A Brief Summary of the History of Bible Translation

April 3, 2009

by Shawn Brasseaux

NOTE: The following study consists of notes that I took reading various works about Bible versions and Bible translation history. A large portion of this material is derived from the 1987 classic Gipp’s Understandable History of the Bible by Samuel C. Gipp, Th.D. That work can read online in its entirety at www.chick.com/reading/books/157/157cont.asp. I would also refer you to Final Authority: A Christian’s Guide to the King James Bible, by William P. Grady, Ph.D., and New Age Bible Versions by Gail Riplinger. Also, The Revision Revised: A Refutation of Westcott and Hort’s False Greek Text and Theory by Dean John William Burgon is a classic in addressing Bible versions and Bible manuscripts—Burgon’s work has yet to be refuted.


Part I: King James Bible (A. V. / Authorized Version)

  1. Translated from A.D. 1603–1611, during the reign of King James I of England.
  2. Known as Authorized Version because true Christians universally accepted it, not because King James “authorized” its usage.
  3. The text on which the King James Bible is based was used in the early church.
  4. The King James is supported by highest quality manuscripts, by the oldest manuscripts, and by the largest number of manuscripts.


Part II: Bible Manuscripts

  1. The original Bible manuscripts (autographs) from the first century have deteriorated and have been lost forever; we only have copies today (apographs).
  2. There are three types of Bible manuscript copies:
    1. Miniscules (cursives): most numerous of extant copies; miniscules in Greek are similar to our lowercase letters in English. The oldest miniscule copies are papyrus manuscripts sewn into a scroll or a roll. Papyrus was inexpensive and not durable (identical to newsprint). Some miniscules written on vellum, or animal skins—although it was more expensive than papyrus, it was longer lasting. A certain number of miniscules are composed into a book form rather than a scroll (books were called codices; singular form is codex). In some cases, only fragments remain of scroll or codex. In early copies, the words were written end to end with no space in between; later copies included spaces between words.
    2. Majuscules (uncials): copies with text that is similar to our uppercase letters. Majuscules are not as numerous as miniscules, and do not appear until the fourteenth century.
    3. Lectionaries: similar to “responsive readings” in today’s hymnals. Due to shortage of copies of Scripture, lectionaries were used to put key verses into people’s hands. Readings were very early and close to the originals.
  3. The early Greek manuscripts were translated into other languages, such as the Peshitta (A.D. 145-150, a Syrian translation) and the Old Latin Vulgate (A.D. 157). Both of these are older than the oldest uncial manuscripts (see #2 above). Other versions of non-Greek manuscripts are Gothic, Sahidic, Bohairic, and Coptic.
  4. We have church fathers’ early sermons, books, and commentaries. Some of these early fathers may have seen the original manuscripts!
  5. Considering these non-Greek manuscripts like the Peshitta and the Old Latin Vulgate, the copies (miniscules, majuscules, and lectionaries), and the church fathers, there are 5,250 witnesses total, with over 3,000 being Greek manuscripts.
  6. Majority Text:
    1. Also known as Textus Receptus (Latin for “received text”), Imperial Text, Traditional Text, Byzantine Text, Reformation Text, Antiochian Text, Syrian Text, and Universal Text.
    2. Approximately 90-95+ percent of the extant Greek New Testament manuscripts.
    3. Supports the King James Bible, the Authorized Version.
  7. Minority Text:
    1. Also known as Egyptian Text, Critical Text, Hesychian Text, and Alexandrian Text.
    2. Basis for Westcott and Hort’s corrupt 1881 Greek New Testament.
    3. Eberhard Nestle used Westcott and Hort’s corrupt text with Weymouth’s 3rd edition and Tischendorf’s 8th edition to produce Nestle’s Greek New Testament in 1898 (Nestle’s New Testament is the text used in all modern Bible versions New Testaments; this text is also known as Nestle-Aland Greek or United Bible Societies [UBS] Greek).
    4. Supports all modern English Bible versions released after the 1881 Revised Version, including New American Standard Version (NASV) and the New International Version (NIV).
  8. Within the group known as Minority Text, two uncial manuscripts from the fourth or fifth century are known as Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.
  1. Sinaiticus (Aleph)
    1. Represented by first Hebrew letter Aleph
    2. Codex (book form), on vellum that contains 147½ leaves, its pages measure 15″ × 13 ½”, and it has four columns with 48 lines per page
    3. Contains spurious (false, non-inspired of God) books like Shepherd of Hermes, Epistle of Barnabas, and the Didache
    4. Constantin von Tischendorf found Codex Sinaiticus in a wastebasket at St. Catherine’s Monastery near Mount Sinai in February 1859. Tischendorf had already completed his 7th edition of the Greek New Testament in 1856-1859 and claimed it did not need further revision. Upon finding the contents of Sinaiticus, Tischendorf produced an 8th edition from 1865 to 1872, after making 3,500 corrections to his 7th edition!
    5. Dr. Alfred Martin claims that there is evidence of Aleph (Codex Sinaiticus) being corrected by ten separate people on different occasions
  2. Vaticanus (B)
    1. represented by “B
    2. Codex Vaticanus was found in Vatican library in 1841, when it remains to this day (Even today, Vaticanus is the property of the Roman Catholic Church!)
    3. Like Sinaiticus, it is also written on vellum in book form (codex), contains 759 pages, each page measuring 10″ × 10½” with three columns of 41 lines per page
    4. Codex Vaticanus omits Genesis 1:1–46:28, Psalms 106–138, Matthew 16:2-3, Romans 16:24, the Pauline pastoral epistles (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus), the entire book of Revelation, and everything in Hebrews after 9:14… Why would Rome be interested in omitting Hebrews 10:10-12?



Part III: Seven Influential (Yet Corrupt) Figures in Early Bible History

1. Justin Martyr

  • A.D. 100–165
  • Born a pagan, and died in the robes of a pagan priest
  • First to mix Gnosticism with Christianity. Gnosticism was a heretical doctrine which taught that Christ was created by God the Father. Funk and Wagnall’s Standard Dictionary defines Gnosticism as “A philosophical and religious system (first to sixth century) teaching that knowledge rather than faith was the key to salvation.” Many scholars today place their knowledge above faith in God’s Word.

2. Tatian

  • A.D. 120–180
  • A disciple of Justin Martyr, who also embraced Gnosticism.
  • Tatian wrote a harmony of the gospels using the Christian Scriptures and the Gnostic gospels, thus omitting Scripture (such as John 7:53 –8:11 and Mark 16:9-20). His “Harmony of the Gospels” was so corrupt that the Bishop of Syria threw out 200 copies.

3. Clement of Alexandria

  • A.D. 150–215
  • Was a disciple of Tatian. (Remember Luke 6:40: “The disciple is not above his master: but everyone that is perfect shall be as his master.”)
  • Clement taught that there was no literal heaven or hell, no blood atonement of Christ, and no infallible Bible. He used the Gnostic Scriptures to teach his students.
  • He founded the school of theology in Alexandria, Egypt

4. Origen

  • A.D. 184–254
  • Was a disciple of Clement of Alexandria. He held to the same doctrine as Clement, plus he taught water baptism was necessary for babies to gain salvation. Origen stated, “The Scriptures are of little use to those who understand them as they are written.”
  • Origen was one of the first textual critics. His textual work in both the New Testament and the Old Testaments (the “Hexapla”) was the basis for two of the most corrupt manuscripts used by the Roman Catholic Church (Vaticanus and Sinaiticus).
  • Origen developed a method of Biblical interpretation that is called “allegorization.” Origen believed the Bible was only a set of stories that illustrate truth, but not literal facts.
  • He believed Jesus Christ was created and subordinate to the Father (the same as Jehovah’s Witnesses), the pre-existence of the soul before birth (the same as the Mormons), and the final restoration of all spirits (universal salvation). (See Dr. Earle Cairns “Christianity Through The Centuries,” Zondervan Publishing House, p. 122).

5. Eusebius

  • A.D. 260–340
  • Trained at Origen’s school in Alexandria.
  • Roman Emperor Constantine commissioned him to make 50 copies of Scripture for the Roman church. He was the editor of two Greek codices (manuscripts) named Vaticanus and Sinaiticus—were these two of those 50 “bibles?” These two manuscripts were discredited and abandoned by early Christians as being corrupt. (“Which Bible?” p. 139,143). These are Roman Catholic manuscripts and were not used by Protestant Christians until 1881. These two manuscripts are the basis for Roman Catholic Bibles and every major English translation of the Bible since 1901. The King James Bible translators rejected these manuscripts.
  • Eusebius was Roman Catholic in his doctrine (see his book, “Ecclesiastical History,” Vols. 1-5). Eusebius copied the Gnostic Scriptures and Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.

6. Jerome

  • A.D. 347–420
  • Roman Catholic in doctrine.
  • He translated the Greek manuscripts of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus into Latin (called Jerome’s Latin Vulgate), to produce a corrupt Roman Catholic Bible, the (New) Latin Vulgate, which the Christians rejected from A.D. 380–1280. In order to deceive the masses, the Catholic Church chose to entitle it “vulgate,” (from “vulgar,” meaning “common”) making it appear that everyone was accepting it as the Word of God!

7. von Tischendorf

  • A.D. 1815–1874
  • Liberal German theologian who was also the first Protestant to find and use the manuscripts of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus to construct a Greek text.


Part IV: Bible Versions Timeline

Taken from The Answer Book by Dr. Samuel C. Gipp

  1. 1603-1611. Authorized Version (AV) King James Bible translated.
  2. 1881-1885. Revised Version (RV) is the product of a commission by the Convocation of Canterbury of 1870 to revise the Authorized Version (AV). RV New Testament was produced in 1881; the Old Testament in 1885. Drs. Westcott and Hort lead the way, to the AV being altered over 30,000 times in English!
  3. 1901. American Revised Version, later called American Standard Version (ASV), released. Only 23 years later, its copyright was sold.
  4. 1954. ASV was further revised and republished as the Revised Standard Version (RSV).
  5. 1960. New American Standard Version (NASV) is released.
  6. 1967. The New Scofield Version is released.
  7. 1978. The New International Version (NIV) is produced.
  8. 1979. The New King James Version (NKJV) is introduced.
  9. Dr. Gipp writes in The Answer Book, page 117, regarding these modern Bible versions from 1881 to present-day: “Every new version that has been launched has been, without exception, a product of Satan’s Alexandrian philosophy which rejects the premise of a perfect Bible. Furthermore, they have been copied, on the most part, from the corrupt Alexandrian manuscript. (Although a few have been translated from pure Antiochian manuscripts after they were tainted by the Alexandrian philosophy.)”
  10. But, do not the best manuscripts support these new versions? The new versions are only supported by about five of the over 5,000 manuscripts of the New Testament Bible text.


Part V: Westcott and Hort

  1. Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1903) and Fenton John Anthony Hort (1828-1892) were two unsaved Anglican ministers who were fully steeped in the Alexandrian philosophy that “there is no perfect Bible,” they had a vicious distaste for the King James Bible and its Antiochian Greek text, the Textus Receptus.
  2. They believed it possible to communicate with the dead and made many attempts to do just that through a “supernatural” society that they organized and titled “The Ghostly Guild.”
  3. Both believed that heaven existed only in the mind of man.
  4. Westcott accepted and promoted prayers for the dead.
  5. Both were admirers of Mary (Westcott going so far as to call his wife Sarah, “Mary”).
  6. Hort was an admirer and proponent of Darwin and his theory of evolution.
  7. Westcott and Hort had compiled their own Greek text from Alexandrian manuscripts, which, though unpublished and inferior to the Textus Receptus, they secreted little by little to the 1881 Revision Committee. The result being a totally new Alexandrian English Bible instead of a “revision” of the Authorized Version as it was claimed to be. This Greek New Testament (Westcott-Hort Greek) is not the same as the one used for the King James Bible or during the Reformation. The Westcott-Hort Greek New Testament was the basis for the 1881 Revised Version (RV) and it is the basic Greek text for all modern English “bibles” such as NIV, NASV, NRSV, GNB/TEV, ESV, NCV, HCSB, et cetera. The Greek text of Westcott and Hort differs from the Greek text of the King James Bible (the Received Text) 5,788 times, or 10% of the text. Since all modern translations are based on the work of Westcott and Hort, it would do us well to know the theology of these two men.



Psalm 12:6,7 KJV: The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.”

2 Corinthians 2:17: “For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.”

1 Peter 1:25 KJV: “But the word of the Lord endureth for ever.”

Matthew 24:35 KJV: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (—the Lord Jesus Christ)