Gleanings From The Preface To The 1611 King James Version




 Introduction

As we continue to explore the King James Only Controversy, it is important to stop from time to time to examine some of our assumptions. One assumption that has been made by many King James Only advocates is that the King James translators saw their translation in essentially the same light that the King James Only advocate sees it. In fact, this is not the case. It is a significant fact that the King James Version translators did not see their translation as a "reinspired" translation. They don't appear to have believed that their translation was the only acceptable English translation. They didn't see their translation as the best translation that could ever be made, but just the best that they could do. In short, the King James translators would, it seems, have opposed the King James Only position today. Because of the various assumptions that have been made, I think it is important to note some of the things that can be gleaned from the King James translators themselves, from their Preface to the Reader.

High Regard For The Original Languages

The King James translators had a high regard for the Greek and Hebrew text underlying their translation. After reading the preface, I have no doubt that the translators of the King James Version sincerely desired to produce a translation that was faithful to the Greek and Hebrew texts that they had at that moment. It does not follow from this, however, that they believed their translation to be infallible. To hold this position is to go beyond the understanding of the King James translators.

If the translators of the King James Version had a high regard for the manuscripts that they had, it seems odd that some today would exalt the King James Version above the original manuscripts, as Peter Ruckman and some others have done. To do this stands is to depart from the spirit of the King James translators.

High Regard For Translations

At several places, the translators of the King James Version show a high regard for other translations that have been made throughout history. They did not  attack other translations that had been made into the English language. In fact, they seem to have high regard for the translations that came before them, such as the Tyndale, Geneva Bible, and the "Great Bible." If they believed their translation to be the only divinely inspired translation in English, they had plenty of opportunity to make that claim and attack their predecessors as insufficient. They didn't. If they didn't have this position about their own translation, then it seems odd that the KJV-Only movement would attribute these qualities to their translations centuries after their deaths.

Not Restricted To English

The translators of the King James Version did not appear to believe that the inspiration of Scripture is restricted to the English translation that they produced. They wrote, Now to the latter we answer that we do not deny--nay, we affirm and avow--that the very meanest 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) containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God: as the king's speech which he uttered in Parliament, being translated into French, Dutch, Italian, and Latin, is still the king's speech, though it be not interpreted by every translator with the like grace, nor peradventure so fitly for phrase, nor so expressly for sense, everywhere."1 The authors of the King James Version saw their translation of the Scriptures as the word of God, but also saw other translations, including translations into other languages, as the word of God. It seems odd, then, that many of the modern advocates of the King James Only position would depart from the King James translators themselves on this issue.

Future English Translations Not Prohibited

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about the translators of the King James Version is that they themselves did not prohibit future translations of Scripture. As a person reads the preface to the King James Version, one thing that stands out are the translator's concerns to make sure that translations could be understood by the common person. This stands in sharp contrast to the position of many, if not most, King James Only advocates, many of whom argue that people should be required to learn the English of the King James Version so that they can read and understand what the KJV-Only advocate understands to be the only acceptable translation of Scripture.

The fact is that, if we want to maintain the spirit of the King James translators, we must also be willing to permit translations into a modern language that would be understood by the common person today. To hold a position contrary to this is to violate the spirit of the King James translators, as well as the tradition from which the King James Version was an outgrowth.

Conclusion

In this post, we have taken note of several "gleanings" from the preface to the 1611 King James Version. However, when we examine these in comparison to modern KJV-Only advocates, it becomes clear that there is a sharp contrast between the King James translators and the KJV-Only advocate of the 21st century. The KJV translators and the KJV-Only advocates of today are not on the same page in regards to the nature, purpose, of use of the King James Version. While this raises another set of questions, the important thing to remember is that, while God has used the King James Version, and while the King James Version is overall a fair translation (and was an even better translation in its time), the King James translators and the KJV-Only advocate are at odds with each other.

------------------------------------------------ 
1 From the Preface to the King James Version, "Translators To The Reader," page 12.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

7 FREE Christian Magazines

The Biggest Way That People Misunderstand God's Omnipotence