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Bible Dictionaries

Morrish Bible Dictionary

Version, the Authorised

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On the accession of James (A.D. 1603) there were more outcries for a new translation of the Bible, but the suggestion was as strongly discountenanced by others. It was discussed at the Hampton Court Conference in 1604, but nothing definitely settled.

The king, however, took up the matter: it would be to the glory of his reign. He proceeded to make the needed arrangements, fifty-four scholars were chosen, though only forty-seven names appear in the lists in Fuller, etc.: some were connected with 'the church,' and others taken from the Puritans. The king exhorted the clergy to contribute 1000 marks, and he was to be informed of what each man gave, intimating that when any vacancies occurred, he would think of the translators for preferment. The colleges were to give free board and lodging to such as came from country places.

The king drew up a list of instructions, among which were

1. The Bishops' Bible was to be followed, being as little altered as the original would permit.

2. The translations of Tyndale, Coverdale, Matthew, Whitchurch (that is, Cranmer's), and the Geneva to be used when they agree better with the text than the Bishops' Bible.

3. The old ecclesiastical names were to be retained, as church, bishop, etc.

4. When any word had various significations, that was to be retained which had been most commonly used by the most eminent fathers, if suitable to the propriety of the place and the analogy of faith.

5. No marginal notes were to be added, only such as explained the Hebrew and Greek words.

6. Marginal references were to be added. (These were but few in the edition of 1611, most of those in modern editions were added afterwards.)

Then followed instructions as to the company being divided into committees; each person was to bring his own alterations, and these were to be considered and settled in each committee, and then passed on to the other committees. The work of translation occupied three years, and then six of the company were chosen to superintend its publication. The Company of Stationers gave, in instalments, thirty pounds to each of them for their expenses.

The Bible was issued in 1611, and was often re-printed; by degrees errors crept in, some being very serious. A revision of the whole was undertaken in the year 1683 by Dr. Scattergood; and it was again examined in 1769 by Dr. Blayney, who revised the punctuation, corrected the italics, added the translations of the proper names, altered the summaries of the chapters, greatly added to the marginal references, and amended some of the chronology.

The Dedication, with its flattery first of King James, and then of Queen Elizabeth, is commonly inserted in all editions; but the Preface is seldom given. It makes a sort of apology for the work they had done: it was not to make a new translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one: "their endeavour was to make a good one better, or out of many good ones one principal good one." They had endeavoured to take a middle course between the Puritans who had forsaken "the old ecclesiastical words," and the obscurity of the Papists in "retaining foreign words of purpose to darken the sense.' They justify their plan of translating the same word by different words on the legitimate plea that the same word could not always be translated by the same English word; but they varied the translation where the sense was the same, under the plea that it would have been advancing some words to "a place in the Bible always," and banishing for ever others of like quality: curiously adding "niceness in words was always counted the next step to trifling." John 5 gives an instance of such variations. The word κρίσις is translated 'judgement ' in John 5:22,27,30; 'condemnation' in John 5:24; and 'damnation' in John 5:29; 'judgement' suits well in all these verses.

The translation was highly extolled by many as next to perfection, but was equally criticised and condemned by some. Hugh Broughton, described as the greatest Hebrew scholar of the age, but who had not been invited to help in the work, declared he "would rather be torn in pieces by wild horses than impose such a version on the poor churches of England"! This is a verdict that has been annulled by the praise bestowed upon it by thousands of learned men ever since, who, without saying that the translation is perfect, have yet spoken in the highest terms of its excellence as a whole, and indeed this opinion is evidenced in that it has held its ground fornearly 400 years, and has been the means of carrying the gospel and God's revealed truth wherever in the world the English language is spoken, to the salvation of lost sinners, and to the comfort and edification of believers.

And this is not all: it is a noteworthy fact that amidst all the divisions of Christendom, with its various discussions, all have been content to appeal to the same English Authorised Version.

The version in 1611 was so gladly hailed that five editions were printed in the succeeding three years. The Geneva Version was not, however, eclipsed by it: for between 1611 and 1617 it had as many as thirteen reprints.

Though the Authorised Version was said to have been translated from the Hebrew and the Greek, there is no intimation either in the instructions given to the translators nor in their preface as to what Greek text was used. Being a revision rather than a translation they might have simply followed the Bishops' Bible in this respect, but they did not do that, and it is uncertain what text they followed.

It is commonly understood that the Authorised Version corresponds with the 'common Greek text,' as given, for instance, in Stephen's 1550. Beza's text came after that of Stephen, and those of Elzevir were not then published. But the A.V. in about 28 places follows neither Stephen nor Beza, so that it appears they did not follow any strict rule as to the text they adopted. The differences are not of great importance and a few of them have been altered in modern reprints.

To show the cost of the early editions of the English New Testaments, it may be mentioned that in 1429 Nicholas Belward was accused of having in his possession a New Testament which he had bought in London for four marks and forty pence (£2 16s. 8d.) a sum equal in value to more than £40 in modern times. Now, 1899, a New Testament can be purchased for one penny, and a Bible for six pence.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Morrish, George. Entry for 'Version, the Authorised'. Morrish Bible Dictionary. 1897.

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