5

Yes, that's what I mean. Please read before downvoting.

Our sister site hosted this question, which tells us that Winston Churchill said the King James Version of the Bible had been translated into 760 languages.

Now this makes some people snigger, since they know that the Bible wasn't written in English and the KJV is an English translation of the original languages.

But was he wrong? It seems likely to me that an English-speaking missionary of a hundred years ago, going to an unreached culture and wanting to provide a Bible in their language, would be most likely to have taken the English Bible they had (probably the KJV) and translated it, rather than starting with the original Hebrew and Greek.

So my actual questions:

  1. Was it indeed normal practice 100 years ago for English speaking Bible translators in the field to start from the English Bible? Would a typical translator in the field have had a working knowledge of Biblical Hebrew or Greek, and access to the Bible in those languages?
  2. Would that Bible usually have been the KJV?
  3. How many Bible translations are likely to have been made by this method? I'm aware that it isn't used now, but when did the change happen, and how many translations would have been made up to that point? I'll include partial translations to be generous to Winston.
  • It would be interesting to see if anyone could point to a single one of the 760 supposed translations that is still in print (or ever was). Churchill often wrote and spoke with tongue in cheek (and sometimes foot in mouth). – guest37 Jan 4 '18 at 19:05
  • 3
    Forget 100 years ago, I know Bibles translated from the English KJV in the last two decades and I know of works still in progress using this methodology. – Caleb Jan 9 '18 at 15:37
  • @Caleb Can you name those translations? – DJClayworth Jan 9 '18 at 21:12
7

In an attempt to obtain a professional answer to this question, I emailed the Trinitarian Bible Society and received the following reply :

Dear Mr Johnstone,

Greetings from London. I have never found a valid list or count of translations made strictly from the Authorised (King James) Version. Many people believe that the AV has been translated into multiple languages because of the similarity between it and other translations. However, any translation that is made from the Greek Textus Receptus and Hebrew Masoretic Text using formal translation principles is going to be very similar to the AV simply because they share these same attributes. In addition, many translations do not state their sources, and some will claim a primary source when that was actually a secondary source—for instance, some claim to be taken from the Greek but instead are translations of an English or other language text using the Greek only as an alternative.

All the best,

Debra

Debra E. Anderson, Ph.D.

Senior Editor

I fully appreciate this is not a full answer but it seems to me that it is the best answer that anyone is going to be able to give us.

5

This relates only to Chuchill's assertion of "more than 760".

Churchill began his History of the English-speaking Peoples in the late 1930s. Like many authors, not all of whom perhaps have as much justification, Churchill allowed himself to become distracted by other things, and did not complete it until after he finally ceased to be PM in the mid fifties.

Churchill was once asked if he was a pillar of the Church, and replied that he saw himself more as a flying butress, supporting it from outside. It seems unlikely he had sufficient expertise to form his own view as to the number of translations. On the other hand it seems unlikely he would fabricate.

Googling Bible Translation Exponential brings up a Journal of Religious History article, which contains aFigure Two. (My computer does not currently allow me to link.) This shows that in the late thirties around 760 languages had bible translations, in whole or in part, regardless of the source of the translation.

This seems to me to suggest that, regardless of how Churchill or his researcher understood it, the number 760 may have originated in the total number of languages the Bible had, in whole or part, been translated to, and not relate specifically to translations made solely from the KJV.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.