Our English Bible How it Came to Us

For centuries the Church relied on two versions of the Scriptures - the Vulgate (in Latin) and the Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Old Testament). The 16th century reforms that crystallized around the time of Martin Luther, along with the advent of movable type, brought a wave of translation into the everyday languages of Western Europe. Nowhere did the Scriptures take firmer root than among English-speaking people.

The first translation of the Bible into English was begun by John Wycliffe, and completed by John Purvey in the 1380s.


The first printed English New Testament was published in 1525 by William Tyndale, who had set up shop in Germany, out of reach of opposition from English authorities. (Tyndale was eventually tried and convicted as a heretic, publicly strangled and his body burned at the stake in 1536; but by this time many copies of his Bible had been smuggled into England.)


Several key transition editions were published in the balance of the 1500s, in the face of varying degrees of opposition.


In 1610 the complete Rheims/Douay version was published and, until quite recently, this was the version authorized for use by English-speaking Roman Catholics.


In 1611 King James came to the throne and commissioned a new translation, often called the Authorized Version, but known more widely as the "King James Version." This translation dominated the English-speaking Protestant world for well over 300 years and is still in widespread use.


If translations of single books of the Bible are included, there have been about 500 new translations or revisions of older English versions - an indication of people's desire to have and pass on the Bible in a language they can understand.


The Bible is such an integral part of western civilization that it is considered a literary classic, and has been quoted as an authority for centuries.