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The Biography of the Bible

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Author Topic: The Biography of the Bible  (Read 884 times)
Azrael
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« Reply #120 on: July 18, 2009, 10:18:37 pm »

in 1560 of the "Geneva Bible," edited chiefly by William Whittingham, Thomas Sampson, and Anthony Gilby, possibly assisted by John Knox and, more doubtfully, by Coverdale. It was the most accurate translation yet produced: its editors were better Hebrew scholars than Tyndale, and in their rendering of the New Testament they had the advantage of possessing the excellent Latin translation made by the reformer, Theodore Beza, in 1556, as well as a revision of Tyndale's New Testament brought out by Whittingham himself in 1557. In the latter, the more readable Roman type had been substituted for the black letter previously used, and this sensible innovation was retained in the "Geneva Bible" which, designed for popular consumption, was also made of portable size and was published at a very moderate price. It was popularly known as the "Breeches Bible" from its translation of Genesis III. 7: "They sewed figge tree leaves together, and made themselves breeches." Later virtually adopted as the authorized version of the Scottish Kirk, it was more widely read even in England than any of the earlier versions. One hundred and sixty editions were published. As the Bible of early Massachusetts and Virginia, it must always have a special interest for Americans.

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Azrael
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« Reply #121 on: July 18, 2009, 10:18:50 pm »

And yet, with all its merits, the Geneva version proved a hindrance rather than an aid to the true understanding of the Bible. In 1551 a French printer, Robert Estienne, in publishing a Greek translation of the New Testament, had divided it into verses for the sake of easy reference in a concordance which he had in mind to bring out. The same method was followed in Whittingham's New Testament, and in the Geneva edition was extended to the entire Bible. The effect of thus breaking up a coherent discourse into isolated fragments, divided with little regard to their meaning and each printed as a separate paragraph, was to make it difficult to follow the sequence of thought and to encourage what became the besetting sin of later times—the habit of regarding all parts of the Bible as of equal value so that one could snatch any verse out of its context and hurl it at the head of an opponent in a theological argument.

A minor defect of the "Geneva Bible," which also came from Whittingham's New Testament was the pedantic custom of printing in italics words not found in the original, thus emphasizing the very words that were of most doubtful authenticity and value.

Although the "Geneva Bible" was dedicated to

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Azrael
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« Reply #122 on: July 18, 2009, 10:19:12 pm »

 Queen Elizabeth with an exhortation to show no mercy to Roman Catholics, the violent notes with which it abounded were almost as critical of the Church of England as the Church of Rome. It was essentially a Puritan Bible and as such could find no favor with the ruling hierarchy. To offset its influence, Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury, organized in 1564 a committee of bishops to produce an "official" translation. Known as the "Bishops’ Bible," this appeared in 1568 in a sumptuous edition adorned with woodcuts and copperplate portraits of Queen Elizabeth, the earl of Leicester, and Lord Burleigh. But unfortunately the bishops were neither as good scholars nor as good writers as the reformers. Their New Testament, which was practically Tyndale's, was satisfactory, but there was such an outcry against their translation of the Psalms that in the third edition in 1573 they restored Coverdale's old translation, printing it in parallel columns with their own. This edition was known in popular parlance as the "Leda Bible" because some of the type heads had been previously used for an edition of Ovid's Metamorphoses so that the initial at the beginning of the Epistle to the Hebrews happened to be a rather unsuitable representation of Leda and the

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Azrael
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« Reply #123 on: July 18, 2009, 10:19:22 pm »

swan. On the whole, the elaborate "Bishops’ Bible" was a costly failure which did not in the least serve to displace the "Geneva Bible" from popular affection.

One specific legacy of the "Bishops’ Bible" to subsequent translations was of considerable importance in the matter of ecclesiastical discipline. This was the substitution of "church" as the rendering of the Greek ecclesia for the more accurate "congregation" used by Tyndale and Coverdale. The motivation of the change was the desire of the bishops to conceal the democratic character of the early Christian assemblies and to give the impression that their organization resembled that of the Anglican Church. The point was later deemed so significant by King James I that he specially prohibited the editors of the Authorized Version from returning to the usage of Tyndale and Coverdale.

During these years the Roman Catholic Church had at last awakened to the need of meeting the reformers on their own ground. Although the Church had in its possession the oldest existing manuscript of the New Testament, written on vellum in the fourth century, this manuscript (now known as the Vatican Codex) had lain unnoticed in the library of the Vatican century after century

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Azrael
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« Reply #124 on: July 18, 2009, 10:19:37 pm »

while the Church had done nothing to correct the increasing corruption of the Vulgate text. The condition of the latter had, however, become so scandalous by the time of the Council of Trent in 1546 that a revision of it was authorized, although little was actually done until in 1586 Pope Sixtus V appointed a revisory commission, headed by Cardinal Caraffa, which completed its work within four years. The new text was issued in 1590 with an anathema upon any who should henceforth dare to change it. It proved to contain so many errors that in the next year Pope Gregory XIV appointed a second revisory commission, which within twelve months produced a text differing from that of Sixtus V in 2,134 places. This was issued in 1592 by Pope Clement VIII with a new anathema upon any subsequent changes. To modify any disagreeable impressions that might arise from the difference between the two revisions, the later like the earlier was attributed to Sixtus V.

In 1582 an English translation of the Vulgate New Testament was published by a group of Roman Catholic scholars at Rheims; a translation of the Vulgate Old Testament was prepared at the same time, but lack of funds caused the postponement of publication until 1609 when, after revision

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Azrael
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« Reply #125 on: July 18, 2009, 10:19:58 pm »

in accordance with the textual changes noted above, it was brought out at Douai. As polemical in purpose as the "Geneva Bible" or the "Bishops’ Bible," changing "cup" to "chalice" and "repentance" to "penance," its renderings were sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church whose members were forbidden to read the Protestant translations. The chief editor, Gregory Martin, and his colleagues, William Allen and Richard Bristow, were competent scholars but they were not really in sympathy with the purpose of their own work. As if to emphasize their contempt for the vulgar herd they deliberately adopted a heavily Latinized style which obscured the meaning. Thus, for example, the phrase "He humbled himself" became "He exinanited himself." Similar words virtually unknown to the English language outside of the "Douai Bible" are "colinquination," "correption," exprobate, "obsecration," "scenopegia." A Protestant taking up the "Douai Bible," with its unfamiliar headings such as First and Second Paralipomenon, Osee, Micheas, Sophronias, and Aggeus, will feel that he is reading a different work from the Bible that he has always known. In one respect, however, the "Douai Bible" was much superior to the later Protestant versions from the literary point
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Azrael
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« Reply #126 on: July 18, 2009, 10:20:26 pm »



Original woodcut title page of the King James version (1611)
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Azrael
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« Reply #127 on: July 18, 2009, 10:20:59 pm »



Original engraved title page used at the beginning of the New Testament in the King James version
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Azrael
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« Reply #128 on: July 18, 2009, 10:21:22 pm »

of view: it did not contain the irrelevant and confusing division into numbered verses.

At the time of the accession of King James I in 1603, the situation had wholly changed from that of a century before when there was no English Bible in existence. Now there was a bewildering number of them. The need seemed to be for standardization rather than for further new translations.

In 1604, at a conference of churchmen called by the King at Hampton Court to consider "things pretended to be amiss in the church," Dr. John Reynolds, President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, pointed out the desirability of a revised version of the Bible. The suggestion was welcomed by the learned monarch, who declared, "I have never yet seen a Bible well translated into English, and the worst of all . . . is the Genevan." He proposed that the work be done "by the best learned in both Universities, after them to be reviewed by the Bishops, and the chief learned of the Church; from them to be presented to the Privy Council; and lastly to be ratified by his Royall authority, and so this whole Church to be bound unto it, and none other."

The churchmen were less eager in the matter than was King James, but through his pressure a

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Azrael
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« Reply #129 on: July 18, 2009, 10:21:35 pm »

group of "four and fifty learned men" was appointed during the ensuing year, of whom only forty-seven seem actually to have taken part in the great undertaking which was finally begun in 1607. No company of better scholars ever worked together on a common task. Headed by Dr. Lancelot Andrews, dean of Westminster—who is the subject of a charming essay by T. S. Eliot—the group was mainly composed of the leaders of learning at the universities of Cambridge and Oxford. It was divided into six committees, to each of whom was assigned a separate portion of the Scriptures, the whole work being later gone over by a single committee. The undertaking consumed substantially four years (three and a half in the editing and six months in the printing). The Authorized Version, which incidentally owes its title to the printers, as the King's plan of formal authorization was never carried out, appeared some time in 1611.

Dr. Reynolds, who shared with King James the honor of initiating the work, did not live to see its completion. One of the ablest of the editors, much consulted by the others, he was stricken with tuberculosis but labored on to the very last, so that as we are told "in the very translation of the book of life, he was translated to a better life."

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Azrael
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« Reply #130 on: July 18, 2009, 10:21:55 pm »

In the preface to the 1611 edition, drawn up by Dr. Miles Smith, afterwards bishop of Gloucester, the editors modestly disclaimed all originality. "Truly (good Christian reader)," they said, "we never thought from the beginning, that we should need 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 principal good one." This is an exact statement of what the editors actually accomplished. The Authorized Version was essentially a revision of revisions. It was based upon a revision of the "Bishops’ Bible" which was a revision of the "Great Bible" which was a revision of "Matthew's Bible" which was a combination of Tyndale and Coverdale. The last two were the main sources of the King James version. But the editors consulted all the existing translations and were deeply influenced by the interpretations of the "Geneva Bible" and by the sonorous Latin of the Douai Old Testament. Their catholicity reaped its reward in what was unquestionably the best translation yet made, both in accuracy and in richness and variety of style.

Like Jerome's Vulgate, the Authorized Version was slow to win its ultimate position of unquestioned supremacy. The radical wing of the Puritans

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« Reply #131 on: July 18, 2009, 10:22:08 pm »

continued to prefer the "Geneva Bible," selections from which were republished in 1643 as "The Soldier's Pocket Bible" in pamphlet form for the use of Cromwell's army. During the Civil War in the United States, about fifty thousand copies of this were reprinted for circulation among the Northern troops.

In spite of the utmost care, the King James version was from the outset bedeviled by printers’ errors. The two impressions of the first edition were known respectively as "the Great Hee Bible" and "the Great She Bible" because the one rendered Ruth iii. 15 as "Hee went into the city," while the other read "She went into the city," both forms still appearing in modern Bibles. Another error that has never been corrected was the substitution of "at" for "out" in Matthew xxiii. 24, giving the oft-quoted mistranslation, "straining at a gnat." There was also much inconsistency in the spelling of Hebrew names, some of which has never been eliminated.

The errors were, in fact, so numerous that a revised edition was called for as early as 1615, to be followed by others every few years. In each new edition, however, new errors cropped up. That of 1631 was called the "Wicked Bible" because it

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« Reply #132 on: July 18, 2009, 10:22:27 pm »

gave the seventh commandment as "Thou shalt commit adultery." Cromwell was reputed to have paid out a thousand pounds in bribes to the 1638 revisers to induce them to change "we" to "ye" in Acts vi. 3 so that the power of appointing officers should seem to have belonged to the people instead of to the Apostles. An elaborate edition put out by the University of Oxford in 1727 was nicknamed the "Vinegar Bible" because a headline to the parable of the vineyard in Luke xxii read "The Parable of the Vinegar."

At last in 1762, in the "Standard Edition" prepared by Dr. Thomas Paris of Trinity College, Cambridge, a work appeared almost free from printers’ errors, and with modernized spelling and punctuation; but at the same time some demon of pedantry inspired the editor to start the evil custom of elaborating the marginal reference notes. Succeeding generations of editors indulged in the same pastime until the Bible came to assume its familiar modern form in which, to quote Professor Goodspeed of the University of Chicago, "It often looks more like a surveyor's manual than a work of literature."

Cross references to other passages of a translation are of little service to genuine scholarship if

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« Reply #133 on: July 18, 2009, 10:22:43 pm »

the whole translation is based on a faulty text. Gradually it became evident that this had been the case with the King James version, at least so far as the New Testament was concerned. The translators had conscientiously consulted the Greek text of Erasmus as the best then known, but Erasmus himself had had no manuscripts earlier than the eleventh century. Only seventeen years after the publication of the Authorized Version, Cyril Lucar, Patriarch of Alexandria, presented King Charles I with a fifth-century manuscript, the Codex Alexandrinus, which embodied a text differing in many places from that of Erasmus. During the next three centuries, fifth-, fourth-, and even third-century manuscripts of parts of the New Testament came to light in increasing numbers. (The total of New Testament manuscripts now in existence is estimated at four thousand.) The additional knowledge furnished by these was reinforced by an ever closer study of the early Syriac, Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Arabic, and Persian versions. It was inevitable that many new English translations should be attempted.

In fact, between the King James version and the Revised Version nearly a hundred such translations were published. Most of them were produced

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« Reply #134 on: July 18, 2009, 10:23:01 pm »

solely in the interest of greater accuracy, but two of the translators, Principal George Campbell of Aberdeen, in 1788, and Gilbert Wakefield, fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1789–91, had enough literary sense to abandon the verse divisions for modern paragraphing. In 1798 Nathaniel Scarlett made an interesting experiment: in order to emphasize the conversational character of much of the New Testament, he arranged it as dialogue, putting the speakers’ names at the side as in drama. The most important of all these translations, however, was Challoner's thorough revision of the Catholic Rheims-Douai Bible in 1749.

Recognition of the need for an official revision of the King James version was voiced in 1810 by Dr. Marsh, Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Cambridge. With true Anglo-Saxon conservatism, nothing was done about it until 1856 when another Lady Margaret professor, Dr. Selwyn, brought the matter up in the Canterbury Convocation, thus provoking a motion in the House of Commons for the appointment of a Royal Commission to consider various "amendments" to the King James version and report back to the House—much as if the Bible had been a set of legal statutes. Finally, in 1870, through the efforts of

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