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Arabic is a first language to more than two hundred million people. Additionally, millions of Muslims around the world study Arabic at home, in schools and in universities, since the Qur’an is written in Arabic and all Islamic terms are Arabic.
Arabic translations of Biblical material date back as early as the second century, but the language had no clear shape or form until the text of the Qur’an was settled and Arabic became the standard tongue of the Islamic world in the late seventh century. Printed copies of parts of the Holy Scriptures in Arabic became available from 1516 onwards, although the entire Bible was not published until 1645. However in the nineteenth century pressure for a wholly improved Arabic Bible grew and it was eventually recognised that a fresh translation needed to be made, using the Greek and Hebrew texts.
Smith-Van Dyck Arabic Bible
Eli Smith, a Yale graduate and missionary in the Arab world, commenced his translation work in 1834. Dr Smith had knowledge of Biblical Hebrew and Greek, other Semitic languages, ancient Greek, Latin, Turkish, Maltese and Italian, and so was able to study old printed Scriptures with competence and authority. His long and arduous labours in preparing an acceptable type font in Arabic (requiring around 1,800 individual characters!) culminated in his ‘Beirut Type’ becoming the universal model of printed Arabic. By the time Smith died in 1857, Cornelius van Alen van Dyck, a graduate of Jefferson Medical College and student of theology, had spent seventeen years as a medical missionary in Lebanon, making him an ideal successor in the work. The Smith-Van Dyck Arabic Bible, first printed in Beirut in 1865, became accepted as the standard Bible throughout the Arabic-speaking world and is, in essence, what the Society publishes today.
The TBS Arabic Bible
The original, classical edition, however, can be difficult for twenty-first century Arabic readers to understand due to its limited vowelling. The Society therefore produced a more fully vowelled edition in 2011, which has been well received by Arabic speakers around the world. Our prayer is that these Scriptures will prove to be a blessing and a means of salvation to many.