English Bible Versions

By Philip Comfort

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Wheaton. IL.

2000. 51 pp. $6.99. ISBN 0-8423-3554-4

This much abbreviated version of what could have been a much larger book is in the Quik Notes series by Tyndale Publishers, which includes the following other similar volumes: The Books of the Bible; The Books of the New Testament; The Books of the Old Testament; The Origin of the Bible; and Christian Classics. They are commendably informative for their brevity.

This volume opens with “What’s a ‘Version’ ?” followed by a “‘Degrees of Literalness’ Chart.” The succeeding chapters then progress into an “Historical Overview” highlighting the first translations into English, then those of the Reformation followed by those of the 19th and 20th centuries. There is then a “‘William Tyndale Legacy’ Chart” succeeded by an overview of the first translations into English beginning with Caedmon through Wycliffe’s version. This is followed by a brief mention of the versions arising out of the periods already mentioned down to the translations of the last decade — all this in 51 pages.

Found all along the way of this rapid summary are insightful comments such as “not one English translation is either completely word-for-word or completely thought-for-thought” or pertinent reminders such as “Translations…prior to the work of…Tyndale were done from the Latin text.” Readers will be informed of the most famous among the English Bible translations, including from the early years, the Lindisfarne Gospels and their alternate titles, namely the Book of Durham, and The Gospels of St. Cuthbert. Readers also may not be aware of the fact that the English version known as A New Translation (Darby) is still used by members of the various Brethren assemblies or that “The New Revised Version…is an excellent example of the current trend to publish revisions rather than new translations.”

The purpose of the Quik Notes series is to offer concise resources on topics important to all Christians. This slim volume could well be used to offer Christians a history of the English Bible in a nutshell.