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Bible translations into Vietnamese

The modern Vietnamese alphabet chữ Quốc ngữ was created by Portuguese and Italian Jesuit missionaries and institutionalized by Alexandre de Rhodes with the first printing of Catholic texts in Vietnamese in 1651, but not the Bible. Some New Testament extracts were translated and printed in catechisms in Thailand in 1872.

Jean Bonet (1844–1907), of the Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales, Paris, translated the Gospel of Luke from French to Vietnamese in 1890 for the Protestant Convention in Paris.[1]

In 1916 the Catholic Church published Albert Schlicklin's Latin-Vietnamese parallel text Bible in Paris by the Paris Foreign Missions Society. Known under Schlicklin's Vietnamese name Cố Chính Linh, the Cố Chính Linh version was still the most used Bible among Catholics in 1970s.[2][3]

The organized work of British and Foreign Bible Society in Vietnam began in 1890. The first translation from Greek, and still the standard Protestant Vietnamese version, was that of William Cadman (New Testament 1923, Old Testament 1926).[4] He worked for the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) and co-operated with the British and Foreign Bible Society. The whole Bible was published in 1934 and is published by the Bible Society in Vietnam as the Old Version.


Questions are often asked about the various Vietnamese translations of the Bible which are being promoted and circulated. Here is a summary complied with input from knowledgeable Vietnamese and missionary leaders, research on websites and consultation with the publishers of the various versions. Some points before I list the main versions circulating:

• Vietnam is blessed by several Bible translations in the Vietnamese language. • Most translations tack toward the "formal correspondence" theory of translation where faithfulness to the original languages is of prime importance, though in addition some strive for contemporary language, or tailor the language to certain education levels. • A detailed article called "The History of Vietnamese Bible Translation" (up until 1996), including Catholic translation, is available on the website. • Vietnamese Bible translation and publication is large and competitive business. Controversy appears to affect each translation effort. • Bible printing is a lucrative business for Vietnamese printers, and virtually any translation will readily get official permission to print. Government permission to print says nothing about the quality of a translation. • The translators and publishers claim various relationships for their versions with the original Greek and Hebrew texts. Some translators have studied Greek and/or Hebrew in seminary. Some use Hebrew and Greek interlinear Bibles in their work. One translation reports it is back-checked against the original texts. One translation reports it was done directly from the original texts. The 1926 Cadman/Phan Khoi version, and other secondary language versions are often used in the translation process. • Some translations are one-person efforts while others employed multiple translators and consulted with recognized Bible translation experts from organizations such as Wycliffe, the United Bible Societies or the International Bible Society. • Most versions are still inputting revisions in subsequent printings. • The practice of distributing Bibles free-of-charge in Vietnam, questionable as it may be to some, is now widely established. So the resources behind the respective versions will affect their current distribution and use. Eventually the better versions will self-select. • Remarks here have input from the publishers and promoters of the various versions. But summaries and opinions are mine. This is for background information, not promotion of any version. More information is available at the publishers’ websites provided.

Main versions in circulation (roughly in order of appearance):

1. The original 1926 Cadman/Phan Khoi version - still being printed and most widely used. It was a stroke of missionary genius to employ a leading Vietnamese literary figure of the time in the translation. William Cadman and Phan Khoi also had the then-recently-completed Latin-Vietnamese diglot Catholic Bible to use. (A study is currently underway to see how much the Catholic version was used as a source.) They would also likely have used available English, French and Chinese versions. Grace Cadman, who also worked on this Bible, had studied the Greek and Hebrew at a graduate level in a Canadian university. There have been a number of printings of this Bible since official permission to print Bibles in Vietnam was resumed in 1995. Well over a million Scripture portions, NTs and whole Bibles have been printed since 1995.

In 1998 a "corrected version" of this Bible was published. The corrections were chiefly done by Pham Xuan Thieu and Vietnam Ministries Inc. (VMI) and finalized by Le Cao Quy who represented the UBS in Vietnam at the time.

In 2010 a UBS-supervised "revised version" of the original 1926 Bible was published. It incorporates the "corrected version" above, and further involved both indigenous Vietnamese and Viet Kieu in the revision process. The 1926 version gained a kind of King James Bible status during the first three generations of its life and the work on this "revised version" could be compared to what was done in the New King James Bible in updating archaic language. This Bible is likely to become or remain the dominant translation, especially in liturgical settings.

In 1966 the Vietnamese Bible Society was established. The Bible societies distributed 53,170 Bible examples and 120,170 New Testament examples in Vietnamese within the country in 2005. In 2008 the New Vietnamese Bible was published.

2. Before 1975 the respected teacher, Dr. Le Hoang Phu, began a "Living Bible" or "Contemporary Translation". He continued after he left Vietnam in 1975. A draft copy of the whole Bible in this translation was published by VMI in 1994. But the finalization of the project and larger printing and distribution has been delayed since Dr. Phu's death. However, the final revision and printing of this contemporary translation is anticipated in 2013 or 2014. It is expected to be especially suitable to use with non-Christians. It would likely be the translation closest to using the "meaning equivalent" theory of translation.

3. In 1977 Nhóm Phiên dịch Các Giờ kinh Phụng vụ (NPD-CGKPV), a working group established in 1971 to translate the Liturgy of the Hours, started translating the New Testament. It had been completed in 1993 and had the permission to publish one year later; after that, the whole Bible translation with some short references had been completed in 1998.[5] This version, which has been published since 1999, is named KPA and is the most used Catholic Bible in Vietnam nowadays.[6][7] The group has been continuing to revise it in the version called KPB.[8]

Before NPD-CGKPV, there were 5 complete Catholic Bible translations, all by individual priests: Albert Schlicklin (1913), Gérard Gagnon (1963), Trần Đức Huân (1970), Nguyễn Thế Thuấn (1976), and Cardinal Trịnh Văn Căn (1985).[9]

4. The "New Vietnamese Bible" (ban dich moi) translation is a project of the Texas-based Vietnamese Bible Inc. (VBI) and most prominently associated with Pastor Tran Dao. It was conceived when Vietnamese refugees fleeing Vietnam to the US after the communist takeover identified a need for a new translation. The UBS supported this and has walked with VBI throughout the project. This translation benefited from a number of Vietnamese pastors of various denominations working 16 years, with training and supervision by UBS and WBT. The nvbible website states, "The New Vietnamese Bible was translated directly from the Hebrew and Greek texts." Completed in 2002, it is available in several New Testament and whole Bible formats, including a NT pocket version.

The NVB translation has also been printed in a diglot version alongside the New English Translation. It is diglot but not parallel. VBI is well-resourced for distribution and has extensive plans to promote this Bible for evangelism through churches in Vietnam. More than 800,000 NTs and whole Bibles have been printed to date and it would currently be the second most available version in Vietnam. See for more information.

5. Mr. Pham Quang Tam's Popular (or Easy-to-Read) Version (ban pho thong) said to be aimed at "common people", is reported to be based on the New Century Version developed by the World Bible Translation Center. The WBTC specializes in simple translations aimed at those with 6th to 8th grade education. Mr. Tam reports that the translation "went through a ‘back translation’ process through which Greek and Hebrew scholars of WBTC check for accuracy." WBTC printed 100,000 copies of this Popular Version for the 2011 Protestant Centennial in Vietnam. Now merged with the Bible League the organization is raising funds to print another 100,000 in Vietnam. WBTC website is

6. Pastor Dang Ngoc Bau's translation is called the 2011 Bible. Pastor Bau began this translation in 1995, before any new translations were available, for his own spiritual nourishment, preaching and teaching. His target was new Viet Kieu believers with high school education. Now completed, though still a work-in-progress according to Pastor Bau, this Bible is promoted by the Vietnamese Bible Association, Inc. More information can be found at the VBA website. The translation is available on and

7. Another translation based on the NIV is being led by Ho Xuan Phu of Vietnamese Ministries Inc. (VMI) with some consultation with the UBS, IBS and WBT. It is being published as a parallel diglot with the English NIV in order to target students and young people, many of whom are studying English. The NT is done and circulating. The goal is to finish the whole Bible by 2015. It is also planned to eventually publish this translation in a Vietnamese-only version. Contact <[email protected]> or for more information.

Text examples

Translation John 3:16
Kinh Thánh - Bản dịch 1926 Vì Ðức Chúa Trời yêu thương thế gian, đến nỗi đã ban Con một của Ngài, hầu cho hễ ai tin Con ấy không bị hư mất mà được sự sống đời đời.
Kinh Thánh - Bản dịch của Nhóm phiên dịch các giờ kinh phụng vụ, KPA (1994) Thiên Chúa yêu thế gian đến nỗi đã ban Con Một, để ai tin vào Con của Người thì khỏi phải chết, nhưng được sống muôn đời.


  1. ^ Tʻoung pao Tʻung Pao. Tʻoung Pao. International Journal of Chinese Studies; 1849-1925 ed. by Henri Cordier, Gustaaf Schlegel, Edouard Chavannes - 1907 Dictionnaire Annamite-Français (langue officielle et langue vulgaire) par Jean Bonet Professeur à l'École spéciale des Langues Orientales vivantes et à l'École coloniale
  2. ^ Bulletin de la Société des études indo-chinoises de Saigon: Volume 45 Société des études indo-chinoises - 1970 "En comparaison avec la traduction complète de la Sainte-Bible du père Albertus Schlicklin (en vietnamien Cô Chinh Linh) éditée en 1916 et celle du père Gérard Gagnon (en vietnamien Tâm Ngoc) publiée en fascicules au cours de la dernière
  3. ^ Die Heilige Schrift in den katholischen Missionen: Johannes Beckmann - 1966 Neuen Testamentes in Angriff nahm, war der Elsässer Albert Schlicklin Infolge seiner hervorragenden Kenntnis der annamitischen Sprache war er wie kein anderer zu diesem"
  4. ^ "The History of Vietnamese Bible Translation". Retrieved 2015-08-30. 
  5. ^ Đỗ, Hữu Nghiêm. "Kinh Thánh tiếng Việt hình thành thế nào?" (in Vietnamese). Committee on the Bible, Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam. Archived from the original on 2015-05-18. 
  6. ^ "Đôi điều góp ý: Một bản dịch Kinh Thánh chính thức". Retrieved 2015-08-30. 
  7. ^ "Những Ðề Nghị Về Cách Viết Tên Riêng Tiếng Nước Ngoài Và Ký Hiệu Các Sách Thánh Kinh". Retrieved 2015-08-30. 
  8. ^ "Bản dịch Kinh Thánh". NPD-CGKPV. 2014-05-20. Retrieved 2015-08-30. 
  9. ^ "Các bản dịch toàn bộ Kinh Thánh sang tiếng Việt". NPD-CGKPV. Retrieved 6 November 2015. 

External links