The English Bibles we have are the result of translation.  Rather than arguing about English translations, these pages  focus on some of the early translations that have an impact on what we now know as the  Bible.  (For those interested in a Bible Timeline see There  is much about the study of the Biblical text itself that is controversial but many things are sure.  The traditional reading has been brought down to us  through a long tradition of translations. 

The preface to the New International Version notes that for the Old Testament the Masoretic Text was used but:

The translators also consulted the more important earlier versions-the Septuagint; Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion; the Vulgate; the Syriac Peshitta; the Targums; and for the Psalms the Juxta Hebraica of Jerome.

The translators use these other translations to ensure they are staying within this tradition. All of these translations listed above stand in the tradition of the Church and are readily available today.  To the extent they are paraphrases we get a window into what the translator of that time thought the passage meant.  Most of these translations are of Jewish Origin.  The Latin translations are the results of the Western (Roman) Church.  The Juxta Hebraica is a reference to this tradition.  Juxta Hebraica means like the Hebrew and it was part of Jerome's Latin translation of the Bible.

The argument is often made that the Bible has been translated so  many times that we really do not what the original said.  While it is true that the Bible has been translated many times and into many languages in general we do not have translations of translations.

In most cases the English Bibles we use today are based on standardized Greek and Hebrew texts.  They are not based on some other intermediate language translation.  The exception to this would be the Douay that is based on the Vulgate, a late Latin translation.  Even the Douay which could be said to be a translation of a translation does not provide a massively different reading than the King James version of about the same time.

The truth is that the existence of the translations makes us more sure of the meaning of difficult passages in that the translations can be compared and the original sense determined.  In this we use the written traditions to check each other.

This diagram shows some of the major Old Testament translations that you will see referenced in your study Bible footnotes.  TargumOTTexts is Hebrew for translation but what we refer to as the Targums are Aramaic paraphrases of the various books of the Tanakh, or Old Testament.  They were originally produced informally as teaching tools during the exile as the knowledge of the Hebrew language was declining in the general population.  Many of them have been preserved in Rabbinical writings and there are two, a targum of Job and a targum of Leviticus, that we find in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures and other writings.  The Septuagint differs from the Masoretic text which is what both Jews and many Christians consider to be authoritative today.  In the Dead Sea Scrolls we find different Hebrew versions of some books.  Some that agree with the Masoretic Text and some that agree with the Septuagint.  The differences are minor for the most part.  Many say that the New Testament writers relied heavily on the Septuagint.  It is also true that New Testament writers would paraphrase in their citation of a Hebrew Old Testament passage.  Some think that they generally did this although the paraphrase may have been informed by the Septuagint.  But most of our Bibles today base the Old Testament on the Masoretic Text. 

Most people think that the New Testament was written in Greek and we have extant many copies in Greek.  Although we have no original manuscripts, we have many copies.  Again from the Preface of the NIV:

The Greek text used in translating the New Testament was an eclectic one.  No other piece of ancient literature has such an abundance of manuscript witnesses as does the New Testament.  Where existing manuscripts differ, translators made their choice of readings according to accepted principals of New Testament textual criticism. Footnotes call attention to the places where there was uncertainty about what the original text was. 

These are not major uncertainties.  It can be readily seen that there  are not footnotes of this sort for every verse and not even on every page. 

There are other ancient translations of New Testament documents but they are rarely if ever referenced in the course of modern Bible translation as the Greek is thought to be the primary source.  The number of Latin manuscripts cannot be ignored and according to many, they outnumber the Greek.  The Latin manuscripts provide a major source of our understanding of the New Testament.  The Douay Rheims is an English Translation of this Latin tradition.

The other New Testament source that is worth a mention is the Pishitta.  There are those who claim that the Pishitta, the Bible of the Syrian Orthodox Church and others, is the New Testament in its original form.  Aramaic was the primary language of Jesus and his disciples and Syriac is the living form of Aramaic that survives to this day.  English translations of the Pishitta are available and there are differences, but none so major as to call either the Greek or the Syriac tradition into question.

There are many who question the Greek version on which the modern translations like the NIV are based.  This is not the discussion that I was trying to have on this page and I only acknowledge it here.  Suffice it to say that many will cite three different text traditions:  Western, Latin; Byzantine, Greek (also called the textus receptus); and Alexandrian, Greek.  There is tremendous consistency and only minor disagreement.  Even the armature scholar can make this determination by comparing King James (Even the New King James)—from the textus receptus, Douay Rheims—from the Latin Tradition, and Pishitta—from the Syriac tradition with any of the Modern English versions, that are in general based on the Greek text from the more modern traditions that relies more heavily on the Alexandrian tradition.