How the Bible Was Canonized: English Bible Translation and History

Christian Life, Podcasts

Have you ever wondered why and how so many English translations of the Bible came to be? Look no further! This episode of Verity digs into this topic, covering the styles and reasoning behind English translation, how it works, and why we see such diverse translations on our shelves. We also deep dive into the history of the English Bible and how it came to our hands today.


Overview of the English Bible’s history:

John Wycliffe

  • Had an Oxford degree
  • What made him controversial – “Christ’s law is enough”
  • 1374 he pastored in Lutterworth
  • “doctrine should not only be in Latin but also in the common tongue”
  • He used his influence to have the Bible translated roughly from Latin to English
  • These were copied manually because the printing press had not yet been invented!
  • 34 years after his death Wycliffe’s body was exhumed and burned because of his work to provide the gospel in the English tongue

Desiderius Erasmus

  • Dutchman who loved Greek
  • Used 7 Greek manuscripts to develop his NT; the first was poorly edited, but his second became the source text for Martin Luther’s German NT
  • The third edition was used by Tyndale
  • The Textus Receipts refers to any of the published Greek NTs traced back to the text Erasmus collated. KJV is based on this.

William Tyndale

  • attended Oxford and Cambridge
  • Was fluent in 8 languages
  • “If God spares my life, I will cause a boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scripture than you do.”
  • Requested permission to translate and was denied, so he did so himself in Germany, unlike anyone else, he used the original Hebrew and Greek
  • 1526 had it printed and smuggled into England
  • Fun fact – he coined words like “fisherman”, “seashore”, “Scapegoat” and “beautiful”
  • Tyndale was opposed by the king because he wrote against Henry’s divorce – so his translation was opposed and expelled
  • Pg 137 Jones: “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes!” A year later, the king approved Matthew’s version of the Bible – which was primarily the work of Tyndale.
  • In 1539 the Great Bible was purchased by every Church in England

Other bibles popular at the time:

  • Coverdale
  • Matthews
  • Taverners
  • Great
  • Geneva (foreword by Calvin, with notes that undermined the absolute power of kings)

KJV was commissioned with “no political or theological notes”; 47 scholars worked on it. See next episode for more on the KJV!

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