King James Translators

Letter to the Reader - pg 6

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Some peradventure would have no varietie of sences to be set in the margine, lest the authoritie of the Scriptures for deciding of controversies by that shew of uncertaintie, should somewhat be shaken. But we hold their judgmet not to be so be so sound in this point. For though, whatsoever things are necessary are manifest, as S. Chrysostome saith, and as S. Augustine, In those things that are plainely set downe in the Scriptures, all such matters are found that concerne Faith, hope, and Charitie. Yet for all that it cannot be dissembled, that partly to exercise and whet our wits, partly to weane the curious from loathing of them for their every-where-plainenesse, partly also to stirre up our devotion to crave the assistance of Gods spirit by prayer, and lastly, that we might be forward to seeke ayd of our brethren by conference, and never scorne those that be not in all respects so complete as they should bee, being to seeke in many things our selves, it hath pleased God in his divine providence, heere and there to scatter wordes and sentences of that difficultie and doubtfulnesse, not in doctrinall points that concerne salvation, (for in such it hath beene vouched that the Scriptures are plaine) but in matters of lesse moment, that fearefulnesse would better beseeme us then confidence, and if we will resolve, to resolve upon modestie with S. Augustine, (though not in this same case altogether, yet upon the same ground) Melius est dubitare de occultis, quàm litigare de incertis, it is better to make doubt of those things which are secret, then to strive about those things that are uncertaine.

An other thing we thinke good to admonish thee of (gentle Reader) that wee have not tyed our selves to an uniformitie of phrasing, or to an identitie of words, as some peradventure would wish that we had done, because they observe, that some learned men some where, have beene as exact as they could that way. Truly, that we might not varie from the sense of that which we had translated before, if the word signified the same thing in both places (for there bee some wordes that bee not of the same sense every where) we were especially carefull, and made a conscience, according to our duetie.
There be many words in the Scriptures, which be never found there but once, (having neither brother nor neighbour, as the Hebrewes speake) so that we cannot be holpen by conference of places. Againe, there be many rare names of certaine birds, beastes and precious stones, &c. concerning which the Hebrewes themselves are so divided among themselves for judgement, that they may seeme to have defined this or that, rather because they would say something, the because they were sure of that which they said, as S. Jerome somewhere saith of the Septuagint. Now in such a case, doth not a margine do well to admonish the Reader to seeke further, and not to conclude or dogmatize upon this or that peremptorily? For as it is a fault of incredulitie, to doubt of those things that are evident: so to determine of such things as the Spirit of God hath left (even in the judgment of the judicious) questionable, can beno lesse then presumption. Therfore as S. Augustine saith, that varietie of Translations is profitable for the finding out of the sense of the Scriptures: so diversitie of signification and sense in the margine, where the text is not so cleare, must needes doe good, yea is necessary, as we are perswaded. We know that Sixtus Quintus expresly forbiddeth, that any varietie of readings of their vulgar edition, should be put in the margine, (which though it be not altogether the same thing to that we have in hand, yet it looketh that way) but we thinke he hath not all of his owne side his favourers, for this conceit. They that are wise, had rather have their judgements at libertie in differences of readings, then to be captivated to one, when it may be the other. If they were sure that their hie Priest had all lawes shut up in his brest, as Paul the second bragged, and that he were as free from errour by speciall priviledge, as the Dictators of Rome were made by law inviolable, it were an other matter; then his word were an Oracle, his opinion a decision. But the eyes of the world are now open, God be thanked, and have bene a great while, they find that he is subject to the same affections and infirmities that others be, that his skin is penetrable, and therefore so much as he prooveth, not as much as he claimeth, they grant and embrace.

An other thing we thinke good to admonish thee of (gentle Reader) that wee have not tyed our selves to an uniformitie of phrasing, or to an identitie of words, as some peradventure would wish that we had done, because they observe, that some learned men some where, have beene as exact as they could that way. Truly, that we might not varie from the sense of that which we had translated before, if the word signified the same thing in both places (for there bee some wordes that bee not of the same sense every where) we were especially carefull, and made a conscience, according to our duetie. But, that we should expresse the same notion in the same particular word; as for example, if we translate the Hebrew or Greeke word once by Purpose, never to call it Intent; if one where Journeying, never Traveiling; if one where Thinke, never Suppose; if one where Paine, never Ache; if one where Joy, never Gladnesse, &c. Thus to minse the matter, wee thought to savour more of curiositie then wisedome, and that rather it would breed scorne in the Atheist, then bring profite to the godly Reader. For is the kingdome of God become words or syllables? why should wee be in bondage to them if we may be free, use one precisely when wee may use another no lesse fit, as commodiously? A godly Father in the Primitive time shewed himselfe greatly moved, that one of the newfanglenes called , though the difference be little or none; and another reporteth, that he was much abused for turning Cucurbita (to which reading the people had beene used) into Hedera. Now if this happen in better times, and upon so small occasions, wee might justly feare hard censure, if generally wee should make verball and unnecessary changings. We might also be charged (by scoffers) with some unequall dealing towards a great number of good English wordes. For as it is written of a certaine great Philosopher, that he should say, that those logs were happie that were made images to be worshipped; for their fellowes, as good as they, lay for blockes behinde the fire: so if wee should say, as it were, unto certaine words, Stand up higher, have a place in the Bible alwayes, and to others of like qualitie, Get ye hence, be banished for ever, wee might be taxed peradventure with S. James his words, namely, To be partiall in our selves and judges of evill thoughts. Adde hereunto, that nicenesse in wordes was alwayes counted the next step to trifling, and so was to bee curious about names too: also that we cannot follow a better patterne for elocution then God himselfe; therefore hee using divers words, in his holy writ, and indifferently for one thing in nature: we, if wee will not be superstitious, may use the same libertie in our English versions out of Hebrew & Greeke, for that copie or store that he hath given us. Lastly, wee have on the one side avoided the scrupulositie of the Puritanes, who leave the olde Ecclesticall words, and betake them to other, as when they put washing for Baptisme, and Congregation in stead of Church: as also on the other side we have shunned the obscuritie of the Papists, in their Azimes, Tunike, Rational, Holocausts, Præpuce, Pasche, and a number of such like, whereof their late Translation is full, and that of purpose to darken the sence, that since they must needs translate the Bible, yet by the language thereof, it may bee kept from being understood. But we desire that the Scripture may speake like it selfe, as in the language of Canaan, that it may bee understood even of the very vulgar.

Many other things we might give thee warning of (gentle Reader) if wee had not exceeded the measure of a Preface alreadie. It remaineth, that we commend thee to God, and to the Spirit of his grace, which is able to build further then we can aske or thinke. Hee removeth the scales from our eyes, the vaile from our hearts, opening our wits that wee may understand his word, enlarging our hearts, yea correcting our affections, that we may love it above gold and silver, yea that we may love it to the end. Ye are brought unto fountaines of living water which yee digged not; doe not cast earth into them with the Philistines, neither preferre broken pits before them with the wicked Jewes. Others have laboured, and you may enter into their labours; O receive not so great things in vaine, O despise not so great salvation! Be not like swine to treade under foote so precious things, neither yet like dogs to teare and abuse holy things. Say not to our Saviour with the Gergesites, Depart out of our coasts; neither yet with Esau sell your birthright for a messe of potage. If light be come into the world, love not darknesse more then light; if foode, if clothing be offered, goe not naked, starve not your selves. Remember the advise of Nazianzene, It is a grievous thing (or dangerous) to neglect a great faire, and to seeke to make markets afterwards: also the encouragement of S. Chrysostome, It is altogether impossible, that he that is sober (and watchfull) should at any time be neglected: Lastly, the admonition and menacing of S. Augustine, They that despise Gods will inviting them, shal feele Gods will taking vengeance of them. It is a fearefull thing to fall into the hands of the living God; but a blessed thing it is, and will bring us to everlasting blessednes in the end, when God speaketh unto us, to hearken; when he setteth his word before us, to reade it; when hee stretcheth out his hand and calleth, to answere, Here am I; here wee are to doe thy will, O God. The Lord worke a care and conscience in us to know him and serve him, that we may be acknowledged of him at the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom with the holy Ghost, be all prayse and thankesgiving. Amen. tiny cross

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