Standard religious texts can show us a lot about how language develops. Most old manuscripts and books are can only be compared in general terms, but they cannot be used in a side by side comparison, as they record completely different circumstances.
With an easily identifiable text, dated often with great accuracy, the contrasts become plain.
Leaving aside the detailed linguistic & theological discussions, for example about the translation of the line “Forgive us our trespasses/debts/sins”, it is interesting to see not only how spelling changes, but also how the words chosen by the translators vary as they try to get the message across to the audience of their day.
Here are some translations of the opening lines of the Lord’s Prayer.
West Saxon Gospels, 10th Century: Faeder ure thu the ear tom heofonum, si thin nama gehalgod.
Wyclif Bible, 1380: Oure fadir that art in heuenes halewid be thi name.
Tyndale Bible, 1534: O oure father which arte in heven, hallowed be thy name.
King James Bible, 1611 & Book of Common Prayer, 1662: Our father which art in heauen, hallowed be thy Name.
Book of Common Prayer, revised in 1928: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name.
The New Testament in Modern English, 1963: Our Heavenly Father, may your name be honoured.
The New English Bible, 1970: Our Father in heaven thy name be hallowed.
New English version, adopted by the Church of England in 1977: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Revised English Bible, 1989: Our Father in heaven, may your name be hallowed.
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