Bible translations (Arabic)

Bible translations (Arabic)

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Translations of the Bible into Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 are known from the early Christian churches in Syria, Egypt, Malta and Spain. Some of these translations are from Syriac (the Peshitta
The Peshitta is the standard version of the Bible for churches in the Syriac tradition.The Old Testament of the Peshitta was translated into Syriac from the Hebrew, probably in the 2nd century AD...

), Coptic or Latin. The earliest fragment of the Old Testament in Arabic is a text of Psalm 77, found in the Umayyad Mosque
Umayyad Mosque
The Umayyad Mosque, also known as the Great Mosque of Damascus or formerly the Basilica of Saint John the Baptist , is located in the old city of Damascus, is one of the largest and oldest mosques in the world...

, dating from the 8th century. The first Jewish translations of the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

, and the bible translations by roman catholic clergy date from c. AD 1000.
One of the oldest Arabic bibles was discovered in the 19th century at Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai
Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai
Saint Catherine's Monastery lies on the Sinai Peninsula, at the mouth of a gorge at the foot of Mount Sinai in the city of Saint Catherine in Egypt's South Sinai Governorate. The monastery is Orthodox and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site...

. The manuscript called Mt. Sinai Arabic Codex 151, was created in AD 867. It includes the biblical text, marginal comments, lectionary notes, and glosses, as found in the manuscript.


The bible texts produced by the Mozarabs which have survived to the present day are the translations of the Gospels, the Psalms and the Canons. It is assumed that the Bible was also translated in its entirety by the Christians of Al-Andalus
Al-Andalus was the Arabic name given to a nation and territorial region also commonly referred to as Moorish Iberia. The name describes parts of the Iberian Peninsula and Septimania governed by Muslims , at various times in the period between 711 and 1492, although the territorial boundaries...

. Most of the manuscripts date from the twelfth century or later, although some are copies of translations which were probably made before 1000. One of these manuscripts is still kept at the Qarawiyyin Library in Fez is a 12th-century Mozarab parchment containing the gospels of John.Ishaq ibn Balask of Cordoba translated the gospels into Arabic in 946. Hafs ibn Albar made a translation of the Psalms in 889.


In the 10th century AD Saadia Gaon
Saadia Gaon
Saʻadiah ben Yosef Gaon was a prominent rabbi, Jewish philosopher, and exegete of the Geonic period.The first important rabbinic figure to write extensively in Arabic, he is considered the founder of Judeo-Arabic literature...

 wrote a Tafsir
Tafseer is the Arabic word for exegesis or commentary, usually of the Qur'an. Ta'wīl is a subset of tafsir and refers to esoteric or mystical interpretation. An author of tafsir is a mufassir .- Etymology :...

, an Arabic translation of the Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 with a lengthy commentary. These were written in Hebrew characters (Judaeo-Arabic
Judeo-Arabic languages
The Judeo-Arabic languages , are a continuum of Arabic dialects spoken by Jews living or formerly living in the Arab world; the term also refers more or less to Classical Arabic written in the Hebrew script, particularly in the Middle Ages. Just as with the rest of the Arab world, Arab Jews had...

). Much of the commentary is lost, but the translation of the Torah and several other books has survived intact, and even serves as part of the liturgy of Yemenite Jews
Yemenite Jews
Yemenite Jews are those Jews who live, or whose recent ancestors lived, in Yemen . Between June 1949 and September 1950, the overwhelming majority of Yemen's Jewish population was transported to Israel in Operation Magic Carpet...

, who read the Torah in the synagogue with each Hebrew verse translated twice: first to the Aramaic targum
Taekwondo is a Korean martial art and the national sport of South Korea. In Korean, tae means "to strike or break with foot"; kwon means "to strike or break with fist"; and do means "way", "method", or "path"...

 and then to Saadia's
Saadia Gaon
Saʻadiah ben Yosef Gaon was a prominent rabbi, Jewish philosopher, and exegete of the Geonic period.The first important rabbinic figure to write extensively in Arabic, he is considered the founder of Judeo-Arabic literature...


As the language of Saadia Gaon's translation became archaic and remote from common speech, most Jewish communities of the Arab world evolved their own translations of the Torah into their local dialects of Judaeo-Arabic. A traditional translation of this kind is known as a sharħ (plural shurūħ), from the Arabic word for "explanation". These translations were generally used for teaching purposes rather than in the synagogue, and many of them were printed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Later Christian translations

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
Francis Britius
Francis Britius was a seventeenth-century orientalist and a monk at Rennes in Brittany. The precise dates of his birth and death are unknown.Britius entered the Capuchin Order and spent the earlier years of his religious life in missionary work in the Levant, where he devoted himself with special...

 aided the translation.

The most popular translation is the Van Dyck Version, funded by the Syrian Mission and the American Bible Society
American Bible Society
The American Bible Society is an interconfessional, non-denominational, nonprofit organization, founded in 1816 in New York City, which publishes, distributes and translates the Bible and provides study aids and other tools to help people engage with the Bible.It is probably best known for its...

. The project was the brainchild of Eli Smith
Eli Smith
Eli Smith was an American Protestant Missionary and scholar, born at Northford, Conn. He graduated from Yale in 1821 and from Andover Theological Seminary in 1826. He worked in Malta until 1829, then in company with H. G. O. Dwight traveled through Armenia and Georgia to Persia. They published...

, and started around 1847, centered in Beirut
Beirut is the capital and largest city of Lebanon, with a population ranging from 1 million to more than 2 million . Located on a peninsula at the midpoint of Lebanon's Mediterranean coastline, it serves as the country's largest and main seaport, and also forms the Beirut Metropolitan...

. After Eli Smith's death it was completed under the direction of Cornelius Van Allen Van Dyck
Cornelius Van Allen Van Dyck
Cornelius Van Alen Van Dyck, M.D. was an American missionary and translator of the Bible into Arabic.He was born at Kinderhook, NY, and educated at Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, from which he graduated as M.D. in 1839...

. Others involved included Nasif al Yaziji, Boutros al Bustani, and Yusuf al-Asir. The New Testament was completed on March 9, 1860, followed by the Old Testament on March 10, 1865. The original manuscript is preserved in the Near East School of Theology
Near East School of Theology
The Near East School of Theology is an interdenominational Protestant theological seminary serving the Evangelical churches of the Middle East and African churches, and is once again able to accommodate international students who have a special interest in Biblical and Islamic studies in a Middle...

 Library in Beirut. 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
Textus Receptus
Textus Receptus is the name subsequently given to the succession of printed Greek texts of the New Testament which 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, and for most other...

 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. إصحاح "Is-hah", a Syriac borrowing meaning a chapter of the Bible; تجديف "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.

As a counter-reaction to Van Dyck's Protestant translation, the Jesuits of Beirut started to prepare their own Catholic translation of the Bible soon after. The first volume of this work was published in 1876, with the whole New Testament in 1878, and the complete Bible already in 1880. The main contributors in the translator team were Father Augustin Rodet and Sheikh Ibrahim al-Yaziji.

In 1973 the Living Bibles International
Living Bibles International
Living Bibles International was an American religious publisher dedicated to producing modern language translations of the New Testament in around 100 languages worldwide....

 launched a new translation of the Arabic Bible under the direction of Georges Houssney, a Lebanese Christian based in Beirut. Houssney employed two Key translators, Said Baz for the New Testament completed in 1982, and Dr. Samuel Shahid for the Old Testament completed in 1988. Rev. Menis AbdulNoor also contributed significantly. Initially, the project was vehemently opposed by Van Dyke proponents. Mr. Houssney made a tactical decision to model the translation after the popular NIV and named it "Book of Life, an interpretive translation" (in Arabic كتاب الحياة ترجمة تفسيرية, "Ketab El Hayat, tarjama tafsiriya"). The result was wide acceptance throughout the Arab World. In 1992 it was dubbed the New Arabic Version after Living Bibles International merged with International Bible Society, now Biblica. The nearest English translation to the New Arabic Version is the New International Version. Translators consulted various English and Arabic translations and checked thoroughly against the Greek and Hebrew original texts with the aid of a team of scholars. Among the scholars who advised on the original languages are Dr. Kenneth Bailey, Dr. David King, Dr. Ghassan Khalaf, and Dr. Maurice Seale. This version is the most widely distributed with several million copies in circulation. However a more significant fact about this project is that Christians in the Arab world began to accept the idea of new translations after seeing the importance of a clear and contemporary Arabic style.

In 1988 the Jesuit publishing company Dar el-Machreq published a revised version of the 1880 Catholic translation, which has sold more than 60.000 copies between 1988 and 2000.

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 (الترجمة المشتركة), 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
Good News Bible
The Good News Bible , also called the Good News Translation , is an English language translation of the Bible by the American Bible Society, first published as the New Testament under the name Good News for Modern Man in 1966...

 (also known as the Today's English Version), but is in reality more like the English New International Version
New International Version
The New International Version is an English translation of the Christian Bible. Published by Zondervan in the United States and by Hodder & Stoughton in the UK, it has become one of the most popular modern translations in history.-History:...


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 (الإنجيل الشريف). 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 2000, Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses is a millenarian restorationist Christian denomination with nontrinitarian beliefs distinct from mainstream Christianity. The religion reports worldwide membership of over 7 million adherents involved in evangelism, convention attendance of over 12 million, and annual...

 released their New World Translation
New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures
The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures is a translation of the Bible published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society in 1961; it is used and distributed by Jehovah's Witnesses. Though it is not the first Bible to be published by the group, it is their first original translation of...

 of the Christian Greek Scriptures
(New Testament) in Arabic.. The Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) was translated and released along the Greek Scriptures as a complete Bible in 2004.

In 2005, Syrian Arab author Mazhar Mallouhi
Mazhar Mallouhi
Mazhar Mallouhi is an Arab Syrian novelist and writer widely read in the Middle East. A self-described "Sufi Muslim follower of Christ," and having lived in many Arab countries, Mallouhi seeks to bridge the chasm of misunderstanding between Muslims and Christians through his novels and practical...

 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 (المعنى الصحيح لإنجيل المسيح). 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.


Translation Genesis 1:1–3 (التكوين) John
Gospel of John
The Gospel According to John , commonly referred to as the Gospel of John or simply John, and often referred to in New Testament scholarship as the Fourth Gospel, is an account of the public ministry of Jesus...

 3:16 (يوحنا)
Van Dyck
في البدء خلق الله السماوات والأرض. وكانت الأرض خربة وخالية وعلى وجه الغمر ظلمة وروح الله يرف على وجه المياه. وقال الله: «ليكن نور» فكان نور. لأنه هكذا أحب الله العالم حتى بذل ابنه الوحيد لكي لا يهلك كل من يؤمن به بل تكون له الحياة الأبدية.
Book of Life
كتاب الحياة
في البدء خلق الله السماوات والأرض، وإذ كانت الأرض مشوشة ومقفرة وتكتنف الظلمة وجه المياه، وإذ كان روح الله يرفرف على سطح المياه، أمر الله: «ليكن نور» فصار نور. لأنه هكذا أحب الله العالم حتى بذل ابنه الوحيد لكي لا يهلك كل من يؤمن به بل تكون له الحياة الأبدية.
Revised Catholic
الترجمة الكاثوليكية المجددة
في البدء خلق الله السموات والأرض وكانت الأرض خاوية خالية وعلى وجه الغمر ظلام وروح الله يرف على وجه المياه. وقال الله: «ليكن نور»، فكان نور. فإن الله أحب العالم حتى إنه جاد بابنه الوحيد لكي لا يهلك كل من يؤمن به بل تكون له الحياة الأبدية.
Good News
الترجمة المشتركة
في البدء خلق الله السماوات والأرض، وكانت الأرض خاوية خالية، وعلى وجه الغمر ظلام، وروح الله يرف على وجه المياه. وقال الله: «ليكن نور» فكان نور. هكذا أحب الله العالم حتى وهب ابنه الأوحد، فلا يهلك كل من يؤمن به، بل تكون له الحياة الأبدية.
Noble Gospel
الإنجيل الشريف
في البداية خلق الله السماوات والأرض. وكانت الأرض بلا شكل وخالية، والظلام يغطي المياه العميقة، وروح الله يرفرف على سطح المياه. وقال الله: «ليكن نور.» فصار نور. أحب الله كل الناس لدرجة أنه بذل ابنه الوحيد لكي لا يهلك كل من يؤمن به، بل ينال حياة الخلود.
True Meaning of the Gospel of Christ
المعنى الصحيح لإنجيل المسيح
N.A. لقد أحب الله كل البشر حتى إنه ضحى بابنه الوحيد )بحبيبه الوحيد( فداءا لهم، فلا خوف على المؤمنين به، لأن مصيرهم الجنة.

See also

External links