Millions of people around the world own a Bible, profess to read it, and follow its
dictates. According to one survey, nine out of ten Americans own a Bible (Davis, xv).
There are complete Bibles in more than forty European languages, 125 Asian and Pacific
languages, and there are Bible translations into more than 100 African languages with
another 500 African-language versions of some portion of the Bible (Davis, xv). At least
fifteen complete native-American Bibles have been published. In English, there are more
than 3,000 versions of the entire Bible or portions of the Bible (Davis, xv). The King
James Version, first produced in 1611, and the Revised Standard Version remain the
most popular translations today. The Living Bible is one contemporary, paraphrased
version, and has sold more than 40 million copies since 1971 (Davis, xv).
Additionally, the underlying issue of inclusive language is at the forefront of many
discussions regarding the translations of the Bible. Discussion of the various translations,
the controversies over the use of inclusive language and the affect the interpretations
have on theology are relevant to understanding the Bible.
Throughout history the Bible has been translated into other languages so that people
could have the scriptures in their own tongue. During the third century B.C. the
Septuagint was the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament completed by 70 men
in 70 days (Bender, 3). The first English Bibles were made from the Vulgate translation
(Bender, 3). Vulgate means “common or popular” and is a translation of the entire Bible
into Latin by Jerome about 400 AD. In an attempt to make the Bible accessible to
common people who didn’t understand Hebrew, Latin, or Greek, John Wycliff, an
English priest, produced one of the first English Bible translations before he died in 1384.
He was cast out of the church and his translation was condemned because he had made
the Bible available to Englishmen in their own languages (Davis, xxii). Another translator
was Priest William Tyndale. He believed that the Bible should be read by everyone and
translated the Bible into English. Church officials did not approve of this translation and
as a result forced Tyndale to leave England and his translations were ordered burned and
labeled untrue. He was arrested and imprisoned for doing a Biblical translation. In
October 1536 Tyndale was executed and burned. Today, Tyndale is known as “The
Father of the English Bible” (Davis, xxii).
The translations of the Bible are numerous and allows each person an opportunity to find
one that best fits their reading style or abilities. The King James Version involved fifty-
four scholars, working four years (Bender, 3). In 1885, a committee of fifty-one British
and thirty-two American scholars did a revision of the King James Authorized Version.
In 1901 Americans of the committee published the American Standard Version, which