Bible society

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A Bible society is a non-profit organization (usually ecumenical in makeup) devoted to translating, publishing, distributing the Bible at affordable costs and advocating its credibility and trustworthiness in contemporary cultural life. Traditionally Bible Society editions contain Scripture, without any notes or commentary; but in recent decades this principle has been relaxed somewhat, and such editions typically have what is generally accepted to be "non-sectarian" notes on alternate translations of words, or variations in the different available manuscripts.


History of Bible production

The production and distribution of bibles are issues that have engaged the attention of Christian leaders for centuries. In an extant letter, dated 331, Emperor Constantine requested Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, to provide him with fifty copies of the Old and New Testaments for use in the principal churches in Constantinople. In 797, Charlemagne commissioned Alcuin to prepare an emended text of the Vulgate; multiple copies of this text were created, not always accurately, in the famous writing schools at Tours.

The first book printed in Europe was the Latin Bible, and Copinger estimates that 124 editions of the Vulgate had been issued by the end of the 15th century. The Italian Bible was printed a dozen times before 1500, and eighteen editions of the German Bible had already been published before Martin Luther's version appeared. From mediaeval time and then again accompanying the Protestant Reformation, there was a marked increase in interest in the scriptures. Notwithstanding the oppositional attitude adopted by the Roman Catholic Church at and after the Council of Trent (1545-1563), the translation and circulation of the Bible were undertaken with greater zeal, and in a more systematic fashion.

Bible Societies are an attractive form of common action for Christians who take the Bible seriously.

History of the Bible Societies

The modern Bible Society movement dates back to the foundation of the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1804 when a group of Christians sought to address the problem of a lack of affordable Bibles in Welsh for Welsh-speaking Christians. This was highlighted by a young girl called Mary Jones who walked over 20 miles to get a Bible in Bala.

Although perceived as Protestant, from the early days the British and Foreign Bible Society was officially ecumenical, and allowed inclusion of the Apocrypha. As a reaction to the inclusion of these extra-canonical books, and other issues, the Trinitarian Bible Society was founded in 1831.

Pope Gregory XVI in his 1844 encyclical Inter Praecipuas condemned both bible societies and "the publication, dissemination, reading, and possession of vernacular translations of sacred Scriptures", and subsequently Catholics did not officially participate in the Society. This encyclical was reversed by Vatican II in the 1960s.Template:Fact

The British and Foreign Bible Society extended its work to England, India, Europe and beyond. Auxiliary branches were set up all over the world which later became Bible Societies in their own right. Today the United Bible Societies co-ordinates the work of these separate Bible Societies. Each Bible Society is a non-denominational Christian network which works to translate, revise, print, and distribute affordable Bibles in their own land, according to the demands of all the churches in that land. Nowadays Bible Societies print Bibles according to the canons of the countries they are in e.g. Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox, and inter-confessional versions. Bible Societies work with other Christian agencies and Bible translations are done on an ecumenical basis, through The International Forum of Bible Agencies.

The article Bible Societies in the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition contains a comprehensive review of the recent history and then-current statistics of bible societies in Europe and America.

United States

In the United States, Bible societies flourished in the first half of the 19th century. In addition to the American Bible Society, a number of state and regional Bible Societies were established prior to the Civil War and remain active to this day distributing Bibles and other literature to prisons, hospitals and shelters. Most of these regional societies are affiliated with the National Association of State and Regional Bible Societies The oldest Bible Society in the United States is the Pennsylvania Bible Society, founded in 1808. The Bible society movement spread west as far as Chicago where the Chicago Bible Society was founded in 1840, making it only five years younger than the city itself.

Current Bible Societies

United Bible Societies

The United Bible Societies (UBS) is a worldwide association of Bible societies. As of January 2006 the UBS has 141 member societies, working in more than 200 countries and territories.Template:Fact They include:

Non-UBS Bible Societies

Other translation groups

Non-translation groups


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