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Cataloging Biblical Materials

Summary Descriptions of Versions of the Bible

This page is intended to describe briefly the versions of the Bible included in the tables that complete this document. As well as the original Hebrew and Greek texts, there have been many translations of the Bible. Many languages, such as English, have many versions, as well as a long history of translations. This page, however, is intended to provide a brief history and description of only the versions covered in the accompanying tables: the Authorized Version (the basis of the NAF's names), the Hebrew text, the Septuagint, the Greek New Testament, the Latin Vulgate and the Douai-Rheims.

Authorized Version (the basis of the NAF's names)
Hebrew text | Septuagint | Greek New Testament | Latin Vulgate | Douai-Rheims

    The Authorized Version
      It has been the most famous and influential English translation of the Bible since it was published in 1611. It was commissioned by King James I of England in order to replace, at least for public worship in the Church of England, the other versions then in use: the Bishops' Bible and the Geneva Bible. This translation became known as the King James Version.

      It was revised in 1769 by Benjamin Blayney, and the name "Authorized Version" was used to describe it. It has been revised several times in the 19th and 20th centuries, but the original version is still used by many people. Due to its official character, as well as to the quality of its language, it is still the "king" of English versions of the Bible.

      This version provides the Protestant canon of the Bible. For the Old Testament it follows the Hebrew Bible, not accepting the books added to the Greek Septuagint translation (see below). These books are called "apocryphal" by Protestants.

      Brief versions of the names of Biblical books are taken from this version as the basis of uniform titles in the Name Authorities File. The top line of the appended tables consists of the uniform title of the various Biblical books.


      This is the original language of the Bible. The books that comprise the Hebrew Bible were determined by rabbis in Nabneh (Jamnia) in the late first century.

      The original core of the Hebrew Bible is the Torah, or the first five books of the Bible. They are the books of the Law given to Moses. The other major sections are the Prophets, and the Writings. These sections are differentiated in the accompanying tables.

      As well as these original groupings, other convenient collective distinctions that have been formulated by scholars have been given uniform titles and are listed in the tables. The traditional name given to the authoritative Hebrew text is the Masoretic Text.

    The Septuagint

      The Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures made for the Greek-speaking Jews of Alexandria, ca. 3rd century B.C. Alexandria had a large Jewish population whose primary language was Greek.

      A legend contained in the Letter of Aristeas claimed that Ptolemy Philadelphus commissioned a translation to be made into Greek by six men from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, sent by the high priest in Jerusalem. These 72 scholars purportedly came up with identical translations. Scholars generally discount the legend, but the name "Septuagint" -- from the Latin word for seventy "septuaginta" (LXX) -- became the traditional name for this translation.

      It was not the only Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures in antiquity, but it was the most influential. It contained, in addition to the translation of the Hebrew scriptures, other books, collectively labeled the "apocrypha", or "hidden books." Most were written originally in Greek.

      The Christian Church, at first largely speaking Greek, adopted the Septuagint as its "official" version of the Old Testament. Afterwards it was abandoned by Jews.

      The canon of the Hebrew Bible, together with the additions of the Septuagint, comprise the canon of the Old Testament for the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Eastern Church.

    Greek New Testament

      This speaks for itself. As mentioned above, at first the Christian Church was largely made up of speakers of Greek. The original missions, outside of Palestine, were conducted among fellow Greek-speaking Jews, but quickly expanded to Gentiles as well. All the books of the New Testament were written originally in Greek.

    Latin Vulgate

      The Latin translation of the Bible written by St. Jerome, who was asked by Pope Damasus in 382 A.D. to bring order out of the proliferation of Old Latin versions which were in circulation. His translation became the standard Latin version of the Bible for the Western Latin-speaking Church.
      It exerted enormous cultural influence in literature and music during many centuries, and has only been eclipsed in the Catholic Church since the end of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Now emphasis is placed on modern vernacular versions of the Bible, translated from the original languages, not from the Latin Vulgate.


      This was the conventional name given to the English translation of the Bible undertaken by English Catholics in exile in the late 16th century. The New Testament was published in 1582, the Old Testament in 1609-1610.

      It was named after Douai, Flanders, the location of the English College, a seminary for English Catholic clergy; and Rheims, the location of the Univ. of Rheims, where the English College temporarily resided. It was substantially revised in the mid-18th century by Bishop Richard Challoner.

      This version of the Bible was translated from the Latin Vulgate, and was the standard English Bible for Catholics up to the 1960s. Since then other English versions have appeared which have replaced it, employing current English and translated from the original Hebrew and Greek texts. Nevertheless, it is included here since it is mentioned in the Library of Congress' classification tables as "Douai".

      Its names for books of the O.T. are based on the Vulgate and Septuagint, and thus differ in some cases from the names employed by the Authorized Version, the basis for uniform titles in the NAF.

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