FOREIGN LANGUAGE BIBLE
THE BEST SOURCES OF INFORMATION
By Doug Kutilek
In our age of heightened interest in English Bible translations, there is a corresponding interest in modern Bible translations in languages other than English. However, finding sources of information about the multitude of "foreign" versions is quite a challenge. Over a period of many years, I have located several sources that proved exceptionally valuable in this regard, and I hereby recommend them to you, treating them in chronological order.
1. Thomas Hartwell Horne, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE CRITICAL STUDY AND KNOWLEDGE OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES. 4 vols. in 5 parts. Baker Book House, 1970 reprint of 1839, 8th edition.
Vol. 2, part 2 of this exceedingly informative and valuable set of books has an extensive section on modern Bible versions in the languages of Europe (pp. 90-106), followed by the modern Bible versions in the languages of Asia (pp. 106-122), then of Africa (pp. 122-124), then of the Americas (pp. 124-128). Horne's listings are always well documented and detailed. Limitations: the date of writing (1839) makes it incomplete on more recent versions. [The foreign language listings are preceded by lists and analysis of the printed editions of the OT in Hebrew, the NT in Greek, printed editions of ancient versions, and the various English versions. Highly instructive]. Because of Baker's reprinting of the set not too long ago, it is not difficult to locate, either in libraries or in the used book market.
2. James Hastings, ed., A DICTIONARY OF THE BIBLE. 5 vols. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1904.
Volume 5 of this standard Bible dictionary (easily met with used or in public and university libraries), contains an article by Ll. J. M. Bebb, "Continental Versions" (pp. 402-420, double column). It gives detailed, documented information about the translation of the Bible into French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German , Dutch, Danish (and Norwegian), Swedish, Hungarian, Bohemian, Polish, Russian, and Modern Greek (many of these languages had translations even before the invention of printing in 1453). The information is well presented and current up to about 1900.
3. Samuel Macauley Jackson, ed., THE NEW SCHAFF-HERZOG ENCYCLOPEDIA OF RELIGIOUS KNOWLEDGE. 13 vols. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1949 (and often) reprint of original Funk and Wagnall edition, ca. 1907.
In vol. 2, pp. 134-156 (double column) contain an extended treatment of "Modern versions" in many languages (including English), and is preceded by a lengthy analysis of "ancient versions" (pp. 115-134).
In 1955, Baker published a two-volume supplement to this easy-to-locate set, titled TWENTIETH CENTURY ENCYCLOPEDIA OF RELIGIOUS KNOWLEDGE, edited by Lefferts A. Loetscher. Vol. 1 of this supplement up-dates the information on Bible versions both ancient (pp. 137-144) and modern (pp. 144-153). In vol. 2, there is a meager article "Mission field, Bible versions for the," p. 743.
4. T. H. Darlow and H. F. Moule, HISTORICAL CATALOGUE OF THE PRINTED EDITIONS OF HOLY SCRIPTURE IN THE LIBRARY OF THE BRITISH AND FOREIGN BIBLE SOCIETY. 2 vols. in 4 parts. British and Foreign Bible Society, 1904-1911. Reprinted, 1963, 1993.
This is THE "Cadillac" of reference works on this subject. It is what the title says: a descriptive catalogue of every printed edition of the Bible in every language of which the B & FBS's library has a copy (and with descriptions of many of which they do not have copies). Vol. 1 covers the Bible in English (1,410 different editions in various versions). Vol. 2 in three parts covers all the rest of the languages. If information cannot be found in this set, it quite possibly is not available anywhere.
The original printing consisted of only about 500 sets, so they were exceedingly rare and very expensive if you could find them for sale at all (Wilbur Smith, the great Christian bibliophile, waited 20 years before he was able to buy a set--and then gladly paid dearly for it). It is currently available in reprint, though it is not cheap. It lists for $250, but I was able to buy it through Barnes and Noble for $225. Perhaps Amazon Books can also provide it.
Of course, the early 20th century date of publication means next to nothing about 20th century versions is here.
5. J. D. Douglas, ed., NEW 20TH-CENTURY ENCYCLOPEDIA OF RELIGIOUS KNOWLEDGE. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991. This "up-dated" successor to #2 above has an extensive article, "Bible Versions (Modern Versions)" by Paul Ellingworth, pp. 80-100. Modern Bible versions in 59 languages (those with 10 million or more speakers) are treated and, strangely enough, in the order of the number of speakers of each language (an alphabetic listing is also provided). The information is not complete (for Romanian, for example, it is very deficient), but it is more up-to-date than any other readily available source of information.