Translators to the Reader

Topic:   KJV Type:   Articles Translator: A. Allison Lewis


Now to the latter we answer, that we do not deny, no, we affirm and declare openly, that the most faulty translation of the Bible in English set forth by men of our profession (for we have seen none of theirs of the whole Bible as yet) contains the Word of God, no, it is the Word of God. Just as the King’s speech which he uttered in Parliament, being translated into French, Dutch, Italian, and Latin, is still the King’s speech, even though it is not interpreted by every translator with the same dignity, nor perhaps so fitly for phrase, nor so exactly for sense, everywhere. For it is confessed that things are to take their designation from the greater part. Even a natural man could say, "A man may be counted a virtuous man, though he have made many slips in his life," (else there were none virtuous, for, In many things we all offend [JAM 3:2]). Also "a comely man and lovely, though he have some warts upon his hand; yes, and not only freckles upon his face, but also scars is still a man." There is no cause therefore why the Word translated should be denied to be the Word, or be forbidden to be used now, simply because of some imperfections and blemishes which may be noted in the translations. For although whatever was perfect under the sun, by the hand of Apostles or apostolic men, that is, men endued with an extraordinary measure of God’s Spirit, and privileged with the privilege of infallibility, yet their translators DID NOT have their privilege and their work was not perfect. The Romanists therefore in refusing to hear, and daring to burn the Word translated, did no less than offend the Spirit of grace, from Whom originally it proceeded, and whose sense and meaning (as well as would enable man in his weakness to understand) it did express. Judge by an example or two. Plutarch wrote, that after Rome had been burned by the Gauls, they soon began to build it again. But doing it in haste, they did not build the streets, nor lay out the houses, in such good manner, as was most attractive and convenient. Was Catiline therefore an honest man, or a good patriot, who sought to burn it? Or was Nero a good Prince, who did indeed set it on fire? So by the story of Ezra and the prophecy of Haggai it may be gathered, that the temple built by Zerubbabel after the return from Babylon was by no means to be compared to the former built by Solomon (for they that remembered the former wept when they considered the latter [EZR 3:12]) notwithstanding might this latter either have been despised and forsaken by the Jews, or profaned by the Greeks? In like manner we are to think of translations. The translation of the Seventy [LXX] departs from the Original Hebrew in many places, neither does it come near it for clearness, dignity and majesty; yet who among the Apostles did condemn it? Condemn it? No, they used it (as it is apparent, and as Jerome and most scholarly men do confess). This is something which they would not have done, nor by their example of using it so respect and commend it to the Church, if it had been unworthy the title and name of the Word of God. And whereas the critics urge for their second defense of their slander and abuse of the newer English Bibles, or some pieces thereof, that heretics indeed were the authors of the translations. Heretics they call us by the same right that they call themselves Catholics, both being wrong. We wonder what god taught them so! We are sure Tertullian was of another mind: "Do we try men’s faith by their persons? We should try their persons by their faith." Also Augustine was of another mind: for he, coming upon certain rules made by Tychonius a Donatist for the better understanding of the Word, was not ashamed to make use of them, yes, to insert them into his own book, giving commendation to them so far as they were worthy to be commended, as is to be seen in Augustine’s third book "Of Christian Doctrine." In short, Origen and the whole Church of God for several hundred years, were of another mind than that of our critics. For they were so far from treading under foot (much less involved in burning) the translation of Aquila a proselyte, that is, one who had turned Jew; of Symmachus, and Theodotion, both Ebionites, that is, most vile heretics; but instead they joined them together with the Hebrew original, and the translation of the Seventy [LXX], (as has been before pointed out by Epiphanius) and set them forth openly to be considered and perused by all. But we weary the unlearned, who need not know so much; and trouble the scholarly, who know it already.

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This Page Last Updated: 06/25/05 A. Allison Lewis