient versions of.htm

Ancient Versions of the Old Testament.
... ANCIENT VERSIONS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT. In the present chapter only those versions
of the Old Testament are noticed which were made independently of the New. ...
/.../barrows/companion to the bible/chapter xvi ancient versions of.htm

Ancient Versions Based Upon the Septuagint.
/.../chapter iv ancient versions based.htm

Translations. The Principal Latin Versions have Been Referred to ...
... The principal Latin versions have been referred to in 1. Of those in foreign
languages it is not easy to procure adequate information. Fialon. ...
/.../select works and letters or athanasius/section 2 translations the principal.htm

... Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia ARABIC VERSIONS. ... Thomas Hunter Weir. ARMENIAN
VERSIONS, OF THE BIBLE. ar-me'-ni-an vur'-shuns, bi'-bl. ...
/v/versions.htm - 81k

Gnat (1 Occurrence)
... fly, etc. Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia. GNAT. nat (in English Versions
of the Bible, only in Matthew 23:24, konops. In Exodus ...
/g/gnat.htm - 10k

Three (5005 Occurrences)
... SONG OF THE THREE CHILDREN. " 1. Name 2. Canonicity 3. Contents 4. Author and Date
5. Original Language 6. Text and Versions LITERATURE For general remarks ...
/t/three.htm - 18k

Thorn (30 Occurrences)
... The alternative translations given in the text of English Versions of the Bible
and in the margin show how divided are the views of the translators. ...
/t/thorn.htm - 35k

Fourth (87 Occurrences)
... Or The Apocalyptic Esdras: Contents 1. Name 2. Contents 3. Language 4. Versions
5. Origin of the Book 6. Date LITERATURE ... 4. Versions: (1) Latin. ...
/f/fourth.htm - 43k

... the neck"; usually with shani, "bright" (of Arabic sana, "a flash of lightning"),
the term tola`ath shani being translated "scarlet" in English Versions of the ...
/s/scarlet-worm.htm - 11k

... the neck"; usually with shani, "bright" (of Arabic sana, "a flash of lightning"),
the term tola`ath shani being translated "scarlet" in English Versions of the ...
/s/scarletworm.htm - 11k

... Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia. COPTIC VERSIONS. kop'-tik vur'-shunz: I. LANGUAGE
AND ALPHABET 1. Alphabet 2. Dialects. II. VERSIONS III. ...
/c/coptic.htm - 11k

Worm (22 Occurrences)
... the neck"; usually with shani, "bright" (of Arabic sana, "a flash of lightning"),
the term tola`ath shani being translated "scarlet" in English Versions of the ...
/w/worm.htm - 21k

Rest (831 Occurrences)
... Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia. ESTHER, THE REST OF. Contents Introductory 1.
Name 2. Contents 3. Original Language 4. Versions 5. Date LITERATURE ...
/r/rest.htm - 47k



Related Terms

Gnat (1 Occurrence)

Three (5005 Occurrences)

Thorn (30 Occurrences)

Fourth (87 Occurrences)




Worm (22 Occurrences)

Rest (831 Occurrences)

Lizard (3 Occurrences)

Susanna (1 Occurrence)

Jehonadab (2 Occurrences)

Mole (2 Occurrences)

Chemarim (1 Occurrence)

River (189 Occurrences)

Jeremy (2 Occurrences)

Syriac (2 Occurrences)


Jehonathan (3 Occurrences)

Greeks (22 Occurrences)

Grecians (4 Occurrences)

Grass (92 Occurrences)

Worship (332 Occurrences)

Ferret (1 Occurrence)

People (13047 Occurrences)

Bason (3 Occurrences)

Flesh (468 Occurrences)


Basin (37 Occurrences)

Goat (92 Occurrences)


Manasses (1 Occurrence)

Tablet (7 Occurrences)


Locust (25 Occurrences)

Precious (128 Occurrences)

Deer (15 Occurrences)


Stones (244 Occurrences)




Governor (78 Occurrences)

Press (57 Occurrences)




Anaharath (1 Occurrence)


Magician (5 Occurrences)


Text (5 Occurrences)

Magic (12 Occurrences)

Vessel (118 Occurrences)

Village (21 Occurrences)

Kiss (39 Occurrences)

Nostrils (22 Occurrences)

Nose (23 Occurrences)

Oracle (57 Occurrences)

Joy (422 Occurrences)

Likeness (52 Occurrences)

Liking (2 Occurrences)

Liken (12 Occurrences)

Look (1874 Occurrences)

Lift (283 Occurrences)

Like (10728 Occurrences)

Guile (21 Occurrences)

Gibeath (2 Occurrences)

Watercourse (6 Occurrences)

Ward (27 Occurrences)

Immanuel (3 Occurrences)

Insects (17 Occurrences)

Tools (3 Occurrences)

Treason (6 Occurrences)

Thigh (38 Occurrences)

Rulers (310 Occurrences)

Ruler (329 Occurrences)

Multitude (352 Occurrences)

Mingled (62 Occurrences)

Bible ConcordanceBible DictionaryBible EncyclopediaTopical BibleBible Thesuarus
Top of Page
Top of Page