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The Translation of the Most Widely Read Book in the World

October 17, 2008 3 Comments »

Just two weeks after Translator’s Day, which is celebrated on the anniversary of Saint Jerome’s death as a tribute to him having been the first to translate the Bible into Latin, an agreement was reached at the Vatican in favor of further translation and distribution of the most widely book in history.  According to the recent announcement, the Bible (which means “books” in the Greek biblia, the plural of biblion meaning “papyrus roll for writing”) has already been translated into 2454 languages with about 4500 to go. Saint Jerome’s translation into Latin was called the Vulgate (from vulgata editio, edition for the people), and served as the Roman Catholic Church’s official Biblical text until the transmission of the Neovulgata in 1979.

The Authorized King James version is an English translation of the Bible that was first published in 1611 and has had a tremendous influence not just on later English Bible translations, but also on English literature and works from John Bunyan, John Milton, Herman Melville, John Dryden and William Wordsworth. In the United States,  this version is most commonly known as the King James Version, while in the United Kingdom it is known as the Authorized Version.

The first translation of the Bible into Spanish was done in 1280 and was called the Biblia Alfonsina, but was not a finished work; this was done with the Biblia del Oso (Bible of the bear, because of the animal on the cover) in 1569.  Amongst other versions, Saint Jerome’s version was translated into Spanish in 1793.

The Koran appears to be the second most widely spread book, and while it has indeed been translated into many languages, Muslims consider them to be “interpretive glossaries,” which is why they don’t have much influence in the debates about their meanings or command nearly the same attention as the books written in Arabic:  they are considered to be common books. The first translation of the Koran into Latin was done in 1143.

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3 Responses to “The Translation of the Most Widely Read Book in the World”

  • Commented on October 18, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    I found a great timeline which outlines the history of the Bible. You can find it at Bible translation history.

  • Commented on October 18, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    I found a great timeline which outlines the history of the Bible. You can find it at Bible translation history.

  • justinb
    Commented on October 18, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Thanks Clint. That is a really in depth timeline. It’s amazing that by 500 AD the scriptures had already been translated into more than 500 languages!