Bible study through questioning, seeking, growing, and immersion in truth and wisdom.
"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet."
The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew. However over time and because of the influence of Greek culture and writing the oldest Hebrew manuscripts only date from the 13th century AD. The discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls after WWII provided the now oldest Hebrew manuscripts dating from around 100 BC. The lack of Hebrew manuscripts can partially be attributed to the Diaspora (Jews leaving Judea because of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD) and the prevalence of Greek Septuagint (Greek version of the Old Testament compiled about 260 BC).
Most of the New Testament was written in Greek. In 405 AD Jerome finished his translation of the Greek New Testament and the Hebrew and Greek Old Testament into Latin. The Roman empire had begun to fracture 100 years earlier and the split was finalized in 393 AD. The eastern empire continued to use Greek as the official language and the western empire came to use Latin exclusively. Thus Jerome's translation (called the Latin Vulgate) came to almost exclusive use for the next 1,100 years throughout Western Civilization.
In 1453 Greek scholars who were refugees from the Muslim conquest of Constantinople brought with them many Greek manuscripts of the bible. The scholars secured teaching positions in many universities including Paris where a young Erasumus learned Greek in 1495. In 1516 He published a new Latin version along with the Greek he had complied. That became what is called the textus receptus (received text) The biblical Textus Receptus constituted the translation-base for the original German Luther Bible, the translation of the New Testament into English by William Tyndale, the King James Version, the Spanish Reina-Valera translation, the Czech Bible of Kralice, and most Reformation-era New Testament translations throughout Western and Central Europe.
Getting the bible in one's own language contributed to the Protestant reformation of the early 1500s. The textus receptus (TR) remained the basis for bible translation until the late 1800s. In the 1880s Wecott and Hort compiled a new Greek document to replace the TR. They used chiefly two manuscripts the Vaticanus and the Sinaticus. This new Greek version was called the Critical text or the Alexandrian text. Continuing the adjustment to the Greek a Nestle Aland version was also produced. Most modern translations of the bible into English are now made from these sources.
When making a translation one has to choose between a word for word, thought for thought, or a paraphrase approach. A person who wants to dig into the meaning himself should probably use a literal (word for word) translation. Someone wanting to be told what is meant might find a thought for though or paraphrase version more helpful. The problem with the non-literal versions is that one is stuck with the limitations of the translator who may not himself understand fully what was meant.
A problem with a word for word translation is that a word in one language may not be fully translatable into one word in another language. For example, Greek often have verb tense information that cannot come across into English in one word.
Many translations attempt to make the bible easier to read, however it can be at the expense of accuracy. For example, the King James Version (KJV) can sound unfamiliar to the modern reader. However, there are advantages to the KJV. For example, modern English has one word for both the singular and plural pronoun you. The KJV uses ye as well as you and can more accurately present the distinction that is found in the Greek.