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The Bible in Translation

Ancient and English Versions

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"Easy to read and replete with judicious examples that focus on both receptor and source languages, this book wears the immense scholarship of its author lightly. . . . [It is] deserving of a place in the reference section of every biblical library, personal or institutional."--J. F. Elwolde, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament

The Bible has been translated more than any other piece of literature and is currently available in over two thousand languages, with several languages having numerous versions. Outlined here is the development of biblical translation, including a careful analysis of more than fifty versions of the Bible.

One of the most respected living biblical scholars, Bruce Metzger begins this engaging survey with the earliest translations of the Old and New Testaments before proceeding to English versions dating from the eleventh century to the present. Metzger explores the circumstances under which each translation was produced and offers insight into its underlying objectives, characteristics, and strengths. Having served on a number of modern translation committees, his insights into the evolution of Bible translation flow not only from careful research, but also from personal experience.

Students, pastors, and interested readers will discover the history of the written Word and gain useful insight into which modern translations best serve their own needs.



"A highly informative and interesting account of the history of the English Bible. Professor Metzger has pointed out the qualities--good and bad--of all the versions, from that of John Wycliffe to the New Revised Standard Version of 1990. He has not neglected the Jewish translations of the twentieth century or the simplified, easy-to-read versions, and even includes the various paraphrases of the English Bible. All of this is done with clarity, humor, and sound judgment. His book will be a valuable vade mecum for all pastors, students, scholars, and general readers."--Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J., Catholic University of America

"Any comments by Bruce Metzger about the Bible are worth heeding with greatest care. This is especially true for what Metzger, one of the key translators of the Revised Standard Version and the New Revised Standard Version, has to say about other translations--both ancient and modern, both English and in other languages. All who know how important it is to read the Bible in one's own language will appreciate the learned yet accessible descriptions that make up this book." -Mark A. Noll, Wheaton College

The Author

  1. Bruce M. Metzger

    Bruce M. Metzger

    Bruce Manning Metzger (1914-2007) was the George L. Collord Professor of New Testament Language and Literature Emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary. He was the author of hundreds of articles on Bible translation, textual criticism, the Hebrew Bible, the...

    Continue reading about Bruce M. Metzger


"Metzger had done here what few books of this nature have done; namely, reviewed the ancient versions of the Old Testament made for use by Jews, including the Septuagine and Targums. And, more particularly, he has addressed the ancient versions that were intended chiefly for Christians, including the Syriac and Latin versions, through the Coptic, Gothic, Armenian, Georgian, Ethiopic, Arabic and Sogdian, to the Old Church Slavonic and Nubian versions. In each case he has tersely, yet clearly, provided the necessary details regarding each language's contribution to the Bible's accessibility to an ever-widening public. . . . Metzger's footnotes are an invaluable resource to the person pursuing further information regarding many of these translations. The book has no bibliography, but it does have both a subject and a Scripture index. I cannot recommend this book too highly to those interested in just what it says. It will be my quick reference guide regarding the various versions from now on."-Bible Editions & Versions

"Bruce Metzger has been associated with Bible translation for over fifty years. . . . Due to his writings on textual criticism and the canon of the NT, he has established a reputation for being one of the foremost NT scholars of the twentieth century. No one is more eminently qualified academically and by personal experience to write a general history of how the Bible has been translated from Hebrew and Greek into other languages. . . . I heartily commend this volume to pastors, scholars and students of the Word."--The Master's Seminary Journal

"Few, if any, other New Testament scholars have the experience and knowledge needed to write a book like this with the authority, insight, and fairness that Bruce Metzger brings to the task. . . . This clearly written, enjoyable book belongs on the shelves of all lay people, pastors, and even scholars who want an expert overview of Bible translation from its beginnings in Greek, Syriac, and Latin to its many manifestations in the modern English-speaking world."-Michael J. Gorman, The Princeton Seminary Bulletin

"If you don't have a guide to Bible translations in your library, this volume would be a valuable addition to your collection."-Church Libraries

This is a very readable attempt to help us understand the history of our English versions of the Bible and would have a useful place in anybody's library."--Peter Ballantine, Anvil

"Felicitous is an appropriate description of this flowing work by this world renowned biblical scholar and author. It reads with smooth facility that is fascinating in its affair with the translation history of the Bible. . . . This is truly an exciting history of the translation of the Bible. It reads like a novel, captivating the interest of the reader from the first page to the end. Filled with historical data, it is an engaging experience for anyone interested in the history of ancient and English versions of the Bible."--Richard Allison, Ashland Theological Journal