Translators to the Reader

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


There is another thing we think good to point out to you, gentle Reader. It is that we have not tied ourselves to a uniformity of phrasing, or to an identity of words, as some perhaps would wish that we had done. Simply because they observe, that some scholarly men somewhere have been as exact as they could be in translation. Now we have not varied from the sense of that which we had translated before, if the word signified the same thing in both places. Indeed there are some words that do not have the same sense every where. We were especially careful and conscientious to do the work according to our principles. We have not always expressed the same idea with the same particular word. For example, if we translate the Hebrew or Greek word once by ‘purpose’, then in another place to call it ‘intent’; if one place ‘journeying’, in another ‘traveling’; if one place ‘think’, in another ‘suppose’; if one place ‘pain’, in another ‘ache’; if one place ‘joy’, in another ‘gladness’. To use a uniformity of words we thought it would produce more of curiosity than wisdom, and that rather it would breed scorn in the atheist, than bring profit to the godly reader. For is the kingdom of God become words or syllables? Why should we lie in bondage to them, if we may be free? Why use one word only, when we may use another no less fit and just as suitably? A godly Father in primitive times showed himself greatly moved, that one of the newfangled words called krabbaton [cot, couch], okimpou"; [little couch, pallet], though the difference be little or none could be used interchangeably. Another reports, that he was much criticized for turning ‘cucurbita’ [gourd] (to which reading the people had been used) into ‘ivy plant’. Now if this happen in better times, and upon so small occasions, we might justly fear hard censure, if generally we should make verbal and unnecessary changes. We might also be charged (by scoffers) with some unequal dealing towards a great number of good English words. For as it is written of a certain great Philosopher, that he should say, that those logs were happy that were made images to be worshipped; while their fellows, as good as they, lay for blocks behind the fire. So if we should say, as it were, unto certain words, ‘Stand up higher, have a place in the Bible always;’ and to others of like quality, ‘Get you hence, be banished for ever;’ we might be charged perhaps with the words of James, namely, To be partial in ourselves, and judges of evil thoughts [JAM 2:4]. Add to this, that niceness in words was always counted the next step to trifling; and so was to be curious about names too. Also remember that we cannot follow a better pattern for eloquence than God Himself. Therefore if He use various words in His holy writ, and that indifferently [! - aal] for one thing in nature, then if we will not be superstitious, may use the same liberty in our English versions out of Hebrew and Greek, for that copy or store that He has given us. Lastly, we have on the one side avoided the exactness of the Puritans, who leave out the old Ecclesiastical words, and use others, as when they put ‘washing’ for ‘baptism’, and ‘congregation’ instead of ‘church’. On the other side we have shunned the obscurity of the Papists, in their ‘azymes’, ‘tunic’, ‘rational’, ‘holocausts’, ‘prepuce’, ‘pasche’, and a number of the like, whereof their recent translation is full. Their purpose was to darken the sense, and since they were forced to translate the Bible, yet by its very language it may be kept from being understood. But we desire that the Scripture may speak like itself, as in the language of Canaan, that it may be understood even by the very lowly.

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