British Bibles

The British Isles are the islands of the western Atlantic archipelago of Britain and Ireland and surrounding islands and islets separated from the European continent by the English Channel. Within the British Isles there are full Bible translations in English, Welsh, Scots Gaelic, Irish Gaelic and Manx.

Bible portions were first translated in Anglo-Saxon by the Venerable Bede about 700 AD.
The first complete Bible into English was made by John Wycliffe in the 1300s. Wycliffe translated the Bible from Latin. The first English Bible made directly from Hebrew and Greek was by William Tyndale in 1525. This was the first English Bible to be printed using a printing press. When King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England he got together many of the best scholars and authorised a new translation. In 1611 the Authorised Bible was produced and was the most popular Bible for 300 years and is still used today. It is recognised for the beauty of its words.
Today the Bible Society produces the Good News Bible (GNB) and the Contemporary English Version (CEV) which are modern translations, as well as others.

The first Welsh Bible was authorised by Queen Elizabeth I. The New Testament was published in 1567 and the first complete Bible in 1588, translated by William Morgan. In 1988 the British & Foreign Bible Society published a New Welsh Bible (Y Beibl Cymraeg Newydd). This has now been revised. Arfon Jones is working on a translation into colloquial Welsh.

The first Scots Gaelic New Testament was published in 1767 and the first complete Bible was produced in 1801. The Scottish Bible Society plan to produce a Bible in modern Scots Gaelic.

The first Irish New Testament was published in 1602 and the first complete Bible was produced in 1685.

The first Manx New Testament was published in 1767 and the first complete Bible was published in 1773.

Bible portions were first produced in Cornish in 1936. A complete translation of the Bible into modern Cornish is currently being undertaken and will be published by Spyrys y Gernow.

BSL is the language of Deaf people in Great Britain. A translation project has begun to translate the Bible into BSL. They are currently working on the gospel of Mark.


English has many dialects and varieties. The English spoken in the USA is usually referred to as American English. It is a collection of dialects of English which differ in slang, some vocabulary, some word usage, some grammar, some spellings and some pronunciation. It is mutually understandable with the English of Great Britain (sometimes called British English), from which it is derived.

In many respects American English is more conservative than British English and often preserves the words and spellings taken to North America by the original English colonists e.g.
plow is the American spelling of plough, but an archaic spelling in British English
fall is the American word for autumn, but the word has fallen out of use in British English in that meaning
the grammatical form gotten instead of got is archaic in British English but current in the USA
the Latin ending -or is used in American English instead of -our in British English
the Greek ending -ize is used in American English instead of -ise more common in British English

The standard English of India, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Commonwealth and some other countries where English is used follows the conventions of British English. It is often therefore called International English to distinguish it from American English.

Books which originate in Great Britain are sometimes americanised (spelt americanized in the USA) for the USA with American spellings. Typical differences in spelling are:
the -or/-our ending e.g. color (USA), colour (UK)
the -am/-amme ending e.g. program (USA), programme (UK)
the -og/-ogue ending e.g. dialog (USA), dialogue (UK)
the -ter/-tre ending e.g. theater (USA), theatre (UK)

The Authorised Bible (AV), is known as the King James Version (KJV) in the USA and is sometimes found with archaic spellings, but many of those spellings e.g. plow instead of plough, were in fact the original spellings used in the Bible.

There are enough differences between American English and British or International English that many books, including Bibles, are produced in an "American" edition and a "British" or "International" edition.

Bible translations which originate in the USA e.g. the Revised Standard Version (RSV), the Good News Bible (GNB) and the Contemporary English Version (CEV) are often printed in an anglicised (spelt anglicized in the USA) version for the UK and Commonwealth markets.

Where measurements are translated there is the added question of which system is used in which country. English measurements such as pints, pounds, and miles are current in the USA and the UK but archaic in some Commonwealth countries, and unheard of elsewhere. Metric measurements such as litres, kilogrammes and kilometres are used in most of the world. When Bibles are anglicised to form an international edition they are therefore often converted to metric measurements, even though those measurements maybe unfamiliar in the UK market. Where metric measurements are used in the USA they are spelt with the -er ending instead of the -re ending for litre (ilter) and metre (meter), and with the -am ending instead of the -amme ending on the word gramme (gram).

By avoiding words and phrases that are unique to one part of the world e.g. Americanisms, a more unified edition may be possible. Words which have one international spelling can be adopted instead of words with two spellings e.g. use the word "wit" instead of homor/humour. Sometimes this is not possible especially where colloquial language is desired. An attempt at a unified edition is the Global CEV.

Where biblical measurements are translated into modern measurements a unified edition is more difficult, because even if metric were adopted as a world-wide measurement system the base words litre, metre and gramme are spelt differently in American English and International English.