My first encounter with the Bible came, not in the form of an actual translation of the sacred writings, but in the form of Bible stories – episodes taken from the Biblical narrative and re-told in language suitable for children. My mother read these to me when I was very young, and in the early grades in school our teacher would read them to us as well (this was in a rural community which had not yet been penetrated by progressive liberalism’s decree that positive mention of Christianity and the Bible in a public school constitutes a hate crime). I also read these for myself as a boy, my favorite being Rev. Jesse Lyman Hurlbut’s Stories of the Bible.
In grade 5 the Gideons presented each of us with our own New Testaments. Whether this still goes on or has been banned as a hate crime by the apostles of tolerance, diversity, and multiculturalism, I am not aware. The New Testament I was given came in a bright-red soft-cover with gold lettering and contained the New American Standard translation of the New Testament along with the Psalms and Proverbs.
When I was 15 I read the entire Bible through for the first time. There were a number of Bibles in the house. The one I opted to read that summer was a paperback version of Today’s English Version. More commonly known as the “Good News Bible” this one came with Old and New Testaments and the Apocrypha and was bizarrely illustrated by a number of stick figure drawings. I chose to read this version because I was under the impression that it would be much easier to understand than the older black leather and red hardcover Bibles that were in the family library. Both of those were copies of the King James Version.
At the end of that summer I became a believer in Jesus Christ and began to read my Gideons New Testament regularly. I had not fallen in love with the Good News translation and throughout high school would try out a number of translations, including the New International Version and New King James Version. By the time I graduated and went off to study theology, however, the King James Version had become my preferred Bible translation. It remains so to this day.
The King James Bible is 400 years old this year having been first published by Robert Baker, the King’s Printer, in 1611. For a large part of those four centuries it was the English Bible. It earned that status by the end of the 17th century and maintained it well into the 20th Century. It was the third “official” translation of the Bible into English in the sense of being authorized by the English king for official use in the established Church of England. As such, it faced no competition from its predecessors (the Great Bible of 1539, authorized by King Henry VIII, and the Bishops Bible of 1568 authorized by Queen Elizabeth I). Its primary competition was an unauthorized English translation made by English Calvinists who had fled to Geneva to escape persecution during the reign of Mary I, hence its being known as the “Geneva Bible”. (1)
The King James Bible, as we will soon see, was authorized for the purpose of supplanting the Geneva Bible in the English people’s affections. King James, like Elizabeth I before him, disliked the Geneva Bible, not for the translation itself but because it was published with marginal notes that attacked the Crown and the established Church. It would take most of a century, but eventually the King James Bible became accepted as the English Bible in the established and non-conformist English churches alike, throughout the English-speaking world.
It would face greater competition, in terms of numbers, in the 20th Century. The Revised Version came out in England in 1881, which with some modifications was published as the American Standard Version in 1901. These opened the gates to a flood of new translations that would be published in the 20th and 21st centuries. There are well over a hundred of these by now but none which has achieved anything remotely close to the status of the King James Version, which in many ways remains the English Bible.
The Bible verses and passages that have most permeated the culture of English-speaking societies, so as to be familiar to almost everyone regardless of their religious convictions or lack thereof, are known to us in the language of the King James Bible. The Ten Commandments, given by God to the Israelites in the Book of Exodus, are foundational to both Jewish and Christian morality. When we speak of them there are three words that pop into everyone’s head almost immediately – “thou shalt not”. We can hardly imagine those authoritative ordinances of God spoken in any other way. The same holds true for the Lord’s Prayer and the comforting Twenty-Third Psalm. Despite the multitude of contemporary language versions available, the universally recognizable forms of these remain the renditions beginning “Our Father, Which art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name” and “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” The most loved Bible verse of all time, John 3:16 is still quoted throughout the English-speaking world as “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”. We can hardly think of the Parable of the Good Samaritan without it ending without it ending with Jesus exhorting the lawyer to “Go, and do thou likewise”, or of the story of the woman taken in adultery, without Jesus saying to her “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (2)
Fundamentalist educator Dr. Bob Jones Jr. in his memoirs wrote that none of the modern translations “has the tremendous power and majestic glory of the King James Version”, going on to say:
I love the old Elizabethan “hath” and “doth” and “receiveth.” I told someone recently that if I can read the Bible without “lithping,” it doesn’t seem like the Scripture to me. (3)
Dr. Alister McGrath, until recently of Oxford University, from a somewhat different angle, wrote:
Our culture has been enriched by both aspects [as “the superb translation of the Bible” and “the classic work of English”] of the King James Bible. Sadly, we shall never see its equal – or even its like – again. (4)
What Dr. Jones celebrated and Dr. McGrath lamented is the unique status of the King James Bible, among all other translations, in the English speaking world.
Why is it that no newer translation can ever take the place of the King James Bible?
One obvious reason is that each new translation must compete, not only against the King James, but against all the other new translations. The King James had one major rival – the Geneva Bible. The RSV, ESV, NASV, NIV, NKJV, NRSV, TEV etc. are all rivals of each other as much as they are of the King James.
More importantly, however, is the fact that the King James Bible came out at just the right time in history to become the English Bible. The King James Bible came out in the era that saw an explosion of English literature that shaped modern English as we know it, and was itself one of the most important, probably the most important example of that literature. It was published two decades after Edmund Spencer’s Faerie Queen and a little under six decades before John Milton’s Paradise Lost. This was the era of the greatest English dramatists – William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson were still writing when the KJV came out and Christopher Marlowe had only died ten years before King James ascended to the throne. The most important of the metaphysical poets, John Donne, was writing in the period immediately before and after the publication of the King James Bible.
The literature of this era became a tremendous source of inspiration, allusions, and outright quotations for the literature of the centuries to follow. This was especially true of the King James Bible because it was not only an exemplary work of literature but Holy Scripture as well. It was the official Bible of the established Church of England and as such was read from the lectern in Anglican Churches every Sunday for centuries. It would be the Bible of the great revivals within the Church of England – the evangelical Wesleyan revival of the 18th century and the Catholic revival of the Oxford Movement in the 19th century. It also, however, became accepted as the Bible of the non-conformist Protestant churches and in Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and Baptist pulpits the preachers would expound from the text of the King James Bible in the 18th, 19th and early 20th Centuries.
Only the plays of Shakespeare come even close to approaching the King James Bible in terms of the number of quotations, axioms, and other expressions and allusions that it added to everyday, conversational, English.
When looked at from this perspective, the peers of the King James Bible are not other English translations, but such culture-shaping translations as the 4th Century Vulgate of St. Jerome or Martin Luther’s German translation of the Bible. With the latter in particular, a number of parallels can be drawn. The Luther translation, shaped modern German, as the King James Version shaped modern English. Just as the Luther translation was a key element of the Reformation in Germany, so the history of the King James Version is the history of the English Reformation.
A number of factors led to the 16th Century Reformation in both England and continental Europe. In the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance the modern nation-state, in which a single government has political sovereignty over a nation (a people group with a common cultural identity) had begun to develop. This, in and of itself, probably made another division in the Church, similar to that which had divided the Greek and Latin Churches in the 11th Century, inevitable. In continental Europe, the catalyst for the division was corruption in the Church, particularly the sale of indulgences. Dr. Martin Luther denounced this corruption, resulting in a conflict with Church authorities which was intensified by controversy over theological issues such the authority of Scripture and justification by faith. He translated the Bible into the German vernacular because he wanted the German people to have access to the Word of God for themselves. His translation had a tremendous literary, cultural, and political impact as well as a religious one.
The English Reformation happened a bit differently. It began in 1534 when Parliament upon the request of King Henry VIII, passed the Act of Supremacy, declaring King Henry “the only supreme head on earth” of the Church of England. If the King was the “only supreme head on earth” of the English Church, the Pope could not be, and so this Act effectively separated the English Church from the Roman Catholic Church. It was not done out of theological controversy or to confront corruption. This was done purely for political reasons.
As a result, the Church of England after the Act of Supremacy, was initially no different in doctrine, practice, and organizational structure than it was prior to the Act of Supremacy, except that it no longer recognized the authority of the Pope. This was more or less the way it remained under Henry VIII, although his chief supporter among the clergy in his conflict with the Pope, a man whom he appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, was sympathetic to the doctrines of Luther and Calvin. After Henry died, his throne passed to three of his children in succession, each of whom died without an heir – Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. Edward and Elizabeth were Protestants and in their reigns, briefly interrupted by the reign of Mary I, a Roman Catholic who burned about 300 Protestants at the stake and temporarily reversed all of her brother’s reforms and her father’s Act of Supremacy, the Church of England adopted a number of Protestant reforms. The requirement that priests be celibate was abandoned, services were held in English for which Thomas Cranmer prepared the Book of Common Prayer, and finally in Elizabeth’s reign, the 39 articles, a Protestant Confession affirming justification by faith and rejecting transubstantiation and purgatory, was adopted by the established Church.
A broad spectrum of theological views were tolerated in the Church of England under Elizabeth I, but what was not tolerated was disloyalty to the throne or to the established Church. Two groups were not satisfied with the Elizabethan Settlement, Roman Catholics, and Puritans. The latter were a group of Protestants who believed that the reforms under Edward and Elizabeth had not gone far enough. They wanted to get rid of the hierarchy of bishops, the vestments of the clergy, crosses in the church, the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer, and a host of other things. They took the position that if the Bible didn’t explicitly command these things, they should not be tolerated. It was during Elizabeth’s reign, that the High Church (5) arguments for the established Church and its position, against the Roman Catholic and Puritan objections were developed by men like Richard Hooker, author of Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity.
This is the historical backdrop against which the development of the English Bible must be understood. Early in the 1500’s, William Tyndale, in various German and Flemish cities, published his translations of the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into English, and had those translations smuggled into England. He was eventually arrested and executed for heresy, but his translation became the starting point for all subsequent translations. Henry VIII authorized the first official English translation for the Church of England a few years after Tyndale’s execution. This translation became the Great Bible. A second official translation was authorized by Elizabeth I, which became the Bishop’s Bible. Both of these relied heavily on Tyndale’s work, as did the Geneva Bible preferred by the Puritans. English Catholics, living in exile during the reign of Elizabeth I, began work on a Catholic translation as well. They published the New Testament in Reims and then completed the Old Testament in Douay. The translation is named after those cities, usually in reverse order for some reason.
Elizabeth was the last descendant of Henry VIII and she died childless. The throne then passed to the next available descendant of Henry VII. That happened to be James Stuart, who was already James VI of Scotland. Since James had been raised Protestant and already ruled a Presbyterian country , the Puritans thought his ascension meant their day had arrived. Before he arrived in England to claim his throne, they sent him a petition asking him to hear and redress their grievances against the Established Church.
In response, King James called a conference at Hampton Court Palace in January of 1604. Moderate Puritans were summoned to present their complaints and representatives of the Established Church were summoned to respond to the Puritan position. John Reynolds, president of Corpus Christ College led the Puritan party. Richard Bancroft, Bishop of London was the voice of the High Church at Hampton Court even though the Archbishop of Canterbury, John Whitgift was also present. As Reynolds presented the Puritan demands for presbyterian church government, the abolition of Prayer Book liturgy and vestments, and these sort of things, King James listened politely, but did not grant the requests.
He had no intention of doing so. The Puritans had misunderstood his position. King James had been raised Protestant, although he was baptized a Catholic, but he was a Protestant in theology in the way that High Churchmen like Richard Hooker, John Whitgift, and Richard Bancroft were. He had no sympathy for Protestant extremism – it was Protestant extremists who had separated him from his mother, the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots, when he was 1 year old, forcing her to abdicate in his favour, so that they could control Scotland and him, through a series of tyrannical regents, in his youth. When he achieved the age of majority, and began to rule in his own right, he endorsed the established Presbyterian Church of Scotland, but his experience had led him to believe that fanatical Calvinism was potentially a seditious movement. The marginal notes of the Geneva Bible, which were heavily flavoured with Calvinism, confirmed him in this suspicion. A handful of the notes read like anti-royalist, republican propaganda to him. Subsequent history, as we shall shortly see, showed his fears to be well-grounded.
King James, therefore, had entered Hampton Court committed to supporting the retention of the episcopal hierarchy in the established Church. He wished, however, to maintain peace with as many Puritans as possible. When, therefore, Reynolds proposed that a new translation of the English Bible be made he immediately granted the request. It allowed him to give the Puritans at least one thing they wanted, and the opportunity to get rid of the hated Geneva Bible and its republican notes.
King James appointed Richard Bancroft the overseer of the project. Bancroft, you recall, was the most vocal spokesman for the High Church position at Hampton Court. He would be made Archbishop of Canterbury following Whitgift’s death shortly after the Conference. Bancroft was to appoint the translators, establish general rules to guide them in the translation, and oversee the final revision of the translation.
The translators were divided into six companies, generally consisting of six translators and a director, each of which was given its own section of the Bible to translate. Two of the companies were based in Westminster Abbey, two in Oxford University, and two in Cambridge University. The process was that each scholar in a committee would be assigned the text they would translate, then the committee would meet and produce a final version of their portion of the Scripture, which would be submitted to the General Review committee, which met in 1609 in Stationer’s Hall. This committee, drawn from the membership of the six companies, produced a revision of the text which was submitted to Bancroft for approval. It was then turned over to Richard Baker for publication.
Bancroft, in selecting the translators, chose men who were loyal to the church and state. Only moderate Puritans, like John Reynolds, who were willing to work within the established Church and were loyal to the king, were allowed onto the committees (Reynolds served in the First Oxford Company, which translated the Old Testament Prophets). Most of the translators were High Churchmen, and Bancroft’s first appointment was Lancelot Andrewes, dean of Westminster, who headed the First Westminster Company which translated Genesis through Second Kings in the Old Testament. Andrewes also assisted Bancroft in the general overseeing of the project. Since Hooker’s death, Andrewes had become the main theoretical defender of the established Church against both the Roman Catholic and Puritan oppositions. He was a devout man (6) and in many ways was a precursor to the Oxford Movement revival in the 19th Century. (7) He was also a very learned scholar. The exclusion of the seditious and disloyal did not mean that that scholarly credentials were ignored. The translators were drawn from the top scholars in England at that time, and had instructions to consult with other scholars who did not make it onto the final committees.
The instructions Bancroft gave the translators were simple. They were to translate from the Greek and Hebrew, following the Bishop’s Bible whenever it was possible to both do so and give an accurate English translation of the original. Where the Bishop’s Bible rendition was insufficient, Tyndale’s, Coverdale’s, the Geneva, and a couple of other translations were to be consulted. The Douay-Rheims was not listed but the translators appear to have consulted it anyway. Familiar renditions of Biblical names were to be kept, as was ecclesiastical language such as “bishop” and “church”.
The magnificence of the translation that ensued gradually came to be appreciated over the course of the next century. The Geneva Bible remained popular for a few decades, but it’s popularity declined shortly after the Puritans took their doctrine to the extreme King James had feared they would.
King James was succeeded by his son, Charles I. During Charles reign, the Puritan Oliver Cromwell led a military rebellion against the government, and forcibly removing supporters of the King from Parliament, had that body declared England to be a republic under the protectorship of Cromwell. In an ugly act that would foreshadow the revolution in France at the end of the next century, and the Communist revolution in Russia in the 20th Century, Cromwell had the king condemned and beheaded. During Cromwell’s dictatorship, he closed the theatres, which under the reigns of Elizabeth and James had produced the greatest plays in the history of English literature. Then, long before Dr. Seuss’s Grinch got the idea, he outlawed Christmas. Even though the Puritans had gotten a tremendous amount of mileage out of accusing the Roman Catholic Church and the established Church of England of intolerance and persecution, Cromwell used his armies to persecute Catholics and Anglicans, in some cases massacring them by the thousands.
When Cromwell died, the British Parliament quickly voted to restore the monarchy and the established Church with its bishops and the Book of Common Prayer. Britain had had quite enough of the likes of Cromwell. Puritanism was disgraced, and the Geneva Bible lost favour. The Authorized version, became the English Bible, among members of the Church of England, and non-conformists alike.
The King James Version of the Bible, as we have just seen, is the end result of a century of revision, official and unofficial, of the Tyndale translation of the Bible. It was born out of the English Reformation and after the English Civil War was finally recognized as an exemplary work of English literature from the era that produced Shakespeare, Jonson, and Donne, as well as being the authoritative English translation of the Word of God. No other translation can ever take its place.
This judgment pertains to the King James Version’s status in terms of its unique place in English literature, the history of the English language, and the history of the English Church. Few would contest it, but many would argue that contemporary translations of the Bible are superior translations in terms of their ability to convey to English speakers today, the meaning of God’s Word in the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.
This is a matter that has been fiercely debated among conservative Protestants, especially in North America, ever since the Revised Version was published in 1881. It has been debated on both a popular and an academic level. Those who believe that the contemporary translations are superior argue that the English of the KJV is out of date, that our understanding of the Greek of the New Testament has improved and better translation methods had been developed since the 17th Century, and that better Greek manuscripts than those available to the King James translators have been discovered enabling us to better reconstruct the original text of the New Testament.
While some of these arguments have merit there is a case to be made against them and for the general superiority of the King James as a translation. Unfortunately, some opponents of the “contemporary translations are superior” position have often expressed their position in terms of a conspiracy theory in which the modern versions are part of a deliberate and diabolical plot to pervert God’s Word and have turned use of only the King James and rejection of the modern versions into a badge of orthodoxy. The legitimate arguments that can be made against the case for the superiority of the contemporary versions as translations is often lost sight of because of these extreme assertions.
It is beyond the scope of this essay to present those arguments fully here. This is especially true of the textual debate. (8) I will conclude this essay with a brief response to the arguments about the archaic English of the KJV and about how our knowledge of 1st Century Greek has improved since the 17th Century.
The extent to which the English of the KJV is out of date is greatly exaggerated. The KJV was not translated into Chaucer’s English, it was translated into Shakespeare’s English, which is still readable today. There are a handful of cases where a word has reversed its meaning since the 17th century, such as the oft-cited example of “prevent”, which in the KJV means “precede” but in contemporary English means “hinder”. Most people who complain about the English of the KJV, however, give the archaic 2nd person singular pronouns (thee, thou, thy, thine) and the old verb forms which end in –th as their examples.
Alister McGrath points out that the second person pronouns were already archaic when the KJV was translated. “By the sixteenth century”, he writes:
The use of the singular form to address a single individual had virtually ceased in English, except in the specific case of family and inferiors. To address another as “thou” was thus to claim social superiority over him or her. (9)
If you read Shakespeare’s plays, you will see what Dr. McGrath is talking about there. The singular 2nd person is only used in Shakespeare by people who are close friends/family, by royalty and nobility speaking to their social inferiors, and occasionally by someone speaking to a social superior in order to be impertinent.
The KJV does not follow Shakespeare’s usage. It uses the same pronouns for everybody, the ones beginning with t- for individual persons, the ones beginning with y- for when groups of people are being addressed. This way of using these pronouns was archaic already in Shakespeare’s day, and Dr. McGrath explains this as being the result of the rule that the Bishop’s Bible be followed whenever possible.
However, Dr. McGrath also uses this to make a point:
Some have suggested that the King James Bible’s use of “Thee,” “Thou,” and “Thy” to refer specifically to God is a title of respect, and argued that modern Christianity should retain this practice. This is clearly indefensible… (10)
Dr. McGrath is half right. It is not true that the singular pronouns were used by the KJV as a sing of respect for God because they were used for everybody. What he fails to take into consideration, however, which is remarkable considering that he raises this in a chapter entitled “The Bible and the Shaping of Modern English”, is that the King James Version itself created this very usage for these pronouns. People stopped using the old pronouns in everyday English shortly after the KJV was published. Since the KJV retained these pronouns, and did not reserve them for intimates and inferiors as had been the most recent usage, the concept of “reverential language” developed naturally. Nobody else spoke this way anymore. Therefore “thee” and “thou” became the way God spoke, for only the Bible used it, and the way one spoke to God.
There is another fact pertaining to these pronouns which Dr. McGrath does not mention. The readers of his book probably all know that “thee” and “thou” mean “you”. So, for that matter, does everyone who encounters the “thees” and “thous” in the King James Version. It is not a serious obstacle to comprehension. What the readers of McGrath’s book might not be aware of is that Greek and Hebrew both have separate second person pronouns for the singular and plural, the way English used to. By retaining the archaic pronouns, the KJV is able to more precisely translate the Greek and Hebrew, than translations which use “you” for both singular and plural. This is not as minor as it may appear because in some instances, knowing whether or not an individual or a crowd is addressed, greatly affects how we understand the meaning of a text.
Earlier in his book, Dr. McGrath points out that it was not until the late 19th Century, that scholars identified the kind of Greek used in the New Testament. This had been a topic of debate for centuries because it was recognized that, with a few exceptions, the Greek of the New Testament was different from classical Greek. Eventually, scholars were able to identify the Greek of the Bible as “koine”, the everyday vernacular of the 1st century.
Dr. McGrath writes:
This raises an important point concerning the companies of translators assembled by King James. There is no doubt that these included some of the finest classical scholars of the period, well used to dealing with questions of translation of classical Greek. Yet the Greek they were being asked to translate dates from much later, and seems to follow more fluid grammatical rules. To translate it on the basis of an earlier form of Greek would cause difficulties. (11)
To a certain extent this is true but it is exaggerated. If we were to take someone who has studied Attic Greek, the dialect of 4th-5th Century BC Athens that is often called “classical Greek”, and someone who has studied Koine Greek, the common Greek of the 1st Century AD, the former would have far less difficulty reading and understanding the Greek New Testament, than the latter would have reading and understanding Xenophon, Plato, and Thucydides. Koine is a simplified version of Attic. The “dual” number for verbs and nouns, that was rarely used except in poetry in Attic, has dropped out completely in Koine, for example, and the rules are a lot less rigid.
An understanding of how the Koine dialect developed out of the Attic dialect, and how the two differ, does provide contemporary scholars with an advantage that the scholars of the 17th century did not have. How does that advantage weigh, however, against the overall decline in the quality of scholarship?
In North America especially, the last century in which over a hundred new translations have been produced, has been a century of decline in classical scholarship. We are no longer living in the days when someone can become the Chair of Classical Philology at the leading university in Switzerland at age 24, as Friedrich Nietzsche did in 1869. We are no longer living in the days when preparation for University included a solid grounding in the classics and their languages. We are no longer living in the days in which Greek and Latin are learned in youth and a serious scholar is expected to be able, not just to read both languages, but to be able to compose prose and poetry and carry on a debate in both as well. (12)
The men who translated the King James Version were men who had been immersed in the world of classical languages and literature from their early youth and who entered the project of translation, in many cases after a lifetime of study. Is the benefit of living after and knowing about the identification of the Koine dialect sufficient to give men who in many cases did not begin their Greek studies until University or Bible College a superior grasp of their text than men like Lancelot Andrewes and John Reynolds?
(1) My primary sources for the history of the translation of the King James Bible as presented in this essay are Adam Nicolson’s God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible (Harper Collins: New York, 2003) and Alister E. McGrath’s In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture (Doubleday: New York, 2001). My theological, ecclesiastical, and political interpretation of this history does not necessarily correspond to that of either of those writers.
(2) Oddly, the other most famous line from this same story, we always remember in a wording that uses King James English but is not the wording of the KJV or any other translation. “Let he that is without sin cast the first stone” is actually found as “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” in the KJV.
(3) Bob Jones Jr., Cornbread and Caviar (Bob Jones University Press: Greenville, 1985) p. 47.
(4) Alister E. McGrath, In the Beginning, p. 310
(5) “High Church” can have a number of meanings. For the purposes of this essay I am using it to refer to those who defended the established Church of England and the Elizabethan Settlement against Roman Catholicism and Puritanism. Against the Roman Catholic, men like Hooker argued that the established Church of England was the same English Church that had existed prior to the Reformation, that it kept its ecclesiastical hierarchy intact, remained faithful to the Ecumenical Creeds, and celebrated the Sacraments and so remained in organic and organizational continuity with the Apostolic and Medieval Church even though it now recognized the King rather than the Pope as the supreme earthly authority. Against the Puritans, they argued that the established Church had rejected those doctrines of Rome which were demonstrably unscriptural, and accepted those of the Reformers doctrines which clearly were Scriptural, such as the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith. The Puritan idea, however, that something needed explicit Biblical authorization or it was “unscriptural” and should be purged, was rejected. While Scripture must be the highest authority, Hooker taught, overruling all others when conflict arises, tradition and reason are the other legs upon which the Church stands.
(6) Andrewes’ theological and ecclesiastical views were similar to those of Hooker described in the previous footnote, and many would argue that Andrewes was Hooker’s successor as apologist for the Church of England. Adam Nicolson, who records several of Andrewes’ personal shortcomings, also describes his piety: “Down at Chiswick, as throughout his life, the time he spent in private, about five hours every morning, was devoted almost entirely to prayer…It was a daily habit of self-mortification and ritualized unworthiness in front of an all-powerful God.” (Nicolson, God’s Secretaries, p. 32). His prayers and sermons are still in print and T. S. Eliot, inspired by his writings, wrote an essay about him in the early 30’s, and later dedicated a collection of essays to him.
(7) See, for example, Nicolson’s description of the chapel furnished by Andrewes’ on page 188 of God’s Secretaries.
(8) The Greek text used by the King James Version, was an early printed text reflecting a version of the Byzantine text type, i.e. the Greek text that was continually in use in the Greek-speaking Church. The “Majority Text” is another version of the Byzantine text type, that differs from the “Textus Receptus” used by the KJV. Another text type, the Alexandrian text-type, was later discovered among a family of manuscripts that predate the Byzantine manuscripts. Textual critics of the 19th Century argued that the Alexandrian text-type was closest to the autographs because of the age of the Alexandrian manuscripts. John William Burgon, Dean of Chichester Cathedral provided the scholarly answer to their position in a series of articles for the Quarterly Review that were later rebound into his Revision Revised (1883). Burgon argued that the manuscripts that were given the most weight by the new theory of criticism were poor quality manuscripts, that showed evidence of having been corrupted, and which often provided indirect testimony that the Byzantine readings were at least as old as their own, and that textual evidence from Scriptural quotations in the Church fathers and lectionaries, should be given more weight. In the century since, textual critics have ignored, but never adequately answered Burgon’s arguments, while a handful of textual scholars, such as Edward Freer Hills, a self-published Presbyterian author with a Th.D in textual criticism from Harvard and the late Zane C. Hodges, a pastor in Dallas and for many decades a professor of the New Testament at Dallas Theological Society, provided the best additional arguments for the Byzantine text. In Hodges’s case, the arguments were for the Majority Text, an edition of which he co-edited with Art Farstad for publication in 1982. For those interested in the arguments of the other side, I refer you to the writings of the late Bruce M. Metzger of Princeton Theological Seminary, in particular his The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. Look for the 1992 edition as it is the most up-to-date.
(9) McGrath, In the Beginning, p. 266.
(10) Ibid., p. 268.
(11) Ibid, p. 237.
(12) The case for a revival of classical education has been argued by Dr. E. Christian Kopff of the University of Colorado - Boulder in The Devil Knows Latin: Why America Needs the Classical Tradition (ISI Books: Wilmington, 1999). Also see Who Killed Homer: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (Encounter Books: San Francisco, 2001) by Victor Davis Hanson and John Heath.
My Last Post
1 month ago