God's Holy Word
1. Brief history behind the first English Bibles
John Wycliffe translated an English Bible from the Latin Vulgate: the Wycliffe Bible.
William Tyndale translated the Tyndale New Testament from classical Greek texts. He visited Wittenberg and probably met Martin Luther, who translation the New Testament into German in 1522. Since the printing press had recently been invented, the "common people" with access to the Bible could now discover God's truths on their own. Tyndale died before finishing the Old Testament.
King Henry VIII authorized the Miles Coverdale Bible based on earlier translations, not on Greek and Hebrew texts. "Circulation of these and other translations... during the 16th century caused a demand for a version of the Bible that would have the sanction of ecclesiastical authorities behind it." Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol 3 (1968), page 580.
The Geneva Bible was translated from the early Greek and Hebrew texts by British Puritans. Refusing to compromise their faith, they had fled to Geneva for refuge from British persecution.
Jan Hus, a teacher the Charles University in Prague, Bohemia (Czechoslovakia) was "burned at the stake" for following his conscience and preaching from the Bible to thousands of people, thus defying the Catholic hierarchy. He had translated Wycliffe's books on church reform and, like the Puritans that followed him, stressed the authority of God's Word and personal purity.
Queen Elizabeth died. (By now, the Bible was the most read book in the land) Her successor, King James I, persecuted Catholics as well as the Protestant Puritans and Separatists. He believed he had the divine right to rule as he pleased, and he opposed all who refused to submit to the official church bureaucracy. "In a fit of rage at these people, the Puritans, King James vowed, 'I shall make them conform or I will harry them out of the land, or else do worse.'" Glimpses Issue #20: Pilgrims in a Strange Land
The Separatists (uncompromising Puritans) would not violate their conscience by participating in the (Anglican) Church of England with its remnants of Catholicism. Believing the true Church must submit to the headship of Christ, not to the spiritual edicts of their hostile king or the compromising church establishment, they had asked permission to start their own church, but King James had denied their request.
Ridiculed by their neighbors, harassed by the courts, and forbidden to share the truths of salvation, they saw only one option: to flee to Holland. "With the situation growing more intense the Scrooby congregation realized they could not stay, yet they were not allowed to go."
After secretly boarding a ship and paying "the large expenditure," the Separatists discovered that they had been betrayed. "King James' local sheriff with his bailiffs appeared on the scene to arrest them." They "stripped them of their money, books and other goods before they were presented to the magistrates." Many of the men were jailed -- including William Brewster and the 17- year-old William Bradford. The Pilgrims
second attempt to leave began even more disastrously. While loading his
ship and waiting for the women and children to arrive, "the ship master
saw a large company Kings' officers, both horse and foot, marching in
with weapons to take those on shore. The Dutchman weighed anchor,
hoisted his sails and sped away. The poor men who were aboard were in
great distress for their destitute wives and children which they saw
being taken into custody.... While at sea the men had
to endure a terrifying storm at sea...
Despite his treatment of the non-conformists, King James authorized the translation of the Bible we know as the King James Version. The work had begun in 1604, urged by John Rainolds, a Puritan, and accomplished by 54 scholars from Oxford, Cambridge and Westminster.
To see the rest of this chart, go to www.crossroad.to/Excerpts/chronologies/pilgrims.htm
2. The Translators of the King James Bible
"MAY YOUR MAJESTY BE PLEASED," said Dr. John Rainolds in his address to the king, "to direct that the Bible be now translated, such versions as are extant not answering to the original." Rainolds was a Puritan, and the Bishop of London felt it his duty to disagree. "If every man's humor might be followed," snorted His Grace, "there would be no end to translating."
King James was quick to put both factions down. "I profess," he said, "I could never yet see a Bible well translated in English, but I think that of Geneva is the worst."
These few dissident words started the greatest writing project the world has ever known, and the greatest achievement of the reign of James I -- the making of the English Bible which has ever since borne his name. The day was Monday, January 16, 1604. The scene was the palace at Hampton Court....
James's real reason for objecting to the Geneva Bible reign, was rooted in his need to feel secure on his new throne. Some of the marginal notes in the Geneva version had wording which disturbed him: they seemed to scoff at kings. If the Bible threatened him, it must be changed. Away with all marginal notes!....
Having spoken, James went on about his royal business, which had nothing to do with translating Scriptures. At Royston, not far from Cambridge, he was converting a priory mansion and two old inns, set in six hundred acres, into a royal shooting box. Royston he came to esteem beyond all places for the hunting of hares, rabbits, partridges, bustards, and plovers. But the king hunted at Newmarket too, where also there was horse racing.
When he had to return to town for the first Parliament of the new reign, he occupied the new royal apartments in the Tower of London and there, in the Lion's Tower, the king watched three dogs set upon a lion, which tore two of them apart. Time to decide about the Bible had to be found between these duties and pleasures, but the king knew how to delegate power. As soon as James showed approval of Rainolds' proposal, the ambitious Bishop Bancroft suppressed his own adverse thoughts and prepared to carry out the royal will with zeal and dispatch.
Robert Cecil, who had served Elizabeth, served James as well; James called him" my little beagle" and made him Lord Salisbury. With Cecil, Bishop Bancroft talked things over and chose the men to work on a proposal, perhaps casually broached, which the royal will had now raised to a splendid design. Tyndale's prayer was now answered in full: James I had ordered what Tyndale died to do.
Fervent for what his master wished, Bancroft wrote to an aide: "I...move you in his majesty's name that, agreeably to the charge and trust committed unto you, no time may be overstepped by you for the better furtherance of this holy work....You will scarcely conceive how earnest his majesty is to have this work begun."
The King James Bible: Introductory page. Instead of honoring our heavenly King, this introduction (still found in front pages of many KJV Bibles ) exalts an earthly king (King James I of England).
TO THE MOST HIGH AND MIGHTY PRINCE
BY THE GRACE OP GOD,
KING OF GREAT BRITAIN, FRANCE, AND IRELAND, DEFENDER OF THE FAITH, &c.
The Translators of the Bible wish Grace, Mercy, and Peace, through JESUS CHRIST our Lord.
GREAT and manifold were the blessings, most dread Sovereign, which Almighty God, the Father of all mercies, bestowed upon us the people of England, when first he sent Your Majestyís Royal Person to rule and reign over us. For whereas it was the expectation of many, who wished not well unto our Sion, that upon the setting of that bright Occidental Star, Queen Elizabeth of most happy memory, some thick and palpable clouds of darkness would so have overshadowed this Land, that men should have been in doubt which way they were to walk; and that it should hardly be known, who was to direct the unsettled State; the appearance of Your Majesty, as of the Sun in his strength, instantly dispelled those supposed and surmised mists, and gave unto all that were well affected exceeding cause of comfort; especially when we beheld the Government established in Your Highness, and Your hopeful Seed, by an undoubted Title, and this also accompanied with peace and tranquillity at home and abroad.
But among all our joys, there was no one that more filled our hearts, than the blessed continuance of the preaching of Godís sacred Word among us; which is that inestimable treasure, which excelleth all the riches of the earth; because the fruit thereof extendeth itself, not only to the time spent in this transitory world, but directeth and disposeth men unto that eternal happiness which is above in heaven.
Then not to suffer this to fall to the ground, but rather to take it up, and to continue it in that state, wherein the famous Predecessor of Your Highness did leave it: nay, to go forward with the confidence and resolution of a Man in maintaining the truth of Christ, and propagating it far and near, is that which hath so bound and firmly knit the hearts of all Your Majestyís loyal and religious people unto You, that Your very name is precious among them: their eye cloth behold You with comfort, and they bless You in their hearts, as that sanctified Person, who, under God, is the immediate Author of their true happiness.
And this their contentment doth not diminish or decay, but every day increaseth and taketh strength, when they observe, that the zeal of Your Majesty toward the house of God doth not slack or go backward, but is more and more kindled, manifesting itself abroad in the farthest parts of Christendom, by writing in defence of the Truth, (which hath given such a blow unto that man of sin, as will not be healed,) and every day at home, by religious and learned discourse, by frequenting the house of God, by hearing the Word preached, by cherishing the Teachers thereof, by caring for the Church, as a most tender and loving nursing Father.
There are infinite arguments of this right christian and religious affection in Your Majesty; but none is more forcible to declare it to others than the vehement and perpetuated desire of accomplishing and publishing of this work, which now with all humility we present unto Your Majesty. For when Your Highness had once out of deep judgment apprehended how convenient it was, that out of the Original Sacred Tongues, together with comparing of the labours, both in our own, and other foreign Languages, of many worthy men who went before us, there should be one more exact Translation of the holy Scriptures into the English Tongue; 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.
And now at last, by the mercy of God, and the continuance of our lahours, it being brought unto such a conclusion, as that we have great hopes that the Church of England shall reap good fruit thereby; we hold it our duty to offer it to Your Majesty, not only as to our King and Sovereign, but as to the principal Mover and Author of the work: humbly craving of Your most Sacred Majesty, that since things of this quality have ever been subject to the censures of ill-meaning and discontented persons, it may receive approbation and patronage from so learned and judicious a Prince as Your Highness is, whose allowance and acceptance of our labours shall more honour and encourage us, than all the calumniations arid hard interpretations of other men shall dismay us. So that if, on the one side, we shall be traduced by Popish Persons at home or abroad, who therefore will malign us; because we are poor instruments to make Godís holy Truth to be yet more and more known unto the people, whom they desire still to keep in ignorance and darkness; or if, on the other side, we shall be maligned by self-conceited Brethren, who run their own ways, and give liking unto nothing, but what is framed by themselves, and hammered on their anvil; we may rest secure, supported within by the truth and innocency of a good conscience, having walked the ways of simplicity and integrity, as before the Lord; and sustained without by the powerful protection of Your Majestyís grace and favour, which will ever give countenance to honest and christian endeavours against bitter censures and uncharitable imputations.
The Lord of heaven and earth bless Your Majesty with many and happy days, that, as his heavenly hand hath enriched Your Highness with many singular and extraordinary graces, so You may be the wonder of the world in this latter age for happiness and true felicity, to the honour of that great GOD, and the good of his Church, through Jesus Christ our Lord and only Saviour.
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