Everyone now a days knows about the King James bible, but what was before the king james bible that it was based off of? And being that it was translated from a previous version, what were some of the "lost in translation" sections that we should be aware of?


Before the Reformation, the Western Church used the Vulgate Bible, which was in Latin. It was a closed book to most of the populace. An 'infallible' test for revealing a heretic to Roman Catholic authorities in the Middle Ages was to see if they possessed, or even knew any part of the Bible in their own language.

The Bible was first translated into English in 1382 by John Wycliffe, who worked from the Latin Vulgate. Wycliffe's Bible was immediately outlawed by the Catholic church, and anyone caught reading or reciting biblical passages in English faced imprisonment and even death for heresy.

In 1525 William Tyndale completed the translation of the New Testament from its original koine Greek into English. He also translated most of the Old Testament from Hebrew to English but was unable to complete the work before his death in 1536 (he was burned at the stake as a heretic).

Guttenberg's first printing job was the Bible, in 1453. It was not the Vulgate. This one had been translated from the original Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic texts, known as the Majority or Traditional Text. Erasmus published the first printed and published Greek New Testament in 1516, then came the Tyndale/Coverdale Bibles in 1525; the Geneva Bible in 1560; the Bishops' Bible in 1568 and then King James I of England & VI of Scotland commissioned the KJV which was published in 1611. The KJV had used the Hebrew Masoretic Text and the Greek Received Text alongside working from the Bishops' Bible.

This means that The King James Version comes down through the Hebrew-Masoretic Texts (Old Testament) and koine Greek Texts (as written by the apostles et al.) This formed the original Old Latin Version (as opposed to the one used by Jerome and adopted by the Catholic Church - the Latin Vulgate). It became known as the Textus Receptus. It is the only version in existence today that comes down through this line.

All other Bibles come down through the Latin Vulgate, Codex Vaticanus, the Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Alexandrinus line. The Catholic Church helped to preserve these texts while at the same time murdering those who would preserve and preach the texts derived/descended from the Textus Receptus. The only things ‘lost in translation’ were the lives of those brave men who dared to work from the available original-language texts, to translate the Bible into languages the people of their time could read.

Much of this material has been gleaned from various articles over many years produced by The Trinitarian Bible Society, which promotes the King James (Authorised) Version and is still getting it translated into modern languages where the people do not yet have any Bibles to read in their native tongues. I recommend you contact them for a much more fulsome account, with scholarly references. http://www.tbsbibles.org or email contact@tbsbibles.org

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    Comments: 1. The Wycliffe Bible was the first complete translation into English; there were prior translations of (e.g.) the Gospels into Old English, and it was routine for priests to quote from the Bible in the vernacular. 2. I think you need more support for the statements you make about the Catholic Church, especially about "murdering" those who preserved Textus Receptus. 3. Wikipedia states that Jerome began with the earlier Latin translations, but ended by going back to the original Greek, and preferring the original Hebrew over the Septuagint. That doesn't square with your account. – Matt Gutting Apr 3 '18 at 15:28
  • One more comment: You also leave out the Douay-Rheims Bible, a Catholic Bible based on the Vulgate, which predates the KJV by 1-2 years for the Old Testament and 29 years for the New Testament. – Matt Gutting Apr 3 '18 at 16:21
  • Plenty of other English translations also use the Masoretic and Koine manuscripts, and also manuscripts other than the ones you mention, – DJClayworth Apr 3 '18 at 16:22
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    Thanks for your points, Matt; yes, 'complete' is a key word re. the Wycliffe Bible. I was trying to stick to the KJV pedigree/history (in brief form). I don't think the KJV scholars worked from the Douay-Rheims, did they? I wasn't dealing with Jerome (345-420) as he requires an article on his own! I cannot do justice to such a question in a short article so I apologise for necessary omissions due to lack of space. There's no way I could detail all the manuscripts involved in the KJV or later translations (which are not asked about in the question). – Anne Apr 4 '18 at 6:46
  • @Anne apparently the DRB did influence the KJV at least to some extent - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… And I'm still wondering about your sources for your statements on the Catholic Church - in particular the quotes about "revealing a heretic", and "murdering" advocates of the Textus Receptus translations. – Matt Gutting Apr 4 '18 at 18:53

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