Epistles of Thomas

June 26, 2007

Early Christian Translations

Filed under: Translation — Thomas @ 21:58

Christians began to translate the gospels and epistles into languages other than Greek from the very beginning. Many of those translations are still extant (available) today and we can compare them to the Greek and Hebrew texts that we have. This comparison reassures us that the Greek and Hebrew text that we have today is the same as it was when they made their translations during the first centuries. Below is a list of early translations with their language, location and date. The dates are taken from Bruce Metzger, The Bible in Translation: Ancient and English Versions (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2001).

Syriac Peshitta – Syria; 2nd century
Latin – West; Old Latin 2nd century/ Vulgate 404
Coptic – Egypt; 3rd and 4th centuries
Gothic – Germany; 4th century
Armenian – Armenia; 414
Georgian – Georgia; 5th century
Ethiopic – Ethiopia; 4th century
Arabic – Arabia; 8th century

Although the translation into Arabic is late I mention it because it is significant to world history. If the Bible had been translated into Arabic prior to Muhammad’s lifespan (c. 570-632) then he would have had access to it and known its contents in detail. The Qur’an contains many statements with regard to Christianity and Judaism (“the people of the Book”) and their book which Muhammad knew about but had not read. He assumed that his message from Allah was the same one revealed in the biblical books and was very disturbed later to realise that this was not the case. His unfortunate comments about “the people of the Book” might have been avoided had he had access to the Torah and Gospel. This further demonstrates the need for translating the Bible into every language so that people can read it for themselves and come to know the God that it reveals.

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