History of Bible Translation

Throughout the history of the church a definite relationship can be identified between Bible translation and church growth and renewal. Some of the highlights in that history are:

100 A.D. - The original New Testament writings in “Koiné” or common Greek were widely used.

200 A.D. - As the gospel spread into areas where Greek was not the primary language, missionaries began to produce translations in other languages, e.g., Latin. By the end of the second century many different Latin versions were being circulated.

1382 A.D. - John Wycliffe and his associates produced the first translation into English from the Latin Vulgate. He was condemned for doing so, but has since become known as the “Morning star of the Reformation” for his efforts in giving the Scriptures back to the common people.

1522 A.D. - Martin Luther translated the New Testament into German from the original Greek. His move paved the way for the Protestant Reformation.

1526 A.D. - William Tyndale translated the New Testament into English from the original Greek. It was Tyndale who observed that it is “impossible to stablyshe [establish] the lay people in any truth except the Scripture were plainly layde [laid] before their eyes in their mother tongue.” He was burned at the stake while still pleading with the King of England to understand the need for a Bible in the language of the common people.

1611 A.D. - The King James Version was produced as the standardized English text, much as the Vulgate had been produced for the Latin speaking world.

1800’s A.D. - Many languages received translations as missionaries established churches around the world. Major work was pioneered in China, India and Africa.

Present - The Bible to date has been translated in its entirety into less than 500 of the world’s estimated 6,900 languages. An estimated 2,700 translation projects are underway.

Since the Reformation, hundreds of individuals have taken on the work of translation. The Church in most of the world, including western civilization, exists in large part because these pioneers translated the Scriptures for the common people.

Such is the heritage of those who attempt to translate the Scriptures. Those who have faithfully approached their work and endured persecutions have proven to be not only "morning stars" of reformation, but doors to the evangelization of entire cultures.