OT: The KJV Bible (was: Help with Greek was Re: Babel Text in Obrenje)
|From:||Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>|
|Date:||Wednesday, March 13, 2002, 19:29|
At 9:38 am -0500 12/3/02, John Cowan wrote:
>Raymond Brown scripsit:
>> Well, if by 'fairly modern' you mean about a century or so out of date.
>> Fairly modern, certainly, compared with now. But the translators of the
>> KJV deliberately eschewed a contemporary form and harked back to Tudor
>> English in order to give their translation a sense of 'timelessness'.
>Their job was not so much to translate the Scriptures, as to revise the
>existing (Protestant) translations having regard to the originals.
I understood that the 47 scholars responsible for the KJV also consulted
the Catholic Douai-Rheims translation (NT published 1582 & OT in 1609); tho
most of the translations were, of course, of Protestant or schismatic
>Hence the even-for-1611 archaisms like "Our Father which art in heaven".
...which also shows the strong influence of the Vulgate (Pater noster _qui
es_ in caelis) on the early Protestant versions; a literal translation of
the Greek would give:
"Our father in the heavens"
>As for "Tudor English", the Tudors were less than five years off the throne
>when the job was begun.
Yes, 'Tudor English' was too vague a term. It was, after all, under the
Tudors that English underwent major development, including the 'great vowel
shift'. When the first Tudor, Henry VII ascended the throne (1485), people
were speaking 'late Middle English'; by the time the last Tudor (Elizabeth
I - died 1603) had died, we are well into the early Modern English period.
I meant early 16th cent. English (i.e. roughly the time of Henry VIII)
which was getting on for a century old by the time of the Stuarts at the
beginning of the 17th cent - especially remembering the great changes that
had come over English under the Tudors. I personally find the KJV
archaizing in comparison with the English of Shakespeare at his
> [...] Truly (good Christian Reader) wee never thought from the
> beginning, that we should neede to make a new Translation, nor
> yet to make of a bad one a good one, [...] but to make a good
> one better, or out of many good ones, one principall good one,
> not justly to be excepted against; that hath bene our indeavour,
> that our marke.
> -- KJV, "The translators to the reader", speaking of the
> previous translations into English.
Yes, not a new translation in contemporary English of the time, but a
revision of 'venerable' translations of the previous couple of generations.
I am told that the KJV does not differ greatly from the Tyndale
translations (New Testament 1525 -revised 1534 & 1535; Pentateuch 1530; the
Book of Jonah, 1531; 'Epistles of the Old Testament', 1534), which
essentially fixed the language of all subsequent English until the 20th
The Tyndale translations (based on Greek originals of the time, Erasmus'
versions of the Greek & Latin New Testament, Luther's German Bible and the
Latin Vulgate) gave rise to Coverdale's Bible (1535) which was the first
printed edition of a complete version of the Bible in English; this was
followed in 1537 by Matthew's Bible which was essentially made up from the
works of Tyndale and Coverdale.
Tho probably the most important of the early bersion was the Great Bible of
Henry VIII's time (1539) which was a revision by Coverdale based on the
Matthew's Bible version. It importance, of course, was that (a) it was
first in the Anglophone world to have official authorization (i.e. Henry's)
and (b) was available to the general public both Protestant and, at that
time the majority, Catholic (Henry having retained the Catholic teachings
such as 'transubstantiation', merely taken the English church into schism;
it was left to his son, Edward VI, to introduce Protestant teaching into
the English church).
The Geneva Bible (1557) was a later revision undertaken by Protestant
exiles in Geneva during the time of Mary I; the revision was based on the
Great Bible, Matthew's Bible and the earlier versions. It remained popular
for many generations among the Puritan wing of English Protestantism.
After Elizabeth had brought the Church of England back into the Protestant
fold, Archbishop Matthew Parker organized a revision of the Great Bible to
stem the growing popularity of the Geneva Bible; this revision was known as
"The Bishops' Bible" and was, essentially, the basis of the later KJV.
Catholics, as noted above, had their own English versions produced abroad
(it was their turn for exile) - the NT being published in Rheims in 1582,
and the OT at Douai in 1609 - the whole then being popularly known as the
The KJV owes its name, of course, to James VI of Scotland who became James
I of England. As 'Supreme Governor of the Church of England' he wanted to
stop the bickering between the 'moderates' who favored the Bishops' Bible
and the Puritan wing who favored the Geneva Bible - hence the revision by
the 47 scholars to produce the "Authorized Version", i.e. the only version
authorized for use in church liturgy of the established church.
But my thesis is that the KJV was not an attempt to give a translation of
the Greek & Hebrew scriptures in contemporary English of the early 17th
century, but was rather a revision of editions whose language & style had
already been set in the early 16th century. It was also deliberately
literary in style, giving the impression that the scriptures as a whole
were written in literary Hebrew and Greek - this is far from the case, at
least in the matter of Greek (my knowledge of Hebrew is, alas, far too
meager for me to make a similar judgment about the Hebrew scriptures).
A mind which thinks at its own expense
will always interfere with language.
[J.G. Hamann 1760]