Bible translations (Arabic)

Bible translations (Arabic)

Bible translations into Arabic are known from at least 1,000 years ago, firstly of the Jewish Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), then later also of the Christian New Testament.

Medieval Jewish

In the 10th century AD Saadia Gaon wrote a "Tafsir", an Arabic translation of the Tanakh with a lengthy commentary. These were written in Hebrew characters (Judeo-Arabic). Much of the commentary is lost, but the translation has survived intact, and even served as part of the liturgy of Yemenite Jews, who read the Torah in the synagogue with each Hebrew verse translated twice: First to the Aramaic targum, and second to Saadia's "Tafsir". [Text and audio rendition of a Yemenite Hebrew-Aramaic-Arabic Torah reading may be found at [ Nosach Teiman] ; reading by Mari Saalam Kohen.]


In 1671 the Catholic Church published the whole Bible at Rome. The translation was done under the direction of Sergius Risi, the Catholic Archbishop of Damascus. Francis Britius aided the translation.

The most popular translation is the Van Dyck Version, funded by the Syrian Mission and the American Bible Society. The project was the brainchild of Eli Smith, and started around 1847, centered in Beirut. After Eli Smith's death it was completed under the direction of Cornelius Van Allen Van Dyck. Others involved included Nasif al Yaziji and Boutros al Bustani. The New Testament was completed on March 9, 1860, followed by the Tanach on March 10, 1865. About 10 million copies of this version have been distributed since 1865. It has been accepted by the Coptic Church and the Protestant churches. This translation was based mostly on the same Textus Receptus as the King James Version of the Bible, and follows a more literal style of translation. Most printings of the Van Dyck version use the same basic printing plates which have been employed for years (possibly the same plates that were made when the translation was first adopted; maybe somebody can verify that fact). These plates employ the "stacking" version of writing Arabic, in which, for example, letters that precede other specified letters, such as "Jeem," are written vertical to rather than horizontal to that letter. This style of Arabic can be hard to read at times, especially for non-native students of Arabic. More recently, newer printings of the Van Dyck have been made which employ a more common, straightforward Arabic font.

The Van Dyck translation was done at the beginning of the revival of Modern Standard Arabic as a literary language, and consequently many of the terms coined did not enter into common use. One indication of this is a recent edition of the Van Dyck printed by the Bible Society in Egypt, which includes a glossary of little-understood vocabulary, with around 3000 entries! In addition to obsolete or archaic terms, this translation uses religious terminology that Muslim or other non-Christian readers may not understand (e.g. "As-hah", a Syriac borrowing meaning a chapter of the Bible; "tajdif", the word for blasphemy.) It should also be noted that an Arab Muslim reading the Bible in Arabic (especially if he is reading the New Testament) will find the style quite different from the style that he is used to in the Qur'an (this is more or less true of all Arabic translations of the Bible). Also of note is the fact that religious terminology familiar to Muslims was not very much used in this version of the Bible, as is the case in most Arabic versions of the Bible.

In 1973 the The Living Bibles International began to work on a new translation, this project was named the Book of Life (In Arabic "Ketab El Hayat"). Later it was dubbed the New Arabic Version after a merger took place in 1992 between Living Bibles International and International Bible Society. The name of the new organization became International Bible Society. The nearest English translation to the New Arabic Version is New International Version. In places this translation seems to have been translated from the several English translations and checked and revised against the Greek and Hebrew original texts. The Injil (New Testament) was released in 1982, and the whole Bible was completed in 1988. In 1992 the Bible Society, released Today's Arabic Version, a dynamic equivalence translation designed to be as easy to understand as possible. It is also known as the Good News Arabic or the Ecumenical Version, in that it was produced by an interdenominational team of scholars and church leaders. It was conceived as the Arabic equivalent of the English Good News Bible (also known as the Today's English Version), but is in reality more like the English New International Version.

In the 1980s an Egyptian Christian found that his Muslim friends could not understand the Bible. He began with a translation of the Gospel of Mark, and their enthusiasm led him to translate the entire New Testament, completed in 1990. This translation was titled "The Noble Gospel" "Al-Injeel Al-Shareef". The language is quite simple, with vocabulary deliberately chosen to be common with vernacular Arabics. It is much clearer in many passages than the other translations mentioned above, but it is not very elegant. It uses Arabic proper names and religious terminology understood by most Arabic speakers, rather than foreign names and ecclesiastical terminology found in older translations. The full Bible was published in 1999.

In 2005, Syrian Arab author Mazhar Mallouhi brought together Christians and Muslims In a ground-breaking endeavour to produce a new translation of the Gospels and Acts in Arabic. The result of their collective efforts was published in Beirut in March 2008 under the title "The True Meaning of the Gospel of Christ". The goal of the project was a translation of the gospel message that would speak clearly and naturally to the hearts of Arabic speakers unfamiliar with church terminology and traditions. The volume, published by Al-Kalima and printed by the Dar al-Farabi publishing house, features a culturally sensitive translation of the four Gospels and the Book of Acts in modern literary Arabic, with footnotes providing cultural background information essential to understanding the text. There is also a collection of 26 articles on related topics of particular interest to Arab readers, as well as introductions to each of the Gospels and Acts, illustrations and maps.


External links

* [ The Old Testament, Van Dyck Version]
* [ The Injil (New Testament), Van Dyck Version]
* [ Arabic Book of Life and Life Application Bible]
* [ Sharif Bible]
* [ Al-Kalima]
* [ True Meaning at Adab wa Fan]
* [ MT. SINAI ARABIC CODEX 151 -- Oldest known translation of the New Testment to Arabic]

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