THE RULES FOR TRANSLATING
*Report of the Committee on Versions, made to the Board of Managers of the American Bible Society, and adopted May Ist, 1851.
The King was for appointing fifty-four learned men to this great and good work; but the number actually employed upon it, in the first instance, was forty-seven. Order was also taken, that the bishops, in their several dioceses, should find what men of learning there were, who might be able to assist; and the bishops were to write to them, earnestly charging them, at the king's desire, to send in their suggestions and critical observations, that so, as his Majesty remarks, "our said intended translation may have the help and furtherance of all our principal learned men within this our kingdom."
Seventeen of the translators were to work at Westminster, fifteen at Cambridge, and as many at Oxford. Those who met at each place were divided into two companies; so that there were, in all, six distinct companies of translators. They received a set of rules for their direction.
- The first instructed them to make the "Bishop's Bible," so called, the basis of their work, altering it no further than fidelity to the originals required…
- The second rule requires that the mode then used of spelling the proper names should be retained as far as might be.
- The third rule requires "the old ecclesiastical words to be kept," such as "church" instead of "congregation."
- The fourth rule prescribes, that where a word has different meanings, that is to be preferred which has the general sanction of the most ancient Fathers, regard being had to "the propriety of the place, and the analogy of faith."
- The fifth rule directs that the divisions into chapters be altered as little as may be.
- The sixth rule, agreeably to Dr. Reynolds's wise suggestion at Hampton Court, prohibits all notes or comments, thus obliging the translators to make their version intelligible without those dangerous helps.
- The seventh rule provides for marginal references to parallel or explanatory passages.
- The eighth rule enjoins that each man in each company shall separately examine the same chapter or chapters, and put the translation into the best shape he can. The whole company must then come together, and compare what they have done, and agree on what shall stand. Thus in each company, according to the number of members, there would be from seven to ten distinct and carefully labored revisions, the whole to be compared, and digested into one copy of the portion of the Bible assigned to each particular company.
- The ninth rule directs, that as fast as any company shall, in this manner, complete any one of the sacred books, it is to be sent to each of the other companies, to be critically reviewed by them all.
- The tenth rule prescribes, that if any company, upon reviewing a book so sent to them, find any thing doubtful or unsatisfactory, they are to note the places, and their reasons for objecting thereto, and send it back to the company from whence it came. If that company should not concur in the suggestions thus made, the matter was to be finally arranged at a general meeting of the chief persons of all the companies at the end of the work. Thus every part of the Bible would be fully considered, first, separately, by each member of the company to which it was originally assigned; secondly, by that whole company m concert; thirdly, by the other five companies severally; and fourthly, by the general committee of revision. By this judicious plan, each part must have been closely scrutinized at least fourteen times.
- The eleventh rule provides, that in case of any special difficulty or obscurity, letters shall be issued by authority to any learned man in the land, calling for his judgment thereon.
- The twelfth rule requires every bishop to notify the clergy of his diocese as to the work in hand, and to "move and charge as many as, being skilful in the tongues, have taken pains in that kind, to send his particular observations" to some one of the companies.
- The thirteenth rule appoints the directors of the different companies.
- The fourteenth rule names five other translations to be used, "when they agree better with the text than the Bishop's Bible." These are Tyndale's; Matthew's, which is by Tyndale and John Rogers; Coverdale's; Whitchurch's, which is "Cranmer's,'' or the "Great Bible," and was printed by Whitchurch; and the Geneva Bible. The object of this regulation was to avoid, as far as possible, the suspicious stamp of novelty. To the careful observance of these injunctions, which, with the exception of the first five, are highly judicious, is to be ascribed much of the excellence of the completed translation.
To these rules, Which were delivered to the Translators, there appears to have been added another, providing that, besides the directors of the six companies, "three or four of the most ancient and grave divines in either of the Universities, not employed in translating be designated by the Vice-Chancellors and Heads of Colleges, to be overseers of the Translation, as well Hebrew as Greek, for the better observation of the fourth rule."
The learned Selden says, that when the Translators met to compare what they had done, each of them held in his hand a Bible in some language. If any thing struck any one as requiring alteration, he spoke; otherwise the reaqing went on. The final revision was made, not by six men, as the tenth of the above rules would seem to indicate, but by twelve. At least, such was the statement made in the Synod of Dort in--1618, by Dr. Samuel Weird, who was one of the most active of the Translators. It seems to have been carried through the press by Dr. Miles Smith and Bishop Bilson, aided perhaps by Archbishop Bancroft and other prelates. All the expense of making and printing the translation was defrayed by Robert Barker, "Printer to the King's most gxcellent Maiestie." The copyright thus cost him three thousand five hundred pounds; and his heirs and assigns retained their privilege down to the year 1709…Popery, apparently believing that Ignorance is the mother of devotion, and especially ignorance of the Word of God, would fain have supplanted it by priestly inventions and monkish corruptions…
The printing of the English Bible has proved to be by far the mightiest barrier ever reared to repel the advance of Popery, and to damage all the resources of the Papacy. Originally intended for the five or six millions who dwelt within the narrow limits of the British Islands, it at once formed and fixed their language, till then unsettled; and has since gone with that language to the isles and shores of every sea. And now, during the lapse of almost two and a half centuries, it has gladdened the hearts, and still gladdens the hearts of millions upon millions, not only in Great Britain, but throughout North America and the Indies, in portions of Africa, and in Australia. At the present day, the English is probably the vernacular tongue of more millions than of any other one language under heaven; and the English Bible has brought and still brings home the knowledge of God's revealed truth to a myriad more of minds than ever received it through the original tongues. The Translators little foresaw the vast results and immeasurable influence of what they had thus done, both for time and for eternity. Venerated men! their veny names are now hardly known to more than a few persons; yet, in the providence of God, the fruits of their labors have spread to far distant climes; have laid broad and deep the foundations of mighty empires; have afforded to multitudes strength to endure adversity, and grace to resist the temptations of prosperity; and only the revelations of the judgment-day can disclose how many millions and millions, through the instrumentality of their labors, have been made wise unto salvation.
Surely it is time, that the names of these venerated men were rescued from such unjust oblivion; and that at least some considerable part of those who have received such incalculable benefits at their hands, should know to whom they are so deeply indebted. The sensation of gratitude is one of pleasure; and it is hoped that this little book may serve to awaken it in many a bosom, both toward the men who wrought so good a work, "and made all coming ages their own," and toward Him who gave them their skill, and the opportunity to exert it in thus widely diffusing his saving truth.
"Who were the
King James Version translators?"