KING JAMES’ INSTRUCTIONS TO THE TRANSLATORS

 

(Sources: Lewis’ History of the English Bible and The Men Behind the KJV by Gustavus S. Paine).

 

The following set of “rules” had been prepared on behalf of church and state by Richard Bancroft, Bishop of London and high-church Anglican. “For the better ordering of the proceedings of the translators, his Majesty recommended the following rules to them, to be very carefully observed:--

“1. The ordinary Bible, read in the church, commonly called the Bishop’s Bible, to be followed, and as little altered as the original will permit.

“2. The names of the prophets and the holy writers, with the other names in the text, to be retained, as near as may be, according as they are vulgarly used.

“3. The old ecclesiastical words to be kept; as the word church, not to be translated congregation, &c.

“4. When any word hath divers significations, that to be kept which has been most commonly used by the most eminent fathers, being agreeable to the propriety of the place, and the analogy of the faith.

“5. The division of the chapters to be altered, either not at all, or as little as may be, if necessity so require.

“6. 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.

“7. Such quotations of places to be marginally set down, as shall serve for the fit references of one scripture to another.

“8. Every particular man of each company to take the same chapter of chapters; and having translated or amended them severally by himself, where he thinks good, all to meet together, to confer what they have done, and agree for their part what shall stand.

“9. 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.

“10. If any company, upon the review of the book so sent, shall doubt or differ upon any places, and therewithal to send their reasons; to which if they consent not, the difference to be compounded at the general meeting, which is to be the chief persons of each company, at the end of the work.

“11. When any place of special obscurity is doubted of, letters to be directly by authority to send to any learned in the land for his judgment in such a place.

“12. Letters to be sent from every bishop to the rest of the clergy, admonishing them of this translation in hand, and to move and charge as many as being skillful in the tongues, have taken pains in that kind, to send their particular observations to the company, either at Westminster, Cambridge, or Oxford, according as it was directed before the king’s letter to the archbishop.

“13. The directors in each company to be deans of Westminster and Chester, and the king’s professors in Hebrew and Greek in the two universities.

“14. These translations to be used when they agree better with the text than the Bishop’s Bible, viz. Tyndale’s, Coverdale’s, Matthew’s, Wilchurch’s,* Geneva.”
 

*By “Wilchurch” is meant the Great Bible, which was printed by Edward Wilchurch, one of King Henry VIII’s printers.

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