Easton's Bible Dictionary
A translation of the holy Scriptures. This word is not
found in the Bible, nevertheless, as frequent references are made in this work
to various ancient as well as modern versions, it is fitting that some brief account
should be given of the most important of these. These versions are important helps
to the right interpretation of the Word. (See SAMARITAN PENTATEUCH .)
1. The Targums.
After the return from the Captivity, the Jews, no longer familiar with the old
Hebrew, required that their Scriptures should be translated for them into the
Chaldaic or Aramaic language and interpreted. These translations and paraphrases
were at first oral, but they were afterwards reduced to writing, and thus targums,
i.e., "versions" or "translations", have come down to us. The chief of these are,
|The Onkelos Targum, i.e., the targum of Akelas=Aquila, a
targum so called to give it greater popularity by comparing it with the Greek
translation of Aquila mentioned below. This targum originated about the second
century after Christ.
The targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel comes next to that of Onkelos in respect of
age and value. It is more a paraphrase on the Prophets, however, than a translation.
Both of these targums issued from the Jewish school which then flourished at Babylon.
2. The Greek Versions.
The oldest of these is the Septuagint, usually quoted as the LXX. The origin of
this the most important of all the versions is involved in much obscurity. It
derives its name from the popular notion that seventy-two translators were employed
on it by the direction of Ptolemy Philadelphus, king of Egypt, and that it was
accomplished in seventy-two days, for the use of the Jews residing in that country.
There is no historical warrant for this notion. It is, however, an established
fact that this version was made at Alexandria; that it was begun about 280 B.C.,
and finished about 200 or 150 B.C.; that it was the work of a number of translators
who differed greatly both in their knowledge of Hebrew and of Greek; and that
from the earliest times it has borne the name of "The Septuagint", i.e., The Seventy.
"This version, with all its defects, must be of the greatest interest,
|(a) as preserving evidence for the text far more ancient
than the oldest Hebrew manuscripts;
(b) as the means by which the Greek Language was wedded to Hebrew thought;
(c) as the source of the great majority of quotations from the Old Testament by
writers of the New Testament.
The New Testament manuscripts fall into two divisions, Uncials, written in Greek
capitals, with no distinction at all between the different words, and very little
even between the different lines; and Cursives, in small Greek letters, and with
divisions of words and lines. The change between the two kinds of Greek writing
took place about the tenth century. Only five manuscripts of the New Testament
approaching to completeness are more ancient than this dividing date.
|The first, numbered A, is the Alexandrian manuscript. Though
brought to this country by Cyril Lucar, patriarch of Constantinople, as a present
to Charles I., it is believed that it was written, not in that capital, but in
Alexandria; whence its title. It is now dated in the fifth century A.D.
The second, known as B, is the Vatican manuscript. (See VATICANUS)
The Third, C, or the Ephraem manuscript, was so called because it was written
over the writings of Ephraem, a Syrian theological author, a practice very common
in the days when writing materials were scarce and dear. It is believed that it
belongs to the fifth century, and perhaps a slightly earlier period of it than
the manuscript A.
The fourth, D, or the manuscript of Beza, was so called because it belonged to
the reformer Beza, who found it in the monastery of St. Irenaeus at Lyons in 1562
A.D. It is imperfect, and is dated in the sixth century.
The fifth (called Aleph) is the Sinaitic manuscript. (See SINAITICUS)
3. The Syriac Versions. (See SYRIAC)
4. The Latin Versions.
A Latin version of the Scriptures, called the "Old Latin," which originated in
North Africa, was in common use in the time of Tertullian (A.D. 150). Of this
there appear to have been various copies or recensions made. That made in Italy,
and called the Itala, was reckoned the most accurate. This translation of the
Old Testament seems to have been made not from the original Hebrew but from the
This version became greatly corrupted by repeated transcription, and to remedy
the evil Jerome (A.D. 329-420) was requested by Damasus, the bishop of Rome, to
undertake a complete revision of it. It met with opposition at first, but was
at length, in the seventh century, recognized as the "Vulgate" version. It appeared
in a printed from about A.D. 1455, the first book that ever issued from the press.
The Council of Trent (1546) declared it "authentic." It subsequently underwent
various revisions, but that which was executed (1592) under the sanction of Pope
Clement VIII. was adopted as the basis of all subsequent editions. It is regarded
as the sacred original in the Roman Catholic Church. All modern European versions
have been more or less influenced by the Vulgate. This version reads ipsa_ instead
of _ipse in Genesis 3:15 , "She shall bruise thy head."
5. There are several other ancient versions which are of importance for Biblical critics,
but which we need not mention particularly, such as the Ethiopic, in the fourth
century, from the LXX.; two Egyptian versions, about the fourth century, the Memphitic,
circulated in Lower Egypt, and the Thebaic, designed for Upper Egypt, both from
the Greek; the Gothic, written in the German language, but with the Greek alphabet,
by Ulphilas (died A.D. 388), of which only fragments of the Old Testament remain;
the Armenian, about A.D. 400; and the Slavonic, in the ninth century, for ancient
Moravia. Other ancient versions, as the Arabic, the Persian, and the Anglo-Saxon,
may be mentioned.
6. The history of the English versions begins properly with Wyckliffe.
Portions, however, of the Scriptures were rendered into Saxon (as the Gospel according
to John, by Bede, A.D. 735), and also into English (by Orme, called the "Ormulum,"
a portion of the Gospels and of the Acts in the form of a metrical paraphrase,
toward the close of the seventh century), long before Wyckliffe; but it is to
him that the honour belongs of having first rendered the whole Bible into English
(A.D. 1380). This version was made from the Vulgate, and renders Genesis 3:15
after that Version, "She shall trede thy head."
This was followed by Tyndale's translation (1525-1531); Miles Coverdale's (1535-1553);
Thomas Matthew's (1537), really, however, the work of John Rogers, the first martyr
under the reign of Queen Mary. This was properly the first Authorized Version,
Henry VIII. having ordered a copy of it to be got for every church. This took
place in less than a year after Tyndale was martyred for the crime of translating
the Scriptures. In 1539 Richard Taverner published a revised edition of Matthew's
Bible. The Great Bible, so called from its great size, called also Cranmer's Bible,
was published in 1539 and 1568. In the strict sense, the "Great Bible" is "the
only authorized version; for the Bishops' Bible and the present Bible [the A.V.]
never had the formal sanction of royal authority." Next in order was the Geneva
version (1557-1560); the Bishops' Bible (1568); the Rheims and Douai versions,
under Roman Catholic auspices (1582,1609); the Authorized Version (1611); and
the Revised Version of the New Testament in 1880 and of the Old Testament in 1884.
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
Smith's Bible Dictionary
In treating of the ancient versions that have come down
to us, in whole or in part, they will be described in the alphabetical order of
AETHIOPIC VERSION. --
Christianity was introduced into AEthiopia [sic] in fourth century through the
labors of Frumentius and AEdesius of Tyre, who had been made slaves and sent to
the king. The AEthiopic version which we possess is in the ancient dialect of
Axum; hence some have ascribed it to the age of the earliest missionaries, but
it is probably of a later date. In 1548-9 the AEthiopic New Testament was also
printed at Rome, edited by three Abyssinians.
ARABIC VERSIONS. --
|Arabic versions of the Old Testament were made from the
Hebrew (tenth century), from the Syriac and from the LXX
Arabic versions of the New Testament . There are four versions. The first, the
Roman, of the Gospels only, was printed in 1590-1.
ARMENIAN VERSION. --
In the year 431, Joseph and Eznak returned from the Council of Ephesus bringing
with them a Greek copy of the Scriptures. From this a version in Armenian was
made by Isaac, the Armenian patriarch, and Miesrob. The first printed edition
of the Old and New Testaments in Armenian appeared at Amsterdam in 1666, under
the care of a person commonly termed Oscan or Uscan, and described as being an
CHALDEE VERSIONS. --
|Targum , a Chaldee word of uncertain origin, is the general
term for the Chaldee, or more accurately Aramaic, versions of the Old Testament.
The Targums were originally oral, and the earliest Targum, which is that of Onkelos
on the Pentateuch, began to be committed to writing about the second century of
the Christian era; though if did not assume its present shape till the end of
the third or the beginning of the fourth century. So far, however, from superseding
the oral Targum at once, it was, on the contrary, strictly forbidden to read it
in public. Its language is Chaldee, closely approaching in purity of idiom to
that of Ezra and Daniel. It follows a sober and clear though not a slavish exegesis,
and keeps as closely and minutely: to the text as is at all consistent with its
purpose, viz. to be chiefly and above all a version for the people . Its explanations
of difficult and obscure passages bear ample witness to the competence of those
who gave it its final shape. It avoids, as far as circumstances would allow, the
legendary character with which all the later Targums entwine the biblical word.
Targum on the prophets , --viz. Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel,
Kings, the twelve minor prophets, --called TARGUM OF JONATHAN BEN-UZZIEL. We shall
probably not be far wrong in placing this Targum some time, although not long,
after Onkelos, or about the middle of the fourth century. 3 and 4.
Targum of Jonathan ben-Uzziel and Jerushalmi-Targum on the Pentateuch . --Onkelos
and Jonathan on the Pentateuch and prophets, whatever be their exact date, place,
authorship and editorship, are the oldest of existing Targums, and belong in their
present shape, to Babylon and the Babylonian academies flourishing between the
third and fourth centuries A.D.
EGYPTIAN VERSIONS. --
Of these there are three, --the Memphitic, of lower Egypt, the Coptic, of upper
Egypt, and the Thebaic , with some fragments of another. The Thebaic was the earliest,
and belongs to the third century.
GOTHIC VERSION. --
In the year 318 the Gothic bishop and translator of Scripture Ulphilas, was born.
He succeeded Theophilus as bishop of the Goths in 548; through him it is said
that the Goths in general adopted Arianism. The great work of Ulphilas was his
version of the Scriptures. As an ancient monument of the Gothic language the version
of Ulphilas possesses great interest; as a version the use of which was once extended
widely through Europe, it is a monument of the Christianization of the Goths;
and as a version known to have been made in the fourth century, and transmitted
to us in ancient MSS., It has its value in textual criticism.
GREEK VERSIONS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT. --
|Septuagint . --[See SEPTUAGINT]
Aquila . --It is a remarkable fact that in the second century there were three
versions executed of the Old Testament Scriptures into Greek. The first of these
was made by Aquila, a native of Sinope in Pontus, who had become a proselyte to
Judaism. It was made during the reign of Hadrian, A.D. 117-138.
Theodotion . --The second version of which we have information as executed in
the second century is that of Theodotion. He is stated to have been an Ephesian,
and he seems to be most generally described as an Ebionite.
Symmachus is stated by Eusebius and Jerome to have been an Ebionite; Epiphanius
and others, however, style him a Samaritan. It may be that as a Samaritan he made
this version for some of that people who employed Greek, and who had learned to
receive more than the Pentateuch.
LATIN VERSIONS. --
SAMARITAN VERSIONS. --
SLAVONIC VERSION, --
In A.D. 862 there was a desire expressed or an inquiry made for Christian teachers
in Moravia, and in the following year the labors of missionaries began among the
Moravians. These missionaries were Cyrillus and Methodius, two brothers from Thessalonica.
To Cyrillus is ascribed the invention of the Slavonian alphabet and the commencement
of the translation of the Scriptures. He appears to have died at Rome in 868,
while Methodius continued for many years to be the bishop of the Slavonians. He
is stated to have continued his brothers translation.
SYRIAC VERSIONS. --
Of the Old Testament.
|(a) From the Hebrew. In the early times of Syrian Christianity
there was executed a version of the Old Testament from the original Hebrew, the
use of which must have been as widely extended as was the Christian profession
among that people. It is highly improbable that any part of the Syriac version
is older than the advent of our Lord. The Old Syriac has the peculiar value of
being the first version from the Hebrew original made for Christian use. The first
printed edition of this version was that which appeared in the Paris Polyglot
of Le Jay in 1645.
(b) The Syriac version from the Hexaplar Greek text. The only Syriac version of
the Old Testament up to the sixth century was apparently the Peshito. The version
by Paul of Tela, a Monophysite, was made in the beginning of the seventh century;
for its basis he used the Hexaplar
Greek text --
that is, the LXX., with the corrections of Origen, the asterisks, obeli, etc.,
and with the references to the other Greek versions. In fact, it is from this
Syriac version that we obtain our moat accurate acquaintance with the results
of the critical labors of Origen. It is from a MS. in the Ambrosian Library at
Milan that we possess accurate means of knowing this Syriac version.
The Syriac New Testament Versions.
|(a) The Peshito Syriac New Testament. It may stand as an
admitted fact that a version of the New Testament in Syriac existed in the second
(b) The Curetonian Syriac Gospels. Among the MSS. brought from the Nitrian monasteries
in 1842, Dr. Cureton noticed a copy of the Gospels, differing greatly from the
common text; and this is the form of text to which the name of Curetonian Syriac
has been rightly applied. Every criterion which proves the common Peshito not
to exhibit a text of extreme antiquity equally proves the early origin of this.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
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'
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);
Psalms 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 f (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 (Ac 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
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).
See AMERICAN REVISED VERSION; ARABIC VERSIONS; ARMENIAN VERSIONS; COPTIC VERSIONS;
ENGLISH VERSIONS; ETHIOPIC VERSIONS; LATIN VERSION, THE OLD; SEPTUAGINT; SYRIAC
VERSIONS; TARGUM; TEXT AND MANUSCRIPTS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT; TEXT OF THE OLD TESTAMENT;
Burton Scott Easton
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