Who was the first to translate Bible from Latin to different languages for parishioners to read?

Was it Martin Luther?

No it wasn’t Luther. I could be wrong but I think I remember it was common for a long time until Albigensian heresy and then the church started trying to discourage laity reading the Bible due to scripture being abused to promote heresy.

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Luther’s translation coincided with Gutenberg’s invention of printing from movable type. Hence it was the first printed Bible. Until then the Bible had been copied by hand, which meant that it was impossible to bind all the books of the Bible in a single volume. It would have been much too bulky. That’s why the earlier translations have survived in partial form – the four Gospels in one volume, or the Psalms in another, and so on. A list of early English translations can be found here:


Tolkien translated a Bible, Jerusalem Bible actually. You can see his name in the credited section.

Not related to the topic mind but fun fact :yum:


If you remember when Knox was doing his English translation in the 1940’s, you’ll remember his Bible originally came out in two volumes: Old Testament and New Testament. He started in 1936; the New Testament came out in 1945; and the Old Testament came out in 1950. So that style of translation was very popular, especially in the early days-- you might just do a few books at a time in the local language, rather than doing the whole thing.

The Lindisfarne Gospels were important because they were written in Anglo-Saxon in between the Latin.

The Vespasian Psalter was famous for being written in the local dialect (Mercian) in between the Latin.

The Eadwine Psalter is famous for its trilingual Book of Psalms: Latin, Old English, and Anglo-Norman.

The Venerable Bede was famous for having translated the Gospel of John into Old English. He’s mostly famous for his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, which has survived-- but we only know of his gospel translation because of his student, who said–

During these days, in addition to the daily instruction that he gave us and his recitation of the psalter, he was working to complete two books worthy of mention. For he translated the Gospel of Saint John into our own language for the benefit of the Church of God as far as the words ‘but what are these among so many’. He also made some extracts from the works of Bishop Isidore…

All of those examples above are from, say, AD 600-900, except for Eadwine, which was 12th c. Gutenberg’s printing press-- which began the process whereby books became faaaaaaaaar less expensive-- wasn’t until, say, the mid-1400’s.


The Jewish Bible was Hebrew, the Christian Bible was in Greek. Latin translations came later.

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One of the first translations into English – Old English – was this Anglo-Saxon New Testament, c. 990. Here’s a sample from John 1:1.
On FRYMÐ WÆ word & þt word wæs mid gode & god wæs þt word.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word.

What about Paul’s letters to the Romans?

Not even close.

The Latin translation of St Jerome in the 4th century WAS a translation into the vernacular from the Greek and Hebrew.

Sts. Cyril and Methodius invented the Cyrillic alphabet to translate the Bible into what are now the family of Slavic languages.

As long as there have been missionaries evangelizing, there have been translations into the vernacular.

Versions translated into German go back to the 7th century. There were four complete translations in German before Luther’s translation in 1522.

See here:


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Good question! I will bet that he wrote in Greek. Even in Rome, the early liturgy was in Greek before Latin.

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Classic or Eccesiastic Latin was probably never a vernacular. There is an index of differences between this form of Latin and Vulgar Latin, from which our modern Romance languages descend.

One of the reasons Classic Latin remains so pristine is that it never was common street language but used primarily by scholars in many parts of the world.

I could have sworn I recently read that the Gospels were originally written in Greek.

Oh-- completely forgot about the “for parishioners to read” half of the question.

I would suspect that, if you’re looking at that AD 600-900 timeframe, where you had the Lindisfarne Gospels, and the Vespasian Psalter, and Venerable Bede, and whatever else-- the vast majority of people were illiterate. And the ones who could read couldn’t necessarily also write. But the ones who could both read and write could, most likely, also read and write Latin.

It’s not until you get to the era of universities, around 1200, that literacy really starts spreading beyond the walls of the ecclesiastical communities and the nobility/aristocracy. And it’s not until you’re able to get into mass production with the printing press that it brings the price of a book down into territory where ordinary people can afford it.

To put that into an example that I just ran into the other day-- if I wanted to buy some Tyrian purple pigment, it costs me ten thousand dollars to get enough pigment to match the weight of a penny. If I want to buy a purple Crayola marker, they cost about eighty cents. (A penny weighs a bit less than 2500 mg. Tyrian purple pigment goes for $1k+ for 250 mg.)

So-- that’s just one color of pigment. There’s also all the time and labor and materials that go into book production. We’re used to mass produced paper, mass produced ink, machine printing, machine bindings, and everything else… the vast majority of your early Christians didn’t have those sorts of resources to commission those sorts of works, let alone the resources to properly care for them once they had them in their possession. :slight_smile:

I’m not too sure either. Something to remember too is that the liturgy predates the completion of the Bible. Archaeologists have found Latin used in early liturgies.

Just checked. According to a Google search, the NT was originally written in Koine Greek.

I didn’t say it was written in “vulgar” or “street” Latin.

It’s called the Vulgate— commonly used. Latin had eclipsed Greek as the written and spoken language of the educated classes.

Just as French eclipsed Latin as the common language in the Middle Ages for the educated folks on much of the continent and the British Isles.

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Latin wasn’t the original language the bible was written in, it was written in Hebrew and Greek.





Nah, not quite.

They cribbed the KJV from Joseph Smith’s golden plates (which explains why it exactly quotes KJV!).



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