Early Translations of the Scriptures

Bible Study Help

What are the early additions of bible scriptures given to man?

Here is a listing of each translations from the old and new scriptures:

Targum Version of the Bible
Targum Version of the Bible
  1. The Septuagint (LXX) translation of the Old Testament into Greek. Begun about 250 B.C.
    The Septuagint (from the Latin: septuāgintā literally “seventy”, often abbreviated as LXX and sometimes called the Greek Old Testament) is the earliest extant Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures from the original Hebrew. It is estimated that the first five books of the Old Testament, known as the Torah or Pentateuch, were translated in the mid-3rd century BCE and the remaining texts were translated in the 2nd century BCE.
  2. Translations of portions of the Old Testament into Greek by Aquila, Theodotian, and St. Symmachus, 2nd century A.D.
    About 130 ce Aquila, a convert to Judaism from Pontus in Asia Minor, translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek under the supervision of Rabbi Akiba. Executed with slavish literalness, it attempted to reproduce the original to the most minute detail, even to the extent of coining derivations from Greek roots to correspond to Hebrew usage. Little of it has survived except in quotations, fragments of the Hexapla, and palimpsests (parchments erased and used again) from the Cairo Geniza.
    A second revision of the Greek text was made by Theodotion (of unknown origins) late in the 2nd century, though it is not entirely clear whether the Septuagint or some other Greek version underlay his revision. The new rendering was characterized by a tendency toward verbal consistency and much transliteration of Hebrew words.
    Still another Greek translation was made toward the end of the same century by St. Symmachus, an otherwise unknown scholar, who made use of his predecessors. His influence was small despite the superior elegance of his work. Jerome did utilize Symmachus for his Vulgate, but, other than that, his translation is known largely through fragments of the Hexapla.
  3. Origen’s Hexapla
    The multiplication of versions doubtless proved to be a source of increasing confusion in the 3rd century. This situation the Alexandrian theologian Origen, working at Caesarea between 230 and 240 ce, sought to remedy. In his Hexapla (“Sixfold”), he presented in parallel vertical columns the Hebrew text, the same in Greek letters, and the versions of Aquila, Symmachus, the Septuagint, and Theodotion, in that order. In the case of some books, Psalms for instance, three more columns were added. The Hexapla serves as an important guide to Palestinian pre-Masoretic pronunciation of the language. The main interest of Origen lay in the fifth column, the Septuagint, which he edited on the basis of the Hebrew. He used the obels (− or ÷) and asterisk (*) to mark, respectively, words found in the Greek text but not in the Hebrew and vice versa.
  4. The Targums, free translations of the Old Testament into the popular language, the Aramaic, 2nd century A.D.
    Targum, (Aramaic: “Translation,” or “Interpretation”), any of several translations of the Hebrew Bible or portions of it into the Aramaic language. The word originally indicated a translation of the Old Testament in any language but later came to refer specifically to an Aramaic translation.
  5. The Old Latin Bible, Old and New Testaments (2nd century A.D.) out of which came the Vulgate of Jerome, the text used in the Roman Catholic Church.
    Vulgate, (from the Latin editio vulgata: “common version”), Latin Bible used by the Roman Catholic Church, primarily translated by St. Jerome. In 382 Pope Damasus commissioned Jerome, the leading biblical scholar of his day, to produce an acceptable Latin version of the Bible from the various translations then being used. His revised Latin translation of the Gospels appeared about 383. Using the Septuagint Greek version of the Old Testament, he produced new Latin translations of the Psalms (the so-called Gallican Psalter), the Book of Job, and some other books. Later, he decided that the Septuagint was unsatisfactory and began translating the entire Old Testament from the original Hebrew versions, a process that he completed about 405.
  6. An Ancient Syriac Version, 2nd century.
    Syria played an important or even predominant role in the beginning of Christianity. Here is where the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of Luke, the Didache, Ignatiana, and the Gospel of Thomas were written. Syria was the country in which the Greek language intersected with the Syriac, which was closely related to the Aramaic dialect used by Jesus and the Apostles. That is why Syriac versions are highly esteemed by textual critics. Scholars have distinguished five or six different Syriac versions of all or part of the New Testament. It is possible that some translations have been lost.
  7. Coptic Version.
    The spread of Christianity among the non-Greek-speaking peasant communities of Egypt necessitated the translation of the Scriptures into the native tongue (Coptic). These versions may be considered to be wholly Christian in origin and largely based on the Greek Bible. They also display certain affinities with the Old Latin. Nothing certain is known about the Coptic translations except that they probably antedate the earliest known manuscripts from the end of the 3rd and the beginning of the 4th centuries ce.
  8. Two Egyptian Versions in different dialects, 3rd century.
    The OT, extant mainly in Sahidic and Bohairic manuscripts, probably stems from the third century. In general it follows the so-called Hesychian recension of the Septuagint. The main value of the OT fragments is for Septuagint studies, while the various Coptic versions of the NT play a not insignificant role in helping to fill in the details of the history of textual transmission of the NT. The growing horde of fragments and codices is eloquent testimony to the vitality of Egyptian Christianity in the centuries before the Muslim invasion.
  9. Peshito-Syriac, 4th century.
    A version of the Bible in Syriac, executed not later than the middle of the 2nd century for Judaic Christians in the Syrian Church, the version of the Old Testament being executed direct from the Hebrew and that of the New being the first translation of the Greek of it into a foreign tongue, and both of value in questions affecting exegesis and the original text; the New Testament version contains all the books now included except the Apocalypse, Jude, 2 Peter, and 2 and 3 John.
  10. Gothic Version, 4th century.
    The Gothic version was produced in the mid-4th century by Ulfilas, a Christian missionary who also invented the Gothic alphabet. It constitutes practically all that is left of Gothic literature. The translation of the Old Testament has entirely disappeared except for fragments of Ezra and Nehemiah. Though a Greek base is certain, some scholars deny the attribution of these remnants to Ulfilas.
  11. Ethiopic Version, 4th century.
    The Ethiopic version poses special problems. The earliest Bible probably was based on Greek versions, after Ethiopia had been converted to Christianity during the 4th and 5th centuries. The earliest existing manuscripts, however, belong to the 13th century. Most manuscripts from the 14th century on seem to reflect Arabic or Coptic influence, and it is not certain whether these represent the original translation or later ones. Many readings agree with the Hebrew against the Septuagint, which may have been caused by a Hexaplaric influence.
  12. Armenian Version, 5th century.
    The Armenian version is an expression of a nationalist movement that brought about a separation from the rest of the church (mid-5th century), the discontinuance of Syriac in Greek worship, and the invention of a national alphabet by St. Mesrob, also called Mashtots (c. 361–439/440). According to tradition, St. Mesrob first translated Proverbs from the Syriac. Existing manuscripts of the official Armenian recension, however, are based on the Hexaplaric Septuagint, though they show some Peshitta (Syriac version) influence. The Armenian Bible is noted for its beauty and accuracy.
  13. Georgian Version.
    According to Armenian tradition, the Georgian version was also the work of Mesrob, but the Psalter, the oldest part of the Georgian Old Testament, is probably not earlier than the 5th century. Some manuscripts were based upon Greek versions, others upon the Armenian.
Wulfila Gothic Bible
Page from the Codex Argenteus containing the Wulfila Gothic Bible.

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Source: J. W. McGarvey, Guide to Bible Study, Appendix 1; Britannica.com, biblical-literature, Early-versions #ref597387 and Vulgate; Wikipedia.com, Syriac versions of the Bible,

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