Home Page Home Page

Versions of the Bible

Versions of the Bible lecture

I. Hebrew

Torah scroll. It contains the first five books of the Bible, and is unpointed. That means there no vowel dots around the consonants.

The Aleppo Codex
15th Century Torah scroll. It's in scroll format, and it's unpointed.

MT. Masoretic Text. From the Hebrew word mesorah (מסורה, alt. מסורת). Developed by the Masoretes between the 7th & 10th centuries A.D.

The Aleppo Codex
The Aleppo Codex of the Masoretic Text. Note it’s in the codex format. It also has the vowel pointing.

Because of it's handy crutches, the MT is the version of the Hebrew Scriptures commonly used in universities. The BHS is the best edition for serious students.

          Hebraica Stuttgartensia
The Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS).
There's an explanation of the textual apparatus here.

Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia
BHS Cover. The Hebrew words at the top and on the spine are "Torah, Nabi'im, and Kethubim," or "the law, the prophets, and the writings," the three sections of Hebrew scriptures.

II. Greek Septuagint. LXX

LXX. The
Genesis 1 — Septuagint.

Note that the Greek title is "genesis kosmou," or "the genesis of the cosmos." So our title Genesis comes from the LXX.

III. The Greek New Testament (W-H, UBS)

LXX. The
John 1 — The Greek New Testament.

There are two major print versions of the Greek New Testament.

  1. The Textus Receptus, or the received text. It was based on the texts available at the time of the first printing of the Greek New Testament.
  2. Various critical editions bases on collations of better texts. The most important are the:
    1. The Westcott and Hort (WH) edition of 1881. It comes with a description of the process of critically analyzing ancient Greek texts which is still a model for textual critics today, including the textual criticism of works besides the Bible. And recent efforts build on the originaly WH edition.
    2. The Nestle-Aland (N-A) version is based on the Westcott and Hort but is constantly updated based on new information. It's up to the 28th edition now (NA28).
    3. The United Bible Society (USB) version has in recent editions been merged with the NA, so that they have the same text now. The USB5 (USB 5th edition) = NA28. The difference is that the USB5 font is larger and more beautiful. The critical apparatus is also more user friendly, although it only gives the more major issues. The page below has the Enlgish translation on the right, much like the Loeb editions of Greek and Latin works.

UBS5 — Luke 16.

IV. Vulgate (Vg)

The Vulgate is the translation of the Catholic Bible into Latin by Jerome in the late 300's. The word "Vulgate" comes from the Latin vulgus, meaning "common" (Similarly, something that is vulgar is common as opposed to refined). The translation was intended for common people to be able to understand it. Educated people understood Greek, but uneducated people only spoke Latin. This version is still used in Catholic churches in their Latin liturgy.

The Vulgate (Vg) — Genesis 1.

V. English Bibles

You can find most of these English translations on one of the Bible sites, like Bible Gateway. Also check the Internet Archive, which has copies of older books that are in public domain.

  1. Wycliff translation. John Wycliff made a hand-written version in the 1380's. After he died, the church punished him by having him dug up, crushing his bones, and scattering them in the river.
  2. Tyndale translation. Part of the Reformation and the printing revolution, William Tyndale published the first translation of the New Testament in English. Called the "Architect of the English Language."
  3. Coverdale translation. In 1535, published the first complete Bible English. Continued the work of Tyndale.
  4. The Great Bible.1539. Henry VIII and Thomas Cranmer commissioned Myles Coverdale to prepare an English Bible. It was the first English Bible authorized by the English state and the Anglican church.
  5. The Geneva Bible. Published in Geneva under the patronage of John Calvin and John Knox, The Geneva Bible has verse numbers for the first time, along with extensive notes. It's bascially the first study Bible. It was an extremely Protestant translation, and its marginal notes attacking the established church and political system, it was unpopular with the elites but read widely by the masses. This is the version Shakespeare usually quotes in his plays. It's also striking for its page design and typographical sophistication.
Geneva - Genesis 1
The Geneva Bible — Genesis 1. Note the use of the long 's' (ſ), which looks like a defective 'f.'

  1. The King James Version. Shortly after taking the throne, King James I was approached by the clergy with the request for a new translation to compete with the Geneva Bible. He appointed a committee which released its work in 1611. The Geneva remained popular for several decades, but the KJV eventually won out. By the time John Bunyan published Pilgrim's Progress in 1611, he was quoting the KJV despite being a radical reformer known as a Baptist. I know this because back before everything was online, I borrowed Dr. Ed Jacobs' copy of the Geneva Bible and checked the verses quoted in Pilgrim's Progress against the Geneva and the KJV.

Genesis 1:1 in different languages

1:1 בראשית Hebrew Scriptures:
MT (Masoretic Text)
BHS (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia edition with Consonants & Vowels)

בְּרֵאשִׁית      בָּרָא   אֱלֹהִים     אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם       וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ׃
earth the and    heavens the God created  In beginning

Genesis 1:1 Greek OT: Septuagint (LXX) with Diacritics
ἐν ἀρχῇ      ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν οὐρανὸν  καὶ  τὴν γῆν
In beginning, made     God  the heaven   and  the earth.

Latin: Biblia Sacra Vulgata

in principio creavit Deus caelum et terram
You can already read this!

King James Bible

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Home Page
Home Page