Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Translators

I’ve been reading as much about the Bible as I have been reading the Bible. In doing so, I ran across this message, “The Translators to the Reader,” from the King James Bible translators to me (and to you.) They cared for their readers. It begins:
Zeal to promote the common good, whether it be by devising anything ourselves, or revising that which hath been laboured by others, deserveth certainly much respect and esteem, but yet findeth but cold entertainment in the world. It is welcomed with suspicion instead of love, and with emulation instead of thanks: and if there be any hole left for cavil to enter, (and cavil, if it do not find a hole, will make one) it is sure to be misconstrued, and in danger to be condemned.
They were very well aware that vilification would be coming, for many had died within the two previous centuries simply for translating God’s word into their own language. They understood:
… whosoever attempteth anything for the public (especially if it pertain to Religion, and to the opening and clearing of the word of God) the same setteth himself upon a stage to be gloated upon by every evil eye, yea, he casteth himself headlong upon pikes, to be gored by every sharp tongue.
They also understood the power of the scriptures:
But now what piety without truth? what truth (what saving truth) without the word of God? What word of God (whereof we may be sure) without the Scripture? The Scriptures we are commanded to search.John 5:39. Isa 8:20. They are commended that searched and studied them. Acts 8:28-29, 17:11 [one of my favorites!!]. They are reproved that were unskilful in them, or slow to believe them. Matt 22:29. Luke 24:25. They can make us wise unto salvation. 2 Tim 3:15. If we be ignorant, they will instruct us; if out of the way, they will bring us home; if out of order, they will reform us; if in heaviness, comfort us; if dull, quicken us; if cold, inflame us.
Yep – some of my favorite verses there – what the Bible tells us of itself. These translators loved the scriptures:
The Scriptures then being acknowledged to be so full and so perfect, how can we excuse ourselves of negligence, if we do not study them, of curiosity, if we be not content with them?
Obviously, their studies brought them more than contentment:
Happy is the man that delighted in the Scripture, and thrice happy that meditateth in it day and night.
Now, all of that was written in the same English that was spoken at the time those same translators worked on the King James version of the Bible. Did you notice something?

There are no “thee”, “thou”, “ye”, “thy” here. But – they did include them in their translation because it was necessary to correctly indicate whether the speaker was using the familiar form of the word or to show whether the speaker was addressing a group or an individual. Hebrew and Greek words/sentence structure display these nuances, English does not. (Perhaps that’s why Southerners use “You all”?)

Seriously, take time to study why the translation you use was created. Take time to learn what copies of texts were used. Understand the differences between Textus Receptus and Textus Criticus. Know why Unical, Cursive and Lectionary are important and why their percentage of support for a Textus has impact. Become familiar with Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus and Washingtonianus as well as translations (Gothic, Itala, Peshitta Syriac).

Yes – you can read and study your Bible without knowledge of these things, but wouldn’t you rather know their impact?

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