Translation stories: The Bible

Let’s take a look at the Bible and its translations, as the full version has been translated into 531 languages and parts of it into another 2883.

The Bible has been fully translated into 531 languages and partially translated into 2,883 tongues. More than two thousand years of translations have passed since the first versions of the Targum before the Christian era. Let’s take a brief look at the long history of Bible translations.

Ptolemy II and the Septuagint

The first known translated texts are the Treaty of Kadesh and the Rosetta stone, as well as this translation of the Old Testament. It was commissioned by Ptolomy II, a pharaoh from the third century before Christ. Ptolomy was a lover of science and the arts, and during his rule culture thrived in Alexandria. One of his contributions was the Greek translation of the Hebrew Torah. The pharaoh founded a translation agency comprised of 72 wise men (6 for each of the 12 tribes of Israel) because he wanted the Jews of his time who were in Egyptian territory but no longer spoke Hebrew to be able to read the scriptures. The result was the Septuagint, which was later used for ancient translations of the Bible into Latin, Coptic Egyptian and Armenian.

Saint Jerome and the Vulgate

In the first centuries after Christ, the Bible was gradually translated from Greek into Latin. This set of texts is known as the Vetus Latina. Saint Jerome was responsible for the first version of the Bible in common Lain, the Vulgate, which he finished around 384 AC. This was the main version of the Bible during the Middle Ages, as Latin was the lingua franca among Christians during this period.

Alfred the Great and Excerpts from the Book of Exodus

Alfred the Great, King of Wessex, was one of the first in the West to commission a translation of excerpts from the Bible to a language other than Latin: around 900 AC, he commissioned a translation of the Ten Commandments and the Pentateuch into the vernacular tongue and used them as the preface to his code of law. Before the end of the first millennium, the four Gospels had already been translated into Western Saxon dialect.

Martin Luther and the First Bible in German

However, the Church did not entirely approve of these translations of the Bible into common languages. For that reason, there would not be a full translation of the New Testament until 1522, when Martin Luther finished his German version of the Bible. It was translated and printed in exile (the Old Testament had been translated, printed and published in 1534 thanks to the translation services provided by Luther’s collaborators). The goal of this translation, written in the Low Saxon dialect, was that it could be understood by all Germans. In this regard, this was a fundamental stage for creating a common language among the Germans.

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