A few of King James’s approved rules for the new translation

Rule 1 instructed the Translators to leave texts from their model, the Bishops’ Bible, “as little altered as the Truth of the original will permit.”

Rules 8 – 14 concerned accuracy. Rule 8 required “every particular Man of each Company, to take the same Chapter or Chapters, and having translated or amended them severally by himself, where he thinketh good, all to meet together, confer what they have done, and agree for their Parts what shall stand.” Rule 9 added, “As any one Company hath dispatched any one Book in this Manner they shall send it to the rest, to be considered of seriously and judiciously, for His Majesty is very careful in this Point.” Rule 11 provided, “When any Place of special Obscurity is doubted of, Letters to be directed by Authority, to send to any Learned Man in the Land, for his Judgment of such a Place.” Rule 12 required “letters to be sent from every Bishop to the rest of his Clergy, admonishing them of this Translation in hand; and to move and charge as many skilful in the Tongues; and having taken pains in that kind, to send his particular Observations to the Company, either at Westminster, Cambridge, or Oxford.”

James wanted a popular translation that supported standard Church of England usages. So he insisted that the translation use old familiar terms and names. Rules 2 – 5 focused on this. About 90 percent of the actual translation used solid Anglo-Saxon words. Further, the whole was made readable (if formal) in the idiom of the day. Consistent with his conservative religious views against the radical ideas of the Puritans, James desired “the Old Ecclesiastical Words to be kept, viz. the Word Church not to be translated Congregation &c.” The Translators were instructed, “When a Word hath divers Significations, that to be kept which hath been most commonly used by the most of the Ancient Fathers, being agreeable to the Propriety of the Place, and the Analogy of the Faith.” In addition, “the Division of the Chapters to be altered, either not at all, or as little as may be, if Necessity so require.” James wanted no biased notes included in the translation. Rule 6 stated, “No Marginal Notes at all to be affixed, but only for the explanation of the Hebrew or Greek Words, which cannot without some circumlocution, so briefly and fitly be expressed in the Text.” James constantly pushed his committee to advance the translation with dispatch: “Your Majesty did never desist, to urge and to excite those to whom it was commended, that the work might be hastened, and that the business might be expedited in so decent a manner, as a matter of such importance might justly require.”

By The editors

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #100 in 2011]

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