The Bible in Translation: Ancient and English Versions is an elaborate overview of the bible starting with the Greek manuscript the Septuagint all the way to the new modern bibles. In Bruce Metzger’s Book, he gives an outlined history into different Bible translations and versions, including literary and historical critique of more than fifty varied versions of the Bible. A tenured professor at Princeton Theological Seminary who him himself has also served on the translation committees for three different versions including chairmanship of the New Revised Standard Version(NRSV). The late Bruce Metzger is considered to be among the most scholarly and influential scholars in the field of biblical history and textual criticisms.
Many years ago when I did my study on bible translations and versions, I found this book to be a very useful tool. I found Dr. Metzger’s book very historical, objective, and academic.
He starts with the old testament manuscripts, the Septuagint and the Jewish targrum and gives an explained history as to how they came to be written in Chapter 1. And then in Chapter 2 he goes into other manuscripts like the Syriac, Peshitta, Latin (Vulgate) and etc. For then he goes into English bible versions in chapter 3 that influenced the 1611 King James Bible. And then in Chapter 4, dedicates an entire chapter to the most famous bible in history, the 1611 King James Bible. He then goes on to use a few other chapters on other popular bible versions:
- The King James Bible- Chapter 4
- The Revised Standard Version- Chapter 8
- The Jerusalem Bible- Chapter 9
- The New American Bible- Chapter 10
- The New English Bible- Chapter 11
- The New International Version(NIV)- Chapter 12
These are the ones he dedicates an entire chapter to and spends more time on. He does spend sometime on some of the more uncommon translations. He does give his final opinion on why the need for more bible versions:
- Difference of wording among manuscripts; no two manuscripts are alike.
- The meaning of words; there are several hundred Hebrew/Greek words that don’t have an exact word-to-word translation. So each new translation does it’s best to modernize the meaning of the archaic word.
- Adding modern punctuation.
- Grammatical errors; such as should broad based masculine words be translated to be gender neutral.
There is not much to dislike about this book. It was very unbiased and very academic in nature. However, because the book was written for formal academic setting it is not perfectly ideal for a straight read through.
I was hoping he would spend more time in book on manuscript history and the differences between them. I was a little shocked that he did not talk much about the Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Vaticanus, Byzantine manuscripts, Alexandrian manuscripts, textus receptus or the many other papyrus manuscripts For I think this is the only sore part of the book, because when I purchased it, I wanted to learn more about biblical manuscripts in detail for that is a major issue when it comes to bible versions. And at that time I wanted to find the most reliable bible version with the most accurate translation as to the most early and reliable manuscripts.
This is a very good, very academic and very fair book. It’s not slanted in anyway and for anybody who wants to learn about textual criticism and the history of the English bible this is very information read and very much recommended.