King James Translators

Letter to the Reader - pg 5

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Yet before we end, we must answere a third cavill and objection of theirs against us, for altering and amending our Taanslations [sic] so oft; wherein truely they deale hardly, and strangely with us. For to whom ever was it imputed for a fault (by such as were wise) to goe over that which hee had done, and to amend it where he saw cause? Saint Augustine was not afraide to exhort S. Jerome to a Palinodia or recantation; the same S. Augustine was not ashamed to retractate, we might say revoke, many things that had passed him, and doth even glory that he seeth his infirmities. If we will be sonnes of the Trueth, we must consider what it speaketh, and trample upon our owne credit, yea, and upon other mens too, if either be any way an hinderance to it. This to the cause: then to the persons we say, that of all men they ought to bee most silent in this case. For what varieties have they, and what alterations have they made, not onely of their Service bookes, Portesses and Breviaries, but also of their Latine Translation? The Service booke supposed to be made by S. Ambrose (Officium Ambrosianum) was a great while in speciall use and request: but Pope Hadrian calling a Councill with the ayde of Charles the Emperour, abolished it, yea, burnt it, and commanded the Service-booke of Saint Gregorie universally to be used. Well, Officium Gregorianum gets by this meanes to be in credit, but doeth it continue without change or altering? No, the very Romane Service was of two fashions, the New fashion, and the Old, (the one used in one Church, the other in another) as is to bee seene in Pamelius a Romanist, his Preface, before Micrologus. The same Pamelius reporteth out of Radulphus de Rivo, that about the yeere of our Lord, 1277. Pope Nicolas the third removed out of the Churches of Rome, the more ancient bookes (of Service) and brought into use the Missals of the Friers Minorites, and commaunded them to bee observed there; insomuch that about an hundred yeeres after, when the above named Radulphus happened to be at Rome, he found all the bookes to be new, (of the new stampe.) Neither was there this chopping and changing in the more ancient times onely, but also of late: Pius Quintus himselfe confesseth, that every Bishopricke almost had a peculiar kind of service, most unlike to that which others had: which moved him to abolish all other Breviaries, though never so ancient, and priviledged and published by Bishops in their Dioceses, and to establish and ratifie that onely which was of his owne setting foorth, in the yeere 1568. Now, when the father of their Church, who gladly would heale the soare of the daughter of his people softly and sleightly, and make the best of it, findeth so great fault with them for their oddes and jarring; we hope the children have no great cause to vaunt of their uniformitie. But the difference that appeareth betweene our Translations, and our often correcting of them, is the thing that wee are specially charged with; let us see therefore whether they themselves bee without fault this way, (if it be to be counted a fault, to correct) and whether they bee fit men to throw stones at us: O tandem major parcas insane minori: they that are lesse sound themselves, ought not to object infirmities to others. If we should tell them that Valla, Stapulensis, Erasmus, and Vives found fault with their vulgar Translation, and consequently wished the same to be mended, or a new one to be made, they would answere peradventure, that we produced their enemies for witnesses against them; albeit, they were in no other sort enemies, then as S. Paul was to the Galatians, for telling them the trueth: and it were to be wished, that they had dared to tell it them plainlier and oftner. But what will they say to this, that Pope Leo the tenth allowed Erasmus Translation of the New Testament, so much different from the vulgar, by his Apostolike Letter & Bull; that the same Leo exhorted Pagnin to translate the whole Bible, and bare whatsoever charges was necessary for the worke? Surely, as the Apostle reasoneth to the Hebrewes, that if the former Law and Testament had bene sufficient, there had beene no need of the latter: so we may say, that if the olde vulgar had bene at all points allowable, to small purpose had labour and charges bene undergone, about framing of a new. If they say, it was one Popes private opinion, and that he consulted onely himselfe; then wee are able to goe further with them, and to averre, that more of their chiefe men of all sorts, even their owne Trent-champions Paiva & Vega, and their owne Inquisitors, Hieronymus ab Oleastro, and their own Bishop Isidorus Clarius, and their owne Cardinall Thomas à Vio Caietan, doe either make new Translations themselves, or follow new ones of other mens making, or note the vulgar Interpretor for halting; none of them feare to dissent from him, nor yet to except against him. And call they this an uniforme tenour of text and judgement about the text, so many of their Worthies disclaiming the now received conceit? Nay, we wil yet come neerer the quicke: doth not their Paris-edition differ from the Louaine, and Hentenius his from them both, and yet all of them allowed by authoritie? Nay, doth not Sixtus Quintus confesse, that certaine Catholikes (he meaneth certainte of his owne side) were in such an humor of translating the Scriptures into Latine, that Satan taking occasion by them, though they thought of no such matter, did strive what he could, out of so uncertaine and manifold a varietie of Translations, so to mingle all things, that nothing might seeme to be left certaine and firme in them, &c? Nay, further, did not the same Sixtus ordaine by an inviolable decree, and that with the counsell and consent of his Cardinals, that the Latine edition of the olde and new Testament, which the Councill of Trent would have to be authenticke, is the same without controversie which he then set forth, being diligently corrected and printed in the Printing-house of Vatican? Thus Sixtus in his Preface before his Bible. And yet Clement the eight his immediate successour, publisheth another edition of the Bible, containing in it infinite differences from that of Sixtus, (and many of them waightie and materiall) and yet this must be authenticke by all meanes. What is to have the faith of our glorious Lord JESUS CHRIST with Yea and Nay, if this be not? Againe, what is sweet harmonie and consent, if this be? Therfore, as Demaratus of Corinth advised a great King, before he talked of the dissentions among the Grecians, to compose his domesticke broiles (for at that time his Queene and his sonne and heire were at deadly fuide with him) so all the while that our adversaries doe make so many and so various editions themselves, and doe jarre so much about the worth and authoritie of them, they can with no show of equitie challenge us for changing and correcting.

But it is high time to leave them, and to shew in briefe what wee proposed to our selves, and what course we held in this our perusall and survay of the Bible. Truly (good Christian Reader) wee never thought from the beginning, that we should neede to make a new Translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one, (for then the imputation of Sixtus had bene true in some sort, that our people had bene fed with gall of Dragons in stead of wine, with whey in stead of milke:) but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principall good one, not justly to be excepted against; that hath bene our indeavour, that our marke. To that purpose there were many chosen, that were greater in other mens eyes then in their owne, and that sought the truth rather then their own praise. Againe, they came or were thought to come to the worke, not exercendi causâ (as one saith) but exercitati, that is, learned, not to learne: For the chiefe overseer and under his Majestie, to whom not onely we, but also our whole Church was much bound, knew by his wisedome, which thing also Nazianzen taught so long agoe, that it is a preposterous order to teach first and to learne after, yea that to learne and practise together, is neither commendable for the workeman, nor safe for the worke. Therefore such were thought upon, as could say modestly with Saint Jerome, Et Hebruæum Sermonem ex parte didicimus, & in Latino penè ab ipsis incunabulis &c. detriti sumus. Both we have learned the Hebrew tongue in part, and in the Latine wee have beene exercised almost from our verie cradle. S. Jerome maketh no mention of the Greeke tongue, wherein yet hee did excell, because hee translated not the old Testament out of Greeke, but out of Hebrewe. And in what sort did these assemble? In the trust of their owne knowledge, or of their sharpenesse of wit, or deepenesse of judgement, as it were in an arme of flesh? At no hand. They trusted in him that hath the key of David, opening and no man shutting: they prayed to the Lord the Father of our Lord, to the effect that S. Augustine did; O let thy Scriptures be my pure delight, let me not be deceived in them, neither let me deceive by them. In this confidence, and with this devotion did they assemble together; not too many, lest one should trouble another; and yet many, lest many things haply might escape them. If you aske what they had before them, truely it was the Hebrew text of the Olde Testament, the Greeke of the New. These are the two golden pipes, or rather conduits, where-through the olive branches emptie themselves into the golde. Saint Augustine calleth them precedent, or originall tongues; Saint Jerome, fountaines. The same Saint Jerome affirmeth, and Gratian hath not spared to put it into his Decree, That as the credit of the olde Bookes (he meaneth of the Old Testament) is to bee tryed by the Hebrewe Volumes, so of the New by the Greeke tongue, he meaneth by the originall Greeke. If trueth be to be tried by these tongues, then whence should a Translation be made, but out of them? These tongues, therefore, the Scriptures wee say in those tongues, wee set before us to translate, being the tongues wherein God was pleased to speake to his Church by his Prophets and Apostles. Neither did we run over the worke with that posting haste that the Septuagint did, if that be true which is reported of them, that they finished it in 72. dayes; neither were we barred or hindered from going over it againe, having once done it, like S. Jerome, if that be true which himselfe reporteth, that he could no sooner write any thing, but presently it was caught from him, and published, and he could not have leave to mend it: neither, to be short, were we the first that fell in hand with translating the Scripture into English, and consequently destitute of former helpes, as it is written of Origen, that hee was the first in a maner, that put his hand to write Commentaries upon the Scriptures, and therefore no marveile, if he overshot himselfe many times. None of these things: the worke hath not bene hudled up in 72. dayes, but hath cost the workemen, as light as it seemeth, the paines of twise seven times seventie two dayes and more: matters of such weight and consequence are to bee speeded with maturitie: for in a businesse of moment a man feareth not the blame of convenient slacknesse. Neither did wee thinke much to consult the Translators or Commentators, Chaldee, Hebrewe, Syrian, Greeke, or Latine, no nor the Spanish, French, Italian, or Dutch; neither did we disdaine to revise that which we had done, and to bring backe to the anvill that which we had hammered: but having and using as great helpes as were needfull, and fearing no reproch for slownesse, nor coveting praise for expedition, wee have at the length, through the good hand of the Lord upon us, brought the worke to that passe that you see. page 6 right arrow

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