The English Version of the New Testament here presented to the reader is a Revision of the Translation published in the year of Our Lord 1611, and commonly known by the name of the Authorised Version.

That Translation was the work of many hands and of several generations. The foundation was laid by William Tyndale. His translation of the New Testament was the true primary Version. The Versions that followed were either substantially reproductions of Tyndale’s translation in its final shape, or revisions of Versions that had been themselves almost entirely based on it. Three successive stages may be recognized in this continuous work of authoritative revision: first, the publication of the Great Bible of 1539-41 in the reign of Henry VIII; next, the publication of the Bishops’ Bible of 1568 and 1572 in the reign of Elizabeth; and lastly, the publication of the King’s Bible of 1611 in the reign of James I. Besides these, the Genevan Version of 1560, itself founded on Tyndale’s translation, must here be named; which, though not put forth by authority, was widely circulated in this country, and largely used by King James’ Translators. Thus the form in which the English New Testament has now been read for 270 years was the result of various revisions made between 1525 and 1611; and the present Revision is an attempt, after a long interval, to follow the example set by a succession of honoured predecessors.

I. Of the many points of interest connected with the Translation of 1611, two require special notice; first, the Greek Text which it appears to have represented; and secondly, the character of the Translation itself.

1. With regard to the Greek Text, it would appear that, if to some extent the Translators exercised an independent judgement, it was mainly in choosing amongst readings contained in the principal editions of the Greek Text that had appeared in the sixteenth century. Wherever they seem to have followed a reading which is not found in any of those editions, their rendering may probably be traced to the Latin Vulgate. Their chief guides appear to have been the later editions of Stephanus and of Beza, and also, to a certain extent, the Complutensian Polyglott. All these were founded for the most part on manuscripts of late date, few in number, and used with little critical skill. But in those days it could hardly have been otherwise. Nearly all the more ancient of the documentary authorities have become known only within the last two centuries; some of the most important of them, indeed, with the last few years. Their publication has called forth not only improved editions of the Greek Text, but a succession of instructive discussions on the variations which have been brought to light, and on the best modes of distinguishing original readings from changes introduced in the course of transcription. While therefore it has long been the opinion of all scholars that the commonly received text needed thorough revision, it is but recently that materials have been acquired for executing such a work with even approximate completeness.

2. The character of the Translation itself will be best estimated by considering the leading rules under which it was made, and the extent to which these rules appear to have been observed.

The primary and fundamental rule was expressed in the following terms:—‘The ordinary Bible read in the Church, commonly called the Bishops’ Bible, to be followed, and as little altered as the truth of the Original will permit.’ There was, however, this subsequent provision:—‘These translations to be used, when they agree better with the text than the Bishops’ Bible: Tindale’s, Matthew’s, Coverdale’s, Whitchurch’s, Geneva.’ The first of these rules, which was substantially the same as that laid down at the revision of the Great Bible in the reign of Elizabeth, was strictly observed. The other rule was but partially followed. The Translators made much use of the Genevan Version. They do not however appear to have frequently returned to the renderings of the other Versions named in the rule, where those Versions differed from the Bishops’ Bible. On the other hand, their work shows evident traces of the influence of a Version not specified in the rules, the Rhemish, made from the Latin Vulgate, but by scholars conversant with the Greek Original.

Another rule, on which it is stated that those in authority laid great stress, related to the rendering of words that admitted of different interpretations. It was as follows:—‘When a word hath divers significations, that to be kept which hath been most commonly used by the most of the ancient fathers, being agreeable to the propriety of the place and the analogy of the faith.’ With this rule was associated the following, on which equal stress appears to have been laid:—‘The old ecclesiastical words to be kept, viz. the word Church not to be translated Congregation, &c.’ This latter rule was for the most part carefully observed; but it may be doubted whether, in the case of words that admitted of different meanings, the instructions were at all closely followed. In dealing with the more difficult words of this class, the Translators appear to have paid much regard to traditional interpretations, and especially to the authority of the Vulgate; but, as to the large residue of words which might properly fall under the rule, they used considerable freedom. Moreover they profess in their Preface to have studiously adopted a variety of expression which would now be deemed hardly consistent with the requirements of faithful translation. They seem to have been guided by the feeling that their Version would secure for the words they used a lasting place in the language; and they express a fear lest they should ‘be charged (by scoffers) with some unequal dealing towards a great number of good English words,’ which, without this liberty on their part, would not have a place in the pages of the English Bible. Still it cannot be doubted that they carried this liberty too far, and that the studied avoidance of uniformity in the rendering of the same words, even when occurring in the same context, is one of the blemishes in their work.

A third leading rule was of a negative character, but was rendered necessary by the experience derived from former Versions. The words of the rule are as follows:—‘No marginal notes at all to be affixed, but only for the explanations of the Hebrew or Greek words which cannot without some circumlocution so briefly and fitly be expressed in the text.’ Here again the Translators used some liberty in their application of the rule. Out of more than 760 marginal notes originally appended to the Authorised Version of the New Testament, only a seventh part consists of explanations or literal renderings; the great majority of the notes being devoted to the useful and indeed necessary purpose of placing before the reader alternative renderings which it was judged that the passage or the words would fairly admit. The notes referring to variations in the Greek Text amount to about thirty-five.

Of the remaining rules it may be sufficient to notice one, which was for the most part consistently followed:—‘The names of the prophets and the holy writers, with the other names of the text, to be retained, as nigh as may be, accordingly as they were vulgarly used.’ The Translators had the also the liberty, in ‘any place of special obscurity,’ to consult those who might be qualified to give an opinion.

Passing from these fundamental rules, which should be borne in mind by any one who would rightly understand the nature and character of the Authorised Version, we must call attention to the manner in which the actual work of the translation was carried on. The New Testament was assigned to two separate Companies, the one consisting of eight members, sitting at Oxford, the other consisting of seven members, sitting at Westminster. There is no reason to believe that these Companies ever sat together. They communicated to each other, and likewise to the four Companies to which the Old Testament and the Apocrypha had been committed, the results of their labors; and perhaps afterwards reconsidered them: but the fact that the New Testament was divided between two separate bodies of men involved a grave inconvenience, and was beyond all doubt the cause of many inconsistencies. These probably would have been much more serious, had it not been provided that there should be a final supervision of the whole Bible, by selected members from Oxford, Cambridge, and Westminster, the three centres at which the work had been carried on. These supervisors are said by one authority to have been six in number, and by another twelve. When it is remembered that this supervision was completed in nine months, we may wonder that the incongruities which remain are not more numerous.

The Companies appear to have been occupied in the actual business of revision about two years and three quarters.

Such, so far as can be gathered from the rules and modes of procedure, is the character of the time-honoured Version which we have been called upon to revise. We have had to study this great Version carefully and minutely, line by line; and the longer we have been engaged upon it the more we have learned to admire its simplicity, its dignity, its power, its happy turns of expression, its general accuracy, and, we must not fail to add, the music of its cadences, and the felicities of its rhythm. To render a work that had reached this high standard of excellence still more excellent, to increase its fidelity without destroying its charm, was the task committed to us. Of that task, and of the condition under which we have attempted its fulfilment, it will now be necessary for us to speak.

II. The present Revision had its origin in action taken by the Convocation of the Province of Canterbury in February 1870, and it has been conducted throughout on the plan laid down in the Rules drawn up by a special Committee of Convocation in the following May. Two Companies, the one for the revision of the Authorised Version of the Old Testament, and the other for the revision of the same Version of the New Testament, were formed in the manner specified in the Resolutions, and the work was commenced on the twenty-second day of June 1870. Shortly afterwards, steps were taken, under a resolution passed by both Houses of Convocation, for inviting the co-operation of American scholars; and eventually two Companies were formed in America, for the purpose of acting with the two English Companies, on the basis of the Principles and Rules drawn up by the Committee of Convocation.

The fundamental Resolutions adopted by the Convocation of Canterbury on the third and fifth days of May 1870 were as follows:—

‘1. That it is desirable that a revision of the Authorised Version of the Holy Scriptures be undertaken.

‘2. That the revision be so conducted as to comprise both marginal renderings and such emendations as it may be found necessary to insert in the text of the Authorised Version.

‘3. That in the above resolutions we do not contemplate any new translation of the Bible, or any alteration of the language, except where in the judgement of the most competent scholars such change is necessary.

‘4. That in such necessary changes, the style of the language employed in the existing Version be closely followed.

‘5. That it is desirable that Convocation should nominate a body of its own members to undertake the work of revision, who shall be at liberty to invite the co-operation of any eminent for scholarship, to whatever nation or religious body they may belong.’

The principles and Rules agreed to by the Committee of Convocation on the twenty-fifth day of May 1870 were as follows:—

‘1. To introduce as few alterations as possible into the Text of the Authorised Version consistently with faithfulness.

‘2. To limit, as far as possible, the expression of such alterations to the language of the Authorised and earlier English Versions.

‘3. Each Company to go twice over the portion to be revised, once provisionally, the second time finally, and on principles of voting as hereinafter provided.

‘4. That the Text to be adopted be that for which the evidence is decidedly preponderating; and that when the Text so adopted differs from that from which the Authorised Version was made, the alteration be indicated in the margin.

‘5. To make or retain no change in the Text on the second final revision by each Company, except two thirds of those present approve of the same, but on the first revision to decide by simple majorities.

‘6. In every case of proposed alteration that may have given rise to discussion, to defer the voting thereupon till the next Meeting, whensoever the same shall be required by one third of those present at the Meeting, such intended vote to be announced in the notice for the next Meeting.

‘7. To revise the headings of chapters and pages, paragraphs, italics, and punctuation.

‘8. To refer, on the part of each Company, when considered desirable, to Divines, Scholars, and Literary Men, whether at home or abroad, for their opinions.’

These rules it has been our endeavour faithfully and consistently to follow. One only of them we found ourselves unable to observe in all particulars. In accordance with the seventh rule, we have carefully revised the paragraphs, italics, and punctuation. But the revision of the headings of chapters and pages would have involved so much of indirect, and indeed frequently of direct interpretation, that we judged it best to omit them altogether.

Our communications with the American Committee have been of the following nature. We transmitted to them from time to time each several portion of our First Revision, and received from them in return their criticisms and suggestions. These we considered with much care and attention during the time we were engaged on our Second Revision. We then sent over to them the various portions of the Second Revision as they were completed, and received further suggestions, which, like the former, were closely and carefully considered. Last of all, we forwarded to them the Revised Version in its final form; and a list of those passages in which they desire to place on record their preference of other readings and renderings will be found at the end of the volume. We gratefully acknowledge their care, vigilance, and accuracy; and we humbly pray that their labours and our own, thus happily united, may be permitted to bear a blessing to both countries, and to all English-speaking people throughout the world.

The whole time devoted to the work has been ten years and a half. The First Revision occupied about six years; the Second, about two years and a half. The remaining time has been spent in the consideration of the suggestions from America on the Second Revision, and of many details and reserved questions arising out of our own labours. As a rule, a session of four days has been held every month (with the exception of August and September) in each year from the commencement of the work in June 1870. The average attendance for the whole time has been sixteen each day; the whole company consisting at first of twenty-seven, but for the greater part of the time of twenty-four members, many of them residing at great distances from London. Of the original number four have been removed from us by death.

At an early stage in our labours, we entered into an agreement with the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge for the conveyance to them of our copyright in the work. This arrangement provided for the necessary expenses of the undertaking; and procured for the Revised Version the advantage of being published by Bodies long connected with the publication of the Authorised Version.

III. We now pass onward to give a brief account of the particulars of the present work. This we propose to do under the four heads of Text, Translation, Language, and Marginal Notes.

1. A revision of the Greek text was the necessary foundation of our work; but it did not fall within our province to construct a continuous and complete Greek text. In many cases the English rendering was considered to represent correctly either of two competing readings in the Greek, and then the question of the text was usually not raised. A sufficiently laborious task remained in deciding between the rival claims of various readings which might properly affect the translation. When these were adjusted, our deviations from the text presumed to underlie the Authorised Version had next to be indicated, in accordance with the fourth rule; but it proved inconvenient to record them in the margin. A better mode however of giving them publicity has been found, as the University Presses have undertaken to print them in connexion with complete Greek texts of the New Testament.

In regard of the readings thus approved, it may be observed that the fourth rule, by requiring that ‘the text to be adopted’ should be ‘that for which the evidence is decidedly preponderating,’ was in effect an instruction to follow the authority of documentary evidence without deference to any printed text of modern times, and therefore to employ the best resources of criticism for estimating the value of evidence. Textual criticism, as applied to the Greek New Testament, forms a special study of much intricacy and difficulty, and even now leaves room for considerable variety of opinion among competent critics. Different schools of criticism have been represented among us, and have together contributed to the final result. In the early part of the work every various reading requiring consideration was discussed and voted on by the Company. After a time the precedents thus established enabled the process to be safely shortened; but it was still at the option of every one to raise a full discussion on any particular reading, and the option was freely used. On the first revision, in accordance with the fifth rule, the decisions were arrived at by simple majorities. On the second revision, at which a majority of two thirds was required to retain or introduce a reading at variance with the reading presumed to underlie the Authorised Version, many readings previously adopted were brought again into debate, and either re-affirmed or set aside.

Many places still remain in which, for the present, it would not be safe to accept one reading to the absolute exclusion of others. In these cases we have given alternative readings in the margin, wherever they seem to be of sufficient importance or interest to deserve notice. In the introductory formula, the phrases ‘many ancient authorities,’ ‘some ancient authorities,’ are used with some latitude to denote a greater and lesser proportion of those authorities which have a distinctive right to be called ancient. These ancient authorities comprise not only Greek manuscripts, some of which were written in the fourth and fifth centuries, but versions of a still earlier date in different languages, and also quotations by Christian writers of the second and following centuries.

2. We pass now from the Text to the Translation. The character of the Revision was determined for us from the outset by the first rule, ‘to introduce as few alterations as possible, consistently with faithfulness.’ Our task was revision, not re-translation.

In the application however of this principle to the many and intricate details of our work, we have found ourselves constrained by faithfulness to introduce changes which might not at first sight appear to be included under the rule.

The alterations which we have made in the Authorised Version may be roughly grouped in five principal classes. First, alterations positively required by change of reading in the Greek Text. Secondly, alterations made where the Authorised Version appeared either to be incorrect, or to have chosen the less probable of two possible renderings. Thirdly, alterations of obscure or ambiguous renderings into such as are clear and express their import. For it has been our principle not to leave any translation, or any arrangement of words, which could adapt itself to one or other two interpretations, but rather to express as plainly as possible that interpretation which seemed best to deserve a place in the text, and to put the other in the margin.

There remain yet two other classes of alterations which we have felt to be required by the same principle as faithfulness. these are,—Fourthly, alterations from the Authorised Version in cases where it was inconsistent with itself in the rendering of two or more passages confessedly alike or parallel. Fifthly, alterations rendered necessary by consequence, that is, arising out of changes already made, though not in themselves required by the general rule of faithfulness. Both these classes of alterations call for some further explanation.

The frequent inconsistencies in the Authorised Version have caused us much embarrassment from the fact already referred to, namely, that a studied variety of rendering, even in the same chapter and context, was a kind of principle with our predecessors, and was defended by them on grounds that have been mentioned above. The problem we had to solve was to discriminate between varieties of rendering which were compatible with fidelity to the true meaning of the text, and varieties which involved inconsistency, and were suggestive of differences that had no existence in the Greek. This problem we have solved to the best of our power, and for the most part in the following way.

Where there was a doubt as to the exact shade of meaning, we have looked to the context for guidance. If the meaning was fairly expressed by the word or phrase that was before us in the Authorised Version, we made no change, even where rigid adherence to the rule of translating, as far as possible, the same Greek word by the same English word might have prescribed some modification.

There are however numerous passages in the Authorised Version in which, whether regard be had to the recurrence (as in the first three Gospels) of identical clauses and sentences, to the repetition of the same word in the same passage, or to the characteristic use of particular words by the same writer, the studied variety adopted by the Translators of 1611 has produced a degree of inconsistency that cannot be reconciled with the principle of faithfulness. In such cases we have not hesitated to introduce alterations, even though the sense might not seem to the general reader to be materially affected.

The last class of alterations is that which we have described as rendered necessary by consequence; that is, by reason of some foregoing alteration. The cases in which these consequential changes have been found necessary are numerous and of very different kinds. Sometimes the change has been made to avoid tautology; sometimes to obviate an unpleasing alliteration or rhythm; sometimes for a convergence of reasons which, when explained, would at once be accepted, but until so explained might never be surmised even by intelligent readers.

This may be made plain by an example. When a particular word is found to recur with characteristic frequency in any one of the Sacred Writers, it is obviously desirable to adopt for it some uniform rendering. Again, where, as in the case of the first three Evangelists, precisely the same clauses or sentences are found in more than one of the Gospels, it is no less necessary to translate them in every place in the same way. These two principles may be illustrated by reference to a word that perpetually recurs in St. Mark’s Gospel, and that may be translated either ‘straightway,’ ‘forthwith,’ or ‘immediately.’ Let it be supposed that the first rendering is chosen, and that the word, in accordance with the first of the above principles, is in that Gospel uniformly translated ‘straightway.’ Let it be further supposed that one of the passages of St. Mark in which it is so translated is found, word for word, in one of the other Gospels, but there the rendering of the Authorised Version happens to be ‘forthwith’ or ‘immediately.’ That rendering must be changed on the second of the above principles; and yet such a change would not have been made but for this concurrence of two sound principles, and the consequent necessity of making a change on grounds extraneous to the passage itself.

This is but one of many instances of consequential alterations which might at first sight appear unnecessary, but which nevertheless have been deliberately made, and are not at variance with the rule of introducing as few changes in the Authorised Version as faithfulness would allow.

There are some other points of detail which it may be here convenient to notice. One of these, and perhaps the most important, is the rendering of the Greek aorist. There are numerous cases, especially in connexion with particles ordinarily expressive of present time, in which the use of the indefinite past tense in Greek and English is altogether different: and in such instances we have not attempted to violate the idiom of our language by forms of expression which it could not bear. But we have often ventured to represent the Greek aorist by the English preterite, even where the reader may find some passing difficulty in such a rendering because we have felt convinced that the true meaning of the original was obscured by the presence of the familiar auxiliary. A remarkable illustration may be found in the seventeenth chapter of St. John’s Gospel, where the combination of the aorist and the perfect shews, beyond all reasonable doubt, that different relations of time were intended to be expressed.

Changes of translation will also be found in connexion with the aorist participle, arising from the fact that the usual periphrasis of this participle in the Vulgate, which was rendered necessary by Latin idiom, has been largely reproduced in the Authorised Version by ‘when’ with the past tense (as for example in the second chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel), even where the ordinary participial rendering would have been easier and more natural in English.

In reference to the perfect and the imperfect tenses but little needs to be said. The correct translation of the former has been for the most part, though with some striking exceptions, maintained in the Authorised Version: while with regard to the imperfect, clear as its meaning may be in the Greek, the power of expressing it is so limited in English, that we have been frequently compelled to leave the force of the sense to be inferred from the context. In a few instances, where faithfulness imperatively required it, and especially where, in the Greek, the significance of the imperfect tense seemed to be additionally marked by the use of the participle with the auxiliary verb, we have introduced the corresponding form in English. Still, in the great majority of cases we have been obliged to retain the English preterite, and to rely either on slight changes in the order of the words, or on prominence given to the accompanying temporal particles, for the indication of the meaning which, in the Greek, the imperfect tense was designed to convey.

On other points of grammar it may be sufficient to speak more briefly.

Many changes, as might be anticipated, have been made in the case of the definite article. Here again it was necessary to consider the peculiarities of English idiom, as well as the general tenor of each passage. Sometimes we have felt it enough to prefix the article to the first of a series of words to all of which it is prefixed in the Greek, and thus, as it were, to impart the idea of definiteness to the whole series, without running the risk of overloading the sentence. Sometimes, conversely, we have had to tolerate the presence of the definite article in our Version, when it is absent from the Greek, and perhaps not even grammatically latent; simply because English idiom would not allow the noun to stand alone, and because the introduction of the indefinite article might have introduced an idea of oneness or individuality, which was not in any degree traceable in the original. In a word, we have been careful to observe the use of the article wherever it seemed to be idiomatically possible: where it did not seem to be possible, we have yielded to necessity.

As to the pronouns and the place they occupy in the sentence, a subject often overlooked by our predecessors, we have ben particularly careful; but here again we have frequently been baffled by structural or idiomatical peculiarities of the English language which precluded changes otherwise desirable.

In the case of the particles we have met with less difficulty, and have been able to maintain a reasonable amount of consistency. The particles in the Greek Testament are, as is well known, comparatively few, and they are commonly used with precision. It has therefore been the more necessary here to preserve a general uniformity of rendering, especially in the case of the particles of causality and inference, so far as English idiom would allow.

Lastly, many changes have been introduced in the rendering of the prepositions, especially where ideas of instrumentality or of immediate agency, distinctly marked in the original, had been confused or obscured in the translation. We have however borne in mind the comprehensive character of such prepositions as ‘of’ and ‘by,’ the one in reference to agency and the other in reference to means, especially in the English of the seventeenth century; and have rarely made any change where the true meaning of the original as expressed in the Authorised Version would be apparent to a reader of ordinary intelligence.

3. We now come to the subject of Language.

The second of the rules, by which the work has been governed, prescribed that the alterations to be introduced should be expressed, as far as possible, in the language of the Authorised Version or of the Versions that preceded it.

To this rule we have faithfully adhered. We have habitually consulted the earlier Version; and in our sparing introduction of words not found in them or in the Authorised Version we have usually satisfied ourselves that such words were employed by standard writers of nearly the same date, and had also that general hue which satisfied their introduction into a Version which has held the highest place in the classical literature of our language. We have never removed any archaisms, whether in structure or in words, except where we were persuaded either that the meaning of the words was not generally understood, or that the nature of the expression led to some misconception of the true sense of the passage. The frequent inversions of the strict order of the words, which add much to the strength and variety of the Authorised Version, and give an archaic colour to many felicities of diction, have seldom been modified. Indeed, we have often adopted the same arrangement in our own alterations; and in this, as in other particulars, we have sought to assimilate the new work to the old.

In a few exceptional cases we have failed to find any word in the older stratum of our language to convey the precise meaning of the original. There, and there only, we have used words of a later date; but not without having first assured ourselves that they are to be found in the writings of the best authors of the period to which they belong.

In regard of Proper Names no rule was prescribed to us. In the case of names of frequent occurrence we have deemed it best to follow generally the rule laid down for our predecessors. That rule, it may be remembered, was to this effect, ‘The names of the prophets and the holy writers, with the other names of the text, to be retained, as nigh as may be, according as they were vulgarly used.’ Some difficulty has been felt in dealing with names less familiarly known. Here our general practice has been to follow the Greek form of names, except in the case of persons and places mentioned in the Old Testament: in this case we have followed the Hebrew.

4. The subject of the Marginal Notes deserves special attention. They represent the results of a large amount of careful and elaborate discussion, and will, perhaps, by their very presence, indicate to some extent the intricacy of many of the questions that have almost daily come before us for decision. These Notes fall into four main groups: first, notes specifying such differences of reading as were judged to be of sufficient importance to require a particular notice; secondly, notes indicating the exact rendering of words to which, for the sake of English idiom, we were obliged to give a less exact rendering in the text; thirdly, notes, very few in number, affording some explanation which the original seemed to require; fourthly, alternative renderings in difficult or debateable passages. The notes of this last group are numerous, and largely in excess of those which were admitted by our predecessors. In the 270 years that have passed away since their labours were concluded, the Sacred Text has been minutely examined, discussed in every detail, and analysed with a grammatical precision unknown in the days of the last Revision. There has thus accumulated a large amount of materials that have prepared the way for different renderings, which necessarily came under discussion. We have therefore placed before the reader in the margin other renderings than those which were adopted in the text, where it agrees with the Authorised Version, was supported by at least one third, and, where it differs from the Authorised Version, by at least two thirds of those who were present at the second revision of the passage in question.

A few supplementary matters have yet to be mentioned. These may be enumerated,—the use of Italics, the arrangement in Paragraphs, the mode of printing Quotations from the Poetical Books of the Old Testament, the Punctuation, and, last of all, the Titles of the different Books that make up the New Testament,—all of the particulars on which it seems desirable to add a few explanatory remarks.

(a) The determination, in each place, of the words to be printed in italics has not been by any means easy; nor can we hope to be found in all cases perfectly consistent. In the earliest editions of the Authorised Version the use of a different type to indicate supplementary words not contained in the original was not very frequent, and cannot easily be reconciled with any settled principle. A review of the words so printed was made, after a lapse of some years, for the editions of the Authorised Version published at Cambridge in 1629 and 1638. Further, though slight, modifications were introduced at intervals between 1638 and the more systematic revisions undertaken respectively by Dr. Paris in the Cambridge Edition of 1762, and by Dr. Blayney in the Oxford Edition of 1769. None of them however rest on any higher authority than that of the persons who from time to time superintend the publication. The last attempt to bring the use of italics into uniformity and consistency was made by Dr. Scrivener in the Paragraph Bible published at Cambridge in 1870-73. In succeeding to these labours, we have acted on the general principle of printing in italics words which did not appear to be necessarily involved in the Greek. Our tendency has been to diminish rather than to increase the amount of italic printing; though, in the case of difference of readings, we have usually marked the absence of any words in the original which the sense might nevertheless require to be present in the Version; and again, in the case of inserted pronouns, where the reference did not appear to be perfectly certain, we have similarly had recourse to italics. Some of these cases, especially when there are slight differences of reading, are of singular intricacy, and make it impossible to maintain rigid uniformity.

(b) We have arranged the Sacred Text in paragraphs, after the precedent of the earliest English Versions, so as to assist the general reader in following the current of narrative or argument. The present arrangement will be found, we trust, to have preserved the due mean between a system of long portions which must often include several separate topics, and a system of frequent breaks which, though they may correctly indicate separate movements of thought in the writer, often seriously impede a just perception of the true continuity of the passage. The traditional division into chapters, which the Authorised Version inherited from Latin Bibles of the later middle ages, is an illustration of the former method. These paragraphs, for such in fact they are, frequently include several distinct subjects. Moreover they sometimes, though rarely, end where there is no sufficient break in the sense. The division of chapters into verses, which was introduced in the New Testament for the first time in 1551, is an exaggeration of the latter method, with its accompanying inconveniences. The serious obstacles to the right understanding of Holy Scripture, which are interposed by minute subdivision, are often overlooked; but if any one will consider for a moment the injurious effect that would be produced by breaking up a portion of some great standard work into separate verses, he will at once perceive how necessary has been alteration in this particular. The arrangement by chapters and verses undoubtedly affords facilities for reference: but this advantage we have been able to retain by placing the numerals on the inside margin of each passage.

(c) A few words will suffice as to the mode of printing quotations from the Poetical Books of the Old Testament. Wherever the quotation extends to two or more lines, our practice has been to recognise the parallelism of their structure by arranging the lines in a manner that appears to agree with the metrical divisions of the Hebrew original. Such an arrangement will be found helpful to the reader; not only as directing his attention to the poetical character of the quotation, but as also tending to make its force and pertinence more fully felt. We have treated in the same way the hymns in the first two chapters of the Gospel according to St. Luke.

(d) Great care has been bestowed on the punctuation. Our practice has been to maintain what is sometimes called the heavier system of stopping, or, in other words, that system which, especially for convenience in reading aloud, suggests such pauses as will best ensure a clear and intelligent setting forth of the true meaning of the words. The course has rendered necessary, especially in the Epistles, a larger use of colons and semicolons than is customary in modern English printing.

(e) We may in the last place notice one particular to which we were not expressly directed to extend our revision, namely, the titles of the Books of the New Testament. These titles are no part of the original text; and the titles found in the most ancient manuscripts are of too short a form to be convenient for use. Under these circumstances, we have deemed it best to leave unchanged the titles which are given in the Authorised Version as printed in 1611.

We now conclude, humbling commending our labours to Almighty God, and praying that his favour and blessing may be vouchsafed to that which has been done in his name. We recognised from the first the responsibility of the undertaking; and through our manifold experience of its abounding difficulties we have felt more and more, as we went onward, that such a work can never be accomplished by organised efforts of scholarship and criticism, unless assisted by Divine help.

We know full well that defects must have their place in a work so long and so arduous as this which has now come to an end. Blemishes and imperfections there are in the noble Translation which we have been called upon to revise; blemishes and imperfections will assuredly be found in our own Revision. All endeavours to translate the Holy Scriptures into another tongue must fall short of their aim, when the obligation is imposed of producing a Version that shall be alike literal and idiomatic, faithful to each thought of the original, and yet, in the expression of it, harmonious and free. While we dare to hope that in places not a few of the New Testament the introduction of slight changes has cast a new light upon much that was difficult and obscure, we cannot forget how often we have failed in expressing some finer shade of meaning which we recognised in the original, how often idiom has stood in the way of a perfect rendering, and how often the attempt to preserve a familiar form of words, or even a familiar cadence, has only added another perplexity to those which already beset us.

Thus, in the review of the work which we have been permitted to complete, our closing words must be words of mingled thanksgiving, humility and prayer. Of thanksgiving, for the many blessings vouchsafed to us throughout the unbroken progress of our corporate labours; of humility for our failings and imperfections in the fulfillment of our task; and of prayer to Almighty God, that the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ may be more clearly and more freshly shewn forth to all who shall be readers of this Book.

Jerusalem Chamber,
Westminster Abbey,
11th November 1880.


THE Revision of the Authorised Version was undertaken in consequence of a Resolution passed by both houses of the Convocation of the Province of Canterbury, as has been fully explained in the Preface to the Revised Version of the New Testament, which was first published in May 1881. When the two Companies were appointed for carrying out this work, the following General Principles, among others, were laid down by the Revision Committee of Convocation for their guidance: --

"1. To introduce as few alterations as possible into the Text of the Authorised Version consistently with faithfulness."

"2. To limit, as far as possible, the expression of such alterations to the language of the Authorised and earlier English Versions."

"4. That the Text to be adopted be that for which the evidence is decidedly preponderating; and that when the Text so adopted differs from that from which the Authorised Version was made, the alteration be indicated in the margin."

"7. To revise the headings of chapters and pages, paragraphs, italics, and punctuation."

In order to show the manner in which the Old Testament Company have endeavoured to carry out their instructions, it will be convenient to treat the subjects mentioned in the foregoing rules in a somewhat different order.

It will be observed that in Rule 4 the word "Text" is used in a different sense from that in Rule 1, and in the case of the Old Testament denotes the Hebrew or Aramaic original of the several books. In this respect the task of the Revisers has been much simpler than that which the New Testament Company had before them. The Received, or, as it is commonly called, the Massoretic Text of the Old Testament Scriptures has come down to us in manuscripts which are of no very great antiquity, and which all belong to the same family or recension. [1] That other recensions were at one time in existence is probable from the variations in the Ancient Versions, the oldest of which, namely the Greek or Septuagint, was made, at least in part, some two centuries before the Christian era. But as the state of knowledge on the subject is not at present such as to justify any attempt at an entire reconstruction of the text on the authority of the Versions, the Revisers have thought it most prudent to adopt the Massoretic Text as the basis of their work, and to depart from it, as the Authorised Translators had done, [2] only in exceptional cases. With regard to the variations in the Massoretic Text itself, the Revisers have endeavoured to translate what appeared to them to be the best reading in the text, and where the alternative reading seemed sufficiently probable or important they have placed it in the margin. In some few instances of extreme difficulty a reading has been adopted on the authority of the Ancient Versions and the departure from the Massoretic Text recorded in the margin. In other cases, where the versions appeared to supply a very probable though not so necessary a correction of the text, the text has been left and the variation indicated in the margin only.

In endeavouring to carry out as fully as possible the spirit of Rules 1 and 2, the Revisers have borne in mind that it was their duty not to make a new translation but to revise one already existing, which for more than two centuries and a half had held the position of an English classic. They have therefore departed from it only in cases where they disagreed with the Translators of 1611 as to the meaning or construction of a word or sentence; or where it was necessary for the sake of uniformity to render such parallel passages as were identical in Hebrew by the same English words, so that an English reader might know at once by comparison that a difference in the translation corresponded to a difference in the original; or where the language of the Authorised Version was liable to be misunderstood by reason of its being archaic or obscure, or finally, where the rendering of an earlier English version seemed preferable, or where by an apparently slight change it was possible to bring out more fully the meaning of a passage of which the translation was already substantially accurate.

It has been thought advisable in regard to the word "JEHOVAH" to follow the usage of the Authorised Version, and not to insert it uniformly in place of "LORD" or "GOD," which when printed in small capitals represent the words substituted by Jewish custom for the ineffable Name according to the vowel points by which it is distinguished. It will be found, therefore, that in this respect the Authorised Version has been departed from only in a few passages, in which the introduction of a proper name seemed to be required.

Terms of natural history have been changed only where it was certain that the Authorised Version was incorrect and where there was sufficient evidence for the substituted rendering. In cases of doubt the alternative rendering has been given in the margin; and even where no doubt existed, but where there was no familiar English equivalent for the original word, the Old Version has been allowed to remain, [3] and the more accurate term has been placed in the margin.

In some words of very frequent occurrence, the Authorised Version being either inadequate or inconsistent, and sometimes misleading, changes have been introduced with as much uniformity as appeared practicable or desirable. For instance, "the tabernacle of the congregation" has been everywhere changed to "the tent of meeting," on account of Exodus xxv. 22, xxix. 42, 43, and also because "the tabernacle of the congregation" conveys an entirely wrong sense. The words "tabernacle" and "tent," as the renderings of two different Hebrew words, are in the Authorised Version frequently interchanged in such a manner as to lead to confusion; and the Revisers have endeavoured throughout the Pentateuch to preserve a consistent distinction between them. Their practice in regard to the words "assembly" and "congregation" has been the same in principle, although they have contented themselves with introducing greater consistency of rendering without aiming at absolute uniformity. In consequence of the changes which have taken place in the English language, the term "meat offering" has become inappropriate to describe an offering of which flesh was no part; and by the alteration to "meal offering" a sufficiently accurate representation of the original has been obtained with the least possible change of form.

As regards the use of words, there are only a few cases in which it has been found needful to deviate from the language employed in the Authorised Version. One of these deviations occurs so frequently that it may be well to state briefly why it was adopted. The word "peoples" was nowhere used by King James's Translators in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament it occurs only twice (Rev. x. 11, xvii. 15). The effect of this was to leave the rendering of numerous passages inadequate or obscure or even positively misleading. Thus in one of the best known Psalms (Ps. lxvii.), where the Septuagint has laoi and the Vulgate populi, the English had "Let the people praise thee, 0 God; let all the people praise thee;" leaving it at least doubtful whether the "nations" of verse 4, or God's people, Israel, be referred to. And in Isaiah lv. 4, "Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people," the word "people" is naturally understood by the English reader to refer to Israel.

Again, the Hebrew word goyim "nations," which is applied to the nations of Canaan dispossessed by the Hebrews, and then also to the surrounding nations among whom the people of Israel were afterwards dispersed, acquired in later times a moral significance, which is represented in the Authorised Version by the rendering "heathen" or "Gentiles." While recognizing this moral sense of the word, the Revisers have employed it much more sparingly than their predecessors had done.

Similarly, the Hebrew Sheôl, which signifies the abode of departed spirits, and corresponds to the Greek Hades, or the under world, is variously rendered in the Authorised Version by "grave," "pit," and "hell." Of these renderings "hell," if it could be taken in its original sense as used in the Creeds, would be a fairly adequate equivalent for the Hebrew word; but it is so commonly understood of the place of torment that to employ it frequently would lead to inevitable misunderstanding. The Revisers therefore in the historical narratives have left the rendering "the grave" or "the pit" in the text, with the marginal note "Heb. Sheol" to indicate that it does not signify "the place of burial"; while in the poetical writings they have put most commonly "Sheol" in the text and "the grave" in the margin. In Isaiah xiv. however, where "hell" is used in more of its original sense and is less liable to be misunderstood, and where any change in so familiar a passage which was not distinctly an improvement would be a decided loss, the Revisers have contented themselves with leaving "hell" in the text, and have connected it with other passages by putting "Sheol" in the margin.

In connection with this it may be mentioned that "Abaddon," which has hitherto been known to the English reader of the Bible only from the New Testament (Rev. ix. 11), has been introduced in three passages (Job xxvi. 6; Prov. xv. 11, xxvii. 20), where a proper name appears to be required for giving vividness and point.

The Hebrew word Ashêrah, which is uniformly and wrongly rendered "grove" in the Authorised Version, most probably denotes the wooden symbol of a goddess; and the Revisers therefore have not hesitated to introduce it as a proper name in the singular (Judg. vi. 25, etc.), with the plurals Asherim (Ex. xxxiv. 13, etc.) and Asheroth (Judg. iii. 7, etc.), following the analogy of the Baalim (Judg. iii. 7) and the Ashtaroth (Judg. ii. 13), which are already familiar.

In regard to the language of the Authorised Version, the Revisers have thought it no part of their duty to reduce it to conformity with modern usage, and have therefore left untouched all archaisms, whether of language or construction, which though not in familiar use cause a reader no embarrassment and lead to no misunderstanding. They are aware that in so doing they will disappoint the large English-speaking race on the other side of the Atlantic, and it is a question upon which they are prepared to agree to a friendly difference of opinion. The principle by which they have been guided has been clear and consistent. Where an archaic word or expression was liable to be misunderstood or at least was not perfectly intelligible, they have substituted for it another, in equally good use at the time the Authorised Version was made, and expressing all that the archaism was intended to convey, but more familiar to the modern reader. In such cases the gain was greater than the loss. But in other instances where the word or expression, although obsolete, was not unintelligible, it was thought that the change would involve greater loss than gain, and the old rendering was therefore allowed to stand. More especially was this the case when the archaism was a perfectly correct rendering of the original and there was no exact modern equivalent for it. The principle adopted by the Company will be best illustrated by two typical examples. The verb "to ear" in the sense of "to plough" and the substantive "earing" for "ploughing" were very reluctantly abandoned, and only because it was ascertained that their meaning was unknown to many persons of good intelligence and education. But it was easy to put in their place equivalents which had a pedigree of almost equal antiquity, and it would have been an excess of conservatism to refuse to substitute for an unintelligible archaism an expression to which no ambiguity could be attached. On the other hand the word "bolled" (Ex. ix. 31), which signifies "podded for seed" and is known in provincial dialects, has no synonym in literary English. To have discarded it in favor of a less accurate or more paraphrastic expression would have been to impoverish the language; and it was therefore left, because it exactly expresses one view which is taken of the meaning of the original.

One of the few instances in which the language of the Authorised Version has been modified in accordance with later usage is the change of the neuter possessive pronoun from "his" to "its." It is well known that "its" does not occur in the Bible of 1611, and it does not appear to have been introduced into any edition before 1660. But it is found ten times in Shakespeare, and there is other evidence to show that at the time of the Authorised Version it was coming into use. It was found necessary in some cases to substitute "its" for "his" in order to avoid obscurity, and there seemed no good reason, when it was once introduced, for refusing to admit it generally when it referred to purely inanimate objects.

In making minor changes, whether in translation or language, the Revisers have followed the example of the translators of the Authorised Version, who allowed themselves in this respect a reasonable freedom, without permitting their liberty to degenerate into license.

It will be at once seen that the old division of the books into chapters and verses has been abandoned in favour of the arrangement in paragraphs, the numbering of the chapters and verses being however retained for convenience of reference. Where the change of subject seemed to require a greater break than was marked by the beginning of a new paragraph, it has been indicated by a space before the paragraph. Occasionally the divisions of the chapters in the Authorised Version differ from those in the common Hebrew Bibles. In such cases the variations are given in the margin. In the Psalms, the titles are printed in smaller type, as in some modern English Bibles, which differ in this respect from the edition of 1611. One consequence of the arrangement in paragraphs has been the omission of the headings of chapters, which for other and more important reasons it was thought advisable to abandon, as involving questions which belong rather to the province of the commentator than to that of the translator. With the headings of chapters the headlines of pages naturally disappeared also, and for the same reason.

In the poetical portions, besides the division into paragraphs, the Revisers have adopted an arrangement in lines, so as to exhibit the parallelism which is characteristic of Hebrew Poetry. But they have not extended this arrangement to the prophetical books, the language of which although frequently marked by parallelism is, except in purely lyrical passages, rather of the nature of lofty and impassioned prose.

In the use of italics the Revisers departed from the custom of the Authorised Version and adopted as their rule the following resolution of their Company:

"That all such words now printed in italics, as are plainly implied in the Hebrew and necessary in English, be printed in common type."

But where any doubt existed as to the exact rendering of the Hebrew, all words which have been added in order to give completeness to the English expression are printed in italic type, so that the reader by omitting them may be able to see how far their insertion is justified by the words of the original. This of course is especially true of those renderings for which an alternative is given in the margin, where the roman and italic type play exactly opposite parts.

To complete the account of the Revised Version it remains only to describe the marginal notes. These will be found to contain

  1. The renderings of such variations in the Massoretic Text as appeared to be of sufficient importance. These variations are known by the technical names of K'ri (read) and C'thib (written), which denote that the K'ri, or reading in the margin of the Hebrew Bible, is to be substituted for the C'thib which appears in the written text. The Revisers have generally, though not uniformly, rendered the C'thib in the text, and left the K'ri in the margin, with the introductory note "Or, according to another reading," or "Another reading is." When the K'ri has been followed in the text, the C'thib has been placed in the margin, if it represented a variation of sufficient importance.
  2. Alternative renderings, introduced by "Or." These are either different meanings of the word or passage, or they serve to connect it with other renderings elsewhere.
  3. Literal renderings of the Hebrew or Aramaic, indicated by the prefix " Heb." or "Aram.'
  4. Changes of text made on the authority of the ancient Versions.
  5. Readings from ancient Versions which appeared to be of sufficient importance to be noticed.
  6. Renderings of the Hebrew consonants as read with different vowel points, or as differently divided. These are introduced by the words "Or, as otherwise read."
  7. Marginal references to other passages, which are either strictly parallel, or serve the purpose of illustrating or justifying a particular rendering.
  8. Explanations of certain proper names, the meaning of which is referred to in the text.

In the Proper Names the Revisers have endeavoured to ascertain the system of transliteration adopted by the Translators of the Authorised Version and to carry it out with somewhat greater consistency. They have not however attempted anything like rigid uniformity, and have left unchanged all those names which by usage have become English; as, for instance, Moses, Aaron, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the like.

Among the Rules laid down by the Revision Committee of Convocation for the guidance of the Revisers was one that no change should be finally made in the text of the Authorised Version except by the vote of two-thirds of the Company present and voting; and this Rule has been invariably acted upon. The result has been that in many cases a rendering which was preferred by the majority of the Company voting has been recorded in the margin, the majority not being sufficient to give it a place in the text. But all questions of marginal readings, as well as of punctuation and division into paragraphs, except where these affected the sense of a passage, were decided by a simple majority.

It may be of some interest to describe the method observed by the Company in their work, if only to show that every question raised was carefully and deliberately considered. In the first Revision it was the practice for the Secretary to read over each verse, first in the original and then in the Authorised Version: the proposals for change were then taken; first those communicated in writing by absent members, and next those made by the members present. Each proposal was moved, and if seconded was discussed and voted upon; the decision in the first Revision being by a majority only. If a proposal met with no seconder, it was not discussed but allowed to drop. In the second Revision, the Secretary read out in order the changes which had been made at the first Revision; if these were unchallenged they were allowed to remain, otherwise they were put to the vote and affirmed or rejected according as they were or were not supported by the requisite majority of two-thirds. In the second Revision new propositions could only be made by special permission of the Company, and discussion was limited, as far as possible, to exceptional cases. In the final review, which was in reality the completion of the second Revision, the Company employed themselves in making a general survey of what they had done, deciding finally upon reserved points, harmonizing inconsistencies, smoothing down roughnesses, removing unnecessary changes, and generally giving finish and completeness to their work. Everything in this final survey was decided by the vote of a majority of two-thirds.

The Revisers had already made some progress, and had in fact gone twice through the Pentateuch, before they secured the co-operation of the American Old Testament Revision Company. The first Revision of the several books was submitted to the consideration of the American Revisers, and, except in the case of the Pentateuch, the English Company had the benefit of their criticisms and suggestions before they proceeded to the second Revision. The second Revision was in like manner forwarded to America, and the latest thoughts of the American Revisers were in the hands of the English Company at their final review. In every instance the suggestions from America were treated with the same consideration as those proceeding from the members of the English Company, and were adopted or rejected on their merits. It was a part of the terms of agreement with the American Company that all points of ultimate difference between them and the English Revisers should be placed on record, and they will accordingly be found fully stated at the end of the Old Testament, or at the end of the several portions, according as the Revised Version appears in one or more volumes. Many of them will be found to be of language which are involved in the essentially different circumstances of American and English readers; others express a preference for the marginal rendering over that given in the text; others again involve a real difference of opinion; but all show that they have been dictated by the same leading principle, the sincere desire to give to modern readers a faithful representation of the meaning of the original documents.

It could not but be expected that in the course of fourteen years many changes would take place in the members of the Company. Of the original number who first put their hands to the work on the 30th of June 1870, only fifteen now remain. Ten of the Company have been removed by death, and two resigned: the places of these were filled from time to time by others; but since October 1875 no new members have been added. The Revision was completed in eighty-five sessions, ending on 20th June, 1884; and it occupied 792 days. The greater part of the sessions were for ten days each, and each day the Company generally sat for six hours. The labour therefore has been great, but it has been given ungrudgingly; and now with a feeling of deep thankfulness to Almighty God, and the earnest hope that their endeavours may with His blessing tend to a clearer knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures, the Revisers bring their long task to a close.

10 July, 1884.

[1] The earliest MS. of which the age is certainly known bears date A.D. 916.

[2] See, for instance, 2 Sam. xvi. 12; 2 Chr. iii.1, xxii. 6; Job xxxvii. 7; Ezek. xlvi. 10; Am. v.26; Hag. i.2

[3] As for instance, "coney" (Lev. xi. 5), "fitches"(Is. xxviii. 25,27), "gourd" (Jon. iv. 6).