King James Translators

Letter to the Reader - pg 3

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There were also within a few hundreth yeeres after CHRIST, translations many into the Latine tongue: for this tongue also was very fit to convey the Law and the Gospel by, because in those times very many Countreys of the West, yea of the South, East and North, spake or understood Latine, being made Provinces to the Romanes. But now the Latine Translations were too many to be all good, for they were infinite (Latini Interpretes nullo modo numerari possunt, saith S. Augustine.) Againe they were not out of the Hebrew fountaine (wee speake of the Latine Translations of the Old Testament) but out of the Greeke streame, therefore the Greeke being not altogether cleare, the Latine derived from it must needs be muddie. This moved S. Jerome a most learned father, and the best linguist without controversie, of his age, or of any that went before him, to undertake the translating of the Old Testament, out of the very fountaines themselves; which hee performed with that evidence of great learning, judgement, industrie and faithfulnes, that he hath for ever bound the Church unto him, in a debt of speciall remembrance and thankefulnesse.

Now though the Church were thus furnished with Greeke and Latine Translations, even before the faith of CHRIST was generally embraced in the Empire: (for the learned know that even in S. Jeroms time, the Consul of Rome and his wife were both Ethnicks, and about the same time the greatest part of the Senate also) yet for all that the godly-learned were not content to have the Scriptures in the Language which themselves understood, Greeke and Latine, (as the good Lepers were not content to fare well themselves, but acquainted their neighbours with the store that God had sent, that they also might provide for themselves) but also for the behoofe and edifying of the unlearned which hungred and thirsted after Righteousnesse, and had soules to be saved as well as they, they provided Translations into the vulgar for their Countreymen, insomuch that most nations under heaven did shortly after their conversion, heare CHRIST speaking unto them in their mother tongue, not by the voyce of their Minister onely, but also by the written word translated. If any doubt hereof, he may be satisfied by examples enough, if enough will serve the turne. First S. Jerome saith, Multarum gentiu linguis Scriptura antè translata, docet falsa esse quæ addita sunt, &c.i. The Scripture being translated before in the languages of many Nations, doth shew that those things that were added (by Lucian or Hesychius) are false. So S. Jerome in that place. The same Jerome elsewhere affirmeth that he, the time was, had set forth the translation of the Seventy, suæ linguæ hominibus.i. for his countreymen of Dalmatia. Which words not only Erasmus doth understand to purport, that S. Jerome translated the Scripture into the Dalmatian tongue, but also Sixtus Senensis, and Alphonsus à Castro (that we speake of no more) men not to be excepted against by them of Rome, doe ingenuously confesse as much. So, S. Chrysostome that lived in S. Hieromes time, giveth evidence with him: The doctrine of S. John (saith he) did not in such sort (as the Philosophers did) vanish away: but the Syrians, Egyptians, Indians, Persians. Ethiopians, and infinite other nations being barbarous people, translated it into their (mother) tongue, and have learned to be (true) Philosophers, he meaneth Christians. To this may be added Theodorit, as next unto him, both for antiquitie, and for learning. His words be these, Every Countrey that is under the Sunne, is full of these wordes (of the Apostles and Prophets) and the Hebrew tongue (he meaneth the Scriptures in the Hebrew tongue) is turned not onely into the Language of the Grecians, but also of the Romanes, and Egyptians, and Persians, and Indians, and Armenians, and Scythians, and Sauromatians, and briefly into all the Languages that any Nation useth. So he. In like maner, Ulpilas is reported by Paulus Diaconus and Isidor (and before them by Sozomen) to have translated the Scriptures into the Gothicke tongue: John Bishop of Sivil by Vasseus, to have turned them into Arabicke, about the yeere of our Lord 717: Beda by Cistertiensis, to have turned a great part of them into Saxon: Efnard by Trithemius, to have abridged the French Psalter, as Beda had done the Hebrew, about the yeere 800: King Alured by the said Cistertiensis, to have turned the Psalter into Saxon: Methodius by Aventinus (printed at Ingolstad) to have turned the Scriptures into ll Sclavonian: Valdo, Bishop of Frising by Beatus Rhenanus, to have caused about that time, the Gospels to be translated into Dutch-rithme, yet extant in the Library of Corbinian: Valdus, by divers to have turned them himselfe, or to have gotten them turned into French, about the yeere 1160: Charles the 5. of that name, surnamed The wise, to have caused them to be turned into French, about 200. yeeres after Valdus his time, of which translation there be many copies yet extant, as witnesseth Beroaldus. Much about that time, even in our King Richard the seconds dayes, John Trevisa translated them into English, and many English Bibles in written hand are yet to be seene with divers, translated as it is very probable, in that age. So the Syrian translation of the New Testament is in most learned mens Libraries, of Widminstadius his setting forth, and the Psalter in Arabicke is with many, of Augustinus Nebiensis setting foorth. So Postel affirmeth, that in his travaile he saw the Gospels in the Ethiopian tongue; And Ambrose Thesius alleageth the Psalter of the Indians, which he testifieth to have bene set forth by Potken in Syrian characters. So that, to have the Scriptures in the mother-tongue is not a quaint conceit lately taken up, either by the Lord Cromwell in England, or by the Lord Radevil in Polonie, or by the Lord Ungnadius in the Emperours dominion, but hath bene thought upon, and put in practise of old, even from the first times of the conversion of any Nation; no doubt, because it was esteemed most profitable, to cause faith to grown in mens hearts the sooner, and to make them to be able to say with the words of the Psalme, As we have heard, so we have seene.

Now the Church of Rome would seeme at the length to beare a motherly affection towards her children, and to allow them the Scriptures in their mother tongue: but indeed it is a gift, not deserving to be called a gift, an unprofitable gift: they must first get a Licence in writing before they may use them, and to get that, they must approve themselves to their Confessor, that is, to be such as are, if not frozen in the dregs, yet soured with the leaven of their superstition. Howbeit, it seemed too much to Clement the 8. that there should be any Licence granted to have them in the vulgar tongue, and therefore he overruleth and frustrateth the grant of Pius the fourth. So much are they afraid of the light of the Scripture, (Lucifugæ Scripturarum, as Tertullian speaketh) that they will not trust the people with it, no not as it is set foorth by their owne sworne men, no not with the Licence of their owne Bishops and Inquisitors. Yea, so unwilling they are to communicate the Scriptures to the peoples understanding in any sort, that they are not ashamed to confesse, that wee forced them to translate it into English against their wills. This seemeth to argue a bad cause, or a bad conscience, or both. Sure we are, that it is not he that hath good gold, that is afraid to bring it to the touch-stone, but he that hath the counterfeit; neither is it the true man that shunneth the light, but the malefactour, lest his deedes should be reproved: neither is it the plaine dealing Merchant that is unwilling to have the waights, or the meteyard brought in place, but he that useth deceit. But we will let them alone for this fault, and returne to translation.

Many mens mouths have bene open a good while (and yet are not stopped) with speeches about the Translation so long in hand, or rather perusals of Translations made before: and aske what may be the reason, what the necessitie of the employment: Hath the Church bene deceived, say they, all this while? Hath her sweet bread bene mingled with leaven, her silver with drosse, her wine with water, her milke with lime? (Lacte gypsum malè miscetur, saith S. Ireney,) We hoped that we had bene in the right way, that we had had the Oracles of God delivered unto us, and that though all the world had cause to be offended and to complaine, yet that we had none. Hath the nurse holden out the breast, and nothing but winde in it? Hath the bread bene delivered by the fathers of the Church, and the same proved to be lapidosus, as Seneca speaketh? What is it to handle the word of God deceitfully, if this be not? Thus certaine brethren. Also the adversaries of Judah and Jerusalem, like Sanballat in Nehemiah, mocke, as we heare, both at the worke and workemen, saying; What doe these weake Jewes, &c. will they make the stones whole againe out of the heapes of dust which are burnt? although they build, yet if a foxe goe up, he shall even breake downe their stony wall. Was their Translation good before? Why doe they now mend it? Was it not good? Why then was it obtruded to the people? Yea, why did the Catholicks (meaning Popish Romanists) alwayes goe in jeopardie, for refusing to goe to heare it? Nay, if it must be translated into English, Catholicks are fittest to doe it. They have learning, and they know when a thing is well, they can manum de tabulá. Wee will answere them both briefly: and the former, being brethren, thus, with S. Jerome, Damnamus veteres? Minimè, sed post priorum studia in domo Domini quod possumus laboramus. That is, Doe we condemne the ancient? In no case: but after the endevours of them that were before us, wee take the best paines we can in the house of God. As if hee said, Being provoked by the example of the learned that lived before my time, I have thought it my duetie, to assay whether my talent in the knowledge of the tongues, may be profitable in any measure to Gods Church, lest I should seeme to have laboured in them in vaine, and lest I should be thought to glory in men, (although ancient,) above that which was in them. Thus S. Jerome may be thought to speake. page 4 right arrow

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