A Short History of Our English Bible

A Short History of Our English Bible

Early Church History and The English Bible

BEFORE THE END OF THE SECOND CENTURY AD the gospel was brought to London, England. There might have been early translations of portions of the Greek New Testament into English. None are extant[1]. It remained for missionaries from Rome in the fifth century to bring Jerome’s Latin Vulgate to England[2]. The need was great for an English translation of the Bible[3].

Medieval Church History and The English Bible

An intelligible liturgy that both priest and laity could understand gave an impetus for the paraphrasing of Scripture into the English language. Foremost of the portions of the Bible paraphrased became the Psalms, sometimes with meter[4]. Caedmon, (a seventh century monk) made a metrical version of some portions of Scripture. Bede translated the Gospels into English.

It is alleged that he finished translating the Gospel of John on his deathbed in A.D. 735. Alfred the Great (reigned 871-899) translated the Psalms and the Ten Commandments[5]. Some interlinear translations remain from the tenth century[6]. The Lindisfarne Gospels are cited as the most famous of this period (ca. 950)[7].

Aelfric (ca. 955-1020) made idiomatic translations of Scripture portions. Two of these exist until today. Almost three hundred years later, William of Shoreham and Richard Rolle each translated the Psalter. Rolle’s work included a verse by verse commentary. Both Psalters were popular at the time of John Wycliffe (ca. 1329-1384)[8].