English Translations of the Bible

by Edward Hayes Plumptre

This brief history of English versions up to 1870, by Edward Hayes Plumptre, was originally published under the title “Version, Authorized,” in Dr. William Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible … Revised and Edited by Professor H.B. Hackett, with the cooperation of Ezra Abbot, vol. 4 (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1881), pp. 3424-3445. In reproducing it here I have given it a more appropriate title, rearranged the footnotes as endnotes, and have added a few remarks in square brackets. — M.D.M.

The history of the English translations of the Bible connects itself with many points of interest in that of the nation and the Church. The lives of the individual translators, the long struggle with the indifference or opposition of men in power, the religious condition of the people as calling for, or affected by, the appearance of the translation, the time and place and form of the successive editions by which the demand, when once created, was supplied — each of these has furnished, and might again furnish, materials for a volume. It is obvious that the work now to be done must lie within narrower limits; and it is proposed, therefore, to exclude all that belongs simply to the personal history of the men, or the general history of the time, or that comes within the special province of bibliography. What will be aimed at will be to give an account of the several versions as they appeared; to ascertain the qualifications of the translators for the work which they undertook, and the principles on which they acted; to form an estimate of the final result of their labors in the received version, and, as consequent on this, of the necessity or desirableness of a new or revised translation; and, finally, to give such a survey of the literature of the subject as may help the reader to obtain a fuller knowledge for himself.

I. Early Translations.

It was asserted by Sir Thomas More, in his anxiety to establish a point against Tyndale, that he had seen English translations of the Bible, which had been made before Wycliffe, and that these were approved by the Bishops, and were allowed by them to be read by laymen, and even by devout women (Dialogues, ch. viii.-xiv. col. 82). There seem good grounds, however, for doubting the accuracy of this statement. No such translations — versions, i. e. of the entire Scriptures — are now extant. No traces of them appear in any contemporary writer. Wycliffe’s great complaint is, that there is no translation (Forshall and Madden, Wycliffe’s Bible, Pref. p. xxi. Prol. p. 59). The Constitutions of Archbishop Arundel (A.D. 1408) mention two only, and these are Wycliffe’s own, and the one based on his and completed after his death. More’s statement must therefore be regarded either as a rhetorical exaggeration of the fact that parts of the Bible had been previously translated, or as rising out of a mistake as to the date of MSS. of the Wycliffe version. The history of the English Bible will therefore begin, as it has begun hitherto, with the work of the first great reformer. One glance, however, we may give, in passing, to the earlier history of the English Church, and connect some of its most honored names with the great work of making the truths of Scripture, or parts of the books themselves, if not the Bible as a whole, accessible to the people. We may think of Caedmon as embodying the whole history of the Bible in the alliterative metre of Anglo-Saxon poetry (Bede, Hist. Eccl. iv. 24); of Aldhelm, Bishop of Sherborne, in the 7th century, as rendering the Psalter; of Bede, as translating in the last hours of his life the Gospel of St. John (Epist. Cuthberti); of Alfred, setting forth in his mother-tongue as the great groundwork of his legislation, the four chapters of Exodus (xx.-xxiii.) that contained the first code of the laws of Israel (Pauli’s Life of Alfred, ch. v.). The wishes of the great king extended further. He desired that “all the free-born youth of his kingdom should be able to read the English Scriptures” 1 (ibid.). Portions of the Bible, some of the Psalms, and extracts from other books, were translated by him for his own use and that of his children. The traditions of a later date, seeing in him the representative of all that was good in the old Saxon time, made him the translator of the whole Bible (ibid. Supp. to ch. v.).

The work of translating was, however, carried on by others. One Anglo-Saxon version of the four Gospels, interlinear with the Latin of the Vulgate, known as the Durham Book, is found in the Cottonian MSS. of the British Museum, and is referred to the 9th or 10th century. Another, known as the Rushworth Gloss, and belonging to the same period, is in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. 2 Another, of a somewhat later date, is in the same collection, and in the library of C. C. College, Cambridge. The name of Aldhelm, Bishop of Sherborne, is connected with a version of the Psalms; that of ÆIfric, with an Epitome of Scripture History, including a translation of many parts of the historical books of the Bible (Lewis, Hist. of Transl. ch. i.; Forshall and Madden, Preface; Bagster’s English Hexapla, Pref.). The influence of Norman ecclesiastics, in the reigns that preceded or followed the Conquest, was probably adverse to the continuance of this work. They were too far removed from sympathy with the subjugated race to care to educate them in their own tongue. The spoken dialects of the English of that period would naturally seem to them too rude and uncouth to be the channel of Divine truth. Pictures, mysteries, miracle-plays, rather than books, were the instruments of education for all but the few who, in monasteries under Norman or Italian superintendence, devoted themselves to the study of theology or law. In the remoter parts of England, however, where their influence was less felt, or the national feeling was stronger, there were those who carried on the succession, and three versions of the Gospels, in the University Library at Cambridge, in the Bodleian, and in the British Museum, belonging to the 11th or 12th century, remain as attesting their labors. [Here Plumptre is referring to manuscripts of the Wessex Gospels, but these were probably not done after the Norman Conquest, or in the “remoter parts of England.” — M.D.M.] The metrical paraphrase of the Gospel history, known as the Ormulum, in alliterative English verse, ascribed to the latter half of the 12th century, is the next conspicuous monument, and may be looked upon as indicating a desire to place the facts of the Bible within reach of others than the clergy. 3 The 13th century, a time in England, as throughout Europe, of religious revival, witnessed renewed attempts. A prose translation of the Bible into Norman-French, cir. A.D. 1260, indicates a demand for devotional reading within the circle of the Court, or of the wealthier merchants, or of convents for women of high rank. Further signs of the same desire are found in three English versions of the Psalms — one towards the close of the 13th century; another by Schorham, cir. A.D. 1320; another — with other canticles from the O.T. and N.T. — by Richard Rolle of Hampole, cir. 1349; the last being accompanied by a devotional exposition: and in one of the Gospels of St. Mark and St. Luke, and of all St. Paul’s epistles (the list includes the apocryphal epistle to the Laodiceans), in the library of C. C. College, Cambridge. The fact stated by Archbishop Arundel in his funeral sermon on Anne of Bohemia, wife of Richard II., that she habitually read the Gospels in the vulgar tongue, with divers expositions, was probably true of many others of high rank. 4 It is interesting to note these facts, not as detracting from the glory of the great reformer of the 14th century, but as showing that for him also there had been a preparation; that what he supplied met a demand which had for many years been gathering strength. It is almost needless to add that these versions started from nothing better than the copies of the Vulgate, more or less accurate, which each translator had before him (Lewis, ch. i.; Forshall and Madden, Preface).

II. Wycliffe (b. 1324; d. 1384).

(1.) It is singular, and not without significance, that the first translation from the Bible connected with the name of Wycliffe should have been that of part of the Apocalypse. 5 The Last Age of the Church (A.D. 1356) translates and expounds the vision in which the reformer read the signs of his own times, the sins and the destruction of “Antichrist and his meynee” (= multitude). Shortly after this he completed a version of the Gospels, accompanied by a commentary “so that pore Christen men may some dele know the text of the Gospel, with the comyn sentence of olde holie doctores” (Preface). Wycliffe, however, though the chief, was not the only laborer in the cause. The circle of English readers was becoming wider, and they were not content to have the Book which they honored above all others in a tongue not their own. 6 Another translation and commentary appear to have been made about the same time, in ignorance of Wycliffe’s work, and for the “manie lewid men that gladlie would kon the Gospelle, if it were draghen into the Englisch tung.” The fact that many MSS. of this period are extant, containing in English a Monotessaron, or Harmony of the Gospels, accompanied by portions of the epistles, or portions of the O.T., or an epitome of Scripture history, or the substance of St. Paul’s epistles, or the catholic epistles at full length, with indications more or less distinct of Wycliffe’s influence, shows how wide-spread was the feeling that the time had come for an English Bible. (Forshall and Madden, Pref. pp. xiii.-xvii.) These preliminary labors were followed up by a complete translation of the N.T. by Wycliffe himself. The O.T. was undertaken by his coadjutor, Nicholas de Hereford, but was interrupted probably by a citation to appear before Archbishop Arundel in 1382, and ends abruptly (following so far the order of the Vulgate) in the middle of Baruch. Many of the MSS. of this version now extant present a different recension of the text, and it is probable that the work of Wycliffe and Hereford was revised by Richard Purvey, cir. A.D. 1388. To him also is ascribed the interesting Prologue, in which the translator gives an account both of his purpose and his method. (Forshall and Madden, Pref. p. xxv.)

(2.) The former was, as that of Wycliffe had been, to give an English Bible to the English people. He appeals to the authority of Bede, of Alfred, and of Grostête, to the examples of “Frenshe, and Beemers (Bohemians), and Britons.” He answers the hypocritical objections that men were not holy enough for such a work; that it was wrong for “idiots” to do what the great doctors of the Church had left undone. He hopes “to make the sentence as trewe and open in Englishe as it is in Latine, or more trewe and open.”

It need hardly be said, as regards the method of the translator, that the version was based entirely upon the Vulgate. 7 If, in the previous century, scholars like Grostête and Roger Bacon, seeking knowledge in other lands, and from men of other races, had acquired, as they seem to have done, some knowledge both of Greek and Hebrew, the succession had, at all events, not been perpetuated. The war to be waged at a later period with a different issue between Scholastic Philosophy and “Humanity” ended, in the first struggle, in the triumph of the former, and there was probably no one at Oxford among Wycliffe’s contemporaries who could have helped him or Purvey in a translation from the original. It is something to find at such a time the complaint that “learned doctoris taken littel heede to the lettre,” the recognition that the Vulgate was not all sufficient, that “the texte of oure bokis” (he is speaking of the Psalter, and the difficulty of understanding it) “discordeth much from the Ebreu.” 8 The difficulty which was thus felt was increased by the state of the Vulgate text. The translator complains that what the Church had in view was not Jerome’s version, but a later and corrupt text; that “the comune Latyne Bibles han more neede to be corrected as manie as I have seen in my life, than hath the Englishe Bible late translated.” To remedy this he had recourse to collation. Many MSS. were compared, and out of this comparison, the true reading ascertained as far as possible. The next step was to consult the Glossa Ordinaria, the commentaries of Nicholas de Lyra, and others, as to the meaning of any difficult passages. After this (we recognize here, perhaps, a departure from the right order) grammars were consulted. Then came the actual work of translating, which he aimed at making idiomatic rather than literal. As he went on, he submitted his work to the judgment of others, and accepted their suggestions. 9 It is interesting to trace these early strivings after the true excellence of a translator; yet more interesting to take note of the spirit, never surpassed, seldom equaled, in later translators, in which the work was done. Nowhere do we find the conditions of the work, intellectual and moral, more solemnly asserted. “A translator hath grete nede to studie well the sentence, both before and after,” so that no equivocal words may mislead his readers or himself, and then also “he hath nede to lyve a clene life, and be ful devout in preiers, and have not his wit occupied about worldli things, that the Holie Spiryt, author of all wisedom, and cunnynge and truthe, dresse (= train) him in his work, and suffer him not for to err” (Forshall and Madden, Prol. p. 60).

(3.) The extent of the circulation gained by this version may be estimated from the fact that, in spite of all the chances of time, and all the systematic efforts for its destruction made by Archbishop Arundel and others, not less than 150 copies are known to be extant, some of them obviously made for persons of wealth and rank, others apparently for humbler readers. It is significant as bearing, either on the date of the two works, or on the position of the writers, that while the quotations from Scripture in Langton’s [Langland’s] Vision of Piers Plowman are uniformly given in Latin, those in the Persone’s Tale of Chaucer are given in English, which for the most part agrees substantially with Wycliffe’s translation.

(4.) The following characteristics may be noticed as distinguishing this version: (1.) The general homeliness of its style. The language of the court or of scholars is as far as possible avoided, and that of the people followed. In this respect the principle has been acted on by later translators. The style of Wycliffe is to that of Chaucer as Tyndale’s is to Surrey’s, or that of the A.V. to Ben Jonson’s. (2.) The substitution, in many cases, of English equivalents for quasi-technical words. Thus we find “fy” or “fogh” instead of “Raca” (Matt. v. 22); “they were washed” in Matt. iii. 6; “richesse” for “mammon” (Luke xvi. 9, 11, 13); “bishop” for “high-priest” (passim). (3.) The extreme literalness with which, in some instances, even at the cost of being unintelligible, the Vulgate text is followed, as in 2 Cor. i. 17-19.

III. Tyndale.

The work of Wycliffe stands by itself. Whatever power it exercised in preparing the way for the Reformation of the 16th century, it had no perceptible influence on later translations. By the reign of Henry VIII. its English was already obsolescent, and the revival of classical scholarship led men to feel dissatisfied with a version which had avowedly been made at second-hand, not from the original. With Tyndale, on the other hand, we enter on a continuous succession. He is the patriarch, in no remote ancestry, of the Authorized Version. With a consistent, unswerving purpose, he devoted his whole life to this one work; and through dangers and difficulties, amid enemies and treacherous friends, in exile and loneliness, accomplished it. More than Cranmer or Ridley he is the true hero of the English Reformation. While they were slowly moving onwards, halting between two opinions, watching how the court-winds blew, or, at the best, making the most of opportunities, he set himself to the task without which, he felt sure, reform would be impossible, which once accomplished, would render it inevitable. “Ere many years,” he said, at the age of thirty-six (A.D. 1520), he would cause “a boy that driveth the plough” to know more of Scripture than the great body of the clergy then knew (Foxe, in Anderson’s Annals of English Bible, i. 36). We are able to form a fairly accurate estimate of his fitness for the work to which he thus gave himself. The change which had come over the universities of continental Europe since the time of Wycliffe had affected those of England. Greek had been taught in Paris in 1458. The first Greek Grammar, that of Constantine Lascaris, had been printed in 1476. It was followed in 1480 by Craston’s lexicon. The more enterprising scholars of Oxford visited foreign universities for the sake of the new learning. Grocyn (d. 1519), Linacre (d. 1524), Colet (d. 1519), had, in this way, from the Greeks whom the fall of Constantinople had scattered over Europe, or from their Italian pupils, learnt enough to enter, in their turn, upon the work of teaching. When Erasmus visited Oxford in 1497, he found in these masters a scholarship which even he could admire. Tyndale, who went to Oxford circ. 1500, must have been within the range of their teaching. His two great opponents, Sir Thomas More and Bishop Tonstal, are known to have been among their pupils. It is significant enough that after some years of study Tyndale left Oxford and went to Cambridge. Such changes were, it is true, common enough. The fame of any great teacher would draw round him men from other universities, from many lands. In this instance, the reason of Tyndale’s choice is probably not far to seek (Walter, Biog. Notice to Tyndale’s Doctrinal Treatises). Erasmus was in Cambridge from 1509 to 1514. All that we know of Tyndale’s character and life, the fact especially that he had made translations of portions of the N. T. as early as 1502 10 (Offor, Life of Tyndale, p. 9), leads to the conclusion that he resolved to make the most of the presence of one who was emphatically the scholar and philologist of Europe. It must be remembered, too, that the great scheme of Cardinal Ximenes was just then beginning to interest the minds of all scholars. The publication of the Complutensian Bible, it is true, did not take place till 1520; but the collection of MSS. and other preparations for it began as early as 1504. In the mean time Erasmus himself, in 1516, brought out the first published edition of the Greek Testament; and it was thus made accessible to all scholars. Of the use made by Tyndale of these opportunities we have evidence in his coming up to London (1522), in the vain hope of persuading Tonstal (known as a Greek scholar, an enlightened Humanist) to sanction his scheme of rendering the N.T. into English, and bringing a translation of one of the orations of Isocrates as a proof of his capacity for the work. The attempt was not successful. “At the last I understood not only that there was no room in my Lord of London’s palace to translate the N.T., but also that there was no place to do it in all England” (Pref. to Five Books of Moses).

It is not so easy to say how far at this time any knowledge of Hebrew was attainable at the English universities, or how far Tyndale had used any means of access that were open to him. It is probable that it may have been known, in some measure, to a few bolder than their fellows, at a time far earlier than the introduction of Greek. The large body of Jews settled in the cities of England must have possessed a knowledge, more or less extensive, of their Hebrew books. On their banishment, to the number of 16,000, by Edward I., these books fell into the hands of the monks, superstitiously reverenced or feared by most, yet drawing some to examination, and then to study. Grostête, it is said, knew Hebrew as well as Greek. Roger Bacon knew enough 11 to pass judgment on the Vulgate as incorrect and misleading. Then, however, came a period in which linguistic studies were thrown into the background, and Hebrew became an unknown speech even to the best-read scholars. The first signs of a revival meet us toward the close of the 15th century. The remarkable fact that a Hebrew Psalter was printed at Soncino in 1477 (forty years before Erasmus’s Greek Testament), the Pentateuch in 1482, the Prophets in 1486, the whole of the O.T. in 1488, that by 1496 four editions had been published, and by 1596 not fewer than eleven (Whitaker, Hist. and Crit. Inquiry, p. 22) indicates a demand on the part of the Christian students of Europe, not less than on that of the more learned Jews. Here also the progress of the Complutensian Bible would have attracted the notice of scholars. The cry raised by the “Trojans” of Oxford in 1519 (chiefly consisting of the friars, who from the time of Wycliffe had all but swamped the education of the place) against the first Greek lectures — that to study that language would make men Pagans, that to study Hebrew would make them Jews — shows that the latter study as well as the former was the object of their dislike and fear 12 (Anderson, i. 24; Hallam, Lit. of Eur. i. 403).

Whether Tyndale had in this way gained any knowledge of Hebrew before he left England in 1524 may be uncertain. The fact that in 1530-31 he published a translation of Genesis, Deuteronomy, and Jonah, 13 may be looked on as the first-fruits of his labors, the work of a man who was giving this proof of his power to translate from the original (Anderson, Annals., i. 209-288). We may perhaps trace, among other motives for the many wanderings of his exile, a desire to visit the cities Worms, Cologne, Hamburgh, Antwerp (Anderson, pp. 48-64), where the Jews lived in greatest numbers, and some of which were famous for their Hebrew learning. Of at least a fair acquaintance with that language we have, a few years later, abundant evidence in the table of Hebrew words prefixed to his translation of the five books of Moses, and in casual etymologies scattered through his other works, e.g. Mammon (Parable of Wicked Mammon, p. 68 14), Cohen (Obedience, p. 255), Abel Mizraim (p. 347), Pesah (p. 353). A remark (Preface to Obedience, p. 148) shows how well he had entered into the general spirit of the language. “The properties of the Hebrew tongue agreeth a thousand times more with the Englishe than with the Latine. The manner of speaking is in both one, so that in a thousand places thou needest not but to translate it into Englishe word for word.” When Spalatin describes him in 1534 it is as one well-skilled in seven languages, and one of these is Hebrew 15 (Anderson, i. 397).

The N.T. was, however, the great object of his care. First the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark were published tentatively, then in 1525 the whole of the N.T. was printed in 4to at Cologne and in small 8vo at Worms. 16 The work was the fruit of a self-sacrificing zeal, and the zeal was its own reward. In England it was received with denunciations. Tonstal, Bishop of London, preaching at Paul’s Cross, asserted that there were at least 2,000 errors in it, and ordered all copies of it to be bought up and burnt. An Act of Parliament (35 Hen. VIII. cap. 1) forbade the use of all copies of Tyndale’s “false translation.” Sir T. More (Dialogues, I. c. Supplication of Souls, Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer) entered the lists against it, and accused the translator of heresy, bad scholarship, and dishonesty, of “corrupting Scripture after Luther’s counsel.” The treatment which it received from professed friends was hardly less annoying. Piratical editions were printed, often carelessly, by trading publishers at Antwerp. 17 A scholar of his own, George Joye, undertook (in 1534) to improve the version by bringing it into closer conformity with the Vulgate, and made it the vehicle of peculiar opinions of his own, substituting “life after this life,” or “verie life,” for “resurrection,” as the translation of αναστασις. (Comp. Tyndale’s indignant protest in Pref. to edition of 1534.) Even the most zealous reformers in England seemed disposed to throw his translation overboard, and encouraged Coverdale (infra) in undertaking another. In the mean time the work went on. Editions were printed one after another. 18 The last appeared in 1535, just before his death, “diligently compared with the Greek,” presenting for the first time systematic chapter-headings, and with some peculiarities in spelling specially intended for the pronunciation of the peasantry (Offor, Life, p. 82 19). His heroic life was brought to a close in 1536. We may cast one look on its sad end — the treacherous betrayal, the Judas-kiss of the false friend, the imprisonment at Vilvorden, the last prayer, as the axe was about to fall, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.” 20

The work to which a life was thus nobly devoted was as nobly done. To Tyndale belongs the honor of having given the first example of a translation based on true principles, and the excellence of later versions has been almost in exact proportion as they followed his. Believing that every part of Scripture had one sense and one only, the sense in the mind of the writer (Obedience, p. 304), he made it his work, using all philological helps that were accessible, to attain that sense. Believing that the duty of a translator was to place his readers as nearly as possible on a level with those for whom the books were originally written, he looked on all the later theological associations that had gathered round the words of the N.T. as hindrances rather than helps, and sought, as far as possible, to get rid of them. Not “grace,” but “favor,” even in John i. 17 (in edition of 1525); [Here Plumptre seems to be saying that Tyndale ordinarily used “favor” instead of “grace” in his translation of the New Testament. This erroneous impression was probably created by a sentence in his Answer to Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue, in which he defends an occasional use of “favour” where it seemed best to him, and says that “grace” was one of “juggling terms” of Roman Catholics, who “were wont to make many divisions, distinctions, and sorts of grace.” But the fact is, he used the word “grace” in the great majority of places where χαρις occurs in the New Testament. In his edition of 1526, he used “grace” in 106 of the 148 verses where it occurs; and in the revision of 1534 he increased it to 116. (The King James version adds only ten more, using “grace” in 126.) Evidently Tyndale knew that in most cases the word “favor” could not express the meaning of χαρις, and felt that “grace” was the better word. — M.D.M.] not “charity,” but “love”; not “confessing,” but “acknowledging”; [Tyndale has “knowledge” (in the sense of “acknowledge”) instead of “confess” for the verb εξομολογεομαι in Matt. 3:6, Mark 1:5, Romans 14:11, James 5:16; but he uses “confess” for the same verb in Philippians 2:11, Acts 19:18 and Rev. 3:5. Likewise ὁμολογεω is translated “knowledge” in Matt. 7:23, 10:32, Romans 10:9, 10; and 1 John 1:9; but “confess” in Luke 12:8, John 1:20, 9:22, Acts 24:14, Titus 1:16, Heb. 11:13, 13:15, 1 John 4:2, 3, 15, and 2 John 7. — M.D.M.] not “penance,” but “repentance”; not “priests,” but “seniors” or “elders”; not “salvation,” but “health”; not “church,” but “congregation,” are instances of the changes which were then looked on as startling and heretical innovations (Sir T. More, I. c.). Some of them we are now familiar with. In others the later versions bear traces of a reaction in favor of the older phraseology. [Tyndale himself gave up some of these renderings, which he clearly had used for anti-Catholic reasons, and reverted to more conventional terms in his revised editions of 1534 and 1535. For example, he changed “knoledging their synnes” in Matt. 3:6 to “confessynge their synnes” for the edition of 1534. — M.D.M.] In this, as in other things, Tyndale was in advance, not only of his own age, but of the age that followed him. To him, however, it is owing that the versions of the English Church have throughout been popular, and not scholastic. All the exquisite grace and simplicity which have endeared the A.V. to men of the most opposite tempers and contrasted opinions — to J. H. Newman (Dublin Review, June, 1853) and J. A. Froude — is due mainly to his clear-sighted truthfulness. 21 The desire to make the Bible a people’s book led him in one edition to something like a provincial, rather than a national translation, 22 but on the whole it kept him free from the besetting danger of the time, that of writing for scholars, not for the people; of a version full of “ink-horn” phrases, not in the spoken language of the English nation. And throughout there is the pervading stamp, so often wanting in other like works, of the most thorough truthfulness. No word has been altered to court a king’s favor, or please bishops, or make out a case for or against a particular opinion. He is working freely, not in the fetters of prescribed rules. With the most entire sincerity he could say, “I call God to record, against the day we shall appear before our Lord Jesus to give a reckoning of our doings, that I never altered one syllable of God’s word against my conscience, nor would this day, if all that is in the world, whether it be pleasure, honor, or riches, might be given me” (Anderson, i. 349).

IV. Coverdale.

(1.) A complete translation of the Bible, different from Tyndale’s, bearing the name of Miles Coverdale, printed probably at Zurich, appeared in 1535. The undertaking itself, and the choice of Coverdale as the translator, were probably due to Cromwell. Tyndale’s controversial treatises, and the polemical character of his prefaces and notes, had irritated the leading ecclesiastics and embittered the mind of the king himself against him. All that he had written was publicly condemned. There was no hope of obtaining the king’s sanction for anything that bore his name. But the idea of an English translation began to find favor. The rupture with the see of Rome, the marriage with Anne Boleyn, made Henry willing to adopt what was urged upon him as the surest way of breaking forever the spell of the Pope’s authority. The bishops even began to think of the thing as possible. It was talked of in Convocation. They would take it in hand themselves. The work did not, however, make much progress. The great preliminary question whether “venerable” words, such as hostia, penance, pascha, holocaust, and the like, should be retained, was still unsettled (Anderson, i. 414). 23 Not till “the day after doomsday” (the words are Cranmer’s) were the English people likely to get their English Bible from the bishops (ibid. i. 577). Cromwell, it is probable, thought it better to lose no further time, and to strike while the iron was hot. A divine whom he had patronized, though not, like Tyndale, feeling himself called to that special work (Pref. to Coverdale’s Bible), was willing to undertake it. To him accordingly it was intrusted. There was no stigma attached to his name, and, though a sincere reformer, neither at that time nor afterwards did he occupy a sufficiently prominent position to become an object of special persecution. 24

(2.) The work which was thus executed was done, as might be expected, in a very different fashion from Tyndale’s. Of the two men, one had made this the great object of his life, the other, in his own language, “sought it not, neither desired it,” but accepted it as a task assigned him. One prepared himself for the work by long years of labor in Greek and Hebrew. The other is content to make a translation at second hand “out of the Douche (Luther’s German Version) and the Latine.” 25 The one aims at a rendering which shall be the truest and most exact possible. The other loses himself in weak commonplace as to the advantage of using many English words for one and the same word in the original, and in practice oscillates between “penance” and “repentance,” “love” and “charity,” “priests” and “elders,” as though one set of words were as true and adequate as the other (Preface, p. 19). In spite of these weaknesses, however, there is much to like in the spirit and temper of Coverdale. He is a second-rate man, laboring as such contentedly, not ambitious to appear other than he is. He thinks it a great gain that there should be a diversity of translations. He acknowledges, though he dare not name it, the excellence of Tyndale’s version, 26 and regrets the misfortune which left it incomplete. He states frankly that he had done his work with the assistance of that and of five others. 27 If the language of his dedication to the king, whom he compares to Moses, David, and Josiah, seems to be somewhat fulsome in its flattery, it is, at least, hardly more offensive than that of the dedication of the A.V., and there was more to palliate it. 28

(3.) An inspection of Coverdale’s version serves to show the influence of the authorities he followed. 29 The proper names of the O.T. appear for the most part in their Latin form, Elias, Eliseus, Ochozias; sometimes, as in Esay and Jeremy, in that which was familiar in spoken English. Some points of correspondence with Luther’s version are not without interest. Thus “Cush,” which in Wycliffe, Tyndale, and the A.V. is uniformly rendered “Ethiopia,” is in Coverdale “Morians’ land” (Ps. lxviii. 31; Acts viii. 27, &c.), after the “Mohrenlande” of Luther, and appears in this form accordingly in the P. B. [Prayer Book] version of the Psalms. The proper name Rabshakeh passes, as in Luther, into the “chief butler” (2 K. xviii. 17; Is. xxxvi. 11). In making the sons of David “priests” (2 Sam. viii. 18), he followed both his authorities. Επισκοποι are “bishops” in Acts xx. 28 (“overseers” in A.V.). “Shiloh,” in the prophecy of Gen. xlix. 10, becomes “the worthy,” after Luther’s “der Held.” “They houghed oxen” takes the place of “they digged down a wall,” in Gen. xlix. 6. The singular word “Lamia” is taken from the Vulg., as the English rendering of Ziim (“wild beasts,” A.V.) in Is. xxxiv. 14. The “tabernacle of witness,” where the A.V. has “congregation,” shows the same influence. In spite of Tyndale, the Vulg. “plena gratia,” in Luke i. 28, leads to “full of grace”; while we have, on the other hand, “congregation” throughout the N.T. for εκκλησια, and “love” instead of “charity” in 1 Cor. xiii. It was the result of the same indecision that his language as to the Apocrypha lacks the sharpness of that of the more zealous reformers. “Baruch” is placed with the canonical books, after “Lamentations.” Of the rest he says that they are “placed apart,” as “not held by ecclesiastical doctors in the same repute” as the other Scriptures, but this is only because there are “dark sayings” which seem to differ from the “open Scripture.” He has no wish that they should be “despised or little set by.” “Patience and study would show that the two were agreed.”

(4.) What has been stated practically disposes of the claim which has sometimes been made for this version of Coverdale’s, as though it had been made from the original text (Anderson, i. 564; Whitaker, Hist, and Crit. Enquiry, p. 58). It is not improbable, however, that as time went on he added to his knowledge. The letter addressed by him to Cromwell (Remains, p. 492, Parker Soc.) obviously asserts, somewhat ostentatiously, an acquaintance “not only with the standing text of the Hebrew, with the interpretation of the Chaldee and the Greek,” but also with “the diversity of reading of all texts.” He, at any rate, continued his work as a painstaking editor. Fresh editions of his Bible were published, keeping their ground in spite of rivals, in 1537, 1539, 1550, 1553. He was called in at a still later period to assist in the Geneva version. Among smaller facts connected with this edition may be mentioned the appearance of Hebrew letters — of the name Jehovah — in the title-page (יהוה), and again in the margin of the alphabetic poetry of Lamentations, though not of Ps. cxix. The plural form “Biblia” is retained in the title-page, possibly however in its later use as a singular feminine. There are no notes, no chapter-headings, no divisions into verses. The letters A, B, C, D, in the margin, as in the early editions of Greek and Latin authors, are the only helps for finding places. Marginal references point to parallel passages. The O.T. especially in Genesis, has the attraction of wood-cuts. Each book has a table of contents prefixed to it. 30

V. Matthew.

(1.) In the year 1537, a large folio Bible appeared as edited and dedicated to the king, by Thomas Matthew. No one of that name appears at all prominently in the religious history of Henry VIII., and this suggests the inference that the name was pseudonymous, adopted to conceal the real translator. The tradition which connects this Matthew with John Rogers, the proto-martyr of the Marian persecution, is all but undisputed. It rests (1) on the language of the indictment and sentence which describe him (Foxe, Acts and Monuments, pp. 1029, 1563; Chester, Life of Rogers, pp. 418-423) as Joannes Rogers alias Matthew, as if it were a matter of notoriety; (2) the testimony of Foxe himself, as representing, if not personal knowledge, the current belief of his time; (3) the occurrence, at the close of a short exhortation to the Study of Scripture in the Preface, of the initials J. R.; 31 (4) internal evidence. This subdivides itself. (a.) Rogers, who had graduated at Pembroke Coll. Cambridge in 1525, and had sufficient fame to be invited to the new Cardinal’s College at Oxford, accepted the office of chaplain to the merchant adventurers of Antwerp, and there became acquainted with Tyndale, two years before the latter’s death. Matthew’s Bible, as might be expected, if this hypothesis were true, reproduces Tyndale’s work, in the N. T. entirely, in the O.T. as far as 2 Chr., the rest being taken with occasional modifications from Coverdale. (b.) The language of the dedication is that of one who has mixed much, as Rogers mixed, with foreign reformers. “This hope have the godlie even in strange countries, in your grace’s godliness.”

(2.) The printing of the book was begun apparently abroad, and was carried on as far as the end of Isaiah. At that point a new pagination begins, and the names of the London printers, Grafton and Whitechurch, appear. The history of the book was probably something like this: Coverdale’s translation had not given satisfaction — least of all were the more zealous and scholar-like reformers contented with it. As the only complete English Bible, it was, however, as yet, in possession of the field. Tyndale and Rogers, therefore, in the year preceding the imprisonment of the former, determined on another, to include O.T., N.T., and Apocrypha, but based throughout on the original. Left to himself, Rogers carried on the work, probably at the expense of the same Antwerp merchant who had assisted Tyndale (Poyntz), and thus got as far as Isaiah. The enterprising London printers, Grafton and Whitechurch, then came in (Chester, Life of Rogers, p. 29). It would be a good speculation to enter the market with this, and so drive out Coverdale’s, in which they had no interest. They accordingly embarked a considerable capital, £500, and then came a stroke of policy which may be described as a miracle of audacity. Rogers’s name, known as the friend of Tyndale, is suppressed, and the simulacrum of Thomas Matthew disarms suspicion. The book is sent by Grafton to Cranmer. He reads, approves, rejoices. He would rather have the news of its being licensed than a thousand pounds (Chester, pp. 425-427). Application is then made both by Grafton and Cranmer to Cromwell. The king’s license is granted, but the publisher wants more. Nothing less than a monopoly for five years will give him a fair margin of profit. Without this, he is sure to be undersold by piratical, inaccurate editions, badly printed, on inferior paper. Failing this, he trusts that the king will order one copy to be bought by every incumbent, and six by every abbey. If this was too much, the king might, at least, impose that obligation on all the popishly-inclined clergy. That will bring in something, besides the good it may possibly do them (Chester, p. 430). The application was, to some extent, successful. A copy was ordered, by royal proclamation, to be set up in every church, the cost being divided between the clergy and the parishioners. This was, therefore, the first Authorized Version, It is scarcely conceivable, however, that Henry could have read the book which he thus sanctioned, or known that it was substantially identical with what had been publicly stigmatized in his Acts of Parliament (ut supra). What had before given most offense had been the polemic character of Tyndale’s annotations, and here were notes bolder and more thorough still. Even the significant W. T. does not appear to have attracted notice.

(3.) What has been said of Tyndale’s version applies, of course, to this. There are, however, signs of a more advanced knowledge of Hebrew. All the technical words connected with the Psalms, Neginoth, Shiggaion, Sheminith, etc., are elaborately explained. Ps. ii. is printed as a dialogue. The names of the Hebrew letters are prefixed to the verses of Lamentations. Reference is made to the Chaldee Paraphrase (Job vi.), to Rabbi Abraham (Job xix,), to Kimchi (Ps. iii.). A like range of knowledge is shown in the N.T. Strabo is quoted to show that the Magi were not kings, Macrobius as testifying to Herod’s ferocity (Matt. ii.), Erasmus’s Paraphrase on Matt. xiii., xv. The popular identification of Mary Magdalene with “the woman that was a sinner” is discussed, and rejected (Luke x.). More noticeable even than in Tyndale is the boldness and fullness of the exegetical notes scattered throughout the book. Strong and earnest in asserting what he looked on as the central truths of the Gospel, there was in Rogers a Lutherlike freedom in other things which has not appeared again in any authorized translation or popular commentary. He guards his readers against looking on the narrative of Job i. as literally true. He recognizes a definite historical starting-point for Ps. xlv. (“The sons of Korah praise Solomon for the beauty, eloquence, power, and nobleness, both of himself and of his wife”), Ps. xxii. (“David declareth Christ’s dejection … and all, under figure of himself”), and the Song of Solomon (“Solomon made this balade for himself and his wife, the daughter of Pharaoh, under the shadow of himself, figuring Christ,” etc.). The chief duty of the Sabbath is “to minister the fodder of the Word to simple souls,” to be “pitiful over the weariness of such neighbors as labored sore all the week long.” “When such occasions come as turn our rest to occupation and labor, then ought we to remember that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Jer. xvii.). He sees in the prophets of the N.T. simply “expounders of Holy Scripture” (Acts xv.). To the man living in faith, “Peter’s fishing after the resurrection, and all deeds of matrimony are pure spiritual”; to those who are not, “learning, doctrine, contemplation of high things, preaching, study of Scripture, founding of churches and abbeys, are works of the flesh” (Pref. to Romans). 32 “Neither is outward circumcision or outward baptism worth a pin of themselves, save that they put us in remembrance to keep the covenant” (1 Cor. vii.). “He that desireth honor, graspeth after lucre … castles, parks, lordships … desireth not a work, much less a good work, and is nothing less than a bishop” (1 Tim. iii.). Ez. xxiv. is said to be “against bishops and curates that despise the flock of Christ.” The αγγελος εκκλησιας of Rev. ii. and iii. appears (as in Tyndale) as “the messenger of the congregation.” Strong protests against purgatory are found in notes to Ez. xviii. and 1 Cor. iii., and in the “Table of Principal Matters” it is significantly stated under the word Purgatory that “it is not in the Bible, but the purgation and remission of our sin is made us by the abundant mercy of God.” The preface to the Apocrypha explains the name, and distinctly asserts the inferiority of the books. No notes are added, and the translation is taken from Coverdale, as if it had not been worth while to give much labor to it.

(4.) A few points of detail remain to be noticed. In the order of the books of the N.T. Rogers follows Tyndale, agreeing with the A.V. as far as the Epistle to Philemon. This is followed by the Epistles of St. John, then that to the Hebrews, then those of St. Peter, St. James, and St, Jude. Wood-cuts, not very freely introduced elsewhere, are prefixed to every chapter in the Revelation. The introduction of the “Table” mentioned above gives Rogers a claim to be the Patriarch of Concordances, the “father” of all such as write in dictionaries of the Bible. Reverence for the Hebrew text is shown by his striking out the three verses which the Vulgate has added to Ps. xiv. In a later edition, published at Paris, not by Rogers himself, but by Grafton, under Coverdale’s superintendence, in 1539, the obnoxious prologue and prefaces were suppressed, and the notes systematically expurgated and toned down. The book was in advance of the age. Neither book-sellers nor bishops were prepared to be responsible for it.

VI. Taverner (1539).

(1.) The boldness of the pseudo-Matthew had, as has been said, frightened the ecclesiastical world from its propriety. Coverdale’s version was, however, too inaccurate to keep its ground. It was necessary to find another editor, and the printers applied to Richard Taverner. But little is known of his life. The fact that, though a layman, he had been chosen as one of the canons of the Cardinal’s College at Oxford indicates a reputation for scholarship, and this is confirmed by the character of his translation. It professes, in the title-page, to be “newly recognized, with great diligence, after the most faithful exemplars.” The editor acknowledges “the labors of others (i. e. Tyndale, Coverdale, and Matthew, though he does not name them) who have neither undiligently nor unlearnedly travelled,” owns that the work is not one which can be done “absolutely” (i. e. completely) by one or two persons, but requires “a deeper conferring of many learned wittes together, and also a juster time, and longer leisure”; but the thing had to be done; he had been asked to do it. He had “used his talent” as he could.

(2.) In most respects this may be described as an expurgated edition of Matthew’s. There is a Table of Principal Matters, and there are notes; but the notes are briefer, and less polemical. The passages quoted above are, e. g. omitted wholly or in part. The epistles follow the same order as before.

VII. Cranmer.

(1.) In the same year as Taverner’s, and coming from the same press, appeared an English Bible, in a more stately folio, printed with a more costly type, bearing a higher name than any previous edition. The title-page is an elaborate engraving, the spirit and power of which indicate the hand of Holbein. The king, seated on his throne, is giving the Verbum Dei to the bishops and doctors, and they distribute it to the people, while doctors and people are all joining in cries of “Vivat Rex.” It declares the book to be “truly translated after the verity of the Hebrew and Greek texts” by “divers excellent learned men, expert in the foresaid tongues.” A preface, in April, 1540, with the initials T.C. implies the archbishop’s sanction. In a later edition (Nov. 1540), his name appears on the title-page, and the names of his coadjutors are given, Cuthbert (Tonstal) Bishop of Durham, and Nicholas (Heath) Bishop of Rochester; but this does not exclude the possibility of others having been employed for the first edition.

(2.) Cranmer’s version presents, as might be expected, many points of interest. The prologue gives a more complete ideal of what a translation ought to be than we have as yet seen. Words not in the original are to be printed in a different type. They are added, even when “not wanted by the sense,” to satisfy those who have “missed them” in previous translations, i. e. they represent the various readings of the Vulgate where it differs from the Hebrew. The sign * indicates diversity in the Chaldee and Hebrew. It had been intended to give all these, but it was found that this would have taken too much time and space, and the editors purposed therefore to print them in a little volume by themselves. The frequent hands (hand icon) in the margin, in like manner, show an intention to give notes at the end; but Matthew’s Bible had made men cautious, and, as there had not been time for “the King’s Council to settle them,” they were omitted, and no help given to the reader beyond the marginal references. In absence of notes, the lay-reader is to submit himself to the “godly-learned in Christ Jesus.” There is, as the title-page might lead us to expect, a greater display of Hebrew than in any previous version. The books of the Pentateuch have their Hebrew names given, Bereschith (Genesis), Velle Schemoth (Exodus), and so on. 1 and 2 Chr. in like manner appear, as Dibre Haiamim. In the edition of 1541, many proper names in the O.T. appear in the fuller Hebrew form, e. g. Amaziahu, Jeremiahu. In spite of this parade of learning, however, the edition of 1539 contains, perhaps, the most startling blunder that ever appeared under the sanction of an archbishop’s name. The editors adopted the preface which, in Matthew’s Bible, had been prefixed to the Apocrypha. In that preface the common traditional explanation of the name was concisely given. They appear, however, to have shrunk from offending the conservative party in the Church by applying to the books in question so damnatory an epithet as Apocrypha. They looked out for a word more neutral and respectful, and found one that appeared in some MSS. of Jerome so applied, though in strictness it belonged to an entirely different set of books. They accordingly substituted that word, leaving the preface in all other respects as it was before, and the result is the somewhat ludicrous statement that the “books were called Hagiographa,” because “they were read in secret and apart”!

(3.) A later edition in 1541 presents a few modifications worth noticing. It appears as “authorized” to be “used and frequented” in “every church in the kingdom.” The introduction, with all its elaborate promise of a future perfection disappears, and, in its place, there is a long preface by Cranmer, avoiding as much as possible all references to other translations, taking a safe Via Media tone, blaming those who “refuse to read,” on the one hand, and “inordinate reading,” on the other. This neutral character, so characteristic of Cranmer’s policy, was doubtless that which enabled it to keep its ground during the changing moods of Henry’s later years. It was reprinted again and again, and was the Authorized Version of the English Church till 1568 — the interval of Mary’s reign excepted. From it, accordingly, were taken most, if not all, the portions of Scripture in the Prayer Books of 1549 and 1552. The Psalms, as a whole, the quotations from Scripture in the Homilies, the sentences in the Communion Services, and some phrases elsewhere, 33 still preserve the remembrance of it. The oscillating character of the book is shown in the use of “love” instead of “charity” in 1 Cor. xiii.; and “congregation” instead of “church” generally, after Tyndale; while in 1 Tim. iv. 14, we have the singular rendering, as if to gain the favor of his opponents, “with authority of priesthood.” The plan of indicating doubtful texts by a smaller type was adhered to, and was applied, among other passages, to Ps. xiv. 5, 6, 7, and the more memorable text of 1 John v. 7. The translation of 2 Tim. iii. 16, “All Scripture given by inspiration of God, is profitable,” etc., anticipated a construction of that text which has sometimes been boasted of, and sometimes attacked, as an innovation. In this, however, Tyndale had led the way.

VIII. Geneva.

(1.) The experimental translation of the Gospel of St. Matthew by Sir John Cheke into a purer English than before (Strype, Life of Cheke, vii. 3). had so little influence on the versions that followed that it hardly calls for more than a passing notice, as showing that scholars were as yet unsatisfied. The reaction under Mary gave a check to the whole work, as far as England was concerned; but the exiles who fled to Geneva entered on it with more vigor than ever. Cranmer’s version did not come up to their ideal. Its size made it too costly. There were no explanatory or dogmatic notes. It followed Coverdale too closely; and where it deviated, did so, in some instances, in a retrograde direction. The Genevan refugees — among them Whittingham, Goodman, Pullain, Sampson, and Coverdale himself — labored “for two years or more, day and night.” They entered on their “great and wonderful work” with much “fear and trembling.” Their translation of the N.T. was “diligently revised by the most approved Greek examples” (MSS. or editions?) (Preface). The N.T., translated by Whittingham, was printed by Conrad Badius in 1557, the whole Bible in 1560.

(2.) Whatever may have been its faults, the Geneva Bible was unquestionably, for sixty years, the most popular of all versions. Largely imported in the early years of Elizabeth, it was printed in England in 1561, and a patent of monopoly given to James Bodleigh. This was transferred, in 1576, to Barker, in whose family the right of printing Bibles remained for upwards of a century. Not less than eighty editions, some of the whole Bible, were printed between 1558 and 1611. 34 It kept its ground for some time even against the A.V., and gave way, as it were, slowly and under protest. The causes of this general acceptance are not difficult to ascertain. The volume was, in all its editions, cheaper and more portable — a small quarto, instead of the large folio of Cranmer’s “Great Bible.” It was the first Bible which laid aside the obsolescent black letter, and appeared in Roman type. It was the first which, following the Hebrew example, recognized the division into verses, so dear to the preachers or hearers of sermons. It was accompanied, in most of the editions after 1578, by a Bible Dictionary of considerable merit. The notes were often really helpful in dealing with the difficulties of Scripture, and were looked on as spiritual and evangelical. It was accordingly the version specially adopted by the great Puritan party through the whole reign of Elizabeth, and far into that of James. As might be expected, it was based on Tyndale’s version, often returning to it where the intermediate renderings had had the character of a compromise.

(3.) Some peculiarities are worthy of special notice: (1.) It professes a desire to restore the “true writing” of many Hebrew names, and we meet accordingly with forms like Izhak (Isaac), Jaacob, and the like. (2.) It omits the name of St. Paul from the title of the Epistle to the Hebrews; and, in a short preface, leaves the authorship an open question. (3.) It avows the principle of putting all words not in the original in Italics. (4.) It presents, in a calendar prefixed to the Bible, something like a declaration of war against the established order of the Church’s lessons, commemorating Scripture facts, and the deaths of the great Reformers, but ignoring saints’ days altogether. (5.) It was the first English Bible which entirely omitted the Apocrypha. (6.) The notes were characteristically Swiss, not only in their theology, but in their politics. They made allegiance to kings dependent upon the soundness of their faith, and in one instance (note on 2 Chr. xv. 16) at least seemed, to the easily startled James I., to favor tyrannicide. 35

(4.) The circumstances of the early introduction of the Geneva version are worth mentioning, if only as showing in how different a spirit the great fathers of the English Reformation, the most conservative of Anglican theologians, acted from that which has too often animated their successors. Men talk now of different translations and various readings as likely to undermine the faith of the people. When application was made to Archbishop Parker, in 1565, to support Bodleigh’s application, for a license to reprint the Geneva version in 12mo, he wrote to Cecil in its favor. He was at the time looking forward to the work he afterwards accomplished, of “one other special Bible for the churches, to be set forth as convenient time and leisure should permit”; but in the mean time it would “nothing hinder, but rather do much good, to have diversity of translations and readings” (Strype, Life of Parker, iii. 6). 36 In many of the later reprints of this edition the N.T. purports to be based upon Beza’s Latin version; and the notes are said to be taken from [Beza,] Joac. Camerarius, P. Loseler Villerius, and Fr. Junius.

IX. The Bishops’ Bible.

(1.) The facts just stated will account for the wish of Archbishop Parker, in spite oi his liberal tolerance, to bring out another version which might establish its claims against that of Geneva. Great preparations were made. The correspondence of Parker with his suffragans presents some points of interest, as showing how little agreement there was as to the true theory of a translation. Thus while Sandys, Bishop of Worcester, finds fault with the “common translation” (Geneva?), as “following Munster too much,” and so “swerving much from the Hebrew,” Guest, Bishop of St. David’s, who took the Psalms, acted on the principle of translating them so as to agree with the N.T. quotations, “for the avoiding of offense”; and Cox, Bishop of Ely, while laying down the sensible rule that “inkhorn terms were to be avoided,” also went on to add “that the usual terms were to be retained so far forth as the Hebrew will well bear” (Strype, Parker, iii. 6). The principle of pious frauds, of distorting the truth for the sake of edification, has perhaps often been acted on by other translators. It has not often been so explicitly avowed as in the first of these suggestions.

(2.) The bishops thus consulted, eight in number, together with some deans and professors, brought out the fruit of their labors in a magnificent folio (1568 and 1572). Everything had been done to make it attractive. A long erudite preface vindicated the right of the people to read the Scriptures, and (quoting the authority of Bishop Fisher) admitted the position which later divines have often been slow to admit that “there be yet in the Gospel many dark places which, without all doubt, to the posterity shall be made much more open.” Wood-engravings of a much higher character than those of the Geneva Bible were scattered profusely, especially in Genesis. Three portraits of the Queen, the Earl of Leicester, and Lord Burleigh, beautiful specimens of copperplate engraving, appeared on the title-pages of the several parts. 37 A map of Palestine was given, with degrees of latitude and longitude, in the edition of 1572. A most elaborate series of genealogical tables, prepared by Hugh Broughton, the great Rabbi of the age (of whom more hereafter), but ostensibly by Speed the antiquary (Broughton’s name being in disfavor with the bishops), was prefixed (Strype, Parker, iv. 20; Lightfoot, Life of Broughton). In some points it followed previous translations, and was avowedly based on Cranmer’s. “A new edition was necessary.” “This had led some well-disposed men to recognize it again, not as condemning the former translation, which has been followed mostly of any other translation, excepting the original text” (Pref. of 1572). Cranmer’s prologue was reprinted. The Geneva division into verses was adopted throughout.

(3.) Some peculiarities, however, appear for the first and last time. (1.) The books of the Bible are classified as legal, historical, sapiential, and prophetic. This was easy enough for the O.T., but the application of the same idea to the N.T. produced some rather curious combinations. The Gospels, the Catholic Epistles, and those to Titus, Philemon, and the Hebrews, are grouped together as legal, St. Paul’s other epistles as sapiential; the Acts appear as the one historical, the Revelation as the one prophetic book. (2.) It is the only Bible in which many passages, sometimes nearly a whole chapter, have been marked for the express purpose, of being omitted when the chapters were read in the public service of the Church. (3.) One edition contained the older version of the Psalms from Matthew’s Bible, in parallel columns with that now issued, a true and practical acknowledgment of the benefit of a diversity of translations. [Actually this was done not for the reason stated here, but because the former version of the Psalms, done by Coverdale, was the version used in the Prayer Book, and because the new version was found to be less accurate. — M.D.M.] (4.) The initials of the translators were attached to the books which they had severally undertaken. The work was done on the plan of limited, not joint liability. (5.) Here as in the Geneva, there is the attempt to give the Hebrew proper names more accurately, as, e.g., in Heva, Isahac, Uziahu, etc.

(4.) Of all the English versions, the Bishops’ Bible had probably the least success. It did not command the respect of scholars, and its size and cost were far from meeting the wants of the people. Its circulation appears to have been practically limited to the churches which were ordered to be supplied with it. It had however, at any rate, the right to boast of some good Hebrew scholars among the translators. One of them. Bishop Alley, had written a Hebrew Grammar; and though vehemently attacked by Broughton (Townley, Literary History of the Bible, iii. 190), it was defended as vigorously by Fulke, and, together with the A.V. received from Selden the praise of being “the best translation in the world” (“Table Talk,” Works, iii. 2009).

X. Rheims and Douay.

(1.) The successive changes in the Protestant versions of the Scriptures were, as might be expected, matter of triumph to the controversialists of the Latin Church. Some saw in it an argument against any translation of Scripture into the spoken language of the people. Others pointed derisively to the want of unity which these changes displayed. There were some, however, who took the line which Sir T. More and Gardiner had taken under Henry VIII. They did not object to the principle of an English translation. They only charged all the versions hitherto made with being false, corrupt, heretical. To this there was the ready retort, that they had done nothing: that their bishops in the reign of Henry had promised, but had not performed. It was felt to be necessary that they should take some steps which might enable them to turn the edge of this reproach, and the English refugees who were settled at Rheims — Martin, Allen (afterwards cardinal), and Bristow — undertook the work. Gregory Martin, who had graduated at Cambridge, had signalized himself by an attack on the existing versions, 38 and had been answered in an elaborate treatise by Fulke, Master of Catherine Hall, Cambridge (A Defence of the Sincere and True Translation, etc.). The charges are mostly of the same kind as those brought by Sir T. More against Tyndale. “The old time-honored words were discarded. The authority of the LXX. and Vulgate was set at nought when the translator’s view of the meaning of the Hebrew and Greek differed from what he found in them.” The new model translation was to avoid these faults. It was to command the respect at once of priests and people. After an incubation of some years it was published at Rheims in 1582. Though Martin was competent to translate from the Greek, it professed to be based on “the authentic text of the Vulgate.” Notes were added, as strongly dogmatic as those of the Geneva Bible, and often keenly controversial. The work of translation was completed somewhat later by the publication of the O.T. at Douay in 1609. The language was precisely what might have been expected from men who adopted Gardiner’s ideal of what a translation ought to be. At every page we stumble on “strange ink-horn words,” which never had been English, and never could be, such, e.g., as “the Pasche and the Azymes” (Mark xvi. 1), “the arch-synagogue” (Mark v. 35), “in prepuce” (Rom. iv. 9), “obdurate with the fallacie of sin” (Heb. iii. 13), “a greater hoste” (Heb. xi. 4), “this is the annuntiation” (1 John v. 5), “pre-ordinate” (Acts xiii. 48), “the justifications of our Lord” (Luke i. 6), “what is to me and thee” (John ii. 4), “longanimity” (Rom. ii. 4), “purge the old leaven that you may be a new paste, as you are azymes” (1 Cor. iv. 7), “you are evacuated from Christ” (Gal. v. 4), and so on. 39

(2.) A style such as this had, as might he expected, but few admirers. Among those few, however, we find one great name. Bacon, who leaves the great work of the reign of James unnoticed, and quotes almost uniformly from the Vulgate, goes out of his way to praise the Rhemish version for having restored “charity” to the place from which Tyndale had expelled it, in 1 Cor. xiii. (Of the Pacification of the Church). [The reference is to Francis Bacon, Certain Considerations Touching the Better Pacification and Edification of the Church of England, 1640, where Bacon writes: “This may be said that it is a good rule in translation, never to confound that in one word in the translation, which is precisely distinguished in two words in the original, for doubt of equivocation and traducing. And therefore seeing the word πρεσβυτερος and ιερευς be always distinguished in the original; and the one used for a Sacrificer, the other for a Minister; the word, Priest, being made common to both, whatsoever the derivation be, yet in use it confoundeth the Minister with the Sacrificer. And for an example of this kind, I did ever allow the discretion and tenderness of the Rhemish translation in this point; that finding in the original the word αγαπη and never ερως, do ever translate Charity, and never Love, because of the indifferency and equivocation of the word with impure love.” — M.D.M.]

XI. Authorized Version.

(1.) The position of the English Church in relation to the versions in use at the commencement of the reign of James was hardly satisfactory. The Bishops’ Bible was sanctioned by authority. That of Geneva had the strongest hold on the affections of the people. Scholars, Hebrew scholars in particular, found grave fault with both. Hugh Broughton, who spoke Hebrew as if it had been his mother-tongue, denounced the former as being full of “traps and pitfalls,” “overthrowing all religion,” and proposed a new revision to be effected by an English Septuagint (72), with power to consult gardeners, artists, and the like, about the words connected with their several callings, and bound to submit their work to “one qualified for difficulties.” This ultimate referee was, of course, to be himself (Strype, Whitgift, iv. 19, 23). Unhappily, neither his temper nor his manners were such as to win favor for this suggestion. Whitgift disliked him, worried him, drove him into exile. His feeling was, however, shared by others; and among the demands of the Puritan representatives at the Hampton Court Conference in 1604 (Dr. Reinolds being the spokesman), was one for a new, or, at least, a revised translation. The special objections which they urged were neither numerous (three passages only — Ps. cv. 28, cvi. 30, Gal. iv. 25, were referred to) nor important, and we must conclude either that this part of their case had not been carefully got up, or that the bullying to which they were exposed had had the desired effect of throwing them into some confusion. The bishops treated the difficulties which they did raise with supercilious scorn. They were “trivial, old, and often answered.” Bancroft raised the cry of alarm which a timid Conservatism has so often raised since. “If every man’s humor were to be followed, there would be no end of translating” (Cardwell, Conferences, p. 188). Cranmer’s words seemed likely to be fulfilled again. Had it been left to the bishops, we might have waited for the A.V. “till the day after doomsday.” Even when the work was done, and the translators acknowledged that the Hampton Court Conference had been the starting-point of it, they could not resist the temptation of a fling at their opponents. The objections to the Bishops’ Bible had, they said, been nothing more than a shift to justify the refusal of the Puritans to subscribe to the Communion Book (Preface to A.V.). But the king disliked the politics of the Geneva Bible. Either repeating what he had heard from others, or exercising his own judgment, he declared that there was as yet no good translation, and that that was the worst of all. Nothing, however, was settled at the Conference beyond the hope thus held out.

(2.) But the king was not forgetful of what he thought likely to be the glory of his reign. The work of organizing and superintending the arrangements for a new translation was one specially congenial to him, and in 1606 the task was accordingly commenced. The selection of the fifty-four scholars 40 to whom it was entrusted, seems, on the whole, to have been a wise and fair one. Andrews, Saravia, Overal, Montague, and Barlow, represented the “higher” party in the Church; Reinolds, Chaderton, and Lively that of the Puritans. 41 Scholarship unconnected with party was represented by Henry Savile and John Boys. One name is indeed conspicuous by its absence. The greatest Hebrew scholar of the age, the man who had, in a letter to Cecil (1595), urged this very plan of a joint translation, who had already translated several books of the O.T. (Job, Ecclesiastes, Daniel, Lamentations) was ignominiously excluded. This may have been, in part, owing to the dislike with which Whitgift and Bancroft had all along regarded him. But in part, also, it was owing to Broughton’s own character. An unmanageable temper showing itself in violent language, and the habit of stigmatizing those who differed from him, even on such questions as those connected with names and dates, as heretical and atheistic, must have made him thoroughly impracticable; one of the men whose presence throws a committee or Conference into chaos. 42

(3.) What reward other than that of their own consciences and the judgment of posterity were the men thus chosen to expect for their long and laborious task? The king was not disposed to pay them out of his state revenue. Gold and silver were not always plentiful in the household of the English Solomon, and from him they received nothing (Heywood, State of Auth. Bibl. Revision). There remained, however, an ingenious form of liberality, which had the merit of being inexpensive. A king’s letter was sent to the archbishops and bishops, to be transmitted by them to their chapters, commending all the translators to their favorable notice. They were exhorted to contribute in all 1,000 marks, and the king was to be informed of each man’s liberality. If any livings in their gift, or in the gift of private persons, became vacant, the king was to be informed of it, that he might nominate some of the translators to the vacant preferment. Heads of colleges, in like manner, were enjoined to give free board and lodging to such divines as were summoned from the country to labor in the great work (Strype, Whitgift, iv.). That the king might take his place as the director of the whole, a copy of fifteen instructions was sent to each translator, and apparently circulated freely in both Universities.

(4.) The instructions thus given will be found in Fuller (l.c.), and with a more accurate text in Burnet (Reform. Records). It will not be necessary to give them here in full; but it will be interesting to note the bearing of each clause upon the work in hand, and its relation to previous versions. (1.) The Bishops’ Bible was to be followed, and as little altered as the original will permit. This was intended probably to quiet the alarm of those who saw, in the proposal of a new version, a condemnation of that already existing. (2.) The names of prophets and others were to be retained, as nearly as may be as they are vulgarly used. This was to guard against forms like Izhak, Jeremiahu, etc., which had been introduced in some versions, and which some Hebrew scholars were willing to introduce more copiously. To it we owe probably the forms Jeremy, Elias, Osee, Core, in the N.T. (3.) The old ecclesiastical words to be kept, as the word Church not to be translated Congregation. The rule was apparently given for the sake of this special application. “Charity,” in 1 Cor. xiii. was probably also due to it. The earlier versions, it will be remembered, had gone on the opposite principle. (4.) When any word hath divers significations, that to be kept which hath been most commonly used by the most eminent fathers, being agreeable to the propriety of the place and the analogy of faith. This, like the former, tends to confound the functions of the preacher and the translator, and substitutes ecclesiastical tradition for philological accuracy. (5.) The division of the chapters to be altered either not at all, or as little as possible. Here, again, convenience was more in view than truth and accuracy, and the result is that divisions are perpetuated which are manifestly arbitrary and misleading. (6.) No marginal notes to be affixed but only for the explanation of Hebrew and Greek words. This was obviously directed against the Geneva notes, as the special objects of the king’s aversion. Practically, however, in whatever feeling it originated, we may be thankful that the A.V. came out as it did, without note or comment. The open Bible was placed in the hands of all readers. The work of interpretation was left free. Had an opposite course been adopted, we might have had the tremendous evil of a whole body of exegesis imposed upon the Church by authority, reflecting the Calvinism of the Synod of Dort, the absolutism of James, the high-flying prelacy of Bancroft. (7.) Such quotations of places to be marginally set down as may serve for fit reference of one Scripture to another. The principle that Scripture is its own best interpreter was thus recognized, but practically the marginal references of the A.V. of 1611 were somewhat scanty, most of those now printed having been added in later editions. (8 and 9.) State plan of translation. Each company of translators is to take its own books; each person to bring his own corrections. The company to discuss them, and having finished their work, to send it on to another company, and so on. (10.) Provides for differences of opinion between two companies by referring them to a general meeting. (11.) Gives power, in cases of difficulty, to consult any scholars. (12.) Invites suggestions from any quarter. (13.) Names the directors of the work: Andrews, Dean of Westminster; Barlow, Dean of Chester; and the Regius Professors of Hebrew and Greek at both Universities. (14.) Names translations to be followed when they agree more with the original than the Bishops’ Bible, sc. Tyndale’s, Coverdale’s, Matthew’s, Whitchurch’s (Cranmer’s), and Geneva. (15.) Authorizes Universities to appoint three or four overseers of the work.

(5.) It is not known that any of the correspondence connected with this work, or any minute of the meetings for conference is still extant. Nothing is more striking than the silence with which the version that was to be the inheritance of the English people for at least two centuries and a half was ushered into the world. Here and there we get glimpses of scholars coming from their country livings to their old college haunts to work diligently at the task assigned them (Peck, Desiderata Curiosa, ii. 87). We see the meetings of translators, one man reading the chapter which he has been at work on, while the others listen, with the original, or Latin, or German, or Italian, or Spanish versions in their hands (Selden, Table Talk). We may represent to ourselves the differences of opinion, settled by the casting vote of the “odd man,” or by the strong overbearing temper of a man like Bancroft, 43 the minority comforting themselves with the thought that it was no new thing for the truth to be outvoted (Gell, Essay towards Amendment of last Eng. Transl. of Bible, p. 321). 44 Dogmatic interests were in some cases allowed to bias the translation, and the Calvinism of one party, the prelatic views of another, were both represented at the expense of accuracy (Gell, l.c.). 45

(6.) For three years the work went on, the separate companies comparing notes as directed. When the work drew towards its completion it was necessary to place it under the care of a select few. Two from each of the three groups were accordingly selected, and the six met in London, to superintend the publication. Now, for the first time, we find any more definite remuneration than the shadowy promise held out in the king’s letter, of a share in the 1,000 marks which Deans and Chapters would not contribute. The matter had now reached its business stage, and the Company of Stationers thought it expedient to give the six editors thirty pounds each, in weekly payments, for their nine months’ labor. The final correction, and the task of writing the arguments of the several books, was given to Bilson, Bishop of Winchester, and Dr. Miles Smith, the latter of whom also wrote the Dedication and the Preface. Of these two documents the first is unfortunately familiar enough to us, and is chiefly conspicuous for its servile adulation. 46 James I. is “that sanctified person,” “enriched with singular and extraordinary graces,” that had appeared “as the sun in his strength.” To him they appeal against the judgment of those whom they describe, in somewhat peevish accents, as “Popish persons or self-conceited brethren.” The Preface to the Reader is more interesting, as throwing light upon the principles on which the translators acted. They “never thought that they should need to make a new translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one.” “Their endeavor was to make a good one better, or out of many good ones one principal good one.” They claim credit for steering a middle course between the Puritans who “left the old ecclesiastical words,” and the obscurity of the Papists “retaining foreign words of purpose to darken the sense.” They vindicate the practice, in which they indulge very freely, of translating one word in the original by many English words, partly on the intelligible ground that it is not always possible to find one word that will express all the meanings of the Greek or Hebrew, partly on the somewhat childish plea that it would be unfair to choose some words for the high honor of being the channels of God’s truth, and to pass over others as unworthy.

(7.) The version thus published did not all at once supersede those already in possession. The fact that five editions were published in three years, shows that there was a good demand. But the Bishops’ Bible probably remained in many churches (Andrews takes his texts from it in preaching before the king as late as 1621), and the popularity of the Geneva Version is shown by not less than thirteen reprints, in whole or in part, between 1611 and 1617. It is not easy to ascertain the impression which the A.V. made at the time of its appearance. Probably, as in most like cases, it was far less for good or evil than friends or foes expected. The Puritans, and the religious portion of the middle classes generally, missed the notes of the Geneva book (Fuller, Ch. Hist. x. 50, 51). The Romanists spoke as usual, of the unsettling effect of these frequent changes, and of the marginal readings as leaving men in doubt what was the truth of Scripture. 47 One frantic cry was heard from Hugh Broughton the rejected (Works, p. 661), who “would rather be torn in pieces by wild horses than impose such a version on the poor churches of England.” Selden, a few years later, gives a calmer and more favorable judgment. It is “the best of all translations as giving the true sense of the original.” This, however, is qualified by the remark that “no book in the world is translated as the Bible is, word for word, with no regard to the difference of idioms. This is well enough so long as scholars have to do with it, but when it comes among the common people. Lord ! what gear do they make of it!” (Table Talk). The feeling of which this was the expression, led even in the midst of the agitations of the Commonwealth to proposals for another revision, which, after being brought forward in the Grand Committee of Religion in the House of Commons in Jan. 1656, was referred to a sub-committee, acting under Whitelocke, with power to consult divines and report. Conferences were accordingly held frequently at Whitelocke’s house, at which we find, mingled with less illustrious names, those of Walton and Cudworth. Nothing, however came of it (Whitelocke, Memorials, p. 564; Collier, Ch. Hist. ii. 9). No report was ever made, and with the Restoration the tide of conservative feeling, in this as in other things, checked all plans of further alteration. Many had ceased to care for the Bible at all. Those who did care were content with the Bible as it was. Only here and there was a voice raised, like R. Gell’s (ut supra), declaring that it had defects, that it bore in some things the stamp of the dogmatism of a party (p. 321).

(8.) The highest testimony of this period is that of Walton. From the editor of the Polyglott, the few words “inter omnes eminet” meant a good deal (Pref.). With the reign of Anne the tide of glowing panegyric set in. It would be easy to put together a long catena of praises stretching from that time to the present. With many, of course, this has been only the routine repetition of a traditional boast. “Our unrivaled Translation,” and “our incomparable Liturgy,” have been, equally, phrases of course. But there have been witnesses of a far higher weight. In proportion as the English of the 18th century was infected with a Latinized or Gallicized style, did those who had a purer taste look with reverence to the strength and purity of a better time as represented in the A.V. Thus Addison dwells on its ennobling the coldness of modern languages with the glowing phrases of Hebrew (Spectator, No. 405), and Swift confesses that “the translators of the Bible were masters of an English style far fitter for that work than any we see in our present writings” (Letter to Lord Oxford). Each half-century has naturally added to the prestige of these merits. The language of the A.V. has intertwined itself with the controversies, the devotion, the literature of the English people. It has gone, wherever they have gone, over the face of the whole earth. The most solemn and tender of individual memories are, for the most part, associated with it. Men leaving the Church of England for the Church of Rome turn regretfully with a yearning look at that noble “well of English undefiled,” which they are about to exchange for the uncouth monstrosities of Rheims and Douay. In this case too, as in so many others, the position of the A.V. has been strengthened, less by the skill of its defenders than by the weakness of its assailants. While from time to time, scholars and divines (Lowth, Newcome, Waterland, Trench, Ellicott), have admitted the necessity of a revision, those who have attacked the present version and produced new ones have been, for the most part, men of narrow knowledge and defective taste (Purver, and Harwood, and Bellamy, and Conquest), just able to pick out a few obvious faults, and showing their competence for the task by entering on the work of translating or revising the whole Bible single-handed. One memorable exception must not, however, be passed over. Hallam (Lit. of Europe, iii. ch. 2, ad fin.) records a brief but emphatic protest against the “enthusiastic praise” which has been lavished on this translation. “It may, in the eyes of many, be a better English, but it is not the English of Daniel, or Raleigh, or Bacon, … It abounds, in fact, especially in the O.T., with obsolete phraseology, and with single words long since abandoned, or retained only in provincial use.” The statement may, it is believed, be accepted as an encomium. If it had been the English of the men of letters of James’s reign, would it have retained as it has done, for two centuries and a half, its hold on the mind, the memory, the affections of the English people?

XII. Schemes for a Revision.

(1.) A notice of the attempts which have been made at various times to bring about a revision of the A.V., though necessarily brief and imperfect, may not be without its use for future laborers. The first half of the 18th century was not favorable for such a work. An almost solitary Essay for a New Translation by H. R. (Ross), 1702, attracted little or no notice (Todd, Life of Walton, i. 134). A Greek Test. with an English translation, singularly vulgar and offensive, [by W. Mace,] was published in 1729, of which extracts are given by Lewis (Hist. of Transl. ch. v.) With the slight revival of learning among the scholars of the latter half of that period the subject was again mooted. Lowth in a Visitation Sermon (1758), and Seeker in a Latin Speech intended for Convocation (1761), recommended it. Matt. Pilkington in his Remarks (1759), and Dr. Thomas Brett, in an Essay on Ancient Versions of the Bible (1760), dwelt on the importance of consulting them with reference to the O.T. as well as the N.T., with a view to a more accurate text than that of the Masoretic Hebrew, the former insisting also on the obsolete words which are scattered in the A.V. and giving a useful alphabetic list of them. A folio New and Literal Translation of the whole Bible by Anthony Purver, a Quaker (1764), was a more ambitious attempt. He dwells at some length on the “obsolete, uncouth, clownish” expressions which disfigure the A.V. He includes in his list such words as “joyous,” “solace,” “damsel,” “dayspring,” “bereaved,” “marvels,” “bondmen.” He substitutes “He hearkened to what he said,” for “he hearkened to his voice”; “eat victuals,” for “eat bread” (Gen. iii. 19); “was in favor with,” for “found grace in the eyes of”; “was angry,” for “his wrath was kindled.” In spite of this defective taste, however, the work has considerable merit, is based upon a careful study of the original, and of many of the best commentators, and may be contrasted favorably with most of the single-handed translations that have followed. It was, at any rate, far above the depth of degradation and folly which was reached in Harwood’s Liberal Translation of the N.T. “with freedom, spirit, and elegance” (1768). Here again, a few samples are enough to show the character of the whole. “The young lady is not dead” (Mark v. 39). “A gentleman of splendid family and opulent fortune had two sons” (Luke xv. 11). “The clergyman said, You have given him the only right and proper answer” (Mark xii. 32). “We shall not pay the common debt of nature, but by a soft transition,” etc. (1 Cor. xv. 51).

(2.) Biblical revision was happily not left entirely in such hands as these. A translation by Worsley “according to the present idiom of the English tongue” (1770) was, at least, less offensive. Durell (Preface to Job), Lowth (Preface to Isaiah), Blayney (Pref to Jeremiah, 1784), were all strongly in favor of a new, or revised translation. Durell dwells most on the arbitrary additions and omissions in the A.V. of Job, on the total absence in some cases, of any intelligible meaning. Lowth speaks chiefly of the faulty state of the text of the O.T., and urges a correction of it, partly from various readings, partly from ancient versions, partly from conjecture. Each of the three contributed, in the best way, to the work which they had little expectation of seeing accomplished, by laboring steadily at a single book and committing it to the judgment of the Church. 48 Kennicott’s labors in collecting MS. of the O.T. issued in his State of the present Hebrew Text (1753, 1759), and excited expectations that there might before long be something like a basis for a new version in a restored original.

A more ambitious scheme was started by the Roman Catholic Dr. Geddes, in his Prospectus for a New Translation (1786). His remarks on the history of English translations, his candid acknowledgment of the excellences of the A.V., and especially of Tyndale’s work as pervading it, his critical notes on the true principles of translation, on the A.V. as falling short of them, may still be read with interest. He too, like Lowth, finds fault with the superstitious adherence to the Masoretic text, with the undue deference to lexicons, and disregard of versions shown by our translators. The proposal was well received by many Biblical scholars, Lowth, Kennicott, and Barrington being foremost among its patrons. The work was issued in parts, according to the terms of the prospectus, but did not get further than 2 Chron. in 1792, when the death of the translator put a stop to it. Partly perhaps owing to its incompleteness, but still more from the extreme boldness of a preface, anticipating the conclusions of a later criticism, 49 Dr. Geddes’s translation fell rapidly into disfavor. A Sermon by White (famous for his Bampton Lectures) in 1779, and two Pamphlets by J. A. Symonds, Professor of Modern History at Cambridge, the first on the Gospels and the Acts, in 1789; the second on the Epistles, in 1794, though attacked in an Apology for the Liturgy and Church of England (1795), helped to keep the discussion from oblivion.

(3.) The revision of the A.V., like many other salutary reforms, was hindered by the French Revolution. In 1792, Archbishop Newcome had published an elaborate defense of such a scheme, citing a host of authorities (Doddridge, Wesley, Campbell, in addition to those already mentioned), and taking the same line as Lowth. Revised translations of the N.T. were published by Wakefield in 1795, by Newcome himself in 1796, by Scarlett in 1798. Campbell’s version of the Gospels appeared in 1788, that of the Epistles by Macknight in 1795. But in 1796 the note of alarm was sounded. A feeble pamphlet by George Burges (Letter to the Lord Bishop of Ely) took the ground that “the present period was unfit,” and from that time, Conservatism, pure and simple, was in the ascendant. To suggest that the A.V. might be inaccurate, was almost as bad as holding “French principles.” There is a long interval before the question again comes into anything like prominence, and then there is a new school of critics in the Quarterly Review and elsewhere, ready to do battle vigorously for things as they are. The opening of the next campaign was an article in the Classical Journal (No. 36), by Dr. John Bellamy, proposing a new translation, followed soon afterwards by its publication under the patronage of the Prince Regent (1818). The work was poor and unsatisfactory enough, and a tremendous battery was opened upon it in the Quarterly Review (Nos. 37 and 38), as afterwards (No. 46) upon an unhappy critic, Sir J. B. Burges, who came forward with a pamphlet in its defense (Reasons in Favor of a New Translation, 1819). The rash assertion of both Bellamy and Burges that the A.V. had been made almost entirely from the LXX. and Vulgate, and a general deficiency in all accurate scholarship, made them easy victims. The personal element of this controversy may well be passed over, but three less ephemeral works issued from it, which any future laborer in the same field will find worth consulting. Whitaker’s Historical and Critical Inquiry was chiefly an able exposure of the exaggerated statement just mentioned. H. J. Todd, in his Vindication of the Authorized Translation (1819), entered more fully than any previous writer had done into the history of the A.V., and gives many facts as to the lives and qualifications of the translators not easily to be met with elsewhere. 50 The most masterly, however, of the manifestoes against all change, was a pamphlet (Remarks on the Critical Principles, etc., Oxford, 1820), published anonymously, but known to have been written by Archbishop Laurence. The strength of the argument lies chiefly in a skillful display of all the difficulties of the work, the impossibility of any satisfactory restoration of the Hebrew of the O.T., or any settlement of the Greek of the N.T., the expediency therefore of adhering to a Textus receptus in both. The argument may not be decisive, but the scholarship and acuteness brought to bear on it make the book instructive, and any one entering on the work of a translator ought at least to read it, that he may know what difficulties be has to face. 51

(4.) A correspondence between Herbert Marsh, bishop of Peterborough, and the Rev. H. Walter, in 1828, is the next link in the chain. Marsh had spoken (Lectures on Biblical Criticism, p. 295) with some contempt of the A.V. as based on Tyndale’s, Tyndale’s on Luther’s, and Luther’s on Münster’s Lexicon, which was itself based on the Vulgate. There was, therefore, on this view, no real translation from the Hebrew in any one of these. Substantially this was what Bellamy had said before, but Marsh was a man of a different calibre, and made out a stronger case. Walter, in his answer, proves what is plain enough, that Tyndale knew some Hebrew, and that Luther in some instances followed Rabbinical authority and not the Vulgate; but the evidence hardly goes to the extent of showing that Tyndale’s version of the O.T. was entirely independent of Luther’s, or Luther’s of the Latin.

(5.) The last five-and-twenty years have seen the question of a revision from time to time gaining fresh prominence. If men of second-rate power have sometimes thrown it back by meddling with it in wrong ways, others, able scholars and sound theologians, have admitted its necessity, and helped it forward by their work. Dr. Conquest’s Bible, with “20,000 emendations” (1841), has not commanded the respect of critics, and is almost self-condemned by the silly ostentation of its title. The motions which have from time to time been made in the House of Commons by Mr. Heywood, have borne little fruit beyond the display of feeble Liberalism and yet feebler Conservatism by which such debates are, for the most part, characterized; nor have the discussions in Convocation, though opened by a scholar of high repute (Professor Selwyn), been much more productive. Dr. Beard’s A Revised English Bible the Want of the Church (1857), though tending to overstate the defects of the A.V., is yet valuable as containing much information, and representing the opinions of the more learned Nonconformists. Far more important, every way, both as virtually an authority in favor of revision, and as contributing largely to it, are Professor Scholefield’s Hints for an Improved Translation of the N.T. (1832). In his second edition, indeed, he disclaims any wish for a new translation, but the principle which he lays down clearly and truly in his preface, that if there is “any adventitious difficulty resulting from a defective translation, then it is at the same time an act of charity and of duty to clear away the difficulty as much as possible,” leads legitimately to at least a revision; and this conclusion Mr. Selwyn in the last edition of the Hints (1857) has deliberately adopted. To Bishop Ellicott also belongs the credit of having spoken at once boldly and wisely on this matter. Putting the question whether it would be right to join those who oppose all revision, his answer is, “God forbid … It is in vain to cheat our own souls with the thought that these errors (in A.V.) are either insignificant or imaginary. There are errors, there are inaccuracies, there are misconceptions, there are obscurities … and that man who, after being in any degree satisfied of this, permits himself to lean to the counsels of a timid or popular obstructiveness, or who, intellectually unable to test the truth of these allegations, nevertheless permits himself to denounce or deny them, will … have to sustain the tremendous charge of having dealt deceitfully with the inviolable word of God” (Pref. to Pastoral Epistles). The translations appended by Dr. Ellicott to his editions of St. Paul’s Epistles, proceed on the true principle of altering the A.V. “only where it appears to be incorrect, inexact, insufficient, or obscure,” uniting a profound reverence for the older translators with a bold truthfulness in judging of their work. The copious collation of all the earlier English versions makes this part of his book especially interesting and valuable. Dr. Trench (On the A.V. of the N.T., 1858), in like manner, states his conviction that “a revision ought to come,” though as yet, he thinks, “the Greek and the English necessary to bring it to a successful issue are alike wanting” (p. 3). The work itself, it need hardly be said, is the fullest contradiction possible of this somewhat despondent statement, and supplies a good store of materials for use when the revision actually comes. The Revision of the A.V. by Five Clergymen (Dr. Barrow, Dr. Moberly, Dean Alford, Mr. Humphry, and Dr. Ellicott), represents the same school of conservative progress, has the merit of adhering to the clear, pure English of the A.V., and does not deserve the censure which Dr. Beard passes on it as “promising little and performing less.” As yet, this series includes only the Gospel of St. John, and the Epistles to the Romans and Corinthians. 52 The publications of the American Bible Union are signs that there also the same want has been felt. The translations given respectively by Alford, Stanley, Jowett, and Conybeare and Howson, in their respective Commentaries, are in like manner, at once admissions of the necessity of the work, and contributions towards it. Mr. Sharpe (1840) and Mr. Highton (1862) have ventured on the wider work of translations of the entire N.T. Mr. Cookesley has published the Gospel of St. Matthew as Part I. of a like undertaking. It might almost seem as if at last there was something like a consensus of scholars and divines on this question. That assumption would, however, be too hasty. Partly the vis inertiæ, which in a large body like the clergy of the English Church, is always great, partly the fear of ulterior consequences, partly also the indifference of the majority of the laity, would probably, at the present moment give at least a numerical majority to the opponents of a revision. Writers on this side are naturally less numerous, but the feeling of Conservatism, pure and simple, has found utterance in four men representing different sections, and of different calibre, — Mr. Scrivener (Supp. to A. Eng. V. of N.T.), Dr. M’Caul (Reasons for holding fast the Authorized English Version), Mr. S. C. Malan (A Vindication, etc.), and Dr. Cumming (Revision and Translation). 53

XIII. Present State of the Question.

(1.) To take an accurate estimate of the extent to which the A.V. requires revision would call for nothing less than an examination of each single book, and would therefore involve an amount of detail incompatible with our present limits. To give a few instances only, would practically fix attention on a part only of the evidence, and so would lead to a false rather than a true estimate. No attempt, therefore, will be made to bring together individual passages as needing correction. A few remarks on the chief questions which must necessarily come before those who undertake a revision will not, perhaps, be out of place. Examples, classified under corresponding heads, will be found in the book by Dr. Trench already mentioned, and, scattered in the form of annotations, in that of Professor Scholefield.

(2.) The translation of the N.T. is from a text confessedly imperfect. What editions were used is a matter of conjecture; most probably, one of those published with a Latin version by Beza between 1565 and 1598, and agreeing substantially with the textus receptus of 1633. It is clear, on principle, that no revision ought to ignore the results of the textual criticism of the last hundred years. To shrink from noticing any variation, to go on printing as the inspired Word that which there is a preponderant reason for believing to be an interpolation or a mistake, is neither honest nor reverential. To do so for the sake of greater edification is simply to offer to God the unclean sacrifice of a lie. The authority of the A.V. is at any rate in favor of the practice of not suppressing facts. In Matt. i. 11, xxvi. 26; Luke xvii. 36; John ix. 6; Acts xiii. 18; Eph. vi. 9; Heb. ii. 4; James ii. 18; 1 John ii. 23; 1 Pet. ii. 21; 2 Pet. ii. 11, 18; 2 John 8, different readings are given in the margin, or, as in 1 John ii. 23, indicated by a different type. In earlier versions, as has been mentioned, 1 John v. 7 was printed in smaller letters. The degree to which this should be done will, of course, require discernment. An apparatus like that in Tischendorf or Alford would obviously be out of place. Probably the useful Greek Testament edited by Mr. Scrivener might serve as an example of a middle course.

(3.) Still less had been done at the commencement of the 17th century for the text of the O.T. The Jewish teachers, from whom Protestant divines derived their knowledge, had given currency to the belief that in the Masoretic text were contained the ipsissima verba of Revelation, free from all risks of error, from all casualties of transcription. The conventional phrases, “the authentic Hebrew,” “the Hebrew verity,” were the expression of this undiscerning reverence. 54 They refused to apply the same rules of judgment here which they applied to the text of the N.T. They assumed that the Masoretes were infallible, and were reluctant to acknowledge that there had been any variations since. Even Walton did not escape being attacked as unsound by the great Puritan divine, Dr. John Owen, for having called attention to the fact of discrepancies (Proleg. cap. vi.). The materials for a revised text are, of course, scantier than with the N.T.; but the labors of Kennicott, De Rossi, J. H. Michaelis, and Davidson have not been fruitless, and here, as there, the older versions must be admitted as at least evidence of variations which once existed, but which were suppressed by the rigorous uniformity of the later Rabbis. Conjectural emendations, such as Newcome, Lowth, and Ewald have so freely suggested, ought to be ventured on in such places only as are quite unintelligible without them.

(4.) All scholars worthy of the name are now agreed that as little change as possible should be made in the language of the A.V. Happily there is little risk of an emasculated elegance such as might have infected a new version in the last century. The very fact of the admiration felt for the A.V., and the general revival of a taste for the literature of the Elizabethan period, are safeguards against any like tampering now. Some words, however, absolutely need change, as being altogether obsolete; others, more numerous, have been slowly passing into a different, often into a lower or a narrower meaning, and are therefore no longer what they once were, adequate renderings of the original.

(5.) The self-imposed law of fairness which led the A.V. translators to admit as many English words as possible to the honor of representing one in the Hebrew or Greek text has, as might be expected, marred the perfection of their work. Sometimes the effect is simply the loss of the solemn emphasis of the repetition of the same word. Sometimes it is more serious, and affects the meaning. While it would be simple pedantry to lay down unconditionally that but one and the same word should be used throughout for one in the original, there can be no doubt that such a limitation is the true principle to start with, and that instances to the contrary should be dealt with as exceptional necessities. Side by side with this fault, there is another just the opposite of it. One English word appears for several Greek or Hebrew words, and thus shades of meaning, often of importance to the right understanding of a passage, are lost sight of. Taken together, the two forms of error, which meet us in well-nigh every chapter, make the use of an English Concordance absolutely misleading. 55

(6.) Grammatical inaccuracy must be noted as a defect pervading, more or less, the whole extent of the present version of the N.T. Instances will be found in abundance in Trench and Scholefield (passim), and in any of the better Commentaries. The true force of tenses, cases, prepositions, articles, is continually lost, sometimes at the cost of the finer shades which give vividness and emphasis, but sometimes also entailing more serious errors. In justice to the translators of the N.T., it must be said that, situated as they were, such errors were almost inevitable. They learned Greek through the medium of Latin. Lexicons 56 and grammars were alike in the universal language of scholars: and that language was poorer and less inflected than the Greek, and failed utterly to represent, e.g. the force of its article, or the difference of its aorist and perfect tenses. Such books of this nature as were used by the translators were necessarily based upon a far scantier induction, and were therefore more meagre and inaccurate than those which have been the fruits of the labors of later scholars. Recent scholarship may in many things fall short of that of an earlier time, but the introduction of Greek lexicons and grammars in English has been beyond all doubt a change for the better.

(7.) The field of the O.T. has been far less adequately worked than that of the N.T., and Hebrew scholarship has made far less progress than Greek. Relatively, indeed, there seems good ground for believing that Hebrew was more studied in the early part of the 17th century than it is now. It was newer and more popular. The reverence which men felt for the perfection of the “Hebrew verity” made them willing to labor to learn a language which they looked upon as half-divine. But here also there was the same source of error. The early Hebrew lexicons represented partly, it is true, a Jewish tradition; but partly also were based upon the Vulgate (Bishop Marsh, Lectures, ii. App. 61). The forms of cognate Shemitic languages had not been applied as a means for ascertaining the precise value of Hebrew words. The grammars, also in Latin, were defective. Little as Hebrew professors have, for the most part, done in the way of exegesis, any good commentary on the O.T. will show that here also there are errors as serious as in the N.T. In one memorable case, the inattention, real or apparent, of the translators to the force of the Hiphil form of the verb (Lev. iv. 12) has led to a serious attack on the truthfulness of the whole narrative of the Pentateuch (Colenso, Pentateuch Critically Examined, Part I. ch. vii.).

(8.) The division into chapters and verses is a matter that ought not to be passed over in any future revision. The former, it must be remembered, does not go further back than the 13th century. The latter, though answering, as far as the O.T. is concerned, to a long-standing Jewish arrangement, depends, in the N.T., upon the work of Robert Stephens. Neither in the O.T. nor in the N.T. did the verse-division appear in any earlier English edition than that of Geneva. The inconveniences of changing both are probably too great to be risked. The habit of referring to chapter and verse is too deeply rooted to be got rid of. Yet the division, as it is, is not seldom artificial, and sometimes is absolutely misleading. No one would think of printing any other book, in prose or poetry, in short clauses like the verses of our Bibles, and the tendency of such a division is to give a broken and discontinuous knowledge, to make men good textuaries but bad divines. An arrangement like that of the Paragraph Bibles of our own time, with the verse and chapter divisions relegated to the margin, ought to form part of any authoritative revision. 57

(9.) Other points of detail remain to be noticed briefly: (i.) The chapter headings of the A.V. often go beyond their proper province. If it is intended to give an authoritative commentary to the lay reader, let it be done thoroughly. But if that attempt is abandoned, as it was deliberately in 1611, then for the chapter-headings to enter, as they do, upon the work of interpretation, giving, as in Canticles, Psalms, and Prophets, passim, mystical meanings, is simply an inconsistency. What should be a mere table of contents becomes a gloss upon the text. (ii.) The use of Italics in printing the A.V. is at least open to some risks. At first they seem an honest confession on the part of the translators of what is or is not in the original. On the other hand, they tempt to a loose translation. Few writers would think it necessary to use them in translating other books. If the words do not do more than represent the sense of the original, then there is no reason for treating them as if they were added at the discretion of the translators. If they go beyond that, they are of the nature of a gloss, altering the force of the original, and have no right to be there at all, while the fact that they appear as additions frees the translator from the sense of responsibility. (iii.) Good as the principle of marginal references is, the margins of the A.V., as now printed, are somewhat inconveniently crowded, and the references, being often merely verbal, tend to defeat their own purpose, and to make the reader weary of referring. They need, accordingly, a careful sifting; and though it would not be desirable to go back to the scanty number of the original edition of 1611, something intermediate between that and the present over-abundance would be an improvement. (iv.) Marginal readings, on the other hand, indicating variations in the text, or differences in the judgment of translators, might be profitably increased in number. The results of the labors of scholars would thus be placed within the reach of all intelligent readers, and so many difficulties and stumbling- blocks might be removed. 58

(10.) What has been said will serve to show at once to what extent a new revision is required, and what are the chief difficulties to be encountered. And the work, it is believed, ought not to be delayed much longer. Names will occur to every one of men competent to undertake the work as far as the N.T. is concerned; and if such alterations only were to be introduced as commanded the assent of at least two thirds of a chosen body of twenty or thirty scholars, while a place in the margin was given to such renderings only as were adopted by at least one third, there would be, it is believed, at once a great change for the better, and without any shock to the feelings or even the prejudices of the great mass of readers. Men fit to undertake the work of revising the translation of the O.T. are confessedly fewer, and, for the most part, occupied in other things. The knowledge and the power, however, are there, though in less measure, and even though the will be for the time absent, a summons to enter on the task from those whose authority they are bound to respect, would, we cannot doubt, be listened to. It might have the result of directing to their proper task and to a fruitful issue energies which are too often withdrawn to ephemeral and unprofitable controversies. As the revised Bible would be for the use of the English people, the men appointed for the purpose ought not to be taken exclusively from the English Church, and the learning of Nonconformists should, at least, be fairly represented. The changes recommended by such a body of men, under conditions such as those suggested, might safely be allowed to circulate experimentally for two or three years. When they had stood that trial, they might without risk be printed in the new Authorized Version. Such a work would unite reverence for the past with duty towards the future. In undertaking it we should be, not slighting the translators on whose labors we have entered, but following in their footsteps. It is the wisdom of the Church to bring out of its treasures things new and old.

E. H. P.


[Bibiliography by Ezra Abbot]

(1.) History of English Versions of the Bible.

Anthony Johnson, Hist. Account of Eng. Translations of the Bible, Lond. 1730; reprinted in Watson’s Tracts, vol. iii. John Lewis, Complete Hist. of the Translations of the Holy Bible and the N.T. into English (2d ed. 1739), 3d ed. Lond. 1818. Abp. Newcome, Hist. View of the Eng. Biblical Translations; the Expediency of revising our present Translation, etc., Dubl. 1792. H. J. Todd, Authentic Account of our Auth. Trans. of the Bible and of the Translators, 2d ed., Malton, 1834. The Eng. Hexapla, exhibiting the Six Important Eng. Translations of the N.T., Wiclif 1380, Tyndale 1534, Cranmer 1539, Genevan 1557, Anglo-Rhemish 1582, Authorized 1611; the Greek Text after Scholz. Preceded by an Hist. Account of the Eng. Translations. Lond., Bagster, 1841, 4to. (The anonymous “Hist. Account” (pp. 160) was written by S. P. Tregelles. It is valuable; but, for some reason, in the later, undated impressions of the Hexapla a different and much briefer account has been substituted. The so-called “Wiclif” is merely Purvey’s revision of Wycliffe’s version; the real Wycliffe’s N.T. was first published by Lea Wilson in 1848. The whole Bible as translated by Wycliffe and his followers was first printed in the magnificent edition of Forshall and Madden in 4 vols. 4to, Oxford, 1850.) C. Anderson, The Annals of the Eng. Bible, 2 vols. Lond. 1845; abridged by Dr. S. I. Prime, N. Y. 1849. A. W. M’Clure, The Translators revived; a Biographical Memoir, etc., N.Y. 1853. Mrs. H. C. Conant, The Eng. Bible. Hist. of the Eng. Translations, etc., N.Y. 1856. (A good popular account.) McClintock and Strong’s Cycl. of Bibl. Theol. and Eccles. Lit., vol. i. (N.Y. 1867), art. Authorized Version. B. F. Westcott, General View of the Hist. of the English Bible, Lond. 1868. Articles in the Amer. Bibl. Repos. Oct. 1835 (by B. B. Edwards), and in the Quar. Rev. for April 1870 (repr. in Littell’s Living Age, No. 1, 355). — Bibliographical: Lea Wilson, Bibles, Testaments, Psalms, etc., in English in the Collection of Lea Wilson, Lond. 1845, 4to. H. Cotton, Editions of the Bible and Parts thereof in Eng. from 1505 to 1850, 2d ed., Oxford, 1852. Id., Rhemes and Doway. An Attempt to shew what has been done by Rom. Catholics for the Diffusion of the Holy Scriptures in English, Oxford, 1855. E. B. O’Callaghan, List of Editions of the Holy Scriptures and Parts thereof printed in America previous to 1860, Albany, 1861, large 8vo. F. Fry, Description of the Great Bible, 1539, the six Eds. of Cranmer’s Bible, 1540, 1541, also of the Eds. in folio of the A.V. printed in 1611, 1613, 1617, 1634, 1640, Lond. 1866.

On the two folio editions of the A.V. printed in 1611, and on the changes which its text, headings, marginal notes, etc., have undergone since that date, see W. Kilburn, Dangerous Errors in several late printed Bibles, Finsbury, 1659. (Dr. John Lee,) Memorial for the Bible Societies in Scotland, Edin. 1824. Report from Select Com. on King’s Printers’ Patents. 8 Aug. 1832, pp. 55, 67 f., 105, 119, 131, 152, 155 f., 160, 339-341 (Parl. Papers 1831-32, vol. xviii.). Thos. Curtis, The Existing Monopoly an Inadequate Protection of the A.V. of the Scriptures, Lond. 1833. E. Cardwell, Oxford Bibles. Mr Curtis’s Misrepresentations exposed, Oxf. 1833. (From the Brit. Mag. for March, 1833.) Thos. Turton, The Text of the Eng. Bible considered, 2d ed. Oxf. 1834. (George Livermore,) Eng. Versions of Scripture, in the Christ. Examiner (Boston) for July, 1833. Thos. Curtis, Received Version of the Bible, in Christ. Rev. for March, 1838. Amer. Bible Society, Report of the Com. on Versions, N.Y. 1851; comp. 36th Ann. Report of the Soc. (N.Y. 1852), pp. 28-37; Report on the Recent Collation of the Eng. Vers. of the Bible, N.Y. 1857; and 42d Ann. Report of the Soc. (N.Y. 1858), pp. 31-41. A. C. C(oxe), Apol. for the Common Eng. Bible; and Review of the Extraordinary Changes made in it by Managers of the Amer. Bible Soc., 3d ed., Balt. 1857. Statements, and Documents, concerning the recent Action of the Board of Managers of the Amer. Bible Soc. … by Members of the Late Com. on Versions, N.Y. 1858. (The history of the “standard text” published by the Amer. Bible Soc. in 1851, and revoked in 1858, is very curious. See McClintock and Strong’s Cyclop., i. 563 f.) E. W. Gilman, Early Eds. of the A.V. of the Bible, in the Bibl. Sacra for Jan. 1859. (James Lenox,) The Early Eds. of King James’s Bible in Folio, N.Y. 1861, 4to. Report from the Select Com. on the Queen’s Printers’ Patent (4 Aug. 1859), pp. 26 ff., 38, 51 ff. (Parl. Papers 1859, Sess. 2, vol. v.). The Present State of the Text of our Auth. Eng. Bible, in the Christian Remembrancer for Oct. 1866. C. F. Schaffer, The Eng. Vers. of the N.T. and the Marg. Readings, in the Bibl. Sacra for July, 1869; see also his Exeget. Punctuation of the N.T., ibid. Oct. 1868. The Rev. F. H. Scrivener has lately published Part. I. (Gen. to Solomon’s Song) of The Cambridge Paragraph Bible of the Auth. Eng. Version, with the Text revised by a Collation of its Early and other principal Editions, the Use of the Italic Type made Uniform, the Marg. Refs. remodelled, and a Crit. Introd. prefixed, Cambr. 1870, 4to. The “exact Reprint of the Auth. Version of 1611,” published at Oxford, 1833, 4to, is from the second of the editions issued in the year referred to.

(2.) Essays on the Revision of the A.V.

Many works relating to this subject have been mentioned in the preceding article. Of the writers there named, Symonds, Newcome, Scholefield and Trench are particularly worthy of notice. We may add, Rev. Wm. Harness, The State of the Eng. Bible. Reprinted from the Edinb. Rev. of Oct. 1855, Lond. 1856. Rev. Wm. Selwyn, Notes on the Revision of the A.V., Lond. 1856. Dr. Fred. Iliff, Plea for the Revisal of the Bible Trans. of 1611, Lond. 1857. Plea for a New Eng. Vers. of the Scriptures, by a Licentiate of the Church of Scotland, Lond. 1864. Alford, How to study the N.T., 3 vols. Lond. 1865-68, containing numerous corrections of the A.V. A. Dewes, Plea for translating the Scriptures, Lond. 1866. Bp. Ellicott, Considerations on the Revision of the Eng. Vers. of the N.T., Lond. 1870. Various publications of Amer. Bible Union. Arts. in New Englander, Feb. 1859 (E. W. Gilman), May, 1859 (J. W. Gibbs); Quar. Rev. Jan. 1863; Contemp. Rev. June, 1866 (T. K. Cheyne), Feb. 1870 (W. G. Humphry); and Brit. Quar. Rev. Jan. 1870.

On the obsolete or obsolescent words and phrases of the A.V., the best work is The Bible Word-Book, by J. Eastwood and W. A. Wright, Lond. 1866; see also the New Englander for May, 1859. The Messrs. Bagster have lately published (Lond. 1870) A Critical English New Testament: presenting at one View the A.V. and the results of the Criticism of the Orig. Text; and in connection with this subject we may notice The N.T.: the Auth. Eng. Vers.; with various Readings from the three most celebrated MSS. [Sin. Vat. Alex.] of the Greek Text, by Constantine Tischendorf. Tauchnitz Ed., vol. 1,000. Leipz. 1869. It is to be regretted, however, that this volume is not very carefully edited: e.g. in Jude 24 the reading of the Vat. MS. is falsely given, and in ver. 25 “before all the world” is a bad rendering of πρὸ παντὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος, “before all time.”

(3.) Recent Revisions or New Translations.

Of the Whole Bible, or the Old Test., we may mention: Noah Webster, The Holy Bible … in the Common Version, with Amendments of the Language, New Haven, 1833. G. R. Noyes, New Trans. of Job, Ecclesiastes, and the Canticles, with Introductions and Notes (1828, 1846), 3d ed., Boston, 1867; Psalms and Proverbs (1830, 1846), 3d ed., Bost. 1867; Hebrew Prophets (1833, 1837), 3d ed., with a New Introd. and Notes, 2 vols. Bost. 1866. Ebenezer Henderson, The Book of Isaiah translated, with a Commentary, Lond. 1840, 2d ed. 1857; Minor Prophets, 1845, and Andover, 1864; Jeremiah and Lam., 1851, And. 1868; Ezekiel, 1855, And. 1870. J. A. Alexander, The Earlier Prophecies of Isaiah, N.Y. 1846; the Later, 1847; Psalms translated and explained, 3 vols. N.Y., 1850. Moses Stuart, Comm. on the Book of Daniel [with a New Trans.], Boston, 1850; Ecclesiastes, N.Y. 1851; Proverbs, 1852. A. Benisch, The Jewish School and Family Bible, 3 vols. Lond. 1852-56. M. Kalisch, Hist. and Crit. Commentary on the O.T., with a New Trans.; Genesis, Lond. 1858; Exodus, 1855; Leviticus, ch. i.-x., 1867. Robt. Young, The Holy Bible, trans. according to the Letter and Idioms of the Orig. Languages, 2d ed., Edin. 1863. (Ruthlessly sacrifices the English idiom.) The Holy Scriptures of the Old Covenant, in a revised Trans., by the Rev. Charles Wellbeloved, the Rev. Geo. Vance Smith, and the Rev. John Scott Porter, 3 vols. Lond. 1859-62. Sam. Sharpe, The Hebrew Scriptures translated, 3 vols. Lond. 1865. The Amer. Bible Union have published revised translations, by Dr. T. J. Conant, of Job (N.Y. 1856), and Genesis (1868); a revised version of the Psalms and Proverbs by the same hand is now in press. The American translation of Lange’s Commentary, edited by Dr. Schaff, gives throughout corrections of the A.V., and in the poetical and prophetical books of the Old Test., new translations. For other translations of particular books of the O.T., among which Ginsburg’s Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes deserve particular mention, see the appropriate heads in the Dictionary.

New Testament. — Charles Thomson, Sec. of the Continental Congress, The New Covenant, trans. from the Greek, Phil. 1808 (vol. iv. of his Holy Bible, trans. from the Greek). Granville Penn, The Book of the New Covenant: being a Crit. Revision of the Text and Trans. of the Eng. Vers. of the N.T., Lond. 1836, followed by Annotations, 1837, and Supplemental Annotations, new ed., 1841. (Edgar Taylor,) The N.T. revised from the A.V. and made conformable to the Text of Griesbach, Lond., Pickering, 1840. Sam. Sharpe, The N.T. trans. from Griesbach’s Text (1st ed. 1840), 5th ed. Lond. 1862, and Crit. Notes, 2d ed., Lond. 1867. Andrews Norton, Trans. of the Gospels, with Notes, 2 vols. Boston, 1855. L. A. Sawyer, The N.T. translated, with Improved Divisions of Chapters and Verses, Boston, 1858. Mr. Sawyer has also published translations of the Hebrew Prophets and Poets, Bost. 1861-62. A translation of the N.T. has been published anonymously by John Nelson Darby, the founder of the sect of the Plymouth Brethren, London, [186-?] each book issued separately. It is not without merit. The “second revision” of the N.T. by the Final Committee of the Amer. Bible Union was published in N.Y., in different forms, in 1866. In this version, “immerse” is substituted for “baptize,” “immersion” for “baptism,” etc. Preliminary revisions of most of the books of the N.T., with notes, were previously issued for public examination and criticism. Among the authors of these were Dr. T. J. Conant (Matthew), the Rev. N. N. Whiting (Mark, Luke, Ephesians, Pastoral Epistles), Rev. Alex. Campbell (Acts), Dr. John Lillie (1 and 2 Thess., and 2d Peter to Rev. inclusive), and Dr. H. B. Hackett (Philemon). A very large sum of money has been spent by the Amer. Bible Union on this work — not all, perhaps, in the wisest manner; but some able scholars have been engaged upon it. T. S. Green, The Twofold N.T., being a New Trans. accompanying a newly formed Text, Lond., Bagster, [1865,] 4to; comp. his Crit. Notes on the N.T., Lond. 1867. Henry Alford, The N.T. after the A.V. newly compared with the Orig. Greek and revised, Lond. 1869: comp. his N.T. for Eng. Readers, with corrections of the A.V. and notes, 2 vols, in 4 pts., 1863-66. G .R. Noyes, The N.T.: translated from the Greek Text of Tischendorf, Boston, 1869; 4th ed. 1870. Robt. Ainslie, The N.T. trans. from the Greek Text of Tischendorf (8vo, Lips. 1865), Lond. and Brighton, 1869. (The title and also the preface are deceptive. The translation is not from the text of Tischendorf, but from his edition of the Codex Sinaiticus, which has many readings that neither he nor any other critic would ever dream of regarding as genuine.) N. S. Folsom, The Four Gospels: trans. [mainly] from the Greek Text of Tischendorf, with various Readings and Notes, Boston, 1869. For other translations of parts of the N.T., see the literature under the separate books. — The translations of Abner Kneeland (N.T. in Greek and English, Phil. 1822), Rodolphus Dickinson (Bost. 1833), and Benj. Wilson (Emphatic Diaglott, N.Y. [Geneva, Ill.] 1864) may be mentioned as literary curiosities. — Among the versions which have been named, both of the O.T. and the New, those of the late Dr. Noyes appear to the present writer eminently distinguished for accuracy, clearness, good taste, natural, idiomatic English, and the attainment, generally, of the happy medium between bald literalness and loose paraphrase.

The Convocation of Canterbury has already (July, 1870) undertaken a revision of the A.V., and appointed a Committee for the work, under the chairmanship of the Bishop of Winchester (Wilberforce). They have divided themselves into two companies, that on the Old Test. consisting of the Bishops of St. David’s, Llandaff, Ely, Lincoln, Bath and Wells, Archd. Rose, Can. Selwyn, Dr. Jebb, and Dr. Kay; that on the New, of the Bps. of Winchester, Gloucester and Bristol (Ellicott), and Salisbury, the Prolocutor, the Deans of Canterbury (Alford), Westminster (Stanley), and Can. Blakesley. Many other distinguished scholars have been invited, some of them not members of the Church of England. The Convocation of York, and the British Government have declined to participate. The Committee on the N.T. were to hold their first meeting on June 22 and 23, 1870. We have no room for further details.

For the literature pertaining to this topic, see further Darling’s Cycl. Bibliographica (Subjects), col. 82 ff., and McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia, vol. iii., art. “English Versions,” where will be found many references to articles in periodical publications.



1. So Pauli (Eng. transl.). But would “Englisc gewrit” mean “the Scriptures” exclusively? Do not the words of Alfred point to a general as well as a religious education?

2. One interesting fact connected with this version is that its text agrees with that of the Codex Bezae where that MS. differs most from the textus receptus of the N.T. Another is its publication by Foxe the Martyrologist in 1571, at the request of Archbishop Parker. It was subsequently edited by Dr. Marshall in 1665.

It may be noticed, as bearing upon a question afterwards the subject of much discussion, that in this and the other Anglo-Saxon versions the attempt is made to give vernacular equivalents even for the words which, as belonging to a systematic theology, or for other reasons, most later versions have left practically untranslated. Thus baptisma is “fyllith” (washing); poenitentia, “doed-bote” (redress for evil deeds). So scribae are “bocere” (bookmen). Synagogues, “gesamnungum” (meetings); amen, “sothlice” (in sooth); and phylacteries, “healsbec” (neck-books). See Lewis, Hist. of Translations, p. 9.

3. The Ormulum, edited by Dr. White, was printed at the Oxford University Press in 1852.

4. Chronologically, of course, the Gospels thus referred to may have been Wycliffe’s translation; but the strong opposition of Arundel to the work of the Reformer makes it probable that those which the queen used belonged to a different school, like that of the versions just mentioned.

5. The authorship of this book has however been disputed (comp. Todd’s Preface).

6. “One comfort is of knightes; they saveren much the Gospelle, and have wille to read in Englische the Gospelle of Christes life” (Wycliffe, Prologue). Compare the speech ascribed to John of Gaunt (13 Ric. II.). “We will not be the dregs of all, seeing other nations have the law of God, which is the law of our faith, written in their own language” (Foxe, Pref. to Saxon Gospels; Lewis, p. 29).

7. A crucial instance is that of Gen. iii. 15: “She shall trede thy head.”

8. This knowledge is, however, at second hand, “bi witnesse of Jerom, of Lire, and other expositouris.”

9. It is worth while to give his own account of this process: “First this simple creature,” his usual way of speaking of himself, “hedde myche travaile, with diverse felawis and helperis, to gedere manie elde bibles, and othere doctoris, and comune glosis, and to make oo Latyn bible sumdel trewe, and thanne to studie it of the new, the text with the glose, and othere doctoris, as he mizte, and speciali Lire on the elde testament, that helpid full myche in this werk, the thridde time to counsel with elde grammarians and elde dyvynis of harde wordes and harde sentences how those mizte best be understode and translated, the iiijth tyme to translate as clearlie as he coude to the sentence, and to have manie good felawis and kunnynge at the correcting of the translacioun” (Preface, c. xv.). The note at the close of the preface, on the grammatical idioms of different languages, the many English equivalents, e.g. for the Latin ablative absolute, shows considerable discernment.

10. * The MS. on which this statement is founded is pronounced by Mr. Francis Fry of Bristol to be unquestionably a forgery. So Mr. Westcott regards it (Hist. of the English Bible, p. 32, note). A.

11. The boast of Bacon, that any one using his method could learn Hebrew and Greek within a week, bold as it is, shows that he knew something of both (De Laude Sac. Script. c. 28).

12. As indicating progress, it may be mentioned that the first Hebrew professor, Robert Wakefield, was appointed at Oxford in 1530, and that Henry VIII.’s secretary, Pace, knew Greek, Hebrew, and Chaldee.

13. The existence of a translation of Jonah by Tyndale, previously questioned by some editors and biographers, has been placed beyond a doubt by the discovery of a copy (believed to be unique) in the possession of the Ven. Lord Arthur Hervey. It Is described in a letter by him to the Bury Post of Feb. 3, 1862, transferred shortly afterwards to the Athenæum.

14. The references to Tyndale are given to the Parker Society edition.

15. Hallam’s assertion that Tyndale’s version “was avowedly taken from Luther’s,” originated probably in an inaccurate reminiscence of the title-page of Coverdale’s (Lit. of Europe, i. 526).

16. The only extant copy of the 8vo edition is in the Library of the Baptist College at Bristol. It was reproduced in 1862 in facsimile by Mr. Francis Fry, Bristol, the impression being limited to 177 copies. Mr. Fry proves, by a careful comparison of type, size, water-mark, and the like, with those of other books from the same press, that it was printed by Peter Schoeffer of Worms. By a like process Mr. Anderson (i. 63) fixes Cologne as the place, and Peter Quentel as the printer of the 4to.

17. In two of these (1534 and 1535) the words, “This cup is the New Testament in my blood,” in 1 Cor. xi. were omitted (Anderson, i. 415).

18. The localities of the editions are not without interest. Hamburgh, Cologne, Worms, in 1525; Antwerp in 1526-1528; Marlborow (= Marburg) in 1529; Strasburg (Joye’s edit.) in 1531; Bergen-op-Zoom in 1533 (Joye’s); John c. vi. at Nuremberg in 1533; Antwerp in 1534 (Cotton, Printed Editions, pp. 4-6).

19. * This conjecture of Mr. Offor is not borne out by an examination of the book itself. See Westcott’s Hist. of the English Bible, p. 64 f. A.

20. Two names connect themselves sadly with this version. A copy of the edition of 1534 was presented specially to Anne Boleyn, and is now extant in the British Museum. Several passages, such as might be marked for devotional use, are underscored in red ink. Another reforming Lady, Joan Bocher, was known to have been active in circulating Tyndale’s N.T. (Neal, i. 43; Strype, Mem. i. c. 26).

21. The testimony of a Roman Catholic scholar is worth quoting: “In point of perspicacity and noble simplicity, propriety of idiom and purity of style, no English version has as yet surpassed it” (Geddes, Prospectus for a new Translation, p. 89). The writer cannot forbear adding Mr. Froude’s judgment in his own words: “The peculiar genius, if such a word may be permitted, which breathes through it, the mingled tenderness and majesty, the Saxon simplicity, the preternatural grandeur, unequaled, unapproached, in the attempted improvements of modern scholars, — all are here, and bear the impress of the mind of one man, and that man William Tyndale” (Hist. of Eng. iii. 84).

22. * Error; see note 19. A.

23. A list of such words, 99 in number, was formally laid before Convocation by Gardiner in 1542, with the proposal that they should be left untranslated, or Englished with as little change as possible (Lewis, Hist. ch. 2; [Eng. Hexapla, p. 105]).

24. It is uncertain where this version was printed, the title-page being silent on that point. Zurich, Cologne, and Frankfort have all been conjectured. Coverdale is known to have been abroad, and may have come in contact with Luther.

25. There seems something like an advertising tact in this title-page. A scholar would have felt that there was no value in any translation but one from the original. But the “Douche” would serve to attract the Reforming party, who held Luther’s name in honor; while the “Latine” would at least conciliate the conservative feeling of Gardiner and his associates. Whitaker, however, maintains that Coverdale knew more Hebrew than he chose, at this time, to acknowledge, and refers to his translation of one difficult passage (“Ye take youre pleasure under the okes and under all grene trees, the children beyinge slaine in the valleys,” Is. lvii. 5) as proving an independent judgment against the authority of Luther and the Vulgate (Hist. and Crit. Enquiry, p. 52).

26. “If thou [the reader] be fervent in prayer, God shall not only send thee it [the Bible] in a better [version] by the ministration of those that began it before, but shall also move the hearts of those that before meddled not withal.”

27. The five were probably — (1) the Vulgate, (2) Luther’s, (3) the German Swiss version of Zurich, (4) the Latin of Pagninus, (5) Tyndale’s. Others, however, have conjectured a German translation of the Vulgate earlier than Luther’s, and a Dutch version from Luther (Whitaker, Hist. and Crit. Enquiry, p. 49).

28. He leaves it to the king, e.g., “to correct his translation, to amend it, to improve [= condemn] it, yea, and clean to reject it, if your godly wisdom shall think necessary.”

29. Ginsburg (App. to Coheleth) has shown that, with regard to one book at least of the O.T., Coverdale followed the German-Swiss version printed at Zurich in 1531, with an almost servile obsequiousness.

30. A careful reprint, though not a facsimile, of Coverdale’s version has been published by Bagster (1838).

31. These ornamental initials are curiously selected. H. R. for the king’s name, W. T. (at the end of the O.T.) for William Tyndale, R. G. for Richard Grafton the printer.

32. The long preface to the Romans (seven folio pages) was substantially identical with that in Tyndale’s edition of 1534.

33. Such, e.g., as “worthy fruits of penance.”

34. * Between 1558 and 1644, according to the Quar. Rev. for April, 1870, about 150 editions were published of the Bible or parts thereof. It has been observed that in the Souldiers Pocket Bible, published in 1643 for the use of Cromwell’s army, nearly all the selections of Scripture were taken from the Geneva version. See the reprint by George Livermore, Cambridge, 1861, p. vi. A.

35. The note “Herein he showed that he lacked zeal, for she ought to have died,” was probably one which Scotch fanatics had handled in connection with the name of James’s mother.

36. The Geneva version, as published by Parker, is that popularly known as the Breeches Bible, from its rendering of Gen. iii. 7. It had however been preceded in this by Wycliffe’s.

37. The fitness of these illustrations is open to question. Others still more incongruous found their way into the text of the edition of 1572, and the feelings of the Puritans were shocked by seeing a wood-cut of Neptune in the initial letters of Jonah, Micah, and Nahum, while that of the Ep. to the Hebrews went so far as to give Leda and the Swan. There must, to say the least, have been very slovenly editorship to permit this.

38. “A discovery of the manifold corruptions of Holy Scriptures by the Heretikes of our days, specially of the English sectaries.” The language of this and other like books was, as might be expected, very abusive. The Bible, in Protestant translations, was “not God’s word, but the devil’s.”

39. Even Roman Catholic divines have felt the superiority of the A.V., and Challoner, in his editions of the N.T. in 1748, and the Bible, 1763, often follows it in preference to the Rheims and Douay translations.

40. Only forty-seven names appear in the king’s list (Burnet, Reform. Records). Seven may have died, or declined to act; or it may have been intended that there should be a final Committee of Revision. A full list is given by Fuller (Ch. Hist. x.); and is reproduced, with biographical particulars, by Todd and Anderson.

41. This side was, however, weakened by the death of Reinolds and Lively during the progress of the work. The loss of the latter, Hebrew professor at Cambridge for thirty years, was every way deplorable.

42. It deserves notice that Broughton is the only English translator who has adopted the Eternal as the equivalent for Jehovah, as in the French version. To him also perhaps, more than to any other divine, we owe the true interpretation of the Descent into Hell.

43. Miles Smith, himself a translator and the writer of the Preface, complained of Bancroft that there was no contradicting him (Beard, Revised Eng. Bible).

44. Gell’s evidence, as having been chaplain to Archbishop Abbot, carries some weight with it. His works are to be found in the Brit. Mus. Library, Mr. Scrivener’s statement to the contrary being apparently an oversight (Supplement to A.V. of N.T. p. 101).

45. The following passages are those commonly referred to in support of this charge: (1.) The rendering “such as should be saved,” in Acts ii. 47. (2.) The insertion of the words “any man” in Heb. x. 38 (“the just shall live by faith, but if any man draw back,” etc.) to avoid an inference unfavorable to the doctrine of Final Perseverance. (3.) The use of “bishopric,” in Acts i. 20, of “oversight,” in 1 Pet. v. 2, of “bishop,” in 1 Tim. iii. 1, &c., and “overseers,” in Acts xx. 28, in order to avoid the identification of bishops and elders. (4.) The chapter-heading of Ps. cxlix. in 1611 (since altered), “The Prophet exhorteth to praise God tor that power which he hath given the Church to bind the consciences of men.” Blunt (Duties of a Parish Priest, Lect. II.) appears in this question on the side of the prosecution; Trench (On the A.V. of the N.T. c. x. ) on that of the defense. The charge of an undue bias against Rome in 1 Cor. xi 27, Gal. v. 6, Heb. xiii. 4, is one on which an acquittal may be pronounced with little or no hesitation.

46. It may be at least pleaded, in mitigation, that the flattery of the translators is outdone by that of Francis Bacon.

47. Whitaker’s answer, by anticipation, to the charge is worth quoting: “No inconvenience will follow if interpretations or versions of Scripture, when they have become obsolete, or ceased to be intelligible, may be afterwards changed or corrected” (Dissert. on Script. p. 232, Parker Soc. ed.). The wiser divines of the English Church had not then learned to raise the cry of finality.

48. Whatever be the demerits of Lowth’s Isaiah, it deserves something better than the sarcasm of Hurd, that “its only use was to show how little was to be expected from any new translation.” As the Boswell of Warburton, Hurd could not resist the temptation of attacking an old antagonist of his master’s.

49. “I will not pretend to say that it [the history of the Pentateuch] is entirely unmixed with the leaven of the heroic ages. Let the father of Hebrew be tried by the same rules of criticism as the father of Greek history.”

50. A short epitome of this portion of Todd’s book has been published by the S.P.C.K. as a tract, and will be found useful.

51. About this period also (1819) a new edition of Newcome’s version was published by Belsham and other Unitarian ministers, and, like Bellamy’s attempt on the O.T., had the effect of stiffening the resistance of the great body of the clergy to all proposals for a revision. [The so-called Improved Version, here referred to, was published in 1808; reprinted Boston, 1809. — A.]

52. * The Epistles to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians have since appeared. A.

53. Mr. Malan’s careful translation of the chief Oriental and other versions of the Gospel according to St. John, and Mr. Scrivener’s notes on St. Matthew, deserve to be mentioned as valuable contributions towards the work which they deprecate. A high American authority, Mr. George P. Marsh, may also be referred to as throwing the weight of his judgment into the scale against any revision at the present moment (Lectures on the English Language, Lect. xxviii.).

54. The Judaizing spirit on this matter culminated in the Formula Helvetici Consensus, which pronounces the existing O.T. text to be “tum quoad consonas, tum quoad vocalia, sive puncta ipsa, sive punctorum potestatem, tum quoad res, tum quoad verba, θεοπνευστος.

55. The Englishman’s Hebrew Concordance and the Englishman’s Greek Concordance, published by Walton and Maberly, deserve mention as useful helps for the student of the A.V. in overcoming this difficulty.

56. Constantine’s and Scapula’s were the two principally used. During the half century that preceded the A.V. the study of Greek had made great progress, was taught at all the great schools in 1586, and made part of the system of new ones then founded. Nowell, Dean of St. Paul’s, published a Greek version of the Catechism. The Grammar chiefly in use was probably Colet’s (?).

57. As examples Of what may be said on both sides on this point, the reader may be referred to an article on Paragraph Bibles in No. 208 of the Edinburgh Review (subsequently reprinted by the Rev. W. Harness, 1855) and the pamphlet by Dr. M’Caul (Reasons for holding fast) already mentioned. Reeves’s Bibles and Testaments (1802) and Boothroyd’s translation (1824) should be mentioned as having set the example followed by the Religious Tract Society in their Paragraph Bible.

58. In all these points there has been, to a much larger extent than is commonly known, a work of unauthorized revision. Neither Italics, nor references, nor readings, nor chapter-headings, nor, it may be added, punctuation, are the same now as they were in the A.V. of 1611. The chief alterations appear to have been made first in 1683, and afterwards in 1769, by Dr. Blayney, under the sanction of the Oxford Delegates of the Press (Gentleman’s Magazine, November, 1789). A like work was done about the same time by Dr. Paris at Cambridge. There had however, been some changes previously. The edition of 1838, in particular, shows considerable augmentations in the Italics (Turton, Text of the English Bible, 1833, pp. 91, 126). To Blayney also we owe most of the notes on weights and measures, and coins, and the explanation, where the text seems to require it, of Hebrew proper names. The whole question of the use of Italics is discussed elaborately by Turton in the work just mentioned.