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The KJV is a revision of earlier Bibles

Discussion in '2004 Archive' started by natters, Aug 29, 2004.

  1. natters

    natters New Member

    Jul 23, 2004
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    Many wrongly assume that the KJV translators took the Hebrew OT, Erasmus' Greek NT, and started translating. This is not the case. Their starting point was the Bishops Bible (which itself was a revision of the Geneva Bible), and the first rule the KJV translators had was "The ordinary Bible read in the Church, commonly called the Bishops Bible, to be followed, and as little altered as the Truth of the original will permit."

    They sat down with copies of the Bishops Bible, took out their pens, and scratched out, added, and changed words. Each suggested alteration was examined in light of the Hebrew and Greek texts and other English translations, and each suggestion was then either or rejected after more detailed examination. All accepted changes were then shared with the other translators for verification or additional critiques.

    In the book "The Literary Lineage of the King James Bible" by C.C. Butterworth (Philadelphia, 1941), Butterworth studied and compared the early English translations, and came up these estimates as to the origin of the content of the KJV text:

    04% - Wycliffe's Bible, including English sermons
    18% - Tyndale's and Matthew's Bibles
    13% - Coverdale Bible
    19% - Geneva Bible
    04% - Bishops Bible
    03% - Other pre-1611 Bibles
    61% - total incorporation of previous Bibles
    39% - new material based on Hebrew and Greek

    Another interesting book that shows the revising work of the KJV translators is "The Coming of the King James Gospels - A Collation of the Translators' Work-in-Progress" by Ward S. Allen and Edward C. Jacobs (University of Arkansas Press, 1995). This book has photographs of pages from the Bishops Bible with the KJV translators' penmanship striking out words, adding new ones, etc. This book also contains (typed out, not photographcs) the complete four Gospels of the Bishops Bible, with the suggested revisions above the text and the final KJV translator revisions below the text, for quick and easy comparison and to see exactly how the KJV translators revised the Bishops Bible.
  2. robycop3

    robycop3 Well-Known Member
    Site Supporter

    Jul 31, 2000
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    Here are the rules for the translators, drawn up by Archbishop Bancroft, approved by KJ:

    1. The ordinary Bible read in the Church, commonly called the Bishops Bible, to be followed, and as little altered as the Truth of the original will permit.

    2. The names of the Prophets, and the Holy Writers, with the other Names of the Text, to be retained, as nigh as may be, accordingly as they were vulgarly used.

    3. The Old Ecclesiastical Words to be kept, viz. the Word Church not to be translated Congregation &c.

    4. When a Word hath divers Significations, that to be kept which hath been most commonly used by the most of the Ancient Fathers, being agreeable to the Propriety of the Place, and the Analogy of the Faith.

    5. The Division of the Chapters to be altered, either not at all, or as little as may be, if Necessity so require.

    6. No Marginal Notes at all to be affixed, but only for the explanation of the Hebrew or Greek Words, which cannot without some circumlocution, so briefly and fitly be expressed in the Text.

    7. Such Quotations of Places to be marginally set down as shall serve for the fit Reference of one Scripture to another.

    8. Every particular Man of each Company, to take the same Chapter or Chapters, and having translated or amended them severally by himself, where he thinketh good, all to meet together, confer what they have done, and agree for their Parts what shall stand.

    9. As any one Company hath dispatched any one Book in this Manner they shall send it to the rest, to be considered of seriously and judiciously, for His Majesty is very careful in this Point.

    10. If any Company, upon the Review of the Book so sent, doubt or differ upon any Place, to send them Word thereof; note the Place, and withal send the Reasons, to which if they consent not, the Difference to be compounded at the general Meeting, which is to be of the chief Persons of each Company, at the end of the Work.

    11. When any Place of special Obscurity is doubted of, Letters to be directed by Authority, to send to any Learned Man in the Land, for his Judgement of such a Place.

    12. Letters to be sent from every Bishop to the rest of his Clergy, admonishing them of this Translation in hand; and to move and charge as many skilful in the Tongues; and having taken pains in that kind, to send his particular Observations to the Company, either at Westminster, Cambridge, or Oxford.

    13. The Directors in each Company, to be the Deans of Westminster, and Chester for that Place; and the King's Professors in the Hebrew or Greek in either University.

    14. These translations to be used when they agree better with the Text than the Bishops Bible: Tyndale's, Matthew's, Coverdale's, Whitchurch's, Geneva.

    15. Besides the said Directors before mentioned, three or four of the most Ancient and Grave Divines, in either of the Universities, not employed in Translating, to be assigned by the vice-Chancellor, upon Conference with the rest of the Heads, to be Overseers of the Translations as well Hebrew as Greek, for the better observation of the 4th Rule above specified.

    Bancroft died in 1610, but the translators generally followed the rules anyway.
  3. Keith M

    Keith M New Member

    Dec 6, 2002
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    Hey, thanks for the information!