Biblical Studies Modern Bible Translations
Gerrit van Steenbergen
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 April 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0213


The practice of translating the Bible stretches itself out over a period of more than 2,500 years and is still ongoing. It is hard to exactly define the period that covers the modern era in Bible translation. Two aspects can be considered in this regard. First, it is generally agreed that there is a close link between the modern missionary movement that started toward the end of the 18th century and Bible translation. The founding of Bible Societies, which started in 1804 (British and Foreign Bible Society) and culminated in a worldwide fellowship of Bible Societies in 1946 called United Bible Societies, as well as the establishment of other Bible (translation) agencies such as Wycliffe Bible Translators (1942) and the Catholic Biblical Federation (1968), has given a tremendous impetus to Bible translation. The era of modern Bible translation roughly covers this period from 1800 onward. Apart from the fact that Bible Societies and other agencies generally work in conjunction with the churches, there have also been Bible translation initiatives by churches themselves, ecumenical councils, publishers, and individuals during this period. Secondly, the development of translation studies (sometimes called “translatology”) as an emerging academic discipline has had a significant influence on modern Bible translations. This development started in the 20th century and has particularly gained momentum since the second half of that century. Bible translation theory has also been influential outside the confines of its own field of expertise, particularly in the 1960s. At the same time it is noted that modern Bible translation has been increasingly influenced by secular translation theories. In order to get a clear understanding of the modern era, it is essential to consider the preceding history as well. The basics of current translations can be traced back to earlier periods in history. The preface of each published translation usually reflects on its background in terms of its origins, translation principles, target audience, and confessional orientation.

Journals, Series, and Resources

There are some journals, book series, and resources of general interest in the field of Bible translation, some theoretical, others more practical and to some degree prescriptive. The journals provide a forum for academic discussion and research. The series are mostly of a practical nature, providing guidance and background information that is relevant for the translator.

  • Centre for Bible Interpretation and Translation in Africa.

    The Centre for Bible Interpretation and Translation in Africa resides under Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa. Its aim is to coordinate and develop academic skills in the field of Bible interpretation and translation through research and facilitation. The website contains a wealth of bibliographic materials on research projects (both completed and ongoing), papers, and publications in fields that are related to Bible translation.

  • Journal of Translation.

    An online academic journal of translation theory and practice, with focus on Bible translation, published twice a year by the Summer Institute of Linguistics in Dallas. Many articles deal with minority languages and cultures. Mostly written by translation consultants and others in a supervisory role in Bible translation.

  • Le Sycomore: Revue de traduction biblique.

    Academic journal of Bible translation, published twice a year by the United Bible Societies in French. Offers a broad spectrum of articles on theory, practice, and history of Bible translation.

  • Met Andere Woorden: Kwartaalblad over bijbelvertalen.

    A quarterly journal in Dutch of the Netherlands Bible Society that provides an academic forum for the discussion of Bible translating and translations, mostly, but not exclusively, dealing with translations in Dutch-speaking areas. Also contains articles of wider interest, such as on LXX and Qumran and the Bible.

  • Semantic and Structural Analysis Series. Dallas: SIL International.

    Analytical commentaries on the Greek text of New Testament books, identifying the high-level semantic components and sub-components of the text and the relationships between them. Semantic structure analysis is presented by the Sumer Institute of Linguistics as a methodology for systematic description of intended meaning in natural languages.

  • Society of Biblical Literature.

    The website offers access to a wide range of downloadable articles and publications in the field of Bible translation. The listed publications cover a wide range, both in terms of global treatment and variety of topics.

  • Bible Translator.

    A quarterly academic journal published by the United Bible Societies. It covers theory and practice of Bible translation and is meant for sharing results of research in this discipline as well as for providing a forum for scholars and students interested in a range of disciplines that influence the translation of the Bible. It encourages engagement between scholars and translators.

  • Traducción de la Biblia.

    Electronic journal on Bible translation, published by the United Bible Societies. The website also contains other references to translation resources in Spanish.

  • United Bible Societies: Helps for Translators. New York: American Bible Society, 1961–2015.

    An ongoing series of helps for Bible translators mainly written by (former) United Bible Societies translation consultants, intended to provide translators with background information on exegetical, historical, cultural, linguistic, and textual issues. Practical handbooks on all New Testament and most Old Testament and Deuterocanonical books, flora and fauna, realia, and poetry.

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