Friday, August 28, 2009

'In The Beginning'

Alister McGrath, In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible (London, Hodder and Stoughton, 2001)

2001 saw a trio of books on the market telling the story of the AV. I have already addressed two of them, and in this post I hope to address the third. Alister McGrath is no stranger to modern readers, Professor of Historical Theology at the University of Oxford, he is one of very few Calvinists teaching within the British establishment. His writing style is excellent, and even more importantly, he is a meticulous researcher. This book does not disappoint.

In form it is more like Bobrick than Nicolson, tracing the history of the English Bible back to before the days of Wycliffe, and even tracing the rise of English as a literary language and the relationship between English and Englishness. He traces the major movements in English religion and relates them to Bible versions, King James only appears on the scene on P. 135! This is a rich book that explains how the King James Bible came to be the way it is, with factors including politics as well as religion - and of course religious politics! The fact that all of the translators came from the southeast of England also had an effect on the final product - if it had been translated in the Province of York it would have sounded very different!

McGrath gives us an excellent chapter dealing with the challenges of transaltion, and discusses such questions as why the AV's language was antiquated when it came out. The answer is that it was never intended as a brand-new translation from scratch, and was a revision of the Bishops' Bible, which was itself a revision of Coverdale, which incorporated Tyndale - who wrote in the 1540s, and in the language of the 1540s.

It may come as a shock to some that the AV was not instantly accepted, but there were good reasons. Firstly, the Geneva Bible was actually cheaper and usually of a better quality (the first edition of the AV was riddled with errors), and secondly people are always wary of a new Bible version. Also the AV was produced by a committee that included some of the worst persecutors of the Puritans. It was an Anglican Bible, and the Puritans were not prepared to buy it. But decades of promotion in the Church of England (and laws attempting to ban the Geneva Bible), followed by the restoration of the monarchy and the fall of the Puritans, led to the AV finally achieving its place as the English Bible.

Finally he deals with the influence the AV has had, and continues to have, on the English language, how Hebraisms and Grecianisms have become part of how we speak English because of the AV.

This is a different book again from the last two reviewed, and all three could be read with profit by anyone wanting to know more about the AV and how we got it. Only McGrath really deals with events after the Publication of the AV, while Nicolson tells us the most about the translators. I enjoyed all three books greatly.


The Puritan said...

The Puritans were wedded to the Geneva for the notes. Notes which don't belong in the Word of God. The superiority of the AV appeared naturally, not due to laws or propaganda or 'the decline of the Puritans.'

Critical Text propaganda always poses an artificial chasm between the Geneva and the AV as if the Geneva were some how more on the side of the Counter-Reformation manuscripts and textual philosophies. Some of this always seems to seep into any academic treatment of the subject of the history of the English Bible.

One thing I find continually amusing is how the so-called King James onlyists know all this history and in fact knowing this history is what in part makes them KJV-only while the victims of critical text propaganda and intentional historical silence on these issues (because history is not on their side and makes them look rather bad) assume all the historical ignorance is on the KJV side.

It's difficult to admit to oneself that one has been had by the devil. It makes one question one's discernment. But there is no crime in this. One has to start somewhere, and starting with the very foundational Word of God is the best place to begin to develop one's discernment.

Highland Host said...

The greatest problem is those true KJV-Only people who hold the English translation AS WELL AS the Greek text to be inspired. Because if you do that, well the Geneva and the AV are rather different. They both use the same Greek text (broadly speaking), and the fact that the AV was commissioned by the same establishment that was persecuting the Puritans definitely prejudiced many against it. King James hated the Geneva Bible for its notes, which he thought supported overthrowing kings who the people didn't like (he was right, and look what happened to his son). Disparaging the AV is sadly something some people do. Personally I have inspected many lists of 'errors in the King James', and most of them aren't errors but archaisms. That is to say that they were good translations at the time. 'easter' in Acts, though, is either a mistake or the High Church translators inserting a Church festival. The underlying Greek is 'pasch' in every manuscript.

waldensis said...

It was not just "Puritans" who rejected the AV1611 when it came out. Baptists and independents did as well. Leonard Busher in his "Religions Peace or A Plea for Liberty of Conscience" states that if he had the money he would publish his work on the errors of the New Authorized Version. Independents, like the Pilgrims, objected to the "flowery language" of the AV as opposed to the more common language of the Geneva. What about the references and language notes in the AV1611, did they "not belong in the Word of God" either?

As far as history goes, remember, it is usually written by the victor. Look at the Yankee histories of the War Between the States and their lies for proof of that!

The Puritan said...

>'easter' in Acts, though, is either a mistake or the High Church translators inserting a Church festival. The underlying Greek is 'pasch' in every manuscript.

This is a perfect example, HH, of how so-called KJV-onlyists know more history than the other side (of which you are represented here, at least you are sympathetic to the other side). The AV translators knew exactly what they were doing with this word, just as Tyndale knew what he was doing. Tyndale coined the word 'passover', so one might think he knew very well what the underlying word was.

Read this:

"The Greek word translated as Easter is pascha. Some say the word should only be translated as Passover and not Easter. The KJV is not alone in translating this word as Easter. The Tyndale 1525, Bishop's Bible 1568, Coverdale 1535, Matthew's, Cranmer 1539, the Great Bible (which preceeded the KJB), Mace's New Testament 1729, and Martin Luther also translated this word as Easter in 1545, and the German Luther version of 1912 also reads Easter (Ostern). The German word for Passover is a completely different word. The Geneva New Testament was first published in 1557 and read "Easter" in Acts 12:4 - "entending after EASTER to bringe him forth unto the people". You can see the 1557 Geneva Bible at this site here:"

"It makes no sense at all to believe that Tyndale, Martin Luther, Cranmer, Coverdale, Matthews, the Great Bible, and the Bishop's Bible were referring to a pagan deity of the spring called Eastre or Ishtar when they called Christ the easterlamb."

"The KJB is actually the most accurate translation, in that it uses the word "passover" BEFORE the death and resurrection of Christ and then "Easter" the only time the word occurs in the book of Acts AFTER His resurrection."

Read the whole thing. This is a good example of naive 'moderns' thinking they 'know more' than the individuals who gave us the English Bible. Many giving their very lives in the process.

waldensis said...

The Puritan

Since is Easter is the feast of the Goddess AEstarte I do not understand this statement:" 'The KJB is actually the most accurate translation, in that it uses the word "passover" BEFORE the death and resurrection of Christ and then "Easter" the only time the word occurs in the book of Acts AFTER His resurrection.'"

The Puritan said...

From the linked article:

"Our word EASTER is of Saxon origin and of precisely the same import with its German cognate OSTERN. The German word for Easter (Ostern) is derived from the old Teutonic form of auferstehen / auferstehung, that is - RESURRECTION." This is quoted from "Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History," translated in 1850 by C. F. Cruse, Hendrickson Publishers, p 437."

Again, it is quite pretentious of modern scholars to think they know more regarding the meaning of the word easter than a Tyndale (who coined the term passover which modern scholars use as they use most all of the work of the English translators of the English Bible, without them their products would be babble) and Luther, et al.

Highland Host said...

The AV was translated by a group of about 50 Anglican, all but one Anglican clergymen. Now, ask any Anglican what 'Easter' is, and they will tell you it is the festival of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Ask any Anglican clergyman! The Prayer Book (which predates the AV) refers to 'Easter'. The business about the goddess Astarte is completely irrelevant here.

Tyndale coined the word 'Passover' in the Old Testament translation, realising that 'Easter' was an anachronism before the death of Christ. He translated the New Testament first, as Luther did, and used 'Easter' there. Before he could finish the OT and revise the NT to reflect the OT translation, Tyndale was martyred. The Geneva, translating the Greek, gives 'Passover', not 'Easter'. But remember that many AV translators were High Church Anglicans, wedded to the Church Year. If the Bible contained 'Easter', it was easier to argue, against the Puritans, that the Ecclesiastical year was Biblical. So they 'retained' Tyndale's 'Easter'.

It is a FACT that 'Pasach' is the word here in EVERY manuscript. How you can argue that the correct English is 'Easter' here but no-where else, and then turn around and criticise modern translations for using dynamic equivalence is frankly beyond me, but then I'm just a simple English Baptist minister.

The Puritan said...

HH, you didn't even read the article I linked. Tyndale used 'passover' in the New Testament as well. It is only in the one place that easter is used, and you are pretentiously saying that Tyndale, Luther, all the translators of the English Bible up to the AV translators had not clue why they would do such a thing. Do you see why we on the received, traditional text, side can only grin at you guys?

The Puritan said...

The point here is this: Tyndale obviously knew he was translating pascha with different English words, as did the various translators of the English Bible (including the Geneva 1557, if you'd read that article), including Luther, and including the AV translators. To say it is a 'mistake' is profoundly ridiculous. And to claim that modern scholars know more in this case when modern scholars have no clue that easter means resurrection is comically pretentious. C. L. Lewis was not known for trying to hurt people's feelings, but he couldn't help it when he wrote about textual critics and their pretensions to knowledge and understanding of literature and language.

Highland Host said...

Obviously you do not really differentiate between the TR and the AV as a TRANSLATION of the TR. I had surmised as such by your prises of Gail Riplinger. The Geneva uses 'Passover' throughout, as the article you linked to said.

If you think we ought to render all references to 'Pasach' after the death of Christ as 'Easter', well, don't let me stop you. It's better than the Ishtar/Astarte myth that some in fundamentalist circles teach, and it probably does reflect a deliberate choice on the part of the AV translators and/or final editors (two Bishops). They weren't careless enough for this to be a mistake, and they had definite ecclesiastical reasons for retaining 'Easter'. But at least you ought to admit that rendering it as 'Passover' is equally valid, since this is a translation issue, not a textual one (as you well know).

Highland Host said...

I read the thing, and I concluded that the whole article is at best nothing more than an extended exercise in begging the question, that is, beginning with the assumption that 'Easter' is the correct translation, we come to the conclusion that... 'Easter' is the correct translation. Odd, that. At worst it's mere smoke and mirrors, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

As the article notes, in modern Greek there is only one word for 'Passover' and 'Easter'. In English they are two different words. Thus modern Greek cannot help us. The writers notes:

"The Oxford English dictionary tells us that "Easter is one of the great festivals of the Christian church, commemorating the resurrection of Christ, and corresponding to the Jewish Passover, the name of which (Easter) it bears in most of the European languages. Greek -paska; Hebrew - pe'sah; Latin - pascha; French - pagues; Italian - Pasqua; Spanish - pascua." "

But not English. I pause to note that the sources cited in the article are of course rubbished by Gail Riplinger, being Greek study tools.

One may claim that the AV is not in error, but one cannot on any objective basis claim that it is MORE accurate than those versions that read 'Passover'.

The Puritan said...

>One may claim that the AV is not in error, but one cannot on any objective basis claim that it is MORE accurate than those versions that read 'Passover'.


The KJV side don't say modern versions are in error in their use of Tyndale's coinage in that Acts verse. It is the critical text side that claims the KJV is in error for using easter. That is what the linked article and other articles disabuse them of. That has always been the issue.

Highland Host said...

The thing is that people aren't as familiar as they ought to be with the Anglican background of the AV. They forget that there was a REASON for retaining 'Easter'. An error is a mistake, there was a deliberate reason for 'Easter'. Namely the High Anglican translators.

Funny that you're now saying that the AV just isn't in error, not that it's MORE accurate for saying 'Easter', but there you go.

Highland Host said...

My dear Puritan. I checked my copy of Tyndale with my faithful Cruden's concordance (AV, of course), and Tyndale uses 'Easter' irrespective of whether or not the event is before of after the resurrection. He uses 'Paschal' a couple of times, but not 'passover'.

Your source said:

"The KJB is actually the most accurate translation, in that it uses the word "passover" BEFORE the death and resurrection of Christ and then "Easter" the only time the word occurs in the book of Acts AFTER His resurrection."

You said: "The KJV side don't say modern versions are in error in their use of Tyndale's coinage in that Acts verse."

I think there may be a contradiction there.

Highland Host said...

My congratulations on not using the 'Herod was really a pagan, so he was celebrating the feast of Astarte/Ishtar, though. As you must have realised, for that argument to work there has to be a difference between 'Easter' and "Passover' in the Greek text, which of course there is not. I urge every King James Only advocate to follow the Puritan's lead here and abandon the 'pagan Herod' argument.