King James Translators

Letter to the Reader - pg 4

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And to the same effect say wee, that we are so farre off from condemning any of their labours that traveiled before us in this kinde, either in this land or beyond sea, either in King Henries time, or King Edwards (if there were any translation, or correction of a translation in his time) or Queene Elizabeths of ever-renoumed memorie, that we acknowledge them to have beene raised up of God, for the building and furnishing of his Church, and that they deserve to be had of us and of posteritie in everlasting remembrance. The Judgement of Aristotle is worthy and well knowen: If Timotheus had not bene, we had not had much sweet musicke; but if Phrynis (Timotheus his master) had not beene, wee had not had Timotheus. Therefore blessed be they, and most honoured be their name, that breake the ice, and glueth onset upon that which helpeth forward to the saving of soules. Now what can bee more availeable thereto, then to deliever Gods booke unto Gods people in a tongue which they understand? Since of an hidden treasure, and of a fountaine that is sealed, there is no profit, as Ptolomee Philadelph wrote to the Rabbins or masters of the Jewes, as witnesseth Epiphanius: and as S. Augustine saith; A man had rather be with his dog then with a stranger (whose tongue is strange unto him.) Yet for all that, as nothing is begun and perfited at the same time, and the later thoughts are thought to be the wiser: so, if we building upon their foundation that went before us, and being holpen by their labours, doe endevour to make that better which they left so good; no man, we are sure, hath cause to mislike us; they, we persuade our selves, if they were alive, would thanke us. The vintage of Abiezer, that strake the stroake: yet the gleaning of grapes of Ephraim was not to be despised. See Judges 8. verse 2. Joash the king of Israel did not satisfie himselfe, till he had smitten the ground three times; and yet hee offended the Prophet, for giving over then. Aquila, of whom wee spake before, translated the Bible as carefully, and as skilfully as he could; and yet he thought good to goe over it againe, and then it got the credit with the Jewes, to be called , that is accuratly done, as Saint Jerome witnesseth. How many bookes of profane learning have bene gone over againe and againe, by the same translators, by others? Of one and the same booke of Aristotles Ethikes, there are extant not so few as sixe or seven severall translations. Now if this cost may bee bestowed upon the goord, which affordeth us a little shade, and which to day flourisheth, but to morrow is cut downe; what may we bestow, nay what ought we not to bestow upon the Vine, the fruite whereof maketh glad the conscience of man, and the stemme whereof abideth for ever? And this is the word of God, which we translate. What is the chaffe to the wheat, saith the Lord? Tanti vitreum, quanti verum margaritum (saith Tertullian,) if a toy of glasse be of that rekoning with us, how ought wee to value the true pearle? Therefore let no mans eye be evill, because his Majesties is good; neither let any be grieved, that wee have a Prince that seeketh the increase of the spirituall wealth of Israel (let Sanballats and Tobiahs doe so, which therefore doe beare their just reproofe) but let us rather blesse God from the ground of our heart, for working this religious care in him, to have the translations of the Bible maturely considered of and examined. For by this meanes it commeth to passe, that whatsoever is sound alreadie (and all is sound for substance, in one or other of our editions, and the worst of ours farre better then their autentike vulgar) the same will shine as gold more brightly, being rubbed and polished; also if any thing be halting, or superfluous, or not so agreeable to the originall, the same may bee corrected, and the trueth set in place. And what can the King command to bee done, that will bring him more true honour then this? and wherein could they that have beene set a worke, approve their duetie to the King, yea their obedience to God, and love to his Saints more, then by yeelding their service, and all that is within them, for the furnishing of the worke? But besides all this, they were the principall motives of it, and therefore ought least to quarrell it: for the very Historicall trueth is, that upon the importunate petitions of the Puritanes, at this Majesties comming to this Crowne, the Conference at Hampton Court having bene appointed for hearing their complaints: when by force of reason they were put from all other grounds, they had recourse at the last, to this shift, that they could not with good conscience subscribe to the Communion booke, since it maintained the Bible as it was there translated, which was as they said, a most corrupted translation. And although this was judged to be but a very poore and emptie shift; yet even hereupon did his Majestie beginne to bethinke himselfe of the good that might ensue by a new translation, and presently after gave order for this Translation which is now presented unto thee. Thus much to satisfie our scrupulous Brethren.

Now to the later we answere; that wee doe not deny, nay wee affirme and avow, that the very meanest translation of the Bible in English, set foorth by men of our profession (for wee have seene none of theirs of the whole Bible as yet) containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God. As the Kings Speech which hee uttered in Parliament, being translated into French, Dutch, Italian and Latine, is still the Kings Speech, though it be not interpreted by every Translator with the like grace, nor peradventure so fitly for phrase, nor so expresly for sence, every where. For it is confessed, that things are to take their denomination of the greater part; and a naturall man could say, Verùm ubi multa nitent in carmine, non ego paucis offendor maculis, &c. A man may be counted a vertuous man, though hee have made many slips in his life, (els, there were none vertuous, for in many things we offend all) also a comely man and lovely, though hee have some warts upon his hand, yea, not onely freakles upon his face, but all skarres. No cause therefore why the word translated should bee denied to be the word, or forbidden to be currant, notwithstanding that some imperfections and blemishes may be noted in the setting foorth of it. For what ever was perfect under the Sunne, where Apostles or Apostolike men, that is, men indued with an extraordinary measure of Gods spirit, and priviledged with the priviledge of infallibilitie, had not their hand? The Romanistes therefore in refusing to heare, and daring to burne the Word translated, did no lesse then despite the spirit of grace, from whom originally it proceeded, and whose sense and meaning, as well as mans weaknesse would enable, it did expresse. Judge by an example or two. Plutarch writeth, that after that Rome had beene burnt by the Galles, they fell soone to builde it againe: but doing it in haste, they did not cast the streets, nor proportion the houses in such comely fashion, as had bene most sightly and convenient; was Catiline therefore an honest man, or a good Patriot, that sought to bring it to a combustion? or Nero a good Prince, that did indeed set it on fire? So, by the story of Ezrah, and the prophesie of Haggai it may be gathered, that the Temple build by Zerubbabel after the returne from Babylon, was by no meanes to bee compared to the former built by Solomon (for they that remembred the former, wept when they considered the latter) notwithstanding, might this later either have bene abhorred and forsaken by the Jewes, or prophaned by the Greekes? The like wee are to thinke of Translations. The translation of the Seventie dissenteth from the Originall in many places, neither doeth it come neere it, for perspicuitie, gratvitie, majestie; yet which of the Apostles did condemne it? Condemne it? Nay, they used it, (as it is apparent, and as Saint Jerome and most learned men doe confesse) which they would not have done, nor by their example of using it, so grace and commend it to the Church, if it had bene unworthy the appellation and name of the word of God. And whereas they urge for their second defence of their vilifying and abusing of the English Bibles, or some pieces thereof, which they meete with, for that heretikes (forsooth) were the Authours of the translations, (heretikes they call us by the same right that they call themselves Catholikes, both being wrong) wee marveile what divinitie taught them so. Wee are sure Tertullian was of another minde: Ex personis probamus fidem, an ex fide personas? Doe we trie mens faith by their persons? we should trie their persons by their faith. Also S. Augustine was of an other minde: for he lighting upon certaine rules made by Tychonius a Donatist, for the better understanding of the word, was not ashamed to make use of them, yea, to insert them into his owne booke, with giving commendation to them so farre foorth as they were worthy to be commended, as is to be seene in S. Augustines third booke De doctrinâ Christianâ. To be short, Origen, and the whole Church of God for certain hundred yeeres, were of an other minde: for they were so farre from treading under foote, (much more from burning) the Translation of Aquila a Proselite, that is, one that had turned Jew; of Symmachus, and Theodotion, both Ebionites, that is, most vile heretikes, that they joyned them together with the Hebrew Originall, and the Translation of the Seventie (as hath bene before signified out of Epiphanius) and set them forth openly to be considered of and perused by all. But we weary the unlearned, who need not know so much, and trouble the learned, who know it already. page 5 right arrow

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