Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: Lancelot Andrewes

More meanings from the margins

Here are some more examples of marginal readings that give a somewhat different sense than the reading in the main text. I have highlighted the words in the regular text in orange, and the reading from the margin in green and added my own comment on the difference.

Genesis 4:26 – And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD.
Margin: to call themselves by the Name of the LORD
This is not when people first began to pray, but the time when there began to be a lineage of people who called themselves the people of the Lord to distinguish themselves from the lineage of Cain.

Psalm 121:1 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
Margin: Shall I lift up mine eyes to the hills? whence should my help come?
Hebrew has no punctuation; but this verse is a question. Our help comes from God, not from the hills.

Isaiah 2:12 -16 For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low: . . .and upon all pleasant pictures.
Margin: pictures of desire
God is not against something just because it is nice to look at. But when our desire is set on a picture rather than on God, He will judge us.

2 Corinthians 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing
Margin: reasonings
This seems just a little stronger to me.

Colossians 2:18 Let no man beguile you of your reward
Margin: judge against you
in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels,
Margin: Gr. being a voluntary in humility
Voluntary is of French origin and means of one’s own will. That is clearer in the marginal reading.

1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people;
Margin: a purchased people
Peculiar has shifted in meaning since the translation was made, purchased is still very clear.

There are not a lot of instances like this, and the meaning is usually not very different. The translators were men of great learning, had access to texts in the original languages and translations into many others. There is a portrait of Lancelot Andrewes, the lead translator, in my post of four days ago. Andrewes was fluent in 15 modern and 6 ancient languages. Even with all this learning, the translators were careful not to let their own opinions override the Word of God, thus the reason for the alternate readings in the margin.

What do you think? Do examples like this prompt you to take a closer look at these verses to consider what the message really is?

Uncovering the well

When Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, she was succeeded by James Stuart, already King James VI of Scotland. He became King James I of England, uniting the kingdoms of England, Ireland and Scotland under his authority. James was a blend of imperious authority and humility. Tradition says that he told his portrait painter: “Paint me as I am, warts and all.” There is no historical record of those words being spoken, yet they must have been. The official portrait of James shows him with a prominent facial blemish, which would have led to the disappearance of both painter and painting under previous monarchs.

Two translations of the Bible were in use at the time. The Bishop’s Bible, used in worship services of the Church of England, was pompous, emphasized ecclesiastical authority and was not popular with lay people. The Geneva Bible, favoured by Puritans, was more readable, but contained notes and comments that were often critical of church hierarchy and the monarchy. The quirks of these translations, and the competing claims made for them, were in some measure hindrances to drawing the pure water of saving truth from the Word of God.

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James believed a new translation without the aggravating characteristics of the existing ones would ease tensions in the church. He chose the best scholars from both the traditionalists and the Puritans and commissioned them to create it. The Bible produced by this committee appeared in 1611 but James did not impose it on the Church of England as an official translation. It gradually supplanted the other two, but did not become the preferred translation until after the death of James in 1625.

That translation is referred to as the Authorized Version (AV) in England and much of the English-speaking world. The idea of calling it the King James Version originated in the USA. The notation on the title page, “Appointed to be read in churches,” may be mistaken by modern readers for evidence of an official status of this translation. Four hundred years ago, appointed meant furnished, arranged, perfected. In modern terms, the meaning would be “Optimized for reading out loud.” The goal of the translators was to produce the best possible translation for reading aloud.

Many people of that day were either illiterate or too poor to afford a Bible. The words read in church from this translation were retained in their minds and had an impact on the thoughts and intents of their hearts. It is still by far the easiest translation to memorize.

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 may not be possible in our day.

The translators were sticklers for accuracy, but that was not enough. After the six companies of translators had finished their work, two men from each 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 French, Italian, German and other languages. The translation was read aloud, sentence by sentence, while they listened to judge the accuracy and the aptness of the words, and how they would sound to the people in the pews. If anyone thought something did not sound quite right, he would speak up and the passage would be adjusted until all were satisfied.

The result is a Bible that retains 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.

Modern translations claim to be more accurate, or easier to read, or both. Yet they sound singularly flat beside the words of the AV. The insipid nature of these translations, and the constant introduction of new and “better” translations, makes Scripture memorization seem almost pointless 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 we may come by the water.

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

Three keys to getting the most out of reading the Bible

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Read it like a story book, not a recipe book

A cook will pick up a recipe book and look for the type of dish he wants to make. The recipe will list all the ingredients and provide all the instructions needed to prepare that dish. Some folks try to use the Bible in the same way, taking a short passage and trying to find what it says about how to live their Christian life that day. Was that passage meant to be read that way, separated from the context in which it is found? I don’t think so.

A story book will introduce a number of characters, but the story will centre on one of them. We learn to know that person’s character and will come to feel and care about what he or she feels. God is the central character of the Bible. Each time we read a book of the Bible all the way through we get to know Him a little better. We understand what is important to Him, what He really cares about, how He can hate sin, yet be compassionate to the sinner.

The reason He finds sin so distasteful is because it is so harmful to us. He has made a way that we can be forgiven and no longer be controlled by the power of sin. When we make a mistake He does not berate us, but wants to help us go on again. When we meet God outside of the Bible, we find Him to be exactly the person we have been reading about.

Read the Authorized Version, not the King James Version

This is said tongue in cheek, they are almost the same Bible, but not quite. Lancelot Andrews and the other translators of the Bible first published in 1611 were humble men who did not think it was up to them to settle every question of meaning. Thus, when there was not agreement on the meaning of certain words, one meaning would be placed in the text and the other in the margin. Here are the translators’ words of explanation:

“It hath pleased God in His divine providence here and there to scatter words and sentences of that difficulty and doubtfulness, not in doctrinal points that concern salvation, (for in such it hath been vouched that the Scriptures are plain) but in matters of less moment, that fearfulness would better beseem us than confidence. There be many words in the Scriptures which be never found there but once, (having neither brother nor neighbour, as the Hebrews speak) so that we cannot be holpen by conference of places. Now in such a case, doth not a margin do well to admonish the reader to seek further, and not to conclude or dogmatize upon this or that peremptorily? For as it is a fault of incredulity, to doubt of those things that are evident, so to determine of such things as the Spirit of God hath left (even in the judgement of the judicious) questionable, can be no less than presumption.”

The translation of 1611 has no official name but is known in most of the English-speaking world as the Authorized Version. This does not mean that it was ever an official version, or required to be read in the churches of England, simply that King James I of England authorized the formation of a committee to do prepare a new translation.

It is in the United States of America that the name King James Version has been popularized, as though the king himself did the translating. And as far as I have found, all the Bibles calling themselves King James Bibles omit the marginal notes place there by the translators. The notes are few, but they do accomplish the purpose stated by the translators. They considered these notes to be an integral part of the Bible and in my mind they are of far greater value than the notes that are substituted in so-called “Study Bibles” or “Reference Bibles.”

Read it out loud

If you look at the title page of AV (or KJV) Bibles, you will find the words: “Appointed to be read in churches.” Do not misconstrue “appointed” to mean “commanded.” In 1611 the word meant “arranged.” The wording of the AV was carefully arranged for reading out loud.

In 1611 many people could not read, and many of those who could read would not have been able to buy a copy of the complete Bible. The translators kept this in mind as they worked, carefully choosing words and sentence structure that would impress themselves upon the listeners in such a way that the words would stick in their minds. For the final editorial review of the translation, the leaders of the individual committees assembled around a table and one would read. If any passage did not sound right to one of the others around the table, he would raise his hand. The reading would stop and they would rework the passage until all were satisfied that it best conveyed the meaning of the original text in the most effective English words.

That carefulness on the part of men who were masters of both the ancient languages and of English produced a Bible that is still by far the easiest to memorize. The majority of the words are words of one syllable and they are arranged in a cadence that is pleasing and striking to the ear. Newer versions may be easier to understand in places, at the cost of some depth of meaning, but sound so flat as to be difficult to remember. What’s the point of trying to memorize them anyway? They will be replaced in a few years by another, newer and “better” version. I’m afraid that something of great value is lost in these new versions.

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.

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