Vol.IV No.VI Pg.4
July 1967

Story Of The Text --- 6

Robert F. Turner

When the King James Version of the Bible was completed (1611) the work of the critical student, the need for further "versions" by no means ended. By 1613 another edition was printed which contained more than 400 variations. Printer's errors accounted for many of these variations, but revisions in 1629, 1638, etc. corrected some translations and style of expression. Then, in 1762, and in 1769, the Cambridge and Oxford revisions were made, which gave us the generally current form of the KJ version. Modernization of spelling, expressions, and changes in form (as the new paragraph arrangement of Amer. Bible Society) must continue if the Bible is to be readable to the ordinary student.

And periodically the changes in language styles; even in the meaning of words; demands a "Revised Version." "Let" of Rom. 1:13, (KJ) means "hindered," (AS). "Prevent" (KJ) (1 Thes. 4:15) means, "precede" (go before) as seen in American Standard Version. "Conversation" (KJ) (Gal.1: 13) becomes "manner of life" in the more modern English of the ASV. The KJ translated an entirely different Greek word into "conversation" (Phil. 3:20) which the ASV modernized to "citizenship" -- or, as the foot-note says, "commonwealth."

No wrong is done in making such changes -- in fact, this is the legitimate task of the translator -- to put the words of the Bible before us in such a way as to convey the thought expressed by the original writer. And the legitimate task of the reviser is to correct errors, make current the language and expression, and bring up to date the vehicle (words and form) by which the ancient message is delivered to the present generation.

For example, if you had a copy of the first edition of the King James Bible-- reading Heb.1: 9 you would see:

"Thou hast loued ryghteousnesse, and hated iniquitie: Therfore God, euen thy God, hath annoynted thee with the oyle of gladnesse, aboue thy felowes."

Take this out of modern type and put it in its original form and most of us would find it very hard to read.

Then there are more fundamental reasons for continued critical study, revisions, and even new translations of the word of God. (1) The most complete ancient Greek manuscripts which we have today (Sinaitic, Vatican, Alexandrian, Ephraem) were not even known to the KJ translators. These have since been found or, in the case of the Vatican, made available to the world scholars. The advantages of a 4th. century text over a 15th. century one is apparent. (2) The science of Textual Criticism, with its photostatic copies, collations, comparisons and "family" relations of words, was scarcely known in 1611. Modern translators not only have more and better manuscripts with which to work; but they know better how to use them.

But there is one element which the earlier translators (including KJ) had, which seems to be missing in some of our recent efforts. I refer to their deep respect for the true author of the Bible, God of us all. The translator is not a commentator. He must tell us what God said, not his own theological deductions.