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Encyclopedia > Old English Bible translations
History of the English Bible
Old English translations
Lindisfarne Gospels
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Wyclif's Bible
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A number of Old English Bible translations were prepared in mediaeval England, translations of parts of the Bible into the Old English language.

Many of these translations were in fact glosses, prepared and circulated in connection with the Latin Bible that was standard in Western Christianity at the time, for the purpose of assisting clerics whose grasp of Latin was imperfect. Old English literature is remarkable for containing a number of incomplete Bible translations that were not glosses and that were meant to be circulated independently.

These translations include:

  • Altheim (d. 709) is thought to have written an Old English translation, perhaps of the entire Bible.
  • Caedmon is mentioned by Bede as one who sang poems in Old English based on the Bible stories but he was not involved in translation per se.
  • A translation of the Gospel of John into Old English by the Venerable Bede, which he is said to have prepared shortly before his death around the year 735. This translation is lost; we know of its existence through an account of Bede's death.
  • The Vespasian Psalter, an interlinear gloss found in a manuscript of the Book of Psalms which was prepared around 800. This psalter is in the Mercian dialect.
  • Eleven other 9th century glosses of the Pslams are known including Eadwine“s Canterbury Psalter.
  • King Alfred had a number of passages of the Bible circulated in the vernacular in around 900. These included passages from the Ten Commandments and the Pentateuch, which he prefixed to a code of laws he promulgated around this time. Alfred is also said to have directed the Book of Psalms to have been translated into Old English. Many scholars believe that the fifty Psalms in Old English that are found in the Paris Psalter represent Alfred's translation.
  • Between 950 and 970, Aldred added a gloss in the Northumbrian dialect of Old English (the Northumbrian Gloss on the Gospels) to the Lindisfarne Gospels as well as a forward describing who wrote and decorated it.
Matthew 6:9-13. Suae šonne iuih gie bidde fader urer šu arš šu bist in heofnum + in heofnas; sie gehalgad noma šin; to-cymeš ric šin. sie willo šin suae is in heofne J in eoršo. hlaf userne oferwistlic sel us to dęg. J forgef us scylda usra suae uoe forgefon scyldgum usum. J ne inlęd usih in costunge ah gefrig usich from yfle
  • At around the same time, a priest named Farman wrote a gloss on the Gospel of Matthew that is preserved in a manuscript called the Rushworth Gospels.
  • In approximately 990, a full and freestanding version of the four Gospels in idiomatic Old English appeared, in the West Saxon dialect; these are known as the Wessex Gospels. Seven manuscript copies of this translation have survived; they apparently had some currency. This version gives the most familiar Old English version of Matthew 6:9-13, the Lord's Prayer:
Fęder ure žu že eart on heofonum, si žin nama gehalgod. To becume žin rice, gewurže šin willa, on eoršan swa swa on heofonum. Urne gedęghwamlican hlaf syle us todęg, and forgyf us ure gyltas, swa swa we forgyfaš urum gyltendum. And ne gelęd žu us on costnunge, ac alys us of yfele. Sožlice.
  • At about the same time as the Wessex Gospels, a priest of Dorsetshire named Aelfric produced an independent translation of the Pentateuch with Joshua and Judges.
  • The Caedmon manuscript which was initially ascribed to Caedmon, was written between 700-1000. The extant manuscript was copied about 1000. It includes Biblical material in vernacular verses.

In 1066, the Norman Conquest marked the beginning of the end of the Old English language, and ushered in profound changes in its vocabulary. The project of translating the Bible into Old English ceased at that time.

External link

  • Anglo-Saxon Versions of Scripture (http://www.bible-researcher.com/anglosaxon.html)

  Results from FactBites:
English Translations of The Bible (772 words)
The first translation of the Bible into English was initiated by The Venerable Bede toward the end of the 7th century.
The Coverdale translation was a remarkable contribution to the English Bible and the English language.
Many English translations of the Bible would follow as the language developed and discoveries of the origins of the Bible were made.
  More results at FactBites »



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