To understand how the English Bible came into existence we have to go back a few years. In fact, we have to go back many centuries to learn how a collection of writings from men who lived thousands of years ago became the most important book in the world to millions of people.
It is important to know that new versions of the Bible, whether they are translated into English or any other language, have significant differences. The New International version and other 20th century editions of the ancient text are even quite different from the King James version, which was available in English as well as in other languages.
Books of the Bible as we know them today do not have exactly the same content they had when they were written. Men wrote the books in their own hand or hand someone write as they told the stories. These original manuscripts were hand copied for centuries, until printing presses were invented. In addition, the original Hebrew and Greek of the Bible have been translated into many languages. Ideas sometimes get lost or change during translation.
History shows that the first English translation of the Bible was made in 1380 by a man named John Wycliffe. This translation was made from Latin. The Greek version and the Latin version were translations of the original Hebrew and Aramaic.
As scholars have studied translations of the Old Testament they found that some books were translated directly into Greek while others were translated into such languages as Aramaic and Latin. Some information contained in our current English versions was only available in pieces and fragments thousands of years ago. It is important to remember that the Bible, while important and life-changing, is not complete in the sense that a lot of information (even whole books) are not included in the new editions.
The New Testament was written in Greek, unlike the Old Testament. In addition, there are hundreds of early manuscripts still in existence – in the original Greek. This part of the Bible remained in Greek and Latin for hundreds of years. Editions in European languages became available several hundred years ago.
Wycliffe translated the Bible into English from Latin in the 14th century. It is important to remember that this is a translation made from other translations – Hebrew and Greek to Latin then to English. The King James Version of the Bible was made available in 1611. The New American Standard Version was not published until 1971. The New International Version was printed eleven years later (1983).
Decisions to include certain books and manuscripts in the Bible are made according to standards such as apostolic authority; that is they were written by the Apostles or from standards of belief and faith. Some of the decisions were made because the books or manuscripts were accepted and used over long periods of time. Basically, the English Bible as we know it has traveled far and has been through many changes since the writer’s put pen to parchment.