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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 #135 on: July 18, 2009, 10:23:18 pm »

 Bishop Wilberforce and others, the Convocation of Canterbury appointed a committee of seven to have general charge of a complete revision of the King James version. The enterprise was conducted in a broad and tolerant spirit which was something new in Biblical history: scholars of other denominations were invited to co-operate, with the further assistance of an American Revision Committee headed by Dr. Philip Schaff, editor of the Schaff Herzog Encyclopaedia of Religious Knowledge. Owing to the thoroughness of their work, it took the revisers more than six times as long to complete their task as it had taken the King James editors. The New Testament was published in 1881, the Old Testament, without the Apocrypha, in 1885, and the Apocrypha itself in 1895.

The Revised Version proved to be a very conservative revision. All radicalism was eliminated at the outset by the adoption of a set of rigid rules: to introduce only such changes as were absolutely necessary on account of the meaning; to accept no changes in the text except by a two-thirds vote; and to adhere so far as possible to the language of the King James version. The American Revision Committee took these rules less literally than did their British cousins, with the result that there was

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Azrael
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« Reply #136 on: July 18, 2009, 10:23:31 pm »

considerable diversity of opinion between the two committees. More than a thousand of the American suggestions were indeed incorporated in the British edition, but the more important of them were relegated to an appendix. Furthermore, what has since become the accepted Greek text of the New Testament, that prepared by Westcott and Hort, was not published until 1881, and though both of these great textual critics were members of the British committee their suggestions were frequently not adopted. For these reasons, the American Revision Committee felt justified in continuing its own work, which resulted in the publication of the American Revision in 1901.

Of all the official and semiofficial editions of the Bible, the American Revision of 1901 (the edition circulated by the Gideons) is by far the best from the point of view of literal accuracy. Unfortunately, from the point of view of literary value it is one of the worst ever published. It came out during the period when American scholarship, justifiably proud of its learning and its new methods of technical research, looked with suspicion on all literary attainment as a kind of concession to emotional weakness. Both the British and American revisers recognized the absurdity of the verse paragraphing

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Azrael
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« Reply #137 on: July 18, 2009, 10:24:00 pm »

in the King James version, but they went to the opposite extreme of adopting unconscionably long paragraphs even in conversational passages. The unreadability of these was increased in the American Version by the inclusion of the old verse numbers within the paragraphs, so that the reader often had to hurdle two or three of them in a single sentence. And whereas the British revisers had had the courage to remove the network of marginal notes enmeshing the text, the American edition dutifully restored this smothering parasitic growth.

It was left for an individual to do what the churches and the groups of organized scholars had signally failed to do—present the greatest literary work of all time in a literary form—one which should bring out the meaning, emotional as well as intellectual, instead of obscuring this meaning in conformity with dogmas of religion or pedantry. Professor Richard Green Moulton of the University of Chicago began in 1895 to publish the books of the Bible separately—thus calling attention to the distinctive character of each—in an edition named "The Modern Reader's Bible" in which the text of the British Revision was presented in an attractive form, with verse printed as verse, prose as prose, and the latter paragraphed with some regard to

p. 131

meaning. His work was a great improvement upon anything that had gone before, but it was still, like the English Revised Version on which it was based, a compromise. Professor Moulton was not quite willing to be so radical as to accord the Bible the full advantages possessed by other works of literature. His paragraphing was so heavy that today it already looks archaic; he seemed to share with previous editors a feeling that there was something profane in the use of quotation marks (although he did finally consent to introduce them in the Gospel of John); and he obstinately refused to recognize the conclusions of the Higher Criticism with the result that he was occasionally led into serious errors—such as his endeavor to reconstruct the Song of Songs as a connected drama. His edition, completed and published in a single volume in 1907 (unfortunately in a print so fine that it did not encourage reading), was the last important one to disregard, even partially, the Higher Criticism. The development of the latter has proved so fundamental not merely to individual translations and editions but to the entire understanding of the Bible that its story demands a separate chapter.

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