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THE BOOK AND ITS PURPOSE
The Holy Gospel (the good news, the glad tidings about Jesus Christ), as it is told in the English language in the Bibles used in America by Protestant and by Roman Catholic Christians, is herein recorded in parallel columns so that comparison of the text may be easily made. There are four of these Bibles. They are known as Bible versions. A brief account is given of how each version or translation originated. An alphabetically arranged Gospel subject-index, which is incidentally a partial Gospel harmony, completes the book.
The comparative Gospel here presented is intended for general reading and reference. The text used is that chosen by those responsible for the translation and revision as best expressing in English the meaning designed to be conveyed by the original manuscripts from which the translations were made. All marginal references, alternate readings, chapter index headings, and explanatory footnotes have been omitted as they often confuse the general reader by diverting his attention from the plain text.
The purpose of the book is to afford the reader an opportunity to compare the translations that were made into English about three hundred years ago by Protestant and by Roman Catholic Bible scholars; and also to compare the good work of the olden time with the recent English and American revisions that represent a high order of reverent, painstaking modern scholarship applied to the sources of information and under methods of investigation now available. It should confirm the faith in the gospel story, as told in our venerable English Bible, to learn from such a comparison that all of these versions are in practical accord as to the important message they convey.
Another purpose of the book is to make all Christians familiar with the text of the Gospel as it is given in the Protestant and in the Roman Catholic English Bibles, so that they may understand how little difference of importance there is between the Protestant and the Catholic Bible gospel stories. It is a hopeful fact and worthy to be held in remembrance that there are no differences that need cause any lack of unity in effort among Christians professing to serve the same Master.
FRANK J. FIRTH. GERMANTOWN,
BIBLE VERSIONS IN ENGLISH
Bible Versions. The original manuscripts of the Old Testament in Hebrew and of the New Testament in Greek disappeared early in the present era, and not one of them now exists. Our Holy Bible of to-day has been compiled from the following sources of information
1. Copies made from the originals and in the same languages. These are known as manuscripts, and the earliest of them now available dates from about the third century.
2. Translations from the originals into other languages. These are known as versions. Some of the early versions are said to present portions of the Scriptures as they were about fifty years after the time of the apostles.
3. Bible quotations appearing in the writings, argumentative or otherwise, of clerical representatives of the early Christian churches.
The Roman Catholic Church attaches importance to religious knowledge that is said to have been carefully passed by word of mouth from generation to generation and that is known as tradition.
There are several thousands of the old writings-manuscripts, versions, clerical correspondence, and papers—now available for use in the scholarly study of the Bible. From this mass of information of authority, it has been possible for reverent and painstaking Bible scholars to determine what best expresses in the English language of to-day the meaning of the original records. Brief reference will be herein made to the important English versions of dates prior to 1611, but the serious purpose of this book is to present the text of the four versions of the Holy Bible in the English language now in use in the United States and that are known by the following titles :
The King James or Authorized Version of 1611. The English Revised Version of 1881 (N.T.) and 1885 (O.T.). The American Standard Revised Version of 1901. The Douay Version of 1582 (Rheims, N.T.) and 1609-10 (Douai, O.T.).
The three versions first named are used by Protestant Christians and the version last named by Roman Catholic Christians.
English Versions prior to 1611. Without attempting to refer here to the early fragmentary translations of portions of the Bible into the Anglo-Saxon or early English language, the first notable English Bible is found to have been that translated by John Wyclif, parish priest of Lutterworth. He is credited with having produced about 1382 the first complete version of the Bible in the English language. He was excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church, and the Council of that Church held at Constance forty years later caused his remains to be disinterred and burned. His translation, which was based on the Latin
Vulgate of Jerome, was revised about six years after its completion. It antedated the discovery of the art of printing. He died in 1384.
About one hundred and fifty years later (1526) came the celebrated English version by William Tyndale which has exercised a marked influence upon the text of all subsequent versions in the English language. In the preparation of this version the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts then accessible were consulted. Driven by persecution from England, Tyndale took refuge in Worms and there completed the first copies of the New Testament printed in English. Of the Old Testament he is said to have translated the Pentateuch, the Historical Books, and part of the Prophets. He met with a persistent persecution, a treacherous betrayal, and was strangled and burned at the stake on October 6, 1536.
It was through lives of self-sacrifice and suffering, and deaths of martyrdom, that the English people received their early versions of the Holy Bible.
Following the Tyndale Bible came other translations, all largely based on it. The Coverdale Bible was published in 1536; in 1537 the Matthews' (John Rogers') Bible, closely followed by a slightly modified edition known as Taverner's Bible. The Great Bible, published in April, 1539, was by Henry VIII“ authorized to be used and frequented in every church in the kingdom "-the first authorized edition of an English Bible. When King Henry was asked to authorize the use of this Bible he is said to have replied, “Well, but are there any heresies maintained thereby?” and on being assured there were not, said, “ Then in God's name let it go forth among our people.”
About the commencement of the reign of the English Protestant queen, Elizabeth, the Puritan reformers returned from Geneva, bringing with them the popular Genevan Bible with its explanatory notes. These notes were influenced by the Puritan school of religious thought and were destined to lead to the replacement of this Bible by a new edition from which this cause of dissatisfaction would be eliminated. The dedication of the Genevan Bible is said to have been accepted by Queen Elizabeth.
King James or Authorized Version (1611–Protestant). This remarkable version of the Bible, acceptable to Protestant Christendom for nearly three hundred years and still its book of authority, owes its existence, as stated in its opening pages, “ To the most high and mighty Prince James, by the grace of God, king of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith, etc.” The translators go on to say, " There are infinite arguments of this right christian and religious affection in Your Majesty; but none is more forcible to declare it to others than the vehement and perpetuated desire of accomplishing and publishing of this, which now with all humility we present unto Your Majesty. They then describe James as “the principal Mover and Author of the work.” His kingdom included countries that were in their separate religious preferences respectively English Protestant, Scotch Puritan, and Irish and French Roman Catholic.
In 1604 King James called a conference which was held at Hampton Court, and over which he presided, to consider a list of grievances complained of by the Puritans. Among the subjects considered was the unsatisfactory character of the Bible versions then in use. The King was decidedly opposed to the partisan and democratic character of the explanatory footnotes appearing in the Genevan Bible. To illustrate the feeling of James, Exodus 1:17 has been quoted: “But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.” The Genevan note commented, “ Their disobedience to the king was lawful though their dissembling was evil.” King James feelingly said of this note, “ It is false; to disobey a king is not lawful; such traitorous conceits should not go forth among the people."
He decided that there should be a careful revision made and that the revised Bible should not contain any explanatory footnotes expressing opinions as to what was meant by particular words or sentences. This DI was an important and wise decision. The new Bible was intended to se become, as it actually did become, a book for use by and acceptable 16 to all Protestant Christians, regardless of what their special denomi- i national preferences might be. The King selected fifty-four competente men including Puritans, Churchmen and other scholars impartial as to religious parties. Forty-seven of these men are said to have acted as as a board or commission of revision, and provision was made for consultation by them with any and all other scholars learned in Bible history and literature.
The rules to govern the revision provided that the Bishops' Bible should be used as a basis and departed from only for clearly justifiable cause. The commission of revision was divided into six committees or T companies, each to undertake designated portions of the work. Final decisions upon disputed points were made by the full board after careful consideration and study. All Bible literature then available in Greek, Hebrew and modern languages received painstaking consideration. This was not confined to Protestant sources, but Roman Catholic authorities including the Douay Version of the Holy Bible were also consulted. The result of all this patient care was the version of the th Bible still dear to Protestant Christians and not likely to be easily o replaced in the public esteem by revised editions, no matter how | meritorious or badly needed they may be.
The English Revised Version (1881, N.T.; 1885, O.T.-Protestant). The development of the English language since 1611; the changes in the meanings of many words, certain words having fallen into disuse entirely; the great advance in biblical learning and scholarship; the discovery of many new documents of biblical interest, in- A cluding manuscripts much older than any known to the revisers in 1611,-all appeared to call for another revision, so that our Holy Bible should represent the latest, best and most exact religious scholar- !| ship and knowledge. In order that it shall convey in the English lan- te guage as nearly as may be the exact meaning of the inspired original,