BIBLE iii. Chronology of Translations



iii. Chronology of Translations of the Bible

1. Middle Iranian translations.

4th century. Statement by John Chrysostom (Homily on John, in Migne, Patrologia Graecia LIX, col. 32) that doctrines of Christ had been translated into the languages of the Persians.

5th century. Statement by Theodoret (Graecarum affect­ionum curatio IX.936, in Migne, PG LXXXIII, col. 1045c) that Persians regarded the Gospels as divine revelation.

4th-6th centuries (?). Middle Persian translation from Syriac of Psalms 94-99, 119-136 (the “Pahlavi Psal­ter”); the extant manuscript contains canons written after ca. 550; Andreas-Barr, 1933.

? centuries. Sogdian translations of the Gospels, Pauline epistles, and Psalms.

9th century. Biblical quotations in the Zoroastrian text Škand-gumānīg wizār; Menasce, 1945, pp. 176ff., Asmussen and Paper, p. 5.

2. New Persian translations.

11th century or later. New Persian-Syriac bilingual translation from Syriac of Psalms 131, 132, 146, 147 in Sogdian Syriac script; Müller, 1915; Sundermann, 1974.

13th century. Harmony of Gospels, tr. from Syriac by Īwannīs ʿEzz-al-Dīn Moḥammad b. Moẓaffar, cop. by Ebrāhīm b. Šammās ʿAbd-Allāh, a Jacobite priest, in Ḥeṣn Kayfā, 954/1547. Laurentian Library, Flor­ence, XVII 81. Pub. by Messina. Assemanus, p. 59; Pizzi, p. 301.

14th century

712/1312-13. Gospel of Matthew, tr. from Syriac, cop. by Masʿūd b. Ebrāhīm, taken to India by Chaldean Bishop Mār Yūsof in 963-64/1556. Vatican Library, Vat. Pers. 4. Rossi, p. 29.

716/1316. Psalms (except end of 58-62) in Hebrew script, found by Giambattista Vecchietti in Shiraz in 1009-10/1601, transliterated into Persian script by him. Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. Blochet, I, p. 1 n. 1.

718-28/1318-28. Gospels, tr. from Greek by Sarkis Lūj b. Amīr Maleik, possibly an Armenian member of the Dominican Order of Preachers in Urmia, brought from Jerusalem by the Armenian Brother Nicholas, of the Dominican Order of St. Gregory, for Akbar I in 1006-07/1598, received by Father Manuel Pinheiro, S. J., in Lahore in 1008-09/1600, copied several times by Father Jeronimo Xavier (Academy of Sciences Library, Lisbon, 623; Casanatense Library, Rome, 2322: Bonelli, pp. 434-35; Gregorian University Library, Rome, 86; Leningrad Library, 248: Catalogue, pp. 241-43; London School of Oriental and African Studies, lost; Vatican Library Pers. 1-4, 52, 56, 73, 74, 100: Rossi, p. 27; and Royal Library, Brussels: van den Gheyn, pp. 38-39). Possibly this tr. of Matthew 1-18:6 published in London by Abraham Wheelocke in 1653. Tr., with many Arabic expressions, by “Mogdan,” transcribed into Indian taʿlīq characters by Šayḵ Ešāḥ in 1014/1605 (Bodleian Library, Oxford, 1837: Sachau and Ethé, no. 1837 cols. 1054-55; Cambridge University Library, Gg. 5.26: Browne, pp. 1-2).

719/1319. Pentateuch, tr. and cop. by Joseph ben Moses: Darlow and Moule, p. 1201, Gregory, pp. 577f. British Library, Or. 5446: Margoliouth, pp. 119-20, Seligsohn, pp. 278-86. Paper, 1972.

742/1341. Gospels, tr. from Syriac by the Jacobite or Nestorian cleric Yūḥannā b. al-Ḵāṣṣ Yūsof al-­Yaʿqūbī, cop. “828”/1425? by Simon b. Yūsof b. Ebrāhīm Tabrīzī, possibly an Armenian Catholic of the Unitor Brothers of St. Gregory (Dominican), in Kaffa, Crimea. Bodleian Library, Oxford, Pococke 241 (brought to Lahore for Akbar I in 1008-09/1600): Gregory, pp. 1322f. Copies by Jeronimo Xavier in National Library, Lisbon, 7964, 7965 (Basset, p. 7); Escorial Library, Madrid, 1921 (Casiri, p. 344); Capuchin Fathers Library, Agra, India (Hosten, p. 137). Pub. by Bishop Brian Walton in London Polyglot Bible, 1657, and A. Wheelocke (from Matthew 18:7) in London, 1657 (Darlow and Moule, p. 1201).

14th-15th centuries

—Four Judeo-Persian Pentateuch codices in Paris (Zotenberg, nos. 70-71), Leningrad (Saltykov-­Shchedrin Library, B141: Harkavy and Strack, p. 166), the Vatican Library (Pers. 61, found by Vecchietti in Lār in 1606: Assemanus, I, 435; Horn, p. 7; Le Long, pp. 232f.; Maio, p. 650; Rossi, p. 87; Paper, 1965-68), and New York (Adler B63, translation identical with that in Vatican Pers, 61: Paper, 1973, preface).

—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Lamentations, Baruch, found by Vecchietti in Hamadān. Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, Hebr. 97 (Zotenberg).

—Megilloth (Proverbs, Canticles, Ecclesiastes, Ruth, Esther), found by Vecchietti in Lār in 1012-13/1604. Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, Hebr. 117 (Zoten­berg). Asmussen, 1973.

15th century. 803-04/1401, accounts of the resurrection from Mark and Matthew, tr. in Armenian characters by Friar Hovhannes Abaranerecʿi Tabrīzī, of the Order of St. Dominic, along with transcription of Armenian Bible (Erevan, 7117: Papazian, p. 216).

16th century. 952-53/1546, Pentateuch, tr. by Jacob ben Joseph Ṭāvūs, Persian professor at Jewish Academy, Constantinople, pub. in Hebrew characters by Eleazar ben Gerson Soncino in Constantinople Polyglot Bible, 1546, transliterated into Persian characters by Thomas Hyde, pub. in London Polyglot Bible, 1657 (Darlow and Moule, p. 1202; see also Paper, 1973).

After 989/1582. Translation of the Gospels by Abu’l-­Fażl commissioned by Akbar I; no evidence trans­lation ever made.

17th century

—Psalms tr. by Jeronimo Xavier from Vulgate.

1015-16/1607. Gospels, translation of 742/1341 amended by Jeronimo Xavier from Vulgate; manuscript never found.

1027-28/1618. Psalms tr. from Hebrew and Gospels tr. from Greek, ordered by Shah ʿAbbās I in 1024­-25/1616, by John Thaddeus, Carmelite bishop of Isfahan, assisted by three mullahs and one rabbi. Psalms: Bodleian Library, Oxford, 3776. 1828 (Sachau and Ethé, p. 1050); Vatican Library, Vat. Pers. 42 (Rossi, pp. 72f.); Staatsbibliothek, Munich, 339 (Aumer, p. 132), Vienna (Flügel, III, n. 1550). Gos­pels: Bodleian Library, Oxford, 3776. 1827 (copy d. 1028-29/1619: Sachau and Ethé, p. 1050); Bibliothè­que Nationale, Paris (Blochet, IV, p. 7 n. 8).

1652. Wheelocke (see above, 718-28/1318-28, Gospels: Darlow and Moule, pp. 1201-02).

1063-1654. Genesis 1-6, tr. from Hebrew by Abhai Ḵand, convert to Judaism from Hinduism, in India, ed. by Moḥammad Saʿīd Sarmad, pub. in Dabestān al-maḏāheb (school of religious doctrines), 1809, Asmussen, 1973.

106?/165?. Gospels, tr. by Father Peter of Mother of God, Flemish Carmelite monk. Lindisiana Library, Manchester, 337 (Crawford, p. 171).

—Gospels, tr. in Armenian characters by Hovhannes Merkovz, Armenian bishop of Jolfā (d. 1715), with Hovsep Joułayecʿi, Bishop’s College, Calcutta. New Testament and part of Old Testament also translated but lost.

1657. London Polyglot; Wheelocke (see above, 742/1341, Gospels: Darlow and Moule, pp. 1201-02).

1109/1698. Gospels, tr. from Arabic in Georgian charac­ters, by order of Shah Solṭān Ḥosayn. Tbilisi, Ori­ental Fund, Institute of Manuscripts PK 55/60. Specimen passages published in Marr, 1889.

18th century

Early 18th century. Gospels, tr. by Ḥakīm Yaʿqūb Laqab Bardījān, physician from Jolfā, in Tbilisi. Erevan, Matenadaran, 8492, 304 (Anassian, col. 539).

1153-54/1741. Pentateuch, Psalms, New Testament (and Koran), tr. by Mīrzā Mahdī, court historian, assisted by two other Persian scholars, Mīr Mo­ḥammad Maʿṣūm Ḥosaynī Ḵātūnābādī and his son ʿAbd-al-Ḡānī by order of Nāder Shah. Pentateuch, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon tr. (interlinear) from Hebrew with the assistance of Bābā ben Nūrīēl and three other rabbis (Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, 2208: Blochet, IV, pp. 166-67; British Library, 4729, 2452: Margoliouth, pp. 120f. nos. 159-60;) Psalms and Proverbs ed. by Benjamin Kohen Bu­khari, Vienna, 1883 (Darlow and Moule, p. 1210); Proverbs, Jerusalem, 1885; Song of Solomon, ed. Raphael ben Phineas Nasi, Jerusalem, 1896. Gospels tr. (interlinear) from Arabic text of Vulgate, with the assistance of Bishop Philip Mary, Father Urban of St. Elisacus (vicar provincial), and Father Thomas Aquinas (Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, copy made in 1746: Blochet, IV, p. 6 n. 7; Vatican Library, Borgiani Pers. 18: Rossi, pp. 172-73). Acts, Epistles, Revelations tr. with the assistance of two Armenian Catholics, two Orthodox Armenian priests, and two Orthodox Armenian monks; no known copy.

1744. Luke, John 1, 17, pub. by Oriental Press, Halle (Darlow and Moule, p. 1202).

1793. Matthew 1-13, tr. from Greek by William Cham­bers, chief judge at Fort William, Bengal, pub. in Persian and English in Calcutta, 1795 (Darlow and Moule, p. 1202).

19th century

1804. John 1-3, pub. in Persian and English for missionaries by S. Rousseau in London (Darlow and Moule, p. 1202).

1805. Matthew, tr. by Mīrzā Moḥammad Feṭrat, an ethnic Persian, under the supervision of R. H. Colebrook, professor of Sanskrit at the College of Fort William in Bengal, and surveyor-general of Bengal, pub. by College of Fort William in Calcutta (see text; Darlow and Moule, p. 1202).

1809. Matthew, tr. by Nathaniel Sabat, an Arab from Baghdad, under the direction of Henry Martyn, chaplain of the East India Company, pub. by British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS) in Serampore (Darlow and Moule, p. 1202).

1810. New Testament, tr. by Sabat under the direction of Martyn.

1812. Gospels and Epistles, tr. by Leopoldo Sebastiani, head of the Roman Catholic missions to Persia and Qandahār. Gospels pub. by Calcutta Corresponding Committee, repub. by BFBS, 1813 (Darlow and Moule, p. 1203).

1812. New Testament, tr. from Greek, Psalms tr. from Hebrew, by Martyn, with the assistance of Mīrzā Sayyed ʿAlī Khan, of Shiraz. New Testament pub. by Russian Bible Society in St. Petersburg, 1814, 1815; with Psalms by BFBS in Calcutta, 1816; trans­literated into Hebrew characters by Logīn at Herat and pub. by BFBS in London, 1847 (Darlow and Moule, p. 1203).

1827. Genesis, tr. from Arabic by Mīrzā Jaʿfar, lecturer in Persian and Arabic at St. Petersburg University, rev. by S. Lee, professor, and Mīrzā Ebrāhīm, lecturer in Persian, both of East India College, Haileybury, pub. by BFBS, London (Darlow and Moule, p. 1204).

1828. Pentateuch, tr. by Thomas Robinson, chaplain at Poona and archdeacon of Madras, with the assistance of an unidentified monšī (scribe), pub. by BFBS in Calcutta (Darlow and Moule, p. 1204).

1830. Psalms, tr. by William Glen of the Scottish mission at Astrakhan, with the assistance of Ḥājī Mīrzā Ṭāleb, rev. by W. Greenfield, pub. by BFBS in London (Darlow and Moule, p. 1205).

1831. Proverbs, tr. by William Glen, with the assistance of Mīrzā ʿAbd-Allāh, of the Persian consular service, ed. by W. Greenfield and F. J. V. Seddon, professor of Oriental languages, King’s College, London, pub. by BFBS in London (Darlow and Moule, p. 1205).

1831. Jonah, tr. from Arabic by the Muslim Pīšnamāz in Shiraz, sent to Calcutta.

1834. Isaiah, tr. by Mīrzā Ebrāhīm, ed. by Francis Johnson, lecturer in Sanskrit, Bengali, and Telugu at East India College, Haileybury, pub. by BFBS in London (Darlow and Moule, p. 1205).

1835-38. Old Testament, tr. by Thomas Robinson, archdeacon of Madras. Isaiah and Jeremiah pub. by BFBS in Calcutta, 1835; Isaiah to Malachi pub. 1836; remainder pub. 1838 (Darlow and Moule, p. 1205).

1845. Old Testament, tr. from Hebrew by William Glen and Mīrzā Moḥammad Jaʿfar (historical books), rev. and corr. by Jaʿfar, pub. by United Associate Synod in Edinburgh; pub. with Martyn New Testament by BFBS in Edinburgh, 1846 (first complete Christian Bible published in Persian; Darlow and Moule, p. 1206).

1882. New Testament, rev. of Martyn version, with new tr. of Pauline Epistles, by Robert Bruce, Christian Missionary Society missionary in Punjab and Persia and BFBS representative in Iran, with the assistance of Carapet Ohannes, Armenian of Jolfā, with Ed­ward Henry Palmer, professor of Arabic, Cambridge University, pub. by BFBS in Leipzig (Darlow and Moule, p. 1207).

1893-95. Bible, Glen tr. revised by Robert Bruce, with partial new tr. of Old Testament with the assistance of A. W. Wollaston, of India, and J. Bassett and J. L. Potter, of American Presbyterian mission, pub. by BFBS in Leipzig (Darlow and Moule, p. 1209). Pentateuch, 1893, historical books, 1894, complete 1895. Transliterated into Hebrew characters by Mīrzā Nūr-Allāh and Mīrzā Ḵodādād of Tehran, pub. by BFBS in London: Psalms, 1895; Genesis, 1896; Pentateuch, 1899; books of the prophets, 1905; hagiographia, 1907; New Testament, 1909, (Darlow and Moule, p. 1210-11.)

20th century

1914. Old Testament, tr. into Bukharan dialect by Šimʿon Ḥaḵam of Bukhara and others, pub. in Jerusalem (Fischel, 1960; Paper, 1973).

1928. Bible, Bruce tr. rev. by T. W. Haig, British consul, J. L. Garland, of London Jewish Society, J. W. Hawkes, of American Presbyterian mission, W. A. Rice, of Christian Missionary Society, Sayyed Khan, and Mīrzā Nūr-Allāh, pub. by BFBS in London.

1932-34. Acts, Luke, tr. by William M. Miller, of American Presbyterian mission, pub. with commentaries by Intermission Literature Committee in Teh­ran (Nida, p. 352).

1968. Song of Solomon, tr. from French translation of J. D. Mardrus by Aḥmad Šāmlū, pub. by Ṭahūrī in Tehran.

1970. Proverbs, tr. by Tateos Michaelian, pastor of Evangelical Church of Iran, M. Tajber, and others; selected Psalms, tr. by Maʿṣūm-ʿAlī Ḵosravī and Joel Slaughter, of International Missions; pub. by Living Letters Overseas, Wheaton, Ill.

1972-76. New Testament, tr. from English and Greek by Šams Esḥāq, a physician from Kermānšāh, and Edwin H. Jaeger, an American missionary, ed. by Lewis Johnson, of American Presbyterian mission, and Mehdī Abharī, pastor of Evangelical Church of Iran; pub. by Bible Society of Iran in Tehran: Luke, 1972; John, 1973; New Testament, 1976.

1979. New Testament, tr. from English Living Bible and Greek under the general editorship of Sāro Ḵačīkī, of Assemblies of God (Filadelfia) Church of Iran, by Ḵačīkī, Mehdī Dībāj, Farīda Eršādī, and Armān Rošdī; pub. by Living Bibles International in Tehran.



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(Kenneth J. Thomas)

Originally Published: December 15, 1989

Last Updated: January 1, 2000

This article is available in print.
Vol. IV, Fasc. 2, pp. 203-206