Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Appointed to be read in churches

The above notation appears on the title page of the Bible translation known in the USA as the King James Version and almost everywhere else as the Authorized Version.  The words are an introduction to one of the goals of the translators — they wanted this to be the best possible translation for reading aloud.

The translators were men of great scholarship.  Lancelot Andrewes, Bishop of Winchester and director of the Company of Translators, was fluent in twenty-one languages, fifteen modern and six ancient.  He was considered the greatest preacher of his time, a Lord of the church, yet he spent five hours in prayer every morning, with penitential tears confessing his great unworthiness.  It was because of men like Lancelot Andrewes that a translation such as the AV was possible four hundred years ago and is probably not possible in our day.

Accuracy of translation was considered essential, but that was not enough.  After each company of translators had finished their work, two men from each of the six companies were chosen to sit together as a review committee to bind it all together.  They came with copies of the Hebrew, Greek and Latin Scriptures and translations in other languages: French, Italian, etc.  The translation was read aloud, sentence by sentence, while all listened intently to judge the accuracy and the aptness of the words, all the while keeping in mind how it would sound to the common people in the pews.  If something did not sound quite right to one of them, he would speak up and the passage would be adjusted until all were satisfied.

The result is a Bible that retains as much as possible the essence of the wording in the original languages, yet speaks majestically in a simple English.  The language is not the English that was commonly spoken in that day; it is a reverent language meant to convey the holiness of the subject matter.  It is remarkable how much of this translation is done with words of one syllable, yet those words are arranged into a cadence that captures the attention of the ear, mind and heart of the hearer.

It is by far the easiest translation to memorize.  That was the intention.  Many people were either unable to read or unable to afford to buy a Bible in that day.  The words read in church from this translation stuck in their minds and had an impact on the thoughts and intents of their hearts.

Modern translations claim to be more accurate, or easier to read, or both.  Yet they sound singularly flat when set side by side with the words of the AV.  The insipid nature of these translations, and the constant introduction of new and “better” translations, militate against Scripture memorization in our day.

The original long preface of the AV described the purpose of translation in these words:

“Translation it is that openeth the window, to let in the light; that breaketh the shell, that we may eat the kernel; that putteth aside the curtain, that we may look into the most Holy place; that removeth the cover of the well, that wee may come by the water.”

This is what the AV has done for generations of English-speaking people.

2 responses to “Appointed to be read in churches

  1. rickreimer September 26, 2013 at 22:34

    It has been said that William Shakespeare was one of the learned men of the era that helped translate the bible into the Authorized Version as we read it today. What a rigorous and complete translation, with each company checking the integrity of all the other companies’ works. All this done judiciously in order to not give added credibility to Roman Catholicism, Puratinism, or Presbyterianism. I am not sure this coincides, but Shakespeare is said to have turned 46 years old in 1646, the very year he was helping translate the 46th Psalm. If you read the 46th word of Psalm 46 you find it to be ‘spear’. If you then read the 46th word back from the last word (selah) you find the word ‘spear’. Can you hear Shakespeare in this Psalm? But this begs the question: could one man put his ‘fingerprint’ in the Holy Scriptures? If so, why? Is all the world a stage? What think ye?
    (Wikipedia says Shakespeare would have been 46 in 1610… this may still have worked, possibly better than 1646, for the KJV translations. But did Shakespeare even exist? To thine own self be true. Or to God?

    • rickreimer September 26, 2013 at 22:39

      MODERATOR: Comment Correction: this should read: …If you read the 46th word of Psalm 46 you find it to be ‘shake’ (((not spear)))
      And a paranthesis was missed at the end of the comment.
      Thank you.

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