Translators to the Reader

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


Some perhaps would have no variety of senses (alternate readings) to be set in the margin, lest the authority of the Scriptures for deciding controversies, by that show of uncertainty, should somewhat be shaken. But we hold their judgment not to be sound in this point. For though, "Whatever things are necessary are manifest," as Chrysostom said; and, as Augustine, "In those things that are plainly set down in the Scriptures all such matters are found that concern faith, hope, and love." Yet for all that, it cannot be disguised, that partly to exercise and stimulate our reason; partly to wean the curious from despising the Scriptures for their tedious plainness; partly also to stir up our devotion to crave the assistance of God’s Spirit by prayer; and lastly, that we might be encouraged to seek the help of our brethren in understanding the Scriptures by discussing them. Never scorn those who are lacking in their understanding of the Scriptures seeing that we also fall short in many things ourselves. It has pleased God in His Divine Providence here and there to scatter words and sentences of difficulty and doubtfulness, not in doctrinal points that concern salvation, for in such it has been shown that the Scriptures are plain, but in matters of less importance. Therefore reserved judgment would be more fitting for us than blind confidence. If we will analyze, let us analyze with reserve like Augustine, (though not in this same case altogether, yet upon the same principle) "It is better to hold as uncertain those things which are secret, than to strive about those things that are uncertain." There are many words in the Scriptures which are found there but once, (having neither brother nor neighbor, as the Hebrews speak) so that we cannot be helped by comparing Scripture with Scripture. Again, there are many rare names of certain birds, beasts, and precious stones, etc. concerning which the Hebrews themselves are so divided among themselves for judgment, that they may seem to have defined this or that, rather because they would say something, than because they were sure of that which they said. Jerome somewhere said this of the Septuagint. Now in such a case does not a margin do well to admonish the Reader to seek further, and not to conclude or dogmatize upon this or that ignorantly? It is a fault of unbelief, to doubt those things that are clearly evident. To determine dogmatically such things as the Spirit of God has left questionable, (even in the judgment of the judicious) can be no less than presumption. Therefore as Augustine said, that variety of translations is profitable for the finding out of the sense of the Scriptures: so diversity of signification and sense in the margin, where the text is not so clear, must needs do good; yes, we are persuaded it is necessary. We know that Sixtus Quintus expressly forbids that any variety of readings of their Vulgate edition should be put in the margin (which though it is not altogether the same thing as what we have, yet it looks that way). Also we think he has not all of his own side believing his conceit. Those who are wise had rather have their judgments at liberty in differences of readings, than to be captivated to one, when it may be the other. If they were sure that their high priest had all laws shut up in his breast, as Paul the second bragged, and that he were as free from error by special privilege, as the dictators of Rome were made by law inviolable, it were another matter; then his Word were an oracle, his opinion a decision. But the eyes of the world are now open, thank God, and have been for a great while. They find that he is subject to the same affections and infirmities that others are, and that his skin is penetrable, and therefore he proves, not as much as he claims.

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This Page Last Updated: 12/09/98 A. Allison Lewis