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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 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 révision 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 was an important and wise decision. The new Bible was intended to become, as it actually did become, a book for use by and acceptable to all Protestant Christians, regardless of what their special denominational preferences might be. The King selected fifty-four competent men including Puritans, Churchmen and other scholars impartial as to religious parties. Forty-seven of these men are said to have acted 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 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 Bible still dear to Protestant Christians and not likely to be easily 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, including 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 scholarship and knowledge. In order that it shall convey in the English language as nearly as may be the exact meaning of the inspired original,
its text should present the carefully chosen language of the period and not be confined to that of nearly three centuries ago, which may have passed into entire disuse and would then be meaningless to those of this generation.
As a result of action taken on February 10, 1870, by the Southern Convocation (Canterbury) of the Established Church of England, there assembled in Westminster Abbey, June 22, 1870, a body of learned men, clerical and lay, constituting the English New Testament Company of revisers, having a total membership of twenty-seven. They represented widely different religious denominational preferences but were united in their desire to give to the world a correct and reliable English Bible. A similar company having a total membership of fifteen and representing eight religious denominations, was organized in America for consultation and coöperation. The origin of this American New Testament Company was as follows: The Rev. Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D., Professor of Sacred Literature in The Union Theological Seminary, New York, by invitation of the English New Testament Company “prepared a draft of rules for coöperation, and a list of names of biblical scholars who would probably best represent the different denominations and literary institutions in this movement. The suggestions were submitted to the British Committee and substantially approved.” (Introduction by Dr. Schaff to The Revision of the English Version of the New Testament, 1872).
When the English Company had completed the first revision of a portion of the Bible, it was sent to the American Company for consideration and advice. When received again by the English Company there was a second revision and a return to America for a final review. Then it was again reviewed and often re-reviewed and even re-rereviewed by the English Company before final adoption. On November 11, 1880, the English New Testament Company, at a special service in St. Martin-in-the-Fields, united in thanksgiving that their labors were completed and the revised New Testament an accomplished fact. The Old Testament companies of England (twenty-five members) and of America (eleven members), similarly organized and coöperating in their labors, completed their work in 1885, so that the Revised Bible, Old and New Testament, was ready for distribution on May 5, 1885. The English New Testament and Old Testament companies were separately organized bodies and did not meet or work together. The English companies were not able to concur in all of the preferences expressed by the American companies and so when the English Revised Bible was published it included by agreement a statement of all of the non-concurred-in American preferences, in consideration of which the American companies bound themselves not to print or encourage the issue of any other revised Bible until after the expiration of fourteen years from the date of the publication of the English Revised Bible. The English companies disbanded in 1885. Dr. Schaff (1872) calls attention in the following language to the fact that the initiative in this revision did not originate with the English Church as a whole, but only
with the Southern Convocation: “ The Convocation of York, owing mainly to the influence of the excellent Archbishop Thomson, did not fall in with the movement, and is therefore not represented in the Committee on Revision. But a favorable change is gradually taking place, and some of the most influential members of the Convocation, as Dean Howson, of Chester, are hearty supporters of revision.”
The American Standard Revised Version (1901—Protestant). The American companies maintained their organization following 1885 and preserved their records. When the fourteen years had expired the survivors believed there was need for an American revision, not only because of the expressed preferences of the American companies as stated in the English Revision but also because of the advance in scholarship since 1885 and the comments and suggestions called forth by the English Revision. They therefore decided to undertake the work of completing and publishing what is now known as the American Standard Revised Bible (1901)—the latest Bible contributed to English-speaking Protestant Christianity. While maintaining their organization their ranks were depleted by death and, as with few exceptions vacancies were not filled, the members remaining to edit the new revision when the time arrived for its publication were few in number. Of the New Testament Company there remained only three: the Rev. J. Henry Thayer, D.D., the Rev. Timothy Dwight, D.D., LL.D., and the Rev. Matthew Brown Riddle, D.D., LL.D.
In a useful little book, The Story of the Revised New Testament, American Standard Edition, 'Reverend Matthew Brown Riddle, D.D., LL.D., at this date (1910) the last survivor of the original members of the New Testament Company of American revisers, makes this interesting statement: “As Professor Thayer had full records of the earlier meetings, often including the suggestions of individual members, even when not adopted by the Company, it was possible to make a review of all the work previously done; and to base the new version upon the judgment of the entire Company as thus recorded. The three survivors really represented their co-laborers, and the results are in no sense merely the opinions of the trio that remained alive in 1897.'
Their arduous labors necessitated by the revision were performed gratuitously.
The Douay Version (Rheims, N.T., 1582; Douai, O.T., 1609-10Roman Catholic). This version takes its name from Douai, department of Nord, France, where Roman Catholic divines from the University of Oxford, England, established a college for the education of English youths, in connection with the University of Douai. The establishment of this university was authorized by a bull from Pope Paul IV, confirmed by Pius IV, January 6, 1560. It was inaugurated October 5, 1562, and its purpose was stated to be " the preservation of the purity of the Catholic Faith from the errors of the Reformation.”
The university thus established at Douai was removed to Rheims in 1578 and there a translation of the New Testament was made into English from the Latin Vulgate of Jerome. The New Testament was