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Full text of "Our ageless Bible, from early manuscripts to modern versions"



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UNIVERSITY 
OF FLORIDA 
LIBRARIES 




COLLEGE LIBRARY 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2011 with funding from 

LYRASIS Members and Sloan Foundation 



http://www.archive.org/details/ouragelessbiblefOOIeis 



OUR AGELESS 
BIBLE 



By Thomas Linton Leishman 

Why I Am a Christian Scientist 

The Bible Handbook (with Arthur T. Lewis) 



OUR AGELESS 
BIBLE 

From Early Manuscripts to Modern Versions 



by 
THOMAS LINTON LEISHMAN 



THOMAS NELSON & SONS 

Edinburgh NEW YORK Toronto 



Third Printing, December 1963 




Copyright, 1939, by W. A. Wilde Company 

Copyright, 1960, by Thomas Linton Leishman 

Library of Congress Catalog No.: 60-7293 

All Rights Reserved Under International and Pan-American Conventions. 
Published in New York by Thomas Nelson & Sons and Simultaneously in 
Canada by Thomas Nelson & Sons (Canada) Ltd. 

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 



To My Wife 



Preface 



The Bible, which through the centuries has 
outstripped all publishing records, besides providing a rule 
of life and action for millions of sincere readers of widely 
varying religious convictions, may justly be viewed as a 
book of universal interest and importance, not to be ig- 
nored by those who claim no connection with either 
Christian church or Jewish synagogue. 

Loved and venerated through the ages, its words and 
message have been zealously perpetuated— often in the 
face of vilification, imprisonment or even death— whether 
by word of mouth, or by laborious hand copying, until 
with the invention of printing by movable metal type it 
was honored by being the first complete book thus pro- 
duced. Since that time it has never been off the press in 
some language or edition. 

The story of its preservation, transmission and transla- 
tion is an intensely interesting one, and the object of this 
book is to provide a brief but accurate record of the heri- 
tage and history of our ageless Bible, from the earliest 

7 



8 PREFACE 

known manuscripts down to the translations most widely 
used in our own day. 

The majority of the articles which formed the basis of 
the original edition of this volume were copyrighted, 
having already appeared in print, and the author again 
wishes to express his appreciation for permission to re- 
publish them together with additional material. 

Since the work first appeared, there have been remark- 
able evidences of progress and discovery in the wide fields 
of Biblical translation and research, and this extended and 
revised edition takes account of such developments, with 
special reference to the significance of the Revised Stand- 
ard Version Bible, and of the discovery of the Dead Sea 
Scrolls. Its scope does not permit of extended treatment 
of the subject in hand, but reference is made to other more 
lengthy and often more specialized works in the course of 
the text, while a carefully selected Bibliography provides 
further guidance for those wishing to pursue the study in 
greater detail. 

The renewed close examination of the Book of Books 
and of many of its numerous manuscripts and versions in 
their historical and linguistic setting, entailed in the prepa- 
ration of this new edition, has brought ever increasing 
interest and enlightenment to the author and it is sincerely 
hoped that these will be shared by the reader. 

THOMAS LINTON LEISHMAN 

Greenwich, Connecticut 
January, 1960 



Contents 



Preface 7 

I. Manuscripts and Versions of the Old Testa- 
ment 11 

The Ancient Hebrew Manuscripts and Their Char- 
acteristics—The Origin of the Septuagint, and Its 
Translators— The Value of the Septuagint— The Sa- 
maritan Version and Its Importance— The Versions 
of Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion. 

II. The Language of the New Testament 27 

The Greek of the New Testament— Aramaic, Jesus' 
Mother Tongue— The Aramaic Logia of Matthew— 
The Translator's Debt to the Papyri. 

III. The Manuscripts of the New Testament 41 

The Form and Writing of the Early New Testament 
Manuscripts— The Sinaitic Manuscript— The Vatican 
Manuscript— The Alexandrian Manuscript— The Cod- 
ices of Ephraem and of Beza. 

IV. Early Latin and Syriac Versions 55 

The Old Latin Version— The Vulgate— Early Syriac 
Versions— The Peshitta Syriac Version. 

V. The Task of the Biblical Translator 67 

9 



10 CONTENTS 

VI. Early Versions in English 77 

The Earliest English Versions— John Wycliffe and His 
Bible— William Tyndale and His Bible— Coverdale's 
Bible. 

VII. From Coverdale to the King James Version 91 

"Matthew's Bible" and the "Great Bible"— Taverner's 
Bible and the "Breeches Bible"— The Bishops' Bible 
and the Rheims-Douai Bible. 

VIII. The Authorized or King James Version 101 

King James and the Authorized Version— The Sources 
of the Authorized Version— The Translators of the 
Authorized Version— The Triumph of the Authorized 
Version. 

IX. The Revised Version and Other Modern 

Renderings Prior to 1940 113 

The Revised Version— The American Standard Ver- 
sion—Other Modern Versions Prior to 1940. 

X. The Revised Standard Version 123 

XI. The Dead Sea Scrolls 139 

Bibliography 153 

Index 155 



CHAPTER ONE 



Manuscripts and Versions 
of the Old Testament 



CHAPTER ONE 



THE ANCIENT HEBREW MANUSCRIPTS 
AND THEIR CHARACTERISTICS 

In order to gain some appreciation of the 
problems which confront the student of the original He- 
brew manuscripts of the Old Testament, it is well that 
one should pause to consider some of their peculiar char- 
acteristics. Most scholars are agreed that, as originally 
composed, the Old Testament books were devoid of punc- 
tuation—the letters being set down continuously, that is, 
without any division between the words or even between 
the sentences. When we bear in mind that at this early 
period the Hebrew language consisted solely of conso- 
nants, it becomes evident that difficulties of interpretation 
might readily present themselves. It is as though a very 
familiar passage from our English Bible (Deut. 33:27) 
were set down as follows: thtrnlgdsthrfgndndrnthrth- 
vklstngrms. This might appear to present an all but in- 
superable obstacle to a correct understanding of what had 
been said, since, in any language, a given series of conso- 
nants generally represents many different words according 

13 



14 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

to the vowels which are added to it, and the way in which 
the letters are grouped; though we may well remember 
that while certain systems of shorthand practically dis- 
pense with the use of vowels, those who are acquainted 
with these systems can read the characters with ease and 
accuracy. Nevertheless, as time went by, the Jews them- 
selves began to realize the disadvantages and ambiguities 
inherent in their method of writing. 

Two of the earliest steps taken in attempting to remedy 
the difficulty seem to have been the introduction of what 
are known as "vowel-letters"— which were simply certain 
Hebrew consonants arbitrarily selected to represent the 
more important vowel sounds— and the leaving of a space 
between each word. These were definite aids towards the 
simplification of the text, but still there were no vowels in 
the usual sense of the term. 

At length, about the seventh or eighth century a.d., there 
arose a famous school of Jewish scholars later known as 
"the Masoretes." This word is derived from the Hebrew 
term Masorah, meaning "tradition," and these men were 
described as "Masoretes" ("Traditionalists") because they 
introduced an ingenious and elaborate system of vowel- 
signs which standardized the "traditional" pronunciation 
of what the Bible writers had set down many centuries be- 
fore. The Masoretes, however, feeling that the consonants 
alone constituted the original and inspired text, and should 
not be in any degree displaced to make way for the new 
vowels, added their minute vowel-signs and punctuation 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 15 

marks above, below, and sometimes within the basic con- 
sonants. Then, too, these men felt that they were the 
divinely appointed guardians of the sacred text, and for 
that reason they studied and copied it with the utmost 
care, in a sincere and praiseworthy effort to preserve it in- 
tact for future generations. With this end in view they 
enumerated such details as the exact number of words in 
every book, and the middle word of each book, noting 
carefully any peculiarities of orthography that these, too, 
might remain unchanged, while they added in the margin 
various notes as aids to the reader or translator. 

Passing from the work of the Masoretes, who did so 
much to preserve and to clarify the text of the earlier part 
of our Bible, we turn to inquire as to the nature and date 
of the Hebrew manuscripts now in our possession. We still 
have many manuscripts of the New Testament which date 
from the early centuries of our era, being thus separated 
from the original autographs of the evangelists and apos- 
tles by a comparatively short period of time; but the situ- 
ation with regard to the Hebrew manuscripts of the Old 
Testament is very different. 

The latest Old Testament book seems to have been com- 
pleted shortly before 150 B.C., yet until the discovery of the 
Dead Sea Scrolls in our own day (see Chapter XI), the 
earliest Hebrew manuscripts extant went back no further 
than the tenth, or possibly the ninth century a.d., many 
centuries later than all the more important codices of the 
New Testament. Moreover, while there is a very large 



16 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

number of slight variations between the different Greek 
manuscripts, the manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible which 
have been preserved for us as a result of the labors of the 
Masoretes— and even most of the Dead Sea Scrolls, dating 
from up to a thousand years earlier— exhibit a surprisingly 
close similarity even in points of detail. 

Both these phenomena— the absence until 1947 or later 
of early Hebrew manuscripts and the remarkable uni- 
formity of those we have— seem to be largely due to the 
ancient Jewish custom of destroying manuscripts which 
showed any evidences of imperfection, whether due simply 
to wear and tear, or to variation from the approved and 
authorized text. Furthermore, there is no doubt that the 
intense reverence of the Hebrew people for their sacred 
writings, and the meticulous care with which they have 
always sought to copy them, have contributed to the 
preservation of these writings in a form which, we may 
well believe, approximates closely to what was originally 
penned by the prophets and poets, the priests and his- 
torians, of ancient Israel. 



THE ORIGIN OF THE SEPTUAGINT, AND 
ITS TRANSLATORS 

During the five or six centuries immediately preceding 
the birth of Jesus, large numbers of Jews left Palestine 
and settled at various points throughout the then known 
world. This migratory movement had started with the 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 17 

enforced sojourn of the Hebrew people in Babylon, while, 
as the years went by, numerous Jewish colonies sprang up 
in Cyprus and in Asia Minor, in Greece and in Italy, and 
particularly by the Nile. Many of those who now lived in 
Egypt had originally been brought there as prisoners of 
war, while others had chosen to settle in that region in 
furthering their business enterprises. Eventually there 
came to be a very large and prosperous Jewish population 
especially in and around Alexandria near the mouth of the 
Nile. Those Jews who had been born in Egypt very nat- 
urally learned the use of Greek, which was fast becoming 
the language of commerce and of daily intercourse in 
Alexandria and Rome, as well as in Athens and Corinth— 
and the Hebrew so dear to their ancestors was virtually a 
dead language as far as these Jewish expatriates were 
concerned. However, they retained their love for the 
Hebrew religion, and there arose among them an ever- 
increasing desire for a version of the Jewish Bible in the 
Greek to which they were accustomed. That desire at length 
bore fruit in the preparation of the famous Greek trans- 
lation commonly described as "the Septuagint"— a word 
which is derived from the Latin term septuaginta, meaning 
"seventy"— the approximate number of those who are said 
to have carried out the rendering; hence its identifying 
symbol LXX. 

Tradition provides us with a more picturesque, if in 
some respects less historical explanation of the inception 
of this famous translation. An early writer relates that a 



18 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

certain Ptolemy Philadelphia, ruler of Egypt in the third 
century B.C., was desirous of obtaining a rendering of the 
Hebrew Bible for his library at Alexandria, and that he 
sent to Eleazar, the high priest of the temple at Jerusalem, 
to obtain a copy of the Jewish Scriptures together with 
seventy-two competent scholars, six to be selected from 
each of the twelve tribes of Israel. The record continues 
that as an expression of gratitude to Eleazar and his 
countrymen for complying with these requests, the Egyp- 
tian monarch agreed to purchase the release of no fewer 
than one hundred thousand Jewish captives who were 
then living in his dominions, a statement which, of itself, 
plainly points to the residence in Egypt of a very large 
Jewish population. It is further stated that a certain 
Demetrius Phalerus, one of King Ptolemy's advisers, con- 
ducted the seventy-two chosen translators to a small island 
near the mouth of the Nile, and that there he wrote down 
the renderings on which they agreed. 

This account of the origin of the Septuagint helps to 
explain the undoubted veneration with which that im- 
portant version of the Old Testament was regarded from 
a very early period. Moreover, there is general agreement 
among scholars that it was indeed commenced in Egypt 
during the third century B.C., and completed either then 
or during the following century under the auspices of one 
or more of the kings of that period, while the fact remains 
that the underlying necessity for its publication is surely 
to be sought in the practical requirements of the Greek- 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 19 

speaking Jewish colonists who lived there in such large 
numbers. 



THE VALUE OF THE SEPTUAGINT 

Since the Septuagint, the origin of which has just been 
considered, is one of the sources most constantly studied 
by the conscientious translator of the Old Testament in 
our own day (see page 71) it is fitting that the student 
of the English Bible should know something both of its 
significance and of its value as a witness to the original 
text of the Jewish Scriptures. 

One of the prime points in favor of this version is that 
it was based on very ancient Hebrew manuscripts— manu- 
scripts earlier even than a majority of those found among 
the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is true that the text of the Septua- 
gint itself has suffered in the course of its transmission 
through the centuries and that those who originally pre- 
pared it often manifestly misunderstood the sense of the 
Hebrew original; nevertheless, there are many instances 
in which the Greek translation suggests what may well be 
the true meaning of words or sentences which seem to have 
been incorrectly transcribed in the Hebrew text as we 
have it today ( see pages 71f . ) . Then, too, the Septuagint 
translators often preserve words or phrases which were 
evidently represented in the very early Hebrew manu- 
scripts from which they made their rendering, but have 
since been inadvertently omitted. 



20 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

For example, the Septuagint version of Isaiah 9: 6 con- 
tains a phrase which is lacking in the ordinary Hebrew 
text, and which appears to have been overlooked by com- 
mentators. The concluding portion of that verse may be 
literally translated from the Greek: "I will bring peace 
upon the princes, and health by him"; and since the re- 
mainder of the passage is universally accepted as foretell- 
ing the mission of the Messiah, we are surely justified in 
assuming that the Septuagint has rescued from oblivion a 
striking prediction of the healing activity taught and 
practiced by Christ Jesus (cf. Matt. 4: 23; 10: 1, 8.). 

It is a significant historical fact that when the New 
Testament writers introduced quotations from the Jewish 
Scriptures, we find that in a great many cases they give 
these quotations word for word from the Septuagint with- 
out undertaking to provide a fresh rendering from the 
original Hebrew; and even when they do not cite the 
Greek version directly, the influence of its phraseology is 
clearly apparent. 

Moreover, it may be recalled that in the early centuries, 
as in modern times, Hebrew was a language which was not 
widely known outside Palestine, but when the Septuagint 
scholars provided the Old Testament in Greek (which 
may almost be described as the "English" of the ancient 
world), they made available to the people of many lands 
the great teachings and prophecies of the Hebrew Scrip- 
tures, thus preparing the way for the acceptance of the 
message of Christ Jesus, who came not to destroy, but to 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 21 

fulfill "the Law and the Prophets" (cf. Matt. 5: 17). "Greek 
Judaism with the Septuagint," writes Professor Deissmann, 
"ploughed the furrows for the gospel seed in the Western 
world" (New Light on the New Testament, page 95); 
while Dr. Angus affirms that, in his judgment: "The Sep- 
tuagint version of the Old Testament is, next to the New 
Testament, the most world-historic book" ( Environment of 
Early Christianity, page 158 ) . 



THE SAMARITAN VERSION AND ITS IMPORTANCE 

In the days of Nehemiah, that is during the fifth century 
B.C., one Manasseh, grandson of Eliashib, the Jewish high 
priest, married Nicaso, the daughter of the Samaritan 
leader Sanballat ( cf . Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, XI, 
viii, 2). Since even at that early date the Jewish authori- 
ties were strongly opposed to the Samaritans on both 
political and religious grounds (II Kings 17: 24, 34; Ezra 
4: 4f.; Neh. 4: 1-8), Manasseh's action led to his summary 
expulsion from the priesthood (Neh. 13: 28). Thereupon, 
he and his father-in-law, Sanballat, established a rival 
temple on Mount Gerizim in Samaria, and there Manasseh 
exercised the priestly functions which had been denied him 
on Mount Zion. Moreover, it is now generally accepted 
that when he left Jerusalem, he took with him a copy of 
the sacred Hebrew Torah or "book of the law" usually 
described in English as the "Pentateuch" (Genesis to 
Deuteronomy) and this became the only sacred Scripture 



22 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

of the Samaritan community, being now commonly known 
as the Samaritan Pentateuch. The Samaritans, then, for 
more than twenty-three hundred years, have accepted only 
these five books, and take no account of the remainder of 
the Hebrew Bible, including the Prophets, Psalms and 
other writings. 

One of the interesting characteristics of this Samaritan 
version is that it retains to this day an early and primitive 
form of Hebrew script which seems to date from the time 
when the original manuscript was first removed from 
Jerusalem by Manasseh— whereas the Hebrew Scriptures 
as preserved by the orthodox Jews are written in the so- 
called "square" or "Assyrian" Hebrew characters which 
are still in use. Tradition has it that this "Assyrian" writ- 
ing was first introduced by Ezra, in the fifth century B.C., 
though there seems no doubt that the change was not 
actually completed until somewhat later. 

At Nablus (the ancient Shechem) in Samaria there is 
a colony of about two hundred Samaritans, who still 
cherish in their synagogue two manuscripts of great an- 
tiquity, written in the archaic Hebrew characters, and each 
comprising the Book of the Law by which their ancestors 
laid such store. The older of the two is enclosed in a case 
of wrought silver and gold, and in the course of a con- 
versation with the present writer, the Samaritan high priest 
claimed that it was no less than 3,579 years old! True, it is 
reputed to bear an inscription to the effect that the scribe 
who wrote this copy completed his task "in the thirteenth 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 23 

year of the settlement of the children of Israel in the land 
of Canaan," but the genuineness of this note is disputed. 
The second manuscript, the one now generally shown to 
visitors, is kept in a silver case and is said to have been 
in existence for some 2,000 years. While one may feel in- 
clined to question the extreme antiquity, and exact dating, 
especially of the earlier of the two manuscripts, the his- 
torical importance of both copies remains unquestioned. 

A study of this Samaritan Version, as it has come down 
to us, makes plain its defects, as well as its virtues. Its 
main significance lies in the fact that it represents an in- 
dependent witness to the text of the Pentateuch as it 
existed at an early period, since we may justly assume that 
the continued and increasing enmity between the Jews and 
the Samaritans (cf. John 4: 9) would prevent any com- 
parison or harmonization of their sacred writings; and it 
is encouraging to find that despite this independent trans- 
mission of the Hebrew and Samaritan "editions" of the 
first five books of our Bible, they remain in substantial 
agreement. 

The chief defect of the Samaritan Version is that in 
places it seems to have been altered in an attempt to 
simplify difficult passages, or even for frankly controversial 
reasons. For example, where our English translation (based 
upon the Hebrew text) records that an altar was to be 
built upon Mount Ebal (Deut. 27: 4), the Samaritan Ver- 
sion substitutes a reference to Mount Gerizim, apparently 



24 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

in an effort to justify the erection of the Samaritan temple 
on that particular site. 

Changes such as these warn us to be on our guard 
against accepting the sole witness of the Samaritan Penta- 
teuch in preference to the Hebrew text; but the Samaritan 
Version is of real importance when it corroborates the sug- 
gestions of other early versions, such as the Greek or 
Syriac, so adding its testimony to the cumulative evidence 
in favor of, or against, the wording of any given passage. 



THE VERSIONS OF AQUILA, SYMMACHUS, 
AND THEODOTION 

Despite the very real importance, and general accept- 
ance of the Septuagint, prepared in Egypt about the third 
century B.C., there were other scholars who, in the succeed- 
ing centuries, undertook the provision of alternative Greek 
renderings of the Hebrew Scriptures. Three of these trans- 
lations are worthy of note, and are associated with the 
names of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion. 

The earliest, and in some respects the most significant 
of these three versions is that of Aquila, who is supposed 
to have written about a.d. 150. The orthodox Jews of his. 
day were decidedly prejudiced against the Septuagint, 
feeling, apparently, that its translators did not abide suk 
ficiently closely by the details and idiom of the Hebrew. 
In seeking to obviate any criticism of this sort, Aquila, 
himself a student of the famous Rabbi Akiba, provided a 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 25 

rendering which is on the whole amazingly literal— so 
much so that it is often conspicuously lacking in literary 
style— and yet this very literalism is of abiding value, since 
it clearly suggests the original Hebrew words which Aquila 
had before him. An interesting tradition informs us that 
in his youth, Aquila had been partly converted to Chris- 
tianity, but on suffering a stern reprimand from the Chris- 
tian authorities because of his persistence in unorthodox 
beliefs, he became an ardent supporter of Judaism, pro- 
ducing his Greek version of the Old Testament with a view 
to upholding Jewish orthodoxy and offsetting the influence 
of the Septuagint which has sometimes been called "the 
Bible of the Early Christians," because of their constant 
references to that translation. Some find evidence of this 
supposed polemical bias in the fact that though the Greek 
Christos ("Christ") is admittedly synonymous with the 
Hebrew Mashiach ("Messiah"), Aquila goes out of his way 
to translate Mashiach by some other Greek word. What- 
ever his purpose may have been, we know that his render- 
ing won great popularity among the Jews. 

What little information has come down to us with re- 
gard to the background of Symmachus is somewhat 
contradictory, for while Eusebius affirms that he was an 
Ebionite ("a kind of semi-Christian"), Epiphanius would 
have us believe that he was a Samaritan who became an 
orthodox Jew— surely an unlikely transformation! In any 
event, he prepared a Greek version of the Old Testament 



26 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

towards the close of the second century a.d. The most 
outstanding characteristic of Symmachus' work is that he 
succeeds in giving a masterly rendering of the Hebrew 
original in good idiomatic Greek— indeed he seems to have 
been equally conversant with both languages. The chief 
defect of his otherwise fine rendering is that in certain sec- 
tions he is apt to paraphrase rather than to translate the 
text before him. 

Theodotion, who hailed from Ephesus, has been vari- 
ously described as an Ebionite and as a proselyte to 
Judaism, and in his approach to the problem of providing 
a translation of the Old Testament, he differed somewhat 
from his predecessors. He adhered much more closely to 
the Septuagint than did either Aquila or Symmachus; and 
he may be said to have provided a comprehensive revision 
of that famous Alexandrian version rather than a new trans- 
lation. 

Each of these three writers, then, played his individual 
part in making known the Jewish Scriptures in the lan- 
guage of the New Testament; and their work is still of 
value to the Biblical scholar— yet, first and last, the Sep- 
tuagint rightfully retains its position as the most outstand- 
ing Greek version of the Old Testament produced in the 
early centuries, or, for that matter, in any age. 



CHAPTER TWO 



The Language 

of the New Testament 



CHAPTER TWO 



THE GREEK OF THE NEW TESTAMENT 

The language of the New Testament long 
constituted a perplexing problem to the Biblical scholar, 
for while the earliest extant manuscripts were undoubtedly 
written in Greek, it was equally obvious that this Greek 
could not be said to conform strictly to classical standards. 
Those who had been trained to study and use the highly 
polished phrases and elaborate construction favored by 
such classic authors as Euripides and Plato were at a loss to 
account for a certain bluntness of expression, a homeliness 
and seeming irregularity of form and of sentence structure 
characteristic of all, or nearly all, of the New Testament 
writers; and, for a time, it became the custom to condemn 
the style, grammar and vocabulary of the apostles and 
evangelists, or, at the best, to make excuses for them. It 
was assumed that "New Testament Greek" constituted a 
strange and indeed a unique dialect, and that its departure 
from the literary models then approved was due either to 
the admittedly humble origin of its writers, or to the fact 
that they were unconsciously influenced by Aramaic, which 

29 



30 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

most of them had known since childhood. Other critics 
went further, bluntly affirming that the language of the 
New Testament was simply "bad Greek." However, of late 
years, and especially during the last few decades, archaeo- 
logical discovery has come forward to play its part in vindi- 
cating the authors of the New Testament. 

About the turn of the century, very ancient papyrus 
manuscripts began to be unearthed in increasing numbers, 
particularly in Egypt, where the dry sand had aided in 
their preservation for almost two thousand years. More- 
over, as the work of deciphering these first, second and 
third century fragments proceeded, it became increasingly 
evident that they were inscribed with the very same kind of 
Greek which is used in the books of the New Testament 
(see pages 36f. ). Then, too, the subject matter of these 
Egyptian manuscripts was of considerable interest, for 
they were not elaborate essays or treatises, but intensely 
human documents, consisting chiefly of personal, social and 
business correspondence of that bygone age. 

Thus it was proved that "New Testament Greek," so far 
from being an isolated phenomenon, as had been supposed, 
was simply the language or dialect almost universally used 
in the early centuries of our era. It was the graphic homelv 
speech of everyday life. It had not, and had never claimed 
to possess, the rigid accuracy beloved of the pedant, but 
exhibited that peculiar vividness which comes from daily 
conversational use. So, when the evangelists and apostles 
recorded for all ages the truths of the Christian revelation, 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 31 

they were not using what had long been regarded as the 
only legitimate language of literature, but were setting 
down the story of the Gospel and of its development in the 
familiar colloquial Greek of the day, known among scholars 
as the Koine (or, more fully, Koine dialektos), that is, the 
dialect "Common" to the people as a whole. The use of 
this type of Greek contributes not a little to the remarkably 
clear and effective presentation of the teachings of Chris- 
tianity. The New Testament in Greek, like our familiar 
Authorized Version, was the book of the people, and an- 
nounced its message of salvation and of healing with 
matchless simplicity and forthright directness, in a tongue 
which all could understand. 



ARAMAIC, JESUS MOTHER TONGUE 

During the centuries immediately preceding the birth 
of Jesus, Hebrew, as a spoken language, gradually fell into 
disuse, being displaced by the more colloquial dialect 
known as Aramaic. Evidence of this gradual change is to 
be found even in the days of Nehemiah, who lived about 
450 B.C., for when the Book of the Law was published, it is 
supposed by scholars that it was first read in Hebrew, but 
that when the readers "gave the sense, and caused [the 
people] to understand the reading" (Neh. 8:8) they were 
translating it into Aramaic for the benefit of those who were 
unfamiliar with the more literary language. In the book of 
Acts ( 1 : 19 ) the typically Aramaic place name "Aceldama" 



32 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

—given to the field purchased by Judas— is said to be in 
the "proper tongue" of "all the dwellers at Jerusalem"; 
and if Jerusalem itself, the very center of Jewish orthodoxy, 
deigned to accept Aramaic thus wholeheartedly, its use 
throughout Palestine may surely be taken for granted. 

Aramaic, then, was the mother tongue of Jesus, and 
the greater part of his teaching was undoubtedly delivered 
in that language, though the fact remains that the Gospels 
as they have come down to us are written in Greek. 
Scholars have long sought a rational explanation of this 
phenomenon. Some contend that these Gospels, whether 
in whole or in part, were originally composed in Aramaic 
and later rendered into Greek; though others, while ad- 
mitting that the Master ordinarily spoke Aramaic, feel that 
his sayings were first recorded in Greek, since that tongue 
was understood by many living in Palestine, while, further 
afield, it was used almost everywhere, and so would form 
the natural medium for the propagation of a universal 
gospel. Jesus himself doubtless used Greek in his occa- 
sional interviews with Gentiles (e.g., Mark 7: 26; John 
12: 20ff. ) but there seems no doubt that Aramaic remained 
his basic mode of expression. 

Fragments of the original Aramaic employed by the 
Master are still to be found in the Gospels, and these brief 
records of the very words of the great Teacher are of not a 
little significance, since it would seem that in each instance 
they are incorporated in the Gospel story at a particularly 
dramatic moment, or as expressing some especially deep 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 33 

emotion. When Jesus raised Jairus' daughter from the dead 
he cried: Talitha cumi! ("Little girl, arise!": cf. Mark 
5:41); while after sighing deeply on being confronted 
with one who was deaf and had an impediment in his 
speech, the Saviour of men cured him with a word,— 
Ephphatha! ("Be opened!": cf. Mark 7: 34). 

It is but natural that one of Jesus' last sentences on the 
cross should also have been recorded in his native Aramaic: 
Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?— words which have usually 
been taken as a quotation from Psalm 22: 1, and have been 
rendered: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" 
(Mark 15: 34). However, Galilean Aramaic differed 
slightly from that employed in Jerusalem (cf. Matt. 
26: 73), and since some of the bystanders understood Eloi 
as meaning "Elias" instead of "My God" (Mark 15: 35) it 
may very well be that they also failed to grasp the signifi- 
cance of the words which followed. A contemporary 
Aramaic scholar, George M. Lamsa, suggests the following 
interesting rendering for the phrase under discussion, "My 
God, My God, for this I was kept,"— in other words— "This 
was my destiny" ( My Neighbor Jesus, page 136 ) ; as though 
the Master were pointing out that in some respects the 
crucifixion constituted the crowning event of his career, 
being the inevitable prelude to the resurrection and subse- 
quent ascension. 



34 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

THE ARAMAIC LOGIA OF MATTHEW 

The early Christian writer Papias, who lived during the 
second century a.d., is quoted by Eusebius as asserting 
that: "Matthew . . . wrote the Logia in the Hebrew dialect" 
—that is, in Aramaic— "but each one interpreted [or 'trans- 
lated'] them as he was able" (cf. Eusebius: Ecclesiastical 
History, III, 39 ) . Now the word logia means literally "or- 
acles" or "sayings," but is constantly employed in a more 
restricted sense with special reference to the sayings of 
Christ Jesus. It was long supposed that Matthew's "Logia" 
was simply another name for the canonical Gospel which 
bears his name, and which, on this hypothesis, was first 
written in Aramaic and afterwards translated into Greek. 
More recent researches, however, have led a majority of 
scholars to the conclusion that Matthew's Gospel was not 
translated from an Aramaic original, but was "quite clearly 
a Greek composition," as Dr. McNeile expresses it; and the 
consensus of opinion now is that the Logia mentioned 
in Eusebius' volume formed a document dealing briefly 
with the Master's activities and discourses— prepared by 
Matthew in the colloquial Aramaic ordinarily used by 
Jesus and his disciples— and that after a time it appeared 
in various Greek versions or translations, as Eusebius 
suggests. 

It is considered one of the chief sources which were 
employed by Matthew himself, and also by Luke, when 
they composed their Gospels; indeed the collection is often 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 35 

briefly designated as "Q" (the initial letter of the German 
word Quelle or "source" ) , thus suggesting its basic impor- 
tance. 

That it antedated all four of our canonical Gospels is 
now generally conceded, but in fixing the actual time of 
its composition there is less unanimity of opinion. In any 
case it seems to have been contemporary with the earlier 
epistles of Paul. 

There is now general agreement among scholars that the 
Gospel of Mark, besides being the shortest of the four 
narratives of Jesus' ministry, was also the first to be written, 
and that Matthew and Luke, writing some years later, 
employed two main sources: namely, Mark's Gospel— 
which is incorporated almost entirely by both these evan- 
gelists—and the Logia, which may be said to consist es- 
sentially of those Gospel passages which are common to 
both Matthew and Luke, but are not found in Mark. 

The nature and extent of such parallel passages can 
readily be seen by consulting any "Harmony of the Gos- 
pels," in which identical or closely similar paragraphs are 
printed in parallel columns. As far as can be ascertained, 
"Q" was far from being a formal document; it was a note- 
book rather than a biography, being very loosely put to- 
gether, with little attempt at presenting a definite sequence 
of statements or events. Thus, while Matthew usually 
groups these in accord with subject matter, Luke tends to 
place them in chronological order. Despite the fact that 
our direct knowledge of Matthew's notebook is all too 



36 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

scanty, this in no way detracts from its vital importance, 
for it is justly considered as having formed one of the 
primary sources of our canonical Gospels. 



THE TRANSLATORS DEBT TO THE PAPYRI 

An examination of the text of the New Testament shows 
plainly that it contains many words which are entirely 
unknown in what is commonly called "classical" Greek. For 
many centuries, the translations offered for such terms were 
mainly conjectural, owing to the fact that scholars had not 
been able to discover manuscripts composed in the more 
colloquial Greek used by the New Testament writers- 
manuscripts which could provide illuminating parallels to 
the unfamiliar words and idioms which perplexed the 
translators of the Bible. Even as late as 1863, this con- 
stituted a very real problem, for in that year Bishop Light- 
foot, one of the most noted Biblical scholars of his day, is 
reported to have said to his class at Cambridge University: 
"If we could only recover letters that ordinary people wrote 
to each other without any thought of being literary, we 
should have the greatest possible help for the understand- 
ing of the language of the New Testament generally." Since 
these words were spoken, the hope which they express has 
been fulfilled. 

Since the closing years of the nineteenth century in- 
numerable papyrus fragments have been brought to light, 
mainly in Egypt, and it is evident that as a rule their preser- 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 37 

vation has been due to accident rather than to design, for 
many of them were unearthed in the rubbish heaps of 
ruined cities. They lay no claim to be "literature" in the 
usual sense of that word, for most of them are brief per- 
sonal and business notes or letters; nevertheless they are 
of vital interest to the student of the Bible. Not only do they 
present a vivid picture of the lives and problems of men, 
many of whom were contemporaries of Jesus and his 
apostles, but they provide the translator with a means of 
discovering the usage and idiom of words and phrases 
which hitherto had been known only from the New Testa- 
ment—just as Dr. Lightfoot had foreseen. 

The practical use of these papyri in clarifying Biblical 
passages can best be suggested by the examination of a few 
concrete examples. 

In the midst of a passage expressing gratitude for the 
constant financial support supplied by the Philippians, 
Paul writes: "I have all, and abound" (Phil. 4: 18— Author- 
ized Version); but the statement is even more definite 
when we learn from the papyri that in the apostle's day the 
verb rendered "have" was used idiomatically in the sense 
of "to sign a receipt for." Hence Dr. MiUigan translates: 
"I give you a receipt in full for all things, and abound" 
( Here and There Among the Papyri, page 69 ) . 

The same apostle tells us that Abraham's faith "was im- 
puted to him for righteousness" (Rom. 4: 22); but how 
much more vivid the meaning becomes when we realize 
that in the papyri the verb translated "impute" meant 



38 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

simply "to put down to one's account"! The patriarch's 
faith, then, was "credited to his account as righteousness." 

Then when Peter is supposed to speak of "the trial 
[dokimion] of your faith" as "much more precious than of 
gold...." (I Pet. 1:7), the papyri suggest rather "the 
genuineness of your faith," since in them the word doki- 
mion refers to the result of any test, rather than to the test 
itself. 

One of the most striking examples of the help afforded 
to the translator by these early fragments of papyrus is to 
be found in I Peter 2: 2, where our Authorized Version 
has the peculiar phrase, "the sincere milk of the word"; 
and the Revised Version suggests, "milk which is without 
guile." Now each of these renderings represents an attempt 
to translate the Greek word adolos, which is apparently 
compounded of a- ( "not" or "without" ) and dolos ( which 
usually means "guile"), although it is surely evident that 
the apostle did not intend to refer to "guileless milk"! An 
examination of the business letters found among the papyri 
provides the solution of this problem, since they show that 
the farmers and merchants of the first and second centuries 
of our era regularly employed the term adolos in a special 
sense, as describing grain which was "unadulterated"— 
free from sticks, chaff and other foreign matter— or with 
reference to foodstuffs which were "pure." Thus it seems 
clear that Peter was using an idiom well known to his con- 
temporaries, and was simply referring to "the pure milk of 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 39 

the word," or, as the Revised Standard Version has it, "the 
pure spiritual milk." 

Still another passage which has been clarified by refer- 
ence to the papyri is to be found in Romans 15: 28, where 
Paul is writing of the collection which has been made 
among the Gentile churches for the benefit of "the poor 
saints which are at Jerusalem" (verse 26), and he writes 
to the Romans (according to the rendering of the King 
James Version ) : "When ... I have . . . sealed to them this 
fruit, I will come by you into Spain." There was consider- 
able doubt as to the exact significance of the verb "sealed" 
as used in this context, until a clue was provided in a letter 
composed in the second century a.d. by a woman who 
wrote to a friend, evidently regarding seed for her garden: 
"If you come, take out six artabae of vegetable-seed, seal- 
ing it in the sacks ... in order that they may be ready" 
(Milligan, Here and There Among the Papyri, page 73). 
Thus it would appear that Paul was about to seal up the 
gift entrusted to his care, that it might be ready to be 
delivered intact to the church at Jerusalem. 

In First Corinthians 1: 7f. we read that "our Lord Jesus 
Christ . . . shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may 
be blameless"; but the word rendered "confirm" is used in 
many papyrus documents in a technical sense to imply the 
giving of security guaranteed by law. (Cf. Deissmann, 
Bible Studies, pages 104ff.) So Dr. Moffatt suggests: "He 
will guarantee that you are vindicated." 

Thus it is evident that the papyri, long hidden in the dry 



40 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

sands of Egypt, have already proved of great value both to 
translators and readers of the New Testament, as they seek 
to grasp the original sense of these and many other pas- 
sages, and it is probable that as our knowledge of such 
papyrus documents increases, they will continue to throw 
light upon the meaning of the apostolic writings. 



} CHAPTER THREE 

The Manuscripts 

of the New Testament 



CHAPTER THREE 



THE FORM AND WRITING OF THE EARLY 
NEW TESTAMENT MANUSCRIPTS 

While we do not now possess any of the 
original autograph manuscripts penned by the evangelists 
and the apostles, or recorded for them by their secretaries 
(cf. Rom. 16: 22; I Pet. 5: 12), there is every reason to 
suppose that these precious documents were sheets or rolls 
of papyrus, closely resembling in form the earliest copies 
now extant. This "papyrus" ( a term which in the course of 
time was modified to form our English word "paper" ) was 
formed by preparing long ribbon-like strips cut from the 
pith of the papyrus reed which grew in profusion by the 
banks of the Nile, and placing these strips vertically side 
by side, covering them with a similar arrangement of 
horizontal strips— the two layers being held in place by 
means of a light glue mixed with water from the Nile. The 
whole was then placed under pressure and dried, and when 
its surface had been smoothed and polished, the resultant 
sheet formed a very serviceable writing material. 

The manufacture of papyrus was very far from being a 

43 



44 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

new art even in the days of the apostles, for there is still in 
existence a papyrus document which is considered by ex- 
perts to date from at least 3,500 b.c. Under favorable cir- 
cumstances, then, papyrus was exceedingly durable, but 
the vital interest of the Gospels, the Epistles, and other 
books which ultimately went to make up what we know as 
the New Testament, led them to be so eagerly read that it 
is supposed that the earliest manuscripts simply wore out 
through constant handling, being replaced by carefully 
transcribed copies. 

The pens employed in writing these ancient documents 
were fashioned from reeds, while the ink commonly used 
was formed of a mixture of soot and gum diluted with 
water. Primitive though this type of ink may appear, it 
says much for its permanence that letters dating from the 
New Testament period or earlier, and since unearthed in 
Egypt, can still be read with little difficulty. 

We learn from early records that papyrus was ordinarily 
sold in sheets measuring from 9 to 11 inches in height, and 
from 5 to 5/2 inches in width, and for such a brief note as 
the Second Epistle of John, a single sheet would doubtless 
be sufficient. In the case of a more lengthy letter, such as 
the Epistle to the Romans, the writer would naturally 
follow the custom of his day by purchasing a number of 
sheets, glued together side by side so as to form a long 
strip which could be rolled up for the sake of convenience. 
Scholars have calculated that the Epistle to the Romans, 
if inscribed with Greek writing of average size, would re- 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 45 

quire the use of a papyrus roll eleven feet, six inches, in 
length, while the Gospel of Luke would extend to some- 
thing like thirty-one feet (see Kenyon's Handbook to the 
Textual Criticism of the New Testament, page 30 ) . 

It is evident that such lengthy rolls of papyrus would 
not be altogether convenient, especially when one wished 
to find any particular passage, so eventually they gave 
place to papyrus or parchment books, consisting of leaves 
laid one upon another and bound together after the style 
of a modern volume. A manuscript book of this type is 
usually described as a codex, and the most famous and 
complete of the Greek manuscripts which we now possess 
are of this form, including the Sinaitic, Vatican, Alexan- 
drian and Bezan codices and others, on which our present 
knowledge of the text of the New Testament is chiefly 
based. 



THE SINAITIC MANUSCRIPT 

Of all the famous Greek manuscripts of the Bible, the 
Sinaitic Manuscript— or Codex Sinaiticus, as it is called 
by scholars— has probably the most romantic history, be- 
sides being in the front rank in historical importance. In 
the year 1844, a renowned Biblical scholar named Teschen- 
dorf, while visiting the Monastery of St. Catherine on 
Mount Sinai, happened to notice a basket filled with old 
sheets of vellum which were being used from time to time 
to feed the fire, and on closer examination he found to his 



46 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

amazement that the basket contained more than a hundred 
leaves from a very ancient Greek Bible, later called the 
Codex Sinaiticus. Some of these leaves he was allowed to 
retain, being cheerfully informed that many similar pages 
had already been burned, but he could then learn no news 
concerning the fate of the remainder of the manuscript, 
and it was not until fifteen years later, in 1859, during a 
further visit to the monastery, that he was unexpectedly 
shown the rest of the book which he found to contain the 
complete New Testament in addition to much of the Old 
Testament and of the Apocrypha. His joy at the fulfillment 
of his hopes may readily be imagined, especially in view of 
the fact that in recalling the scene, he wrote: "I knew that 
I held in my hand one of the most precious Biblical treas- 
ures in existence." After much negotiation, the monks 
agreed to present the manuscript to the then Czar of Rus- 
sia, and it remained in the great library at Leningrad until 
the close of 1933, when it was purchased by the British 
nation from the Soviet government, and may now be seen 
in the British Museum in London. 

So much, then, for the vicissitudes of the manuscript 
during the past century. With regard to its original prepa- 
ration, there remains some degree of uncertainty, but the 
general consensus of opinion among scholars is that it dates 
from the fourth century a.d. Now early records show that 
about the year a.d. 331 Constantine, the first Christian em- 
peror, wrote to Eusebius the historian, then Bishop of 
Caesarea in Palestine, asking that he arrange for the prepa- 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 47 

ration of fifty manuscript copies of the Holy Scriptures in 
Greek, to be inscribed "on prepared parchment in a legible 
manner ... by professional transcribers thoroughly prac- 
ticed in their art" ( Eusebius, Life of Constantine, IV, 36 ) . 
These Bibles were to be based upon the evidence of still 
earlier manuscripts preserved at Caesarea, which possessed 
one of the most famous and comprehensive Biblical li- 
braries then in existence. Without describing in detail the 
reasons adduced by scholars, it may be noted that many 
of them hold that two of Constantine's fifty Bibles are still 
in existence— namely the Sinaitic Manuscript now under 
consideration and the Vatican Manuscript which will be 
discussed in the next section. 

Important though the Sinaitic Manuscript now is as a 
historical document, its interest to the student of the text 
of the New Testament is perhaps even more vital. It is true 
that we possess fragmentary New Testament manuscripts 
which appear to date from as far back as the beginning of 
the second century, but the Codex Sinaiticus is the earliest 
manuscript now extant providing us with the complete 
New Testament— the book of Revelation and parts of the 
Epistles being now lacking from its sister manuscript, the 
Codex Vaticanus. 



THE VATICAN MANUSCRIPT 

As we have already seen, it would appear that the Vati- 
can Manuscript ( or Codex Vaticanus ) was, like the Codex 



48 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

Sinaiticus, prepared about the middle of the fourth century 
a.d., probably at the instance of the Emperor Constantine, 
who, on his conversion to the Christian Faith, was eager to 
spread the message of the Bible among his subjects. It is, 
however, of interest to note that Westcott and Hort, and 
other scholars, are inclined to consider the Vatican Codex 
as the more important of the two, contending that it repre- 
sents "more than any other the original text of the New 
Testament." 

The Codex Vaticanus, as its name implies, is preserved 
in the archives of the Vatican at Rome, and we know it to 
have been there before the year 1475, the date of the first 
official catalogue of the papal library. At that time, how- 
ever, few scholars knew of its existence, and none realized 
its vital importance. It was still at Rome when our Author- 
ized Version of the Bible was prepared in England, but 
unfortunately the King James translators did not have 
access to this priceless Biblical treasure. Two centuries 
later, in the year 1809, the manuscript appeared in Paris, 
having apparently been carried off from Italy with other 
precious records, as the spoils of war, during one of Napo- 
leon's campaigns. During its sojourn in Paris it was ex- 
amined by a professor from Tubingen, who seems to have 
been the first to recognize its early date, and to realize 
something of its real importance. Eventually it was re- 
turned to the Vatican library, where for many years 
scholars were not permitted to give it the minute and ac- 
curate consideration it deserved, and it was not until almost 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 49 

the close of the nineteenth century that a photographic 
edition of the text made it available for study throughout 
the world. 

An examination of these photostatic copies shows that 
the manuscript was written in Greek capital letters, with 
three columns to a page, and it is interesting to find that 
punctuation in the modern sense is practically nonexistent, 
while, as a rule, there is no division between the words and 
seldom between the sentences. The verse divisions, so 
familiar to us from our modern Bibles, were not introduced 
until some twelve centuries after the preparation of this 
manuscript. 

Originally, the Vatican Codex contained the whole Bible 
in Greek, but much of the Old Testament is now wanting, 
as is a portion of the New— namely the Pastoral Epistles of 
Paul, the book of Revelation, and the latter part of the 
Epistle to the Hebrews. Nevertheless, the value of the 
Vatican Manuscript can scarcely be overestimated, for not 
only does it bring us back to the middle of the fourth cen- 
tury a.d., but it is regarded, like the Codex Sinaiticus, as 
having been based, in turn, upon the best second century 
manuscripts then available. 

Among the many interesting readings preserved for us 
by this early document is one which would seem to stress 
the importance of the active participation of the Master's 
followers in the wonderful works which he accomplished. 
When he was about to cure the man who had been born 
blind, he said, according to the Vatican Manuscript: "We 



50 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

[not "I"] must work the works of him that sent me" (John 
9:4). 

THE ALEXANDRIAN MANUSCRIPT 

While the Sinaitic and Vatican codices already discussed 
are generally regarded as being both the earliest and the 
most valuable of the New Testament manuscripts which 
have been preserved to this day practically in their en- 
tirety, the Codex Alexandrinus comes next in order of 
importance. Like the other two it was originally a manu- 
script of the whole Bible, written in Greek, and though the 
Old Testament portion is still almost complete, certain 
sections of the New Testament have unfortunately been 
lost, including the greater part of the Gospel of Matthew, 
two leaves from that of John, and three from Second 
Corinthians. One of the unique characteristics of this codex 
is that after the book of Revelation we find the First Epistle 
of one Clement of Rome, a fact which reminds us that this 
letter was highly esteemed by the early church and came 
near to being accounted among the canonical, or sacred, 
Scriptures of the New Testament. This same manuscript 
also contains fragments of a Second Epistle of Clement, 
which is, however, considered of lesser importance. An- 
other point of interest is that the order of the books in the 
Codex Alexandrinus varies somewhat from that to which 
we are accustomed, in that the epistles of Paul immediately 
precede the book of Revelation, instead of following the 
book of Acts. 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 51 

The facts concerning the origin and early history of this 
famous manuscript are decidedly obscure. In the year 
1628, one Cyril Lucar, patriarch of Constantinople (now 
Istanbul), presented the codex to Charles I of Britain, 
and shortly after the foundation of the library of the British 
Museum in 1753, it was placed there for safekeeping, and 
now rests beside the Codex Sinaiticus in the manuscript 
room. As Cyril had formerly been patriarch of Alexandria 
in Egypt, there is good reason to suppose that it was there 
that he became possessor of this ancient codex, and for 
this reason it is called the Alexandrian Manuscript— its 
brief designation, for purposes of reference, being the 
letter "A." On the flyleaf of the book, Cyril himself re- 
corded the tradition then current concerning its prepara- 
tion, to the effect that it was "written by the hand of 
Thecla, an Egyptian woman of noble birth . . . shortly after 
the council of Nicaga" (which took place in a.d. 325). It 
is true that a further note, penned in Arabic some three 
or four centuries before Cyril's time, similarly ascribes the 
preparation of the manuscript to "Thecla the martyr," but 
it is now the considered judgment of scholars that it must 
have been prepared about the middle of the fifth century 
a.d., rather than early in the fourth, as suggested by the 
patriarch. 

A further interesting point concerning the Codex Alex- 
andrinus is that it was the first of the great Greek Biblical 
manuscripts to receive any real study and recognition, for 
it will be recalled that though the Codex Vaticanus had 



52 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

lain in the archives of the Vatican since before 1475, it was 
not until the early nineteenth century that its vital impor- 
tance began to be recognized, while the discovery of the 
Codex Sinaiticus came several decades later still. Had the 
Alexandrian Manuscript reached England some twenty 
years sooner than it actually did, it would doubtless have 
been made available to the scholars who prepared our 
Authorized Version, yet, even without its aid, they suc- 
ceeded in giving to the world that inimitable rendering 
which we know so well. 



THE CODICES OF EPHRAEM AND OF BEZA 

The Codex of Ephraem, often designated by the letter 
"C," now rests in the National Library at Paris, though it 
may have come originally from Egypt. It is what is called 
a palimpsest— a word which by its derivation implies that 
which has been "wiped [or rubbed-out] again." The justice 
of this description becomes readily apparent when we con- 
sider the vicissitudes through which this codex, like other 
early writings, has passed. In the Middle Ages, vellum or 
parchment was somewhat costly, and it was not unusual for 
an impecunious writer to wash off or otherwise delete, as 
far as possible, the writing of an ancient manuscript, after- 
wards proceeding to use the parchment a second time. 
This is the fate which befell the Codex of Ephraem, which 
once contained the whole Bible. It is thought to have been 
prepared originally in the fifth century a. d., and we still 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 53 

find in it traces of every New Testament book with the 
exception of II John and II Thessalonians; though, in the 
nature of the case, it is not surprising that its script is 
now only faintly discernible, for in the twelfth century, the 
treatises of one Ephraem the Syrian ( after whom the codex 
is named ) were written over what remained of the original 
text, and often obliterated it entirely. 

Unlike the Sinaitic, Vatican and Alexandrian Manu- 
scripts, which preserve the New Testament complete, or 
almost complete, the Bezan Codex, which is marked for 
reference by the letter "D," now contains only the Gospels 
and the book of Acts, together with a few verses from 
III John. It is named after one of the sixteenth-century 
reformers, Theodore de Beze (or Beza), who in 1581 pre- 
sented it to the University of Cambridge where it still is. 
He stated that he had found it in a monastery at Lyons 
in France, and though its earlier history is veiled in obscu- 
rity, it is now generally supposed to date from the sixth 
century a. d., thus forming a decidedly early witness to 
the text of the New Testament. In it the Gospels are not 
set down in the order familiar to us, for Matthew and 
John appear first, presumably because they were num- 
bered among the twelve apostles, while Luke comes next, 
and Mark last of all. Another unusual characteristic of the 
Bezan Codex is that it is the earliest of the more impor- 
tant Biblical manuscripts to be written in both Greek and 
Latin— the Greek text being inscribed in a single column 



54 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

on each left hand page, with the Latin rendering facing it. 
Then, too, it contains a number of noteworthy variations 
from the other early manuscripts, and indeed it is the only 
codex extant which inserts after Luke 6: 4 the incident of 
a man who was working in his field on the Sabbath day, 
and was addressed by Christ Jesus in the following terms : 
"O man, if thou knowest what thou doest, happy art thou, 
but if thou knowest not, thou art cursed and a transgressor 
of the law." The same manuscript, after relating how "the 
body of Jesus" was placed by Joseph of Arimathaea in the 
tomb which he had provided (Luke 23: 53), adds that 
there was set before the sepulchre a stone so great that 
"twenty men could hardly roll [it]." While there is some 
question as to the authenticity of the variations and addi- 
tions recorded by "D," they at least represent a very early 
tradition, and are thus of deep interest to the student. 



CHAPTER FOUR 

Early Latin 

and Syriac Versions 



CHAPTER FOUR 



THE OLD LATIN VERSION 



As Christianity spread westward from Pal- 
estine and became more and more firmly rooted in the 
farflung dominions of the Roman Empire, it was but nat- 
ural that the need should arise for renderings of the Bible 
in Latin, the official language of that empire, and, as a 
result, there came into existence a number of translations 
of varying significance which are commonly grouped to- 
gether under the general title of the "Old Latin" version. 

Writing of them at considerable length in an article in 
Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible ( Vol. Ill, page 47 ) , Prof. 
H. A. A. Kennedy refers to their "unique value" and their 
"high antiquity," and contends that they are "of primary 
importance for determining the text of the New Testa- 
ment." These words of praise surely justify us in examin- 
ing for a few moments these early Latin renderings, before 
we proceed to consider the more widely known version 
usually described as the "Vulgate." 

In Italy itself, the focal point of the Roman rule, Greek 
and Latin seem to have been equally well known during 

57 



58 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

the early centuries, especially among the upper classes, 
and because of this, there was at first no special demand 
for a Latin translation of the Bible, which was already 
widely circulated in Greek. In North Africa, however, 
where Roman rule had been firmly established since about 
145 b. c— and where there was from early times a large 
and growing Christian population— there was a different 
situation, for there Latin was used almost exclusively. 
Thus there is general agreement among scholars that the 
first Latin renderings of the Scriptures appeared not in 
Asia or in Europe, but in Africa; and it is thought that 
such translations began to appear not later than a. d. 150; 
while the famous Christian writer Cyprian, who lived 
about a. d. 250, seems to quote from a more or less com- 
plete Latin translation of the New Testament which was 
current in Africa in his day. Such representatives of the 
"Old Latin" as are still extant are not composed in par- 
ticularly good or idiomatic Latin; rather they provide 
almost slavishly literal translations of the Greek original. 
But what they lose in literary style is more than offset by 
the fact that the extreme literalness of these renderings 
often enables us to deduce the very words of the early 
Greek manuscripts on which they were based. This is per- 
haps the most outstanding service rendered by the Old 
Latin Version. 

Before long "Old Latin" translations appeared in Eu- 
rope, some of them independently, others being more in 
the nature of adaptations of the African renderings, as 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 59 

shown by the occasional retention of provincial idioms 
typical of the Latin dialect of North Africa. All such 
versions had their place in spreading a knowledge of the 
Scriptures, but it is to Jerome that we owe the production 
of the truly monumental rendering to which we now turn. 



THE VULGATE 

Towards the close of the fourth century, a certain Da- 
masus, then Bishop of Rome, decided that it was of prime 
importance for the spread of Christianity that someone 
should prepare a more standard version of the Bible in 
Latin, which would improve upon, and ultimately super- 
sede, the various "Old Latin" texts, which were clearly 
in need of revision. The man whom Damasus forthwith 
appointed to carry out this important task was his secre- 
tary, Eusebius Hieronymus— popularly known as "Jerome" 
—one who appears to have been well fitted to undertake 
this work, for he had a good Latin style and had studied 
Greek assiduously for many years, while he possessed an 
adequate knowledge of Hebrew. 

The version which Jerome at length gave to the world 
is now known as the Vulgate— a term which derives from 
the Latin vulgata, meaning "common," and which was 
applied to it because it was intended to be, and eventually 
became, the commonly accepted Latin version of the 
Scriptures. 

Jerome's work was not entirely that of a translator. In 



60 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

producing his version of the New Testament, he seems 
simply to have revised, rather cursorily, certain of the 
"Old Latin" texts which were then in use, and it may be 
observed that even this somewhat timid revision aroused 
a storm of criticism among the conservatives of the day. 
As regards the Old Testament, however, his work provides 
much greater evidence of originality. It is true that the 
Psalms as they now appear in the Vulgate represent, like 
the New Testament, a revision rather than a fresh transla- 
tion, but Jerome's rendering of the other books of the 
Old Testament was made direct from the Hebrew itself, 
and consequently is of much wider importance from a 
historical and literary standpoint. 

The Vulgate in its present form also contains the books 
which are known to Protestants as the Apocrypha. This 
term, commonly applied to books of doubtful inspiration 
or authority, is far from being a modern one, for it was 
used by Jerome himself in his original preface to the Vul- 
gate, where he lists the very books now found in the 
Authorized or King James Version of the Old Testament, 
adding that "whatever is beyond these is to be placed 
among the Apocrypha," and that such apocryphal books 
"are not in the Canon." At the insistence of some of his 
friends, however, he finally agreed to revise earlier rend- 
erings of Judith and Tobit, with the result that these 
two books came to be included in his version during his 
lifetime; but the remaining apocryphal books were not 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 61 

inserted until long after his passing, being then taken from 
the Old Latin Version. 

The Vulgate is of great historical importance, because 
for about a thousand years— up to the time of the Refor- 
mation—it was the chief Bible of the Christian world, 
while at the Council of Trent (1545-1563) it was recog- 
nized as the authentic and authorized Bible of the Roman 
Catholic Church. 

In fact, it was the Vulgate which a century earlier 
( about 1450 ) had been presented by John Gutenberg, the 
inventor of printing by movable metal type, as the first 
Bible, and apparently the first complete book, to be printed 
by this now familiar process. 



EARLY SYRIAC VERSIONS 

While the manuscripts of the New Testament, as they 
have come down to us from the early centuries of our era, 
are uniformly written in Greek, the facts that Christ Jesus 
himself knew Aramaic and made a practice of using it in 
his teachings are sufficient to arouse the student's interest 
in the latter language. Indeed there seems to be a grow- 
ing sentiment in favor of the view that the Gospel writings, 
whether in whole or in part, were originally published 
in Aramaic, and some would go still further, assuming, 
though with much less probability, that the whole of the 
New Testament was composed in this dialect, being later 
translated into Greek. However this question may be finally 



62 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

settled, if indeed it can be settled at this late date, it is 
at least evident that the Christians of Syria, and of othei 
neighboring provinces to the east and northeast, would 
prefer to study the New Testament in some form of Ara- 
maic, rather than in the less familiar Greek. Evidently 
with a view to satisfying this need, a Syrian scholar named 
Tatian composed what is called the Diatessaron (literally 
"by four"), which consists of passages from the books 
composed "by" the "four" Gospel writers— this material 
being so grouped as to provide a connected narrative 
of the Master's ministry. This version, dating from the 
second century a. d., was prepared in Syriac ( or "Eastern 
Aramaic") which has been described as "a sister dialect 
of the Aramaic of Galilee, the dialect spoken there by 
our Lord and the twelve" (Jennings, Lexicon to the Syriac 
New Testament, page 5 ) , while the same writer adds that 
"the one differs only slightly from the other." 

While in some respects the most interesting of the earlier 
Syriac versions is this Diatessaron, since it is the earliest 
known harmony of the four Gospels, reference may here 
be made to two ancient Syriac manuscripts which have 
come into prominence during the last hundred years or so. 

One of these was unearthed in the Nitrian Desert in 
Egypt and eventually reached the British Museum in 
London, where it was examined about 1842 by a scholar 
named William Cureton, being thenceforth described as 
the Curetonian Syriac Version. It preserves for us frag- 
ments of a translation of the Gospels, and while the manu- 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 63 

script appears to date from the fifth century of our era, 
there is little doubt that it records a rendering which had 
been made some three centuries earlier, possibly about 
a. d. 150. 

Then, just fifty years after Cureton's discovery, Mrs. 
Agnes Smith Lewis was pursuing some researches in the 
Monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai— the same mon- 
astery in which some decades earlier the great Sinaitic 
Codex of the Old and New Testaments had come to light 
( see pages 45f . ) —and there she found an early Syriac man- 
uscript which has since been known as the Lewis Syriac 
or the Sinaitic Syriac. Like the Codex of Ephraem, it was a 
palimpsest ( see page 52 ) , but the greater part of the par- 
tially obliterated writing could still be deciphered, and it 
was found to be a translation of the Gospels lacking only 
some eight pages of being complete. While the date of the 
manuscript itself is by no means certain, it, too, is thought 
to represent a rendering first made in the second century 
a. d.; indeed some authorities have referred to it as "the 
oldest translation ever made of the Gospels into Syriac" 
( cf . Robinson, Where Did We Get Our Bible? page 98 ) ; 
or even as "the earliest translation of the Four Gospels 
into any language" (Agnes S. Lewis, Old Syriac Gospels, 
page v ) . Among other interesting points it records a varia- 
tion from the familiar rendering of John 8: 57 ("Thou art 
not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?") 
in that it has ". . . hath Abraham seen thee?" 



64 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

THE PESHITTA SYBIAC VERSION 

Despite the undoubted significance and antiquity of 
the early Syriac versions, to some of which reference has 
just been made, by far the best known of the various 
renderings used by the Syrian church in the course of the 
early centuries is referred to as the Peshitta, and it still 
remains the standard Syriac version of the Scriptures. The 
Peshitta was for the Syrian church what the Vulgate was 
for the church of Rome, and like the Vulgate, it was a 
rendering of the whole Bible; indeed the terms "Peshitta" 
and "Vulgate" are virtually synonymous, both implying 
that the version so described was "commonly used and 
accepted" in its own particular field— while "peshitta" could 
also be rendered "simple, easily understood." 

The man who is credited with the preparation of the 
Peshitta is a certain Rabbula, Bishop of Edessa during the 
first half of the fifth century a. d. The version which he 
prepared or sponsored laid no claim to being a completely 
new translation; it was simply a revision of the earlier 
Syriac renderings— a revision made on the basis of the 
Greek manuscripts to which Rabbula and his friends had 
access— but, despite this limitation, it is of very consider- 
able importance because of its wide use among the 
Aramaic-speaking Christians of the East, through many 
centuries. One of its chief peculiarities is that it omits 
both the book of Revelation, and four of the lesser Epistles 
—Second Peter, Second and Third John, and Jude— though 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 65 

we learn from an examination of previous Syriac versions 
that these five books were used by members of the Syrian 
churches. 

Professor Thomas Nichol has referred to the Peshitta 
rendering of the New Testament as "careful, faithful and 
literal" while he joins with other Syriac scholars in bear- 
ing tribute to the "simplicity, directness, and transparency" 
of its style (International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia 
page 2884), and indeed it has earned for itself the proud 
title of "Queen of the Versions" ( ibid. ) . 



CHAPTER FIVE 



The Task 

of the Biblical Translator 



CHAPTER FIVE 



THE TASK OF THE BIBLICAL TRANSLATOR 

No doubt this question has arisen in the mind 
of many a Bible student on noting the varying render- 
ings of the same passage given by different translators: 
On what basis, or by what criterion, does the translator 
evaluate any given passage of Hebrew or Greek, as the 
case may be, before he seeks to express it in his native 
tongue? In short: How does he consider and test the au- 
thenticity of that particular section? This is a fair question, 
and one which may well hold our attention for a few 
moments. 

It is almost a truism that one of the most important 
tasks of the Biblical scholar, and an essential preliminary 
to translation, is to discover, as far as may be, what was 
originally written by such men as Amos or Jeremiah in 
the Old Testament, Matthew or Paul in the New; and 
this particular branch of study is commonly described as 
"Lower" or "Textual" Criticism— the task of reconstructing 
the original text of the Bible— as distinguished from the 
so-called "Higher" Criticism, which seeks to find out why 

69 



70 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

and when and where certain books or passages were com- 
posed. "Criticism" is, of course, used here in its legitimate 
and helpful sense of "careful, considered judgment." 

Now one of the primary steps in seeking to determine 
the authenticity of any passage is, very naturally, to com- 
pare such manuscripts of the original as are now extant; 
and in applying this rule to the Hebrew of the Old Testa- 
ment, we are faced by the rather curious fact, that a large 
majority of the existing manuscripts agree with one an- 
other almost word for word. At first sight this might seem 
to be a great advantage, but on further study of the subject 
it becomes plain that this apparent unanimity is indeed 
only apparent, and that in all probability such manuscripts 
as dared to disagree with the commonly accepted text 
were destroyed at an early period (cf. page 16). This is 
somewhat unfortunate, for there are passages in the "ortho- 
dox" text, as we might describe it, which appear to have 
been incorrectly copied and which might well be corrected 
by comparison with the variant texts, had they been pre- 
served. In these circumstances, the student of the Old 
Testament in the original studies each verse in connection 
with its context, bearing in mind the fact that, as first 
written, the Hebrew script appears to have been set down 
without vowels and generally, without division between 
words and sentences ( see page 13 ) . In fact, the authentic- 
ity of an Old Testament passage is established, not so 
much by the comparison and evaluation of different manu- 
scripts, as by estimating the congruity of such a passage 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 71 

with the apparent style, purpose, and method of the writer 
of the rest of the book. 

Then in view of the surprising uniformity of the avail- 
able Hebrew manuscripts, the witness of the Septuagint 
is called in to dispute or corroborate the findings already 
made. Thus when the Septuagint translation of any verse 
presupposes a Hebrew text identical with that accepted 
by the Jewish scholars, the probability is very strong that 
we have the correct reading; but if the Greek gives one 
meaning and the "Masoretic Text" another, the scholar 
goes back to what were apparently the original consonants 
and seeks to determine how the confusion arose, besides 
considering the witness of other early versions. 

For example: In the Authorized Version rendering of 
Psalm 15: 4, we read: "He that sweareth to his own hurt, 
and changeth not"; but the Septuagint and Syriac Versions 
offer the interesting alternative rendering. ". . . to his 
friend [or neighbor]," bringing out the sense: "He who 
makes a promise 'to his friend' and does not go back on 
it." The variation here is due to the fact that the conso- 
nants found in the original Hebrew ( yirt? ) can be ren- 
dered either "to his hurt" or "to his friend" according to 
the vowels presupposed by the translator. 

The scholar has always to consider the possibility of 
slips in the copying of the original manuscripts due to 
the similarity in sound or in appearance of many of the 
Hebrew letters. For instance: We are accustomed to the 
rendering of Psalm 91: 13: "Thou shalt tread upon the 



72 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

lion' and adder"; but the Greek and Syriac versions suggest 
the reading bnr ( z-ch-l-"asp" ) instead of ^rw (sh-ch-1- 
"lion"), an emendation which may well be correct, and 
which is apparently favored by Dr. Moffatt who suggests 
the rendering "reptiles." 

Students of the various English translations of the Old 
Testament are sometimes disturbed by the divergence be- 
tween them. It is true that in many passages translators 
differ considerably in their concept of the sense, owing 
partly to their doctrinal presuppositions, and largely, as 
we have seen, to the peculiar nature of the Hebrew lan- 
guage and the fact that the books were written upwards 
of two thousand years ago. But may we not rather marvel 
at the remarkable agreement on the main points of the 
religion and history of Israel? The translations offered by 
modern scholars are, surely, to be welcomed, not indeed 
as superseding the pellucid English and majestic cadences 
of the Authorized Version, but rather as supplementing it, 
and casting further light upon the pages of the Old Testa- 
ment, the only "Bible" known to the Founder of Chris- 
tianity. 

Turning to the New Testament and its translation, we 
encounter a problem which differs somewhat from that 
which is presented to students of the Hebrew Bible. There, 
as we have observed, the manuscripts are almost discon- 
certingly similar, but here the translator has to deal with 
a very large number of Greek manuscripts which, while 
agreeing with one another in their main outlines, do show 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 73 

considerable divergence in matters of detail. In this case 
the question at once arises as to the method or methods 
by which the translator is to weigh the evidence for or 
against any particular reading when manuscript opinion, 
if one may call it so, seems to be so divided. 

In ordinary circumstances it is not only inconvenient, 
but virtually impossible, for the student to have before 
him exact copies of all the chief manuscripts which have 
survived to the present day. For this reason, certain edi- 
tions of the Greek text are now published with footnotes 
in which each leading manuscript is represented by a letter 
or symbol, preceded by the reading found in that manu- 
script or group of manuscripts. As has already been sug- 
gested, the earliest more or less complete manuscripts of 
the New Testament which we now possess are the Codex 
Sinaiticus which is known by the symbol K ("Aleph"— 
the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet), and the Codex 
Vaticanus ("B"), both of which appear to date from the 
middle of the fourth century of our era. Then follow the 
Alexandrian manuscript ("A"), the Codex of Ephraem 
("C"), and the Bezan manuscript ("D"), dating evidently 
from the fifth or sixth century a. d. (see Chapter III). It 
often happens that two or more of these important codices 
will agree in giving a certain reading, while the majority 
of the later manuscripts reject it. In such a case, scholars 
generally consider that the early witness of these few out- 
standing codices outweighs the evidence of the majority. 

An example of the application of this rule may be drawn 



74 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

from Revelation 22: 14, where we read, in the words of 
the Authorized Version, "Blessed are they 'that do his 
commandments' " (Greek: poiountes tas entolas autou) 
which is the text favored by most of the later manuscripts. 
However, we find that here the Sinaitic and Alexandrian 
codices and a few other authorities have ". . . they 'that 
wash their robes'" (Greek: plunontes tas stolas auton), 
a reading which is followed by the Revised Standard 
Version and the Twentieth Century New Testament, as 
well as by other modern translators such as Dr. Weymouth 
(fifth edition), and Professors Goodspeed and Moffatt. 
Incidentally, it is readily apparent that it would be quite 
easy for a scribe to confuse plunontes tas stolas auton with 
the similar appearing poiountes tas entolas autou. 

Another criterion used by translators is that if there is 
a choice between two readings, one of which is apparently 
simple and obvious and the other not so immediately easy 
to understand, the harder reading is usually to be pre- 
ferred, since, if the scribe were making any change in his 
copying, his tendency would surely be towards attempted 
simplification of the passage, rather than vice versa. The 
words just cited from Revelation 22: 14 again provide a 
case in point, since the reference to the blessedness of 
them "that wash their robes" may at first seem strange— 
though, as a matter of fact, Revelation 7: 14ff. appears to 
explain this figure of speech. 

What are known as the "Ancient Versions" ( see Chapter 
IV)— which include early translations of the New Testa- 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 75 

ment into Latin, Syriac, Ethiopic, Armenian and other 
languages— are often of service in any attempt to recon- 
struct the original text, for one can generally deduce from 
them the Greek words from which the early translator 
made his rendering, and thus gain that much more evi- 
dence for or against the reading which we have assumed 
to be correct from our comparison of the manuscripts. 

Then, too, further evidence is to be found in the Biblical 
quotations made by early Christian writers, such as Igna- 
tius and Clement of Alexandria in the second century a. d., 
and Origen and Cyprian in the third— writers who pre- 
sumably had access to very early Greek manuscripts and 
whose statements are therefore worthy of careful con- 
sideration. 

It is by the use of methods such as these that the con- 
scientious translator and student of the original languages 
of our Bible considers and tests the authenticity of the 
various passages, in an effort to determine as nearly as 
possible the actual words and phrases set down by the 
Biblical writers many centuries before our time. 

It should be borne in mind that it is only within the 
past century that some of the earliest and most important 
of the existing Biblical manuscripts— notably the Sinaitic 
and Vatican codices— have become readily available to 
scholars, who weigh with the greatest care the new evi- 
dence thus presented. In short, it seems that modern re- 
search in the fields of Biblical language and archaeology, 
and in kindred subjects, has done much to bridge the gap 



76 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

of the almost two thousand years which separate us from 
the original documents penned by the disciples of the 
Master, and the still greater period of time which has 
elapsed since the preparation of the books of the Old 
Testament. It also seems that we are now in an increas- 
ingly favorable position to reconstruct the original text of 
the Bible and to render it accurately and idiomatically into 
the language of today. 






CHAPTER SIX 

Early Versions 
in English 



CHAPTER SIX 



THE EARLIEST ENGLISH VERSIONS 

The first, and for long the only version of the 
Bible known in England was the Latin Vulgate, and con- 
sequently knowledge of the Scriptures made little or no 
headway among the common folk. Yet as early as the close 
of the seventh century a. d. some portions of the Bible 
began to appear in the vernacular. One of the earliest of 
those who contributed to this development was Caedmon, 
a cowherd who lived near the famed Abbey of Whitby, in 
Yorkshire. Despite his humble birth and seeming lack of 
culture, he longed to express himself in verse, and the story 
goes that in a vision he heard a divine voice which bade 
him sing "the beginning of created things." Thus inspired, 
he sang the story of creation, following this with songs 
recounting many of the chief narratives of the Old and 
New Testaments. While Caedmon's rendering was a free 
paraphrase rather than a translation, it none the less 
prepared the way for the Bible in the common tongue. 

Then, one Aldhelm, a contemporary of Caedmon, is 
credited with a translation of the Psalms— but the most 

79 



80 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

outstanding translator in this early period was the Vener- 
able Bede, a monk who lived at the Northumbrian mon- 
astery of Jarrow-on-Tyne. Unlike Caedmon, Bede was a 
famous scholar and his Ecclesiastical History is still a 
classic, while Bible commentaries, books on astronomy, 
rhetoric and other subjects, came from the pen of this 
prolific writer. But to the student of the English Bible, 
his last work forms his most memorable accomplishment, 
for shortly before his passing he decided to leave the 
Gospel of John in early English as a legacy to his students. 
It seemed for a time as though he would not be able to 
complete the final chapter, but eventually the young scribe 
to whom he was dictating was able to report, "It is 
finished." "Thou hast spoken truly, It is finished,' " replied 
the aged monk, echoing a phrase which he had but re- 
cently translated (John 19: 30), and, indeed, these proved 
to be his last words. 

About a century later, another outstanding champion of 
the Bible in the language of the people appeared in the 
person of King Alfred the Great, who is said to have de- 
creed that "all the freeborn youth of his kingdom should 
employ themselves on nothing till they could first read 
well the English Scripture." It is typical of Alfred's interest 
in the Bible that he prefaces the laws of his kingdom with 
the Ten Commandments which he himself rendered into 
Anglo-Saxon, while it is recorded that towards the close 
of his reign he commenced a translation of the book of 
Psalms. 






OUR AGELESS BIBLE 81 

The tenth century witnessed the work of Aldred, who 
prepared what are called the Lindisfarne Gospels, so 
named from a small island off the east coast of England 
where they are said to have been translated; and of Abbot 
Aelfric, who not only encouraged his clergy to "tell the 
people the sense of the Gospel in English," but himself 
translated a considerable portion of the Old Testament. 
Then the thirteenth-century Ormulum (a metrical para- 
phrase of the Gospels and of the book of Acts), and 
the Psalter attributed to Richard Rolle, "the Hermit of 
Hampole" in the early fourteenth century, also prepared 
for the monumental work of Wycliffe, Tyndale and others. 
Thus, in those early days, king and cowherd, abbot and 
lonely hermit, all aided in transmitting the priceless 
heritage of Holy Writ. 



JOHN WYCLIFFE AND HIS BIBLE 

John Wycliffe was born near Richmond in Yorkshire 
about the year 1324, and proceeded from there to Oxford 
where he received his education, becoming in due course 
Master of Balliol College. It was not long, however, before 
he resigned from this position and turned his attention 
more particularly to writing and preaching. Appalled by 
the abuses with which he came in contact in the pre- 
Reformation church and feeling that these abuses were 
largely the result of a misinterpretation of the Bible, 
Wycliffe decided that one of the most effective ways of 



82 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

putting a stop to what was going on was for him to make 
it possible for the people as a whole to read the Scriptures 
in their native English, and to judge for themselves as to 
their meaning. It is true that before this time, as noted 
above (see pages 79ff.), there had been various partial at- 
tempts to fill this need, but Wycliffe deserves all due 
credit as being the first man to provide a complete render- 
ing in the English language of both the Old and the New 
Testaments. The translator began his work with the book 
of Revelation, later turning his attention to the Gospels, 
and eventually, by about the year 1380, he had completed 
his rendering of the New Testament. It is now generally 
conceded, however, that the Old Testament, which was 
soon added, was not altogether the work of Wycliffe him- 
self, but rather of one of his friends, a certain Nicholas de 
Hereford, though as Nicholas was exiled by his ecclesi- 
astical opponents before he had finished the task he had 
set himself, Wycliffe completed it, thereafter arranging 
for the publication of the whole volume. 

Despite the significant position which it rightly holds 
in the history of the English Bible, it should be remem- 
bered that this Wycliffite translation was not made direct 
from the original Hebrew or Greek manuscripts, but was 
simply a rendering of the Latin Vulgate, and so was in 
reality no more than a translation of a translation. More- 
over, in a number of instances, Wycliffe's renderings of 
the Latin were so exactly literal that the sense of the 
passage in English was obscured. Thus it came about that 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 83 

some two years after Wycliffe's passing, a certain John 
Purvey undertook to revise the translation, noting in his 
preface that it was his purpose to make each "sentence 
as trewe and open in English as it is in Latyn." In spite 
of Purvey's modest description of himself as "a symple 
creature" his revision was both skillful and scholarly, and 
as a result what is sometimes called the Wycliffe-Purvey 
Version attained considerable fame and as wide a circula- 
tion as was practicable— bearing in mind the fact that it 
was perforce published in manuscript form since the art 
of printing was at that time unknown. 

Not a few of the phrases introduced for the first time 
in the Wycliffe-Purvey Bible are still found in our Au- 
thorized and Revised Versions— for instance: "Enter thou 
into the joy of thy lord" (Matt. 25: 21) and "The strait 
gate" (Matt. 7: 13). In the nature of the case, it is not 
to be wondered at that Wycliffe's rendering had its limita- 
tions, yet Dr. Robinson contends that "as a whole" it "did 
more than any other one thing to create and unify the 
English language" ( Where Did We Get Our Bible?, page 
130). 

WILLIAM TYNDALE AND HIS BIBLE 

William Tyndale was born in Gloucestershire towards 
the close of the fifteenth century, and entering Oxford 
University at an early age, he became an apt student of 
languages, and especially of the Scriptures. On graduating 



84 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

from Oxford, he proceeded to Cambridge, where he con- 
tinued his studies in Latin, Hebrew and Greek, which 
were later to prove of such inestimable value in his chosen 
career, and where he seems to have made the acquaint- 
ance of Erasmus, one of the most famous Greek scholars 
of the day and an instructor at Cambridge at this period. 
The deep appreciation shown by the youthful Tyndale 
for Erasmus' noteworthy edition of the Greek New Testa- 
ment, which had but recently been published, soon gave 
place to a deeper interest in the book itself and an earnest 
desire to provide its truths in a form which could be read 
not only by scholars like himself and his friend, but by 
any of his fellow countrymen. There was a further con- 
sideration which urged Tyndale on to the work of Biblical 
translation. His contact with many of the clergy of the 
day had convinced him of their abysmal ignorance of the 
Bible, and in the midst of a discussion with one of them, 
we find him making this memorable prediction: "If God 
spare my life, ere many years, I will cause a boy that 
driveth the plough to know more of the Scriptures than 
thou dost!" This was more than a mere idle boast, for be- 
fore long Tyndale was to dedicate his life to its fulfillment. 
In seeking a patron who would lend him support in 
the prosecution of this noble enterprise, he turned hope- 
fully to Cuthbert Tunstall, then Bishop of London, but 
he met with scant encouragement in that quarter, being 
given to understand that there was "no rowme in the 
Bishops house for hym to translate the New Testament" 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 85 

(Foxe, Acts and Monuments . . . , 1583). Convinced by 
this rebuff that he could expect little aid from the clergy of 
the day, he appealed to one Humphrey Munmouth, a 
London merchant and alderman, who readily provided 
not only encouragement, but also the necessary funds for 
the commencement of his task. Thus it appears to have 
been while he was lodging at Munmouth's home that 
Tyndale began his translation of the New Testament. 

Before many months had passed, however, the active 
and growing opposition of his enemies convinced Tyndale 
that he could not find within the borders of his native 
England the retirement necessary if he were to bring his 
great work to a successful conclusion. So it came about that 
in the year 1524 we find him a voluntary exile at Hamburg. 
There his translation proceeded apace, and the following 
year he appeared at Cologne, studying the proof-sheets of 
his rendering of the New Testament, which he had now 
completed. Success had almost crowned his efforts; but his 
foes had gained word of his plans and were on the point of 
destroying his precious documents when he fled with them 
to Worms, where, early in 1526, he published the first 
complete New Testament to be printed in English. 

In view of the intolerant attitude of the leaders of the 
English church at this time, we cannot wonder that this 
translation was banned in England, yet it found its way 
there copy by copy, carefully concealed from prying eyes 
in bales of cloth, cases of merchandise, and even in sacks 
of flour; and before long it was being eagerly read— some 



86 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

actively defending it, others violently denouncing it as a 
heretical rendering. By order of the ecclesiastical authori- 
ties, many copies were seized and destroyed, but still the 
book continued to come in from the continent. The tide 
of enlightenment could not be held back, and slowly but 
steadily Tyndale's work gained a sure place in the homes 
and in the hearts of the people of England. 

Though Tyndale had already accomplished much, he 
still longed to translate the Old Testament from its original 
Hebrew, and he succeeded in pubhshing his rendering of 
the Pentateuch ( Genesis to Deuteronomy ) and of the book 
of Jonah, and in bringing out a revised edition of these and 
of the New Testament before the spring of 1535. Then it 
was that his foes, stung by his success and their failure, re- 
sorted to a treacherous scheme by which he was enticed 
from the town in which he had taken refuge, and in May 
of that year he found himself a prisoner in the castle of 
Vilvorde near Brussels. There for sixteen long months he 
endured the utmost privation; but his spirit remained 
strong within him, for he went quietly on with his work and 
succeeded in translating the books from Joshua to Second 
Chronicles. 

At length, on October 6th, 1536, he paid for his convic- 
tions the stern penalty of martyrdom. Yet his last words 
were not those of terror, nor of recrimination— rather they 
were in effect a prayer for the fulfillment of that great work 
which lay so close to his heart: "Lord, open the king of 
England's eyes!"— a prayer, moreover, which was answered 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 87 

the following year in the royal acceptance of the Coverdale 
and Matthew Bibles ( see pages 88-90, 93f . ) which owed 
so much to the labors of Tyndale. 

While he was not the first to see the need of a Bible in 
English, nor the first to set about filling that need, it is 
scarcely possible to exaggerate the importance of William 
Tyndale's work. As we have seen (page 82), Wycliffe's 
pioneer rendering, being based on the Latin Vulgate, was 
a "translation of a translation"; but Tyndale was the first to 
translate into English the whole of the New Testament and 
a considerable portion of the Old direct from the Greek 
and Hebrew originals, while his scholarship and fine sense 
of English style provided a standard for later revisers and 
translators. None will question his steadfastness of purpose 
and his devotion to duty in the face of all but insuperable 
obstacles, while it is equally evident that it was his earnest 
and sincere desire to make the Bible the book of the people. 
This desire began to bear fruit even during his own life- 
time, while ever since his day the work of Bible translation 
and distribution has gone steadily forward. Moreover, it 
may justly be affirmed that we owe much of the literary 
charm of our familiar Authorized Version to the fine work 
of William Tyndale, who has been well named "the apostle 
of England," and also "the true father of our present 
English Bible." 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 



COVERDALES BIBLE 



It was during Tyndale's lifetime that Miles Coverdale 
undertook to bring to completion the task of translation 
which his great precursor had been unable to finish. Of 
Coverdale's background we possess little knowledge be- 
yond the fact that he was definitely in sympathy with the 
reform movement, so much so, indeed, that like Tyndale 
himself he was forced to spend a considerable part of his 
life in exile on the continent of Europe. On the fourth of 
October, 1535, almost exactly a year before Tyndale's 
martyrdom, Coverdale published in Zurich ( or possibly, in 
Antwerp) a small folio volume, measuring 11% by 8 inches, 
which is of special interest and importance, for it was the 
first printed edition of the complete Bible in English ever 
to be issued. In the preparation of this version, Coverdale 
followed rather closely that portion of the Scriptures which 
had already appeared in print under Tyndale's name, but 
he did not apparently have access to the translation of the 
books from Joshua to Second Chronicles made by Tyndale 
during his imprisonment; thus for that part of the Old 
Testament from Joshua to Malachi ( excepting the proph- 
ecy of Jonah ) , Coverdale had perforce to provide his own 
translation. 

Now, unlike Tyndale, Coverdale possessed little, if any, 
acquaintance with Hebrew, or even with Greek, and he 
tells us frankly that in preparing his rendering, he made 
free use of certain "Latyn" and "Douche" (i.e. German) 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 89 

versions; while in his dedication to the complete Bible he 
writes that he has "with a clear conscience purely and 
faithfully translated the whole" with the aid of "five 
sundry interpreters." These "interpreters" he does not 
specify by name, but they are generally supposed to in- 
clude the Latin Vulgate, a Latin Version by one Pagninus, 
Luther's famous German rendering, and the "Zurich Bible" 
prepared by the noted reformer Zwingli— in addition, of 
course, to Tyndale's work. 

From Coverdale's preface to his version, we gather that 
he lacked in some degree that burning desire to translate 
the Scriptures which was so characteristic of his immediate 
predecessor Tyndale, and when at length he yielded to the 
insistence of his friends, we find him modestly affirming 
that "though I could not do so well as I would, I thought 
it yet my duty to do my best and that with a good will." 
Having thus, somewhat diffidently, undertaken this im- 
portant task, Coverdale performed it with considerable 
success. What was lacking in his knowledge of Hebrew and 
Greek was compensated for in no small degree by the gift 
of an excellent English style, which may be said to have 
in some cases combined beauty with a certain piquant 
quaintness of expression; and rightful praise has been ac- 
corded to his "instinct of discrimination which is scarcely 
less precious than originality" (Westcott, History of the 
English Bible, page 165 ) . Those who prepared our Author- 
ized Version wisely chose again and again the apt and 
melodious renderings of Coverdale, and the familiar, "Seek 



90 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while 
he is near" (Isa. 55: 6) is one of many verses taken almost 
word for word from his translation, which also appears to 
have suggested the rendering: "My flesh and my heart 
faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion 
forever" (Ps. 73: 26). 

So far from being banned by Church and State as was 
Tyndale's version, at least one edition (1537) of Cover- 
dale's Bible bore on its title page the words "sett forth with 
the Kynges most gracious license." 



CHAPTER SEVEN 



From Coverdale to the 
King James Version 



CHAPTER SEVEN 



MATTHEWS BIBLE AND THE GBEAT BIBLE 

After the martyrdom of Tyndale, a certain 
John Rogers fell heir to his manuscript translation of the 
books from Joshua to Second Chronicles, and it was he 
who published what is known as "Matthew's Bible." The 
identity of the "Thomas Matthew" whose name appears on 
the title page has not been determined with certainty. 
Some consider that "Thomas Matthew" was simply a 
pseudonym for John Rogers, who hesitated to court the 
fate which had befallen his friend Tyndale by openly asso- 
ciating himself with a translation of the Bible; but it seems 
more probable that it was the name of some wealthy patron 
who financed the undertaking. As a translation, Matthew's 
Bible can lay little claim to originality, as it closely followed 
Tyndale's rendering of the New Testament— and of such 
parts of the Old as he had been enabled to complete 
(Genesis to Second Chronicles and the book of Jonah); 
while the remainder of the Old Testament was virtually 
reprinted from Coverdale's edition. The special interest 
of Matthew's Bible lies in the fact that it is reputed to be 

93 



94 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

the first English version authorized by the Crown, having, 
it would seem, appeared a few weeks before the 1537 edi- 
tion of Coverdale's Bible, which was similarly honored. 
While taking steps to procure this authorization from 
Henry VIII, and pleading for the official circulation of the 
volume, Archbishop Cranmer affirmed, with quaint exag- 
geration, that in his opinion no better translation would be 
forthcoming "till a day after Doomsday!" So at the instance 
of Cranmer, and of that influential statesman Thomas 
Cromwell, King Henry gave his approval to a Bible, some 
two-thirds of which represented the work of William Tyn- 
dale, in whose martyrdom as a heretic he had concurred 
only a few months previously. Matthew's Bible was also 
noteworthy for its presentation in a combined form of the 
work of both Tyndale and Coverdale, but it was little more 
than a transitional version, and two years later, in April 
1539, it was followed by the "Great Bible" which soon 
superseded it. 

True, the immediate reason for this title is to be sought 
in the size of the book, for it formed an unusually large 
folio volume, but this in no way minimizes the real impor- 
tance of the work itself, for by King Henry's express com- 
mand a copy of "the whole Bible, in the largest volume, in 
Englyshe" was to be placed for public consultation in each 
of the parish churches of his realm. Though the decree 
was not universally observed, still the Great Bible was 
widely studied, not only by the clergy, but also by the laity, 
for "everybody that could bought the book, or busily read 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 95 

it, or got others to read it to them" ( Strype, Life of Cran- 
mer). In its essence, the Great Bible was a revision of 
Matthew's Bible— a revision which had been entrusted to 
that same Miles Coverdale who had already performed 
yeoman service in the field of Biblical translation (see 
pages 88-90) and who now examined and corrected the 
"Matthew" renderings on the basis of the Vulgate and 
other Latin translations, comparing them with the Hebrew 
and Greek texts wherever possible. Both Matthew's Bible 
and the Great Bible stand in the direct line of descent 
which came through the Wycliffe, Tyndale and Coverdale 
translations, and led ultimately to our Authorized, and 
Revised Standard Versions; indeed, to this very day, the 
Psalter, as found in the Book of Common Prayer used by 
the Church of England, conforms to the rendering of the 
Great Bible, in preference to that of the familiar King 
James Version. 

TAVERNER'S BIBLE AND THE "BREECHES BIBLE* 

Despite the importance of Coverdale's and Matthew's 
Bibles, and other early sixteenth century renderings of the 
Scriptures into English, it soon became evident that they 
were capable of improvement, and among those who 
undertook this task was one Richard Taverner. His chief 
qualifications for the work seem to have been that he pos- 
sessed a due sense of the importance of his undertaking 
and that he was a deep student of Greek, though his knowl- 



96 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

edge of Hebrew was somewhat scanty. It has been said of 
Taverner's rendering that his "scholarship appears on every 
page in many minute touches," but, on the whole, his 
revision which appeared in the year 1539 is of secondary 
importance, though providing another stage in the devel- 
opment of our English Bible. 

Of far wider interest, and of more outstanding merit, 
is the famous Genevan Version, commonly known as the 
"Breeches Bible" from its quaint statement in Genesis 3: 7 
that Adam and Eve "sewed figge tree leaves together and 
made themselves brechis" (A. V.: "aprons"). During the 
reign of Queen Mary I of England, who was strongly op- 
posed to the progress of the Reformation in her realm, 
many of the reformers were driven into exile and settled 
at Geneva, where, under the energetic leadership of John 
Knox, they were free to develop their doctrines and to 
practice their principles. Another of the group was a cer- 
tain William Whittingham who had married John Calvin's 
sister, and who succeeded Knox as pastor of the British 
congregation in Geneva. Whittingham had long been in- 
terested in Biblical translation, and in the year 1557 he 
published a scholarly rendering of the New Testament— 
a rendering which formed the nucleus of the Genevan 
Version and which is also noteworthy for the fact that for 
the first time in an English Testament there were not onlv 
chapter divisions but also numbered verses, while words 
inserted in English to complete the sense of the original 
Greek appeared in italics as they later did in the King James 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 97 

Version. In 1560 there appeared the complete Genevan, 
or "Breeches," Bible, which continued the task of New 
Testament revision which Whittingham had taken up, be- 
sides providing a new edition of the Old Testament, 
including, among other happy renderings, the familiar 
words: "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy 
youth" (Eccles. 12: 1). 

The "Breeches Bible" is supposed to have resulted from 
the combined labors of several of the Genevan exiles, but 
while Knox, Calvin, Miles Coverdale and others may well 
have had a part in it, there seems little doubt that the 
guiding spirit of the enterprise was Whittingham himself, 
ably assisted by two brother Englishmen: Thomas Samp- 
son of Chichester, and Anthony Gilby of Cambridge. This 
Genevan Version represented an attempt not only to pub- 
lish a new and better rendering of the Bible, but also to 
provide a volume more portable and less expensive than 
the often ponderous translations which had preceded it. 
The success of this endeavor may partly be judged from 
the fact that the "Breeches Bible" appears to have passed 
through no less than one hundred and sixty editions. It 
was well received in England, especially among the com- 
mon folk, while its actual or reputed connection with John 
Knox aided in assuring its widespread and immediate ac- 
ceptance in Scotland. Its style was both clear and effective, 
and since its translators provided an idiomatic but re- 
markably literal rendering of the Scriptures, exhibiting a 
higher degree of accuracy than a majority of the versions 



98 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

which we have thus far examined, there was ample justifi- 
cation for the success with which it was attended. 



THE BISHOPS BIBLE 
AND THE RHEIMS-DOUAI VERSION 

The widespread popularity attained by the Genevan 
Version, or "Breeches Bible," was a cause of deep satisfac- 
tion to the followers of John Knox, and to many of the more 
liberal-minded members of the Church of England. On the 
other hand, there was a considerable group of Anglicans 
who, while admitting that the Genevan Version was more 
accurate than the Great Bible, looked askance at it as too 
Calvinistic in tone. Thus it came about that at the instance 
of Archbishop Parker of Canterbury, arrangements were 
made to revise the Great Bible with a view to providing 
an accurate and up-to-date, while strictly orthodox, trans- 
lation, which it was hoped would supersede, or at any 
rate rival, the version prepared at Geneva. The committee 
appointed by the Archbishop for this purpose in 1563 
consisted of nine men, all of whom were Bishops, and it is 
because of this fact that the revision which they carried 
out and which was published five years later, in 1568, came 
to be popularly described as the "Bishops' Bible." The re- 
sult of their labors was not altogether satisfactory, for it 
appears that each of the nine men worked independently 
of the others upon the section of the Bible which had been 
allotted to him, and since little attention was paid to the 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 99 

careful editing of the volume as a whole, it lacked cohesion 
and unity of style. One rather quaint characteristic of the 
book is the insertion of somewhat incongruous illustrations, 
including an engraving of Lord Leicester in full armor, 
which precedes the book of Joshua, and another of Cecil, 
Lord Burleigh, in front of the book of Psalms. A further 
edition of the Bishops' Bible appeared in 1572, and in it 
the rendering of the New Testament shows a marked im- 
provement in scholarship, being at the same time less de- 
pendent on the various translations which had preceded it. 
This edition seems to have first suggested certain familiar 
phrases which were later perpetuated in the Authorized 
Version, such as: "Less than the least of all saints" (Ephes. 
3: 8) and "the middle wall of partition" (Ephes. 2: 14). 

Now there were others besides Archbishop Parker who 
viewed with no little alarm the steady progress of the 
Calvinistic Genevan Version, and among these was one 
William Allen, an Oxford scholar who, on being exiled 
from his native England, had settled in France. With the 
cooperation of his friend Gregory Martin, who, like him- 
self, had studied at Oxford, he produced a new rendering 
of the whole Bible into English, which is commonly known 
as the Rheims-Douai Version, because, while the New 
Testament was first printed at Rheims in 1582, the publica- 
tion of the Old Testament was delayed through lack of 
funds and was eventually issued at Douai in 1609-10. 

Probably the chief defect of this version is that it is a 
rendering based on the Latin Vulgate rather than on the 



100 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

original Hebrew and Greek texts, and in many instances 
this strong Latin influence led the translators to select the 
English words because they were either identical with or 
closely similar to Latin terms, often used with little con- 
sideration of English usage and idiom. Thus, in John 10: 11, 
Christ Jesus is referred to as "the good Pastor" (Latin— 
pastor) instead of "the good shepherd"; while such a 
word as superaedificati is rendered "superedified" instead 
of simply "built up" (Col. 2: 7). On the other hand, this 
version helped to introduce such now famous Biblical or 
religious terms as "advent," "grace," and "evangelize". Both 
its merits and demerits are nowhere better summarized 
than in the searching judgment of Dr. Moulton to the effect 
that: "There is no other English version of the Scriptures 
that will prove more instructive to the student, who will 
take the pains to separate what is good and useful from 
what is ill-advised and wrong." ( Quoted in Edgar's Bibles 
of England, page 277. ) 



CHAPTER EIGHT 



The Authorized 

or King James Version 



CHAPTER EIGHT 



KING JAMES AND THE AUTHORIZED VERSION 

Since the Bible so widely used in homes and 
churches to this day is often called the "King James Ver- 
sion," it is of interest to discover the exact nature of the 
relation between that monarch and the translation associ- 
ated with his name. Of course, King James was not himself 
the translator of this version; that task, as will afterwards 
appear, having been assigned to a large committee of 
scholars. Nevertheless a fact which is seldom realized is 
that not only was James I an ardent student of the Scrip- 
tures, but he had also once produced a paraphrase of the 
book of Revelation, besides translating certain sections of 
the Psalter. Thus he was one who might well have been 
expected to favor the great enterprise which culminated 
in the publication of the Authorized Version. This render- 
ing, however, as Dr. Hoare points out, "had its origin in 
something very like an accident" ( Evolution of the English 
Bible, page 241 ) . In January, 1604, less than a year after 
his accession, James called a large conference to meet 
with him at Hampton Court, not, it may be observed, for 

103 



104 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

the purpose of launching, or even discussing, any new 
translation of the Bible, but simply to consider what is 
known as the "Millenary Petition"— a document presented 
by the Puritan party within the Church of England, which 
requested certain changes in the Prayer Book and pleaded 
for a higher standard of education among the clergy of 
the day. As the conference proceeded, it became increas- 
ingly apparent to the Puritans that scant attention was 
being paid to their plans for the revision of the Prayer 
Book, and, as a last resort, they affirmed that the Bible 
translation on which it was based was most unsatisfactory. 
As the Preface to the Authorized Version puts it : "When by 
force of reason they [the Puritans] were put from all other 
grounds, they had recourse at the last, to this shift, that 
they could not with good conscience subscribe to the 
Communion booke [i.e. the Prayer Book], since it main- 
tained the Bible as it was there translated, which was as 
they said, a most corrupted translation." The seed so lightly 
sown immediately took root in the king's thought. Affirm- 
ing that he had "never yet seen a Bible well translated into 
English," he forthwith expressed his desire that steps 
should be taken for the production of a new translation or 
revision, which was to be prepared by the most learned 
academic scholars of the day and revised by the leaders of 
the church. James also felt that it should later be presented 
to the Privy Council and eventually ratified by himself. 
Thus it was that King James definitely suggested the prepa- 
ration of the version so often associated with his name, and 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 105 

it was not long before this great enterprise was fully under- 
way. 

The resultant rendering, which appeared in 1611, is 
widely known as the "Authorized Version," a title which 
appears to be based upon the words of its title page to 
the effect that it was "Appointed to be read in Churches." 
The source of this "appointment," however, remains some- 
what of a mystery, for, strangely enough, scholars agree in 
affirming that there is no direct evidence to show that it 
was ever formally and publicly "Authorized," whether by 
the king or by the Privy Council, by Parliament, or by 
Convocation. This, however, in no way detracts from the 
value of this epochal rendering, for it may justly be said to 
have derived its authority from its inherent excellence. 

THE SOURCES OF THE AUTHORIZED VERSION 

In view of the widespread and well-deserved popularity 
of the Authorized or King James Version of the Bible, it is 
but natural that one should inquire as to the background of 
this rendering, and, in particular, as to the nature of the 
sources and authorities which were studied or appealed to 
by those who prepared it. 

Now, while we are accustomed to think and to speak of 
it as a "translation," it might more properly be described 
as a "revision." It is, in point of fact, the most generally 
accepted of a long series of such revisions. In the interest- 
ing Preface to their rendering, the revisers themselves stress 



106 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

this point: "We never thought from the beginning," they 
wrote, "that we should need to make a new Translation, 
nor yet to make of a bad one a good one . . . but to make a 
good one better, or out of many good ones, one principal 
good one . . . that hath been our endeavour." It was then 
in this spirit that they approached their task, carefully 
consulting and constantly retaining the renderings sug- 
gested by those great men who had preceded them. The 
first article of a code of rules which was drawn up for their 
guidance on entering upon this monumental work stated 
that the immediate basis of the revision was to be the so- 
called Bishops' Bible which, it will be recalled, had been 
first published in 1568, some thirty-six years before the 
King James revisers commenced their undertaking (see 
page 98). Then, too, they referred to the Genevan Ver- 
sion, the Great Bible, and Matthew's Bible, while the work 
of such outstanding early translators as Wycliffe, Tyndale 
and Coverdale was also given most careful consideration. 
Moreover the revisers themselves inform us that in addition 
they examined and compared versions and even commen- 
taries in other languages than English, including "Chaldee, 
Hebrew, Syrian, Greek . . . Latin . . . Spanish, French, Ital- 
ian or Dutch." 

As might be expected, their work was by no means con- 
fined to the consideration of versions and translations, for 
they went back to and carefully studied such manuscripts 
and printed texts of the Hebrew and Greek originals as 
they were able to obtain. "If you ask what they had before 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 107 

them, truly it was the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, 
the Greek of the New" (Preface to the Authorized Ver- 
sion). When, however, we inquire more specifically as to 
the nature or age of the manuscripts which they had at 
their disposal, we find that what are today regarded as the 
most ancient and important codices— particularly of the 
New Testament— were not then available. For example— 
as suggested in Chapter III— the fourth century Sinaitic 
Manuscript was not discovered until as late as 1859; the 
equally early Vatican Codex, though it had been lying in 
the papal archives at Rome since the end of the fifteenth 
century, was not really available to scholars until 1809 or 
later; while the fifth century Alexandrian Manuscript 
reached England some years after the completion and pub- 
lication of the Authorized Version. In short, those who 
prepared this version had in the main to confine their at- 
tention to manuscripts and texts of a later date. Yet, despite 
this seeming handicap, the committee appointed by King 
James succeeded in producing a rendering which is on the 
whole remarkably up to date, even when considered in the 
light of the many important discoveries of the almost three 
hundred and fifty years which have passed since its publi- 
cation, and it is still beloved by millions of readers. 



THE TRANSLATORS OF THE AUTHORIZED VERSION 

From the title page of the Authorized Version we learn 
that it contains "The Old and New Testaments Translated 



108 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

out of the Original Tongues: and with the former Transla- 
tions diligently compared and revised," but we are not 
there informed as to who was, or were, entrusted with this 
important task. However, on consulting contemporary rec- 
ords, as well as the lengthy and informative preface to 
the version— which now, unfortunately, is all too seldom 
read— we find that the work of translation or revision was 
placed in the hands not of any one individual, but of a 
large committee of competent scholars, apparently after 
consultation with the university authorities at Oxford and 
Cambridge. One fact which augured well for the success of 
the enterprise was that no pains were spared to make the 
group a thoroughly representative one. Sound scholarship, 
rather than membership in any special group or religious 
denomination, was the dominant factor in the selection of 
the men who undertook this important duty. Thus, on ex- 
amining the roster of those who were named by King 
James, we find Anglicans and Puritans, clergy and laymen, 
theologians and classical scholars, who seem to have 
worked together with a remarkable degree of harmony 
and unanimity. It is recorded, moreover, that those who 
were appointed were scholars of proved ability, men who 
"came, or were thought to come . . . learned, not to learn" 
( Preface to the Authorized Version ) . 

Strangely enough, there is still some uncertainty as to the 
exact number of men who carried out the work. While the 
king wrote in a letter to Bishop Bancroft that he had ap- 
pointed "certain learned men, to the number of four and 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 109 

fifty, for the translating of the Bible," for some unexplained 
reason only forty-seven names appear on the lists which 
have come down to us. The translators were divided into 
six companies or groups, two of which met at Oxford, two 
at Cambridge, and two at Westminster. To each group was 
assigned one particular portion of the Bible. For example: 
At Oxford the Old Testament group undertook to translate 
the books from Isaiah to Malachi; while the New Testament 
section there was entrusted with the rendering of the 
four Gospels, as well as the book of Acts and the book of 
Revelation. Then, within each group, the procedure was 
for "every particular man ... to take the same chapter or 
chapters; and having translated or amended them severally 
by himself ... all to meet together, confer what they have 
done, and agree for their parts what shall stand." As soon 
as a book was completed in this manner, a copy of the re- 
vision was to be sent to each of the remaining five groups 
for their consideration, and any suggestions which they 
might offer were submitted to the group which had carried 
out the revision. The decision of any disputed point and the 
final editing of the whole work were placed in the hands 
of a committee of six, consisting of one leading member 
from each of the six companies. 

From even this brief consideration of the procedure 
followed in the preparation of the King James Version, it 
will be evident how much time and care were expended 
on the rendering, in an effort to make it endure— as it has 
already endured— for centuries. 



110 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

THE TRIUMPH OF THE AUTHORIZED VERSION 

To this day, almost three and a half centuries after the 
year when the Authorized Version first appeared, its 
prestige remains as firm as ever. True, there are more recent 
fine versions— to be discussed later— which embody the 
results of modern scholarship and research and are phrased 
in more modern English, but still the rendering brought 
out by the King James translators continues to be read in 
countless Protestant homes and churches. In view of this 
situation, it is natural that one should consider some of 
the reasons for this great and deserved popularity. 

Without doubt one of the outstanding merits of the 
rendering is the purity of its English style, which perpetu- 
ates the highest qualities of the Golden Age of English 
literature, without stooping to the discursive pedantry or 
the florid phrases characteristic of some of the Eliza- 
bethan and Jacobean authors. "We need waste no words 
in praise of the Authorized Version," writes Dr. Hoare; "it 
is universally accepted as a literary masterpiece, as the 
noblest and most beautiful book in the world" ( Evolution 
of the English Bible, page 241 ) . "In point of sheer literary 
excellence," writes the same authority, "it is indeed hardly 
conceivable that the Bible of 1611 will ever be surpassed" 
( Ibid, page 257 ) . The influence of its style has been as far- 
reaching as it has been potent; and quotations and turns of 
expression from the Authorized Version are constantly to 
be found in our contemporary literature. The very fact that 






OUR AGELESS BIBLE 111 

those who prepared this version made it plain that the work 
was by no means completely new provides another reason 
for its success. Despite the fact that they themselves were 
scholars of high standing, they did not fail to examine the 
renderings provided by those who had gone before, and 
they constantly adopted such renderings. Thus the re- 
sultant version may fairly be said to retain the best quali- 
ties of the many translations which preceded it and which 
went far towards making it possible, while at the same 
time it provides many new and excellent renderings sug- 
gested by those who prepared it. 

Earlier Bible translations were almost invariably the 
result of individual effort, put forth by such men as 
Wycliffe, Tyndale, Coverdale and others, and while such 
effort along this, as along any line of endeavor, is of high 
importance, it is also true that much can be gained through 
the wholehearted cooperation and discussion of carefully 
selected scholars such as those who were responsible for 
the King James Version. Such cooperation makes for stabil- 
ity, which is surely evidenced in the case of this translation 
by its unique position after centuries of use. 

Then, too, there were additional factors which favored 
the translators of the Authorized Version, and which went 
far towards ensuring the permanence of their undertaking. 
Other translators had been forced to toil in secret, en- 
countering opposition on every side, but those responsible 
for the King James Version carried on their work with the 
support and under the authority of both Church and State. 



112 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

No fear of persecution hindered the orderly development of 
their important task. Theirs was a national undertaking, 
and as such it received national support— the more so, no 
doubt, because, as one writer has expressed it, "the main 
interest of King James's age was . . . predominantly theo- 
logical." 

Thus the peculiar circumstances of the background of 
this famous version, and of its preparation, united in assur- 
ing both its importance and its ready acceptance, while it 
has been well said that "it lives on the ear like a music that 
can never be forgotten, like the sound of church bells." 



CHAPTER NINE 

The Revised Version 
and Other 
Modern Renderings 
Prior to 1940 



CHAPTER NINE 



THE REVISED VERSION 



Despite the unique importance and wide- 
spread popularity of the Authorized Version, there gradu- 
ally arose a cry for its revision, and in considering the 
reasons for this cry, it may be recalled that the King James 
translation itself was not strictly speaking a new rendering, 
but rather the best of a long series of revisions. Those 
who prepared it did not profess to have ended forever this 
task of revision, for in their preface they modestly affirm, 
"We have at the length . . . brought the work to that pass 
that you see." 

Those who were eventually appointed to undertake 
such a further revision were deeply sensible on their part 
of the merits of the King James rendering, for they express 
their admiration for "its simplicity, its dignity, its power, 
its happy turns of expression, its general accuracy . . . the 
music of its cadences, and the felicities of its rhythm" 
(Preface to the Revised Version of the New Testament). 
Nevertheless, it is true that since 1611 there have been 
changes and development in the English language. Many 

115 



116 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

words which were then readily understandable are now 
archaic or even obsolete. Then, too, in the past three cen- 
turies many important manuscripts have been discovered 
and there has been a more specialized study of the gram- 
mar, syntax and idiom of the Bible languages. 

Such reasons as these prompted the decision made by 
an assembled group of leaders of the Church of England, 
in the year 1870, to the effect that a committee of its own 
members should be appointed to undertake the work of 
revision in collaboration with other scholars whom they 
might select without consideration of nationality or of 
creed. No fewer than ninety-nine outstanding men of 
letters, of whom thirty-four were Americans, took part in 
this revision; while of the sixty-five British members, forty- 
one belonged to the Church of England, the remainder be- 
ing from other denominations. Thus while the Authorized 
Version was in effect a National Bible, the Revised Version 
was International in its scope. 

The rules adopted to guide the preparation of this re- 
vision called for a minimum of change in the Authorized 
Version, consistent with faithfulness to the original. The 
general style of its language was to be retained. There was 
to be a preliminary revision of each portion of the Bible, 
followed by a second and final one at which suggested 
changes must receive the affirmative vote of two-thirds of 
the members present. Much time and care were expended 
on the work, the revision of the New Testament continuing 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 117 

for some ten and a half years, and that of the Old for no less 
than fifteen. 

High hopes were entertained for the wide acceptance 
of the rendering, but in the three-quarters of a century 
since its appearance, it has not attained to the popularity 
anticipated by those who arranged for its preparation. It 
is said to contain in the New Testament alone some 36,000 
changes from the text of the Authorized Version, many of 
which "have done much to elucidate the Scriptures to 
English readers" as Edgar expresses it ( Bibles of England, 
page 383); but it has also been observed that there are not 
a few of these changes which appear to be trivial or even 
arbitrary rather than essential. "Time has shown," com- 
ments Dr. Robinson, when discussing this Revised Version, 
"that its improved grammatical accuracy is not a sufficient 
compensation for the music of the old cadences, which in 
so many cases has been sacrificed for some trifling point in 
syntax!" (Where Did We Get Our Bible? page 175). 

THE AMERICAN STANDARD VERSION 

While the Revised Version of the Bible was prepared by 
a large group of thoroughly competent scholars, their in- 
sight and scholarship were often obscured or limited by a 
policy of conservatism, partly self-imposed by the group 
and partly required by the Anglican Council which spon- 
sored the rendering. Laudable though such caution was, 
up to a point, as obviating any extreme or unwarranted 



118 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

changes, it meant on the other hand that certain changes, 
however justifiable, could not be made simply because of 
their novelty. As the work of revision proceeded, this fact 
became increasingly apparent to the American members 
of the committee who constituted about one-third of the 
whole; and it was eventually agreed that the renderings 
which they preferred, but which did not receive the two- 
thirds vote necessary to assure their adoption, should be 
placed in an appendix. 

It had been agreed that for fourteen years the American 
group should not publish or sponsor any revision other 
than that finally brought out in 1885, but in the year 1899, 
when the agreement came to an end, the American group, 
which had not disbanded, but had been continuing with 
the labor of study and of revision during the intervening 
period, decided to publish an edition of the Revised Ver- 
sion in which they incorporated in the text their sugges- 
tions as appended to the English Revised Version— sug- 
gestions which had received favorable comment and often 
ready acceptance in both Great Britain and America. They 
also made further often valuable changes as a result of 
their long study of the subject. This translation, commonly 
called the American Standard Version or the American Re- 
vised Version, appeared in 1901, and its reception was 
more encouraging than that accorded to the Revised Ver- 
sion in its original form, for it may be said to have carried 
on and brought to completion the translation begun under 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 119 

the sponsorship of the Church of England in 1870, while 
at the same time correcting it in a number of instances. 

It is instructive to note a few of the changes introduced 
in this edition. For instance, it uniformly substitutes the 
name "Holy Spirit" for "Holy Ghost," thus providing not 
only a strictly literal translation, but also obviating any 
possible misconception of the word "ghost," which in 
modern times has come to mean "specter"; while such a 
passage as Isaiah 11: 5 becomes more readily understand- 
able when we find in the American Revision, "faithfulness 
the girdle of his 'loins'" (instead of the ambiguous and 
archaic term "reins"). Then the opening words of Paul's 
speech at Athens provide an example of an individual 
New Testament passage in which the meaning of the orig- 
inal is clarified in the American Standard Version. Accord- 
ing to the Authorized and English Revised renderings, the 
apostle commenced his address in a manner which would 
be apt to antagonize those whom he wished to attract, 
describing them as "too superstitious" or "very super- 
stitious," whereas the usage of the Greek word bears out 
the natural assumption that Paul would begin by praising 
the merits rather than by condemning the errors of the 
earlier belief. Thus, according to the American Standard 
Version, the apostle commended his audience as being 
"very religious," bearing in mind the numbers of altars, 
temples and statues which he had seen near by (Acts 
17:22f.). 

All in all, the American Standard Version is well deserv- 



120 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

ing of praise, for, while retaining the good points of the 
Revised Version, it includes a number of distinct improve- 
ments and is generally conceded to be more accurate, 
more idiomatic, and more up to date than the English 
edition of the Revised Bible. 



OTHER MODERN VERSIONS PRIOR TO 1940 

As distinct from the Revised Version and the American 
Standard Version of the Bible, which are admittedly revi- 
sions of the familiar Authorized Version, there have since 
appeared other translations whose background is some- 
what different. Those who prepared them make no par- 
ticular effort to adhere to the phraseology of the King 
James rendering, or to revise it. Their aim is rather to free 
themselves from presuppositions in the matter of transla- 
tion and to go direct to the Hebrew and Greek texts, as 
these texts have been preserved, studied, and to some 
extent reconstructed in the light of modern research. 

Those who are inclined to be startled by colloquial or 
semi-colloquial renderings of the New Testament, might 
well recall that, as we have seen (pages 29ff. ), the New 
Testament was originally written in colloquial, not clas- 
sical, Greek— that is, it was set down in the vernacular 
of the day, and this in itself is one of the most telling 
arguments in favor of modern vernacular versions of the 
Bible. The position of the Biblical translators of our day, 
as expressed by one of themselves, is that "a translation 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 121 

to be fully grasped must be in the idiom of current speech" 
(Leroy Waterman, Journal of Bible and Religion, July- 
September, 1937), while such translators have the benefit 
of much new light which has been cast upon the Scrip- 
tures as the result of recent discoveries. Speaking of the 
period from 1900 to 1937, Dr. Waterman contends that 
in it "roughly one may say that ... we have advanced 
about two hundred years nearer to the original Scriptures" 
(ibid.) 

One of the earliest of the better known "modern" 
versions, the Twentieth Century New Testament (1898- 
1901), was followed in 1903 by Dr. Weymouth's fine 
rendering of the New Testament, which gives a dignified 
translation of the Greek into the idiom of our day. The 
fifth edition of this rendering, ably revised by Dr. J. A. 
Robertson on the basis of linguistic and other discoveries 
made after Weymouth passed on, appeared in 1930. 

Among the work of Biblical translators in the early part 
of the twentieth century, that of Dr. James Moffatt is 
particularly outstanding, in that as an expert in both 
Hebrew and Greek he has provided us with a fresh but 
scholarly rendering of the whole Bible— a rendering which 
has met with wide and well-deserved acceptance on both 
sides of the Atlantic. Dr. Moffatt's New Testament was 
first published in 1913, and the Old in 1924, while the 
two now generally appear in one volume, which the late 
Dr. S. Parkes Cadman once described as "entitled to an 
honored and necessary place in the library of every man." 



122 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

Another modern rendering which likewise merits close 
attention and study is characterized as "The Bible: An 
American Translation." This version appeared in 1931, the 
Old Testament being translated by a group of scholars 
under the editorship of Dr. J. M. P. Smith, while Professor 
Edgar J. Goodspeed is responsible for the New Testament. 
Evaluating this American translation, Prof. Beatrice Brooks 
referred to it as "great literature" while she also noted 
its faithfulness to the original texts (see Journal of Bible 
and Religion, January-March, 1937). Among its many 
interesting contributions, one of the most thought provok- 
ing is that which offers the rendering, "Blessed are those 
who feel their spiritual need," in place of the familiar 
"Blessed are the poor in spirit" of the King James Version 
(Matt. 5:3). 

These, of course, are but a few of the better-known 
modern translations which appeared in the period up to 
1940. 

No one English rendering of the Bible, be it old or new, 
has attained to perfection, but all those who have taken 
part and still take part in this ever fascinating and im- 
portant work of translation, have contributed something 
towards the great task of providing the ageless messages 
of our Bible in a form which should be understandable 
by all. 



& CHAPTER TEN 

The Revised 
Standard Version 



CHAPTER TEN 



THE REVISED STANDARD VERSION 

During the past two decades, from approxi- 
mately 1940 to 1960, Biblical study and Biblical transla- 
tion alike have continued apace, and this period has been 
noteworthy both for new discoveries and even deeper 
research which augur well for a more comprehensive 
understanding and appreciation of the Book of Books in 
its original meaning. 

To the casual observer, or even to the consistent reader 
of the Scriptures, it might perhaps appear that the con- 
stantly increasing distance from the time when that monu- 
mental library of books was first assembled would make it 
ever more difficult to establish the real message which they 
were designed to bring forth so many centuries ago. 
Actually, the very reverse is the case. For one thing, the 
modern specialist in the Bible and its languages, and 
particularly in the study of such manuscripts as have 
been preserved from early times, has readily available 
to him scientific aids and techniques largely unknown 
at the turn of the century or even later. 

125 



126 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

Today, for example, the use of microfilm is widely 
accepted in both business and the professions, and 
through its use the translator of the Bible can examine 
in detail early manuscripts and records of various kinds 
which had previously been all but inaccessible because 
of their preservation in obscure or distant libraries, such 
as that to be found in the famed Monastery of St. Cath- 
erine on the slopes of Mount Sinai. Then, too, the dating 
of ancient materials by means of the radiocarbon method 
can often either establish or refute the antiquity of a 
manuscript by determining the relative age of the linen 
or other fabric in which it had been carefully wrapped 
for safekeeping. Moreover, careful analysis, by modern 
methods, of the inks used in the transcription of such 
manuscripts also plays its part in indicating the age of 
the parchment or papyrus under consideration, and in 
suggesting the country and sometimes even the district 
in which it was prepared. 

In addition to these and many other recently devel- 
oped methods of research, there has been and continues 
to be an increasingly vital interest in all branches of 
archaeology, which is constantly retrieving remnants of 
vanished civilizations, many of them contemporary with 
some part of the period covering many hundreds of years 
which witnessed the emergence of those vital records 
which go to make up what we know as the Bible. 

Many of these archaeological finds provide background 
material casting light upon how the patriarchs and 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 127 

prophets, and later Christ Jesus and his close followers, 
lived and worked, thus helping to clarify the context of 
many of their teachings and illustrations. Recently un- 
earthed carvings and inscriptions dating from the Biblical 
period often contribute even more directly to a correct 
understanding of passages in the Bible manuscripts which 
had long remained somewhat cryptic even to those who 
through the years have earnestly sought to interpret their 
significance. 

These examples should be sufficient at this point to 
suggest to the reader some of the many aids readily 
available to the scholars of our own day who are engaged 
in the truly fascinating fields of Biblical translation and 
research. 

These last two decades have witnessed many achieve- 
ments along these lines, of which two are of major interest 
and importance, appealing as they do to the specialist 
and layman alike— although, as might be expected, for 
somewhat different reasons. These achievements are the 
preparation (which culminated during this period) and 
publication of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible 
—familiarly described as the RSV Bible— and the dis- 
covery and interpretation of what have come to be known 
as the Dead Sea Scrolls. 

The general reader readily accepts the clarity and en- 
lightenment provided by the latest revision of the Scrip- 
tures in English, while the Biblical technician not only 
appreciates the accuracy and felicity of the renderings 



128 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

provided, but also the wealth of scholarship involved. 

In the case of the Scrolls— to be discussed in the next 
chapter— the romance of the discovery of the first of these 
by a roving shepherd lad, after roughly two thousand 
years, has a universal appeal, while the student is more 
fully aware of the startling impact of these ancient docu- 
ments upon almost all types of Biblical study, including 
that of translation. 

The following brief discussion and evaluation of the 
Revised Standard Version is not intended as a defense 
of this great work, which does not need, even if the 
present writer could supply, such support. Rather it is 
intended here to indicate something of its distinctive 
position as compared with other revisions and transla- 
tions of the Bible and to suggest why within a few years' 
time it has won for itself a popularity— shown by a pres- 
ent circulation (1960) of over seven million copies- 
second only to that of the familiar and justly beloved 
rendering of the King James translators, its senior by 
almost three and a half centuries. 

The Revised Standard Version, as its name implies, 
is quite frankly a revision, as, for that matter, was the 
famous version of 1611, which went back to Tyndale and 
retained many of the fine renderings which he estab- 
lished. As we have seen, the English Revised Version 
of 1881-85 dared to be the first to undertake a direct re- 
vision of the King James Bible with a view to clarifying 
many of its renderings, while the American Standard 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 129 

Version of 1901 carried this task further and with greater 
success. Nevertheless, the improvements in meaning pro- 
vided by both these renderings were all too often offset 
by a literalness of style which militated against the wide- 
spread acceptance of these revisions; and it became 
evident to many discerning scholars that there was still 
room for a more definitive revision, designed both to 
avoid the pitfalls encountered by those immediately 
preceding it and to retain wherever possible the dignified 
and beautiful style of the King James translators, while 
modifying their wording where necessary in the interests 
of accuracy and reflecting the new light thrown on the 
Scriptures by recent discoveries and advances in Biblical 
scholarship. 

Thus it came about that in 1929 the International 
Council of Religious Education, which had recently ac- 
quired the copyright of the American Standard Version, 
appointed a committee of fifteen scholars to make a 
careful study of its text, with a view to determining the 
importance and advisability of making a further revision. 
After considering all sides of the question for several 
years, the members of the committee reached the con- 
clusion that such a revision was indeed necessary, and 
they proceeded to formulate a plan which outlined both 
the nature and the extent of this task as they conceived 
it. These preliminary studies formed an essential basis 
for the actual work of revision which was formally au- 
thorized by the Council in 1937. Those who were called 



130 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

upon to undertake it represented a wide cross section of 
the best Biblical authorities in the United States and 
Canada; and in the end, no fewer than ninety-one schol- 
ars, drawn from almost all Protestant denominations in 
these countries, cooperated in bringing the work to a 
successful conclusion. In 1946 the revision of the New 
Testament was published, and in 1952 it was joined by 
the Old Testament to form the Revised Standard Version 
Bible. 

The foregoing statistical paragraph gives little if any 
indication of the task involved, which was truly a monu- 
mental one. For one thing, remembering that prover- 
bially it is much easier to build a new house than to 
remodel successfully an old and admittedly beautiful one, 
it is clear that the obligation laid upon the twentieth- 
century revisers ( as upon those who had preceded them ) 
that they should preserve whenever possible the inimi- 
table style and diction of the King James Version, while 
clarifying it and bringing it up to date, presented a 
peculiar problem which does not face the individual 
translator. A James Moffatt, for example, has the advan- 
tage of owing allegiance to no other English rendering, 
and partly as a result of this literary freedom, his style 
has a freshness and vigor of its own, independent of 
either previous or contemporary translators. Moreover, 
such an individual translator is not called upon to confer 
with ninety other members of a committee before decid- 
ing on a single point of translation, however carefully 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 131 

he may himself consider it! It says much for the patience 
of those who prepared the Revised Standard Version— 
and for their humility and cooperation— that under these 
conditions they were so successful in their undertaking. 

True, there have been and are still some persons un- 
prepared to admit the important contribution of the RSV 
to the accurate understanding of the perennial message 
of the Bible; but the fact that it has encountered criticism 
and even abuse in some quarters cannot contradict or 
lessen its significance. After all, Jerome's epochal work 
in preparing the Latin Vulgate in the fourth century of 
our era was strongly protested by many of his contem- 
poraries; while for more than half a century after its 
publication, the now justly beloved King James Version 
continued to be bitterly attacked and its translators 
accused of blasphemy, deceit, and corruption. 

In the light of these historical facts, the wide accept- 
ance of the Revised Standard Version in the relatively 
few years since its presentation to the public bears wit- 
ness to the remarkably successful results of the revisers' 
work. They themselves would certainly be among the 
first to disclaim any pretensions to perfection or to the 
setting forth of a final revelation, but numberless readers 
—laymen and clergymen alike— justly hail this new revi- 
sion as providing welcome light for our generation, and 
perhaps for many generations to come, upon the age-old 
message of Holy Writ. 

Among the many reasons which combined to justify 



132 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

the preparation of the RSV, the following may be noted 
as of special significance. Since the early seventeenth 
century a very large number of Biblical manuscripts have 
been discovered and become available to students. Es- 
pecially is this true in the case of manuscripts of the 
Greek New Testament, for while less than a dozen were 
available to the revisers of 1611, today some 4,500 are 
accessible to translators. Moreover, since that time there 
have been wide advances in directly Biblical studies and 
in related fields. 

Admitting fully the felicity of expression so character- 
istic of the Authorized Version, there is no doubt that 
there remain many passages hard to understand, partly 
because the King James scholars were themselves unable 
to grasp the meaning of the original in these instances. 
In addition, there are some three hundred or more words 
or phrases which, although vivid, accurate and readily 
understandable in the seventeenth century, have so 
changed in meaning because of the evolution of our 
English language that today they are scarcely intelligible 
to a great number of readers. Still more serious is the fact 
that in many cases the meaning of certain words has 
been directly reversed in the past three hundred and 
fifty years. A familiar example is found in the use of the 
verb let for hinder in the Authorized Version, where 
today it means, of course, to permit or allow. 

Equally confusing are the various references in the 
King James Version to conversation, not in the present- 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 133 

day sense of talk or discussion, but in that of manner or 
way of life, which represents the meaning of the original 
Greek when so understood. 

Even more puzzling, perhaps, to the reader of the 
Authorized Version is Paul's advice to the Corinthians 
(I Cor. 10: 24): "Let no man seek his own, but every 
man another's wealth." This might well be understood 
as permitting or even encouraging theft, or at least covet- 
ousness. Actually, in Elizabethan English, wealth did not 
necessarily mean money or supply, but was primarily 
associated with the term weal (well-being) which ade- 
quately represents the Greek word used at this point. 
The thought of the apostle is well suggested by the ren- 
dering of the Revised Standard Version: "Let no one 
seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor." 

Despite the transcendent character of the Master 
Christian, it was not his virtue, in the modern sense of 
the term, which brought healing to the woman afflicted 
with a chronic hemorrhage, so much as the power 
(Greek: dunamis) which he expressed, as the RSV makes 
plain. It may be added that in various other passages 
the King James translators themselves did not hesitate 
to give dunamis its regular meaning of power. 

It has often seemed surprising to the reader of the 
Authorized Version that Paul should appear to advise 
his correspondents to give "with simplicity" (Rom. 12: 8). 
How much more natural— as well as more consonant with 
the meaning of the Greek— is the rendering favored by 



134 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

the revisers to the effect that men should give "with 
liberality." 

Many such illustrations taken from the New Testa- 
ment could be added, but these should be sufficient to 
suggest something of the clarification provided by this 
new version through its use of terms readily understand- 
able today. 

In its approach to the Old Testament, as to the New, 
the Revised Standard Version offers numerous valuable 
contributions to our understanding of the Bible as pre- 
sented in English. There are, for example, various Hebrew 
terms which have always presented a peculiar chal- 
lenge to the translator. One of the most important of 
these is the deeply significant and widely used term ion 
(chesed), which is generally translated mercy in the 
King James Bible and lovingkindness in the American 
Standard Version. To the thought of those who prepared 
the Revised Standard Version, neither rendering seemed 
to express the inner meaning of this remarkable term, 
nor did either seem to provide a suitable common de- 
nominator to suggest to the reader the intimate nuances 
of the word, with its basic implications of love and 
loyalty, of fidelity and constancy— deeper than mercy, 
wider and more vivid than kindness. In fact it probably 
must be admitted that no one English word can fully 
represent it. 

It was only after long study and discussion— and as 
one of the final items on the agenda of their many meet- 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 135 

ings— that the revisers settled upon the phrase steadfast 
love as perhaps coming nearest to expressing the mean- 
ing of chesed in a wide majority of instances. They did 
not consider it as necessarily being the final solution to 
this problem in semantics, but their selection does have 
the unquestioned advantage of retaining the essential 
constancy implied in the term, while bearing witness to 
the presence of the concept of love in the Hebrew Scrip- 
tures—a quality, or perhaps rather an essence, which is 
all too often reserved in the minds of many people for 
the New Testament writings. 

Thus the Revised Standard Version does well in re- 
minding its readers, even if only through indirection, 
that the Apostle John's inspired identification of God 
with love came not as a completely new discovery, but 
rather as a natural development from the ideals of his 
Hebrew ancestors— as well as being in apparent con- 
formity with the exalted thoughts of the Master himself, 
as judged by his repeated emphasis upon the concept 
of love in all its forms. 

This is in no way intended to imply that the revisers 
were moved by any theological bias in their translation 
of chesed as steadfast love. On the contrary, they sought 
honestly and consistently to provide the clearest render- 
ing they could jointly discover for any given term or 
passage, even as did their predecessors who gave us the 
King James Bible. 

The fact that the Authorized Version has been hailed 



136 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

as "the greatest monument to English prose" bears well- 
deserved tribute to the beauty of its style and phrasing, 
but at the same time it may be taken as implying that 
one of the most characteristic aspects of Hebrew writing 
has been largely neglected— for it is now generally ac- 
cepted that almost half of the Old Testament was orig- 
inally written not in prose, but in poetry. Thus not only 
the Psalms and the Song of Solomon, but also large por- 
tions of the prophetic writings and of such books as Job, 
Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes appeared in this form, while 
brief poems are to be found elsewhere in the Old Testa- 
ment and, for that matter, also in the New. 

Even the American Standard Version of 1901 prints 
less than 15 per cent of the Old Testament as poetry, 
while the Revised Standard Version sets forth some 40 
per cent as poetic in form and in structure, as the Hebrew 
itself shows it to be. This is of great value to the general 
reader, enabling him readily to recognize the presence 
of such poetic passages and then to view their mes- 
sage in the light of the special characteristics of poetic 
expression. 

Included in the task and achievement of those who 
prepared the RSV was the translation of the books of 
the Apocrypha, which, although not considered by Prot- 
estants as canonical Scripture, are of considerable histor- 
ical importance, especially in their record of the Jews' 
heroic struggle for independence during the Maccabean 
period. Moreover, there is not a little— especially in such 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 137 

a book as the Wisdom of Solomon— which challenges 
comparison with some of the finest passages to be found 
in our familiar Old Testament. The fact that the Septu- 
agint, the Vulgate— and consequently the Roman Church 
—accept the Apocrypha as canonical and that these books 
are read to some extent in the services of the Church of 
England, further suggests their significance. It may be 
added that even the staunch reformer Martin Luther 
adjudged them "useful and good to read." 

In recognition of these facts, King James' translators 
prepared a rendering of the Apocrypha which for many 
years uniformly appeared between the Old and the New 
Testaments in the earlier printings of the Authorized 
Version, although most editions now omit these books. 
Thus it was but natural that a revision of the Apocrypha 
should be made by the revisers of our own day, who 
have provided a notable contribution to our understand- 
ing of this significant, but all too often neglected, body 
of literature. 

The closeness of the Revised Standard Version of the 
Bible to the sense of the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek 
originals and the representation of their idioms in the 
language of our day, without either undue literalness or 
an inordinate use of paraphrase, is indeed commendable. 

The RSV may justly be said to retain the tone and 
flavor of the familiar King James Version to a remarkable 
extent, while clarifying difficult passages which, although 
euphonious, are often scarcely understandable to the 



138 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

modern reader, partly because of changes in our English 
idiom and usage since the earlier version appeared. What 
we may occasionally miss of the sheer beauty of diction 
which characterizes the Authorized Version, we gain in 
insight and in clarity of expression. 

Each of these two important versions holds a valued 
and secure place in the long and continuing history of 
the translation of our ageless Bible into the languages of 
all mankind. 



CHAPTER ELEVEN 



The Dead Sea Scrolls 



CHAPTER ELEVEN 



THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS 



That strange body of water most commonly 
known as the Dead Sea lies in southern Palestine at a 
depth of 1286 feet below sea level, between the moun- 
tains of Moab on the east and the highlands of Judah 
on the west. In Biblical times it was often known as the 
Salt Sea or the Sea of the Plain, while by the Arabs it is 
still described as Bahr Lut (the Sea of Lot) reminding 
us of its association with Abraham's nephew and of the 
fiery destruction of the neighboring "cities of the plain" 
(Sodom and Gomorrah) some four thousand years ago. 
In recent decades it has become the center of a thriv- 
ing industry, for each year some 145,000 tons of potash, 
in addition to several thousand tons of other minerals, 
are now extracted from its waters which are heavily 
impregnated with mineral salts. But it may safely be 
affirmed that from 1947 on its most widely accepted title 
to fame has come from its association with the almost 
incredibly ancient Biblical and other manuscripts dis- 

141 



142 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

covered near its shores and therefore popularly known 
as the Dead Sea Scrolls. 

Few, if any, discoveries in modern times have so cap- 
tured the imagination and interest of folk in all walks of 
life and in countries all over the world. Not only has the 
appearance of these scrolls after almost two thousand 
years revolutionized many of the traditional conclusions 
of Biblical scholarship, but it also points up the intrigu- 
ing possibility that other written records, dating from 
Christ Jesus' day or earlier, may still appear in an equally 
unexpected fashion to cast further new light upon the 
background and meaning of the Scriptures. 

How and where the first of these scrolls were found 
is now widely known, so we may briefly pass over the 
romantic elements associated with their discovery. The 
actual date of their finding remains somewhat of a mys- 
tery, but it is generally conceded that they came to light 
early in the year 1947. 

It seems that two shepherd lads were tending a mixed 
flock of sheep and goats in the wild and largely barren 
hills which rise from the western shore of the Dead Sea 
and that they were not far from the spring known as 
Ain Feshkha. Apparently one of the goats had separated 
itself from the others, and in seeking it they followed 
an unaccustomed path which led them to a cave hidden 
among the precipitous rocks. To them there was nothing 
unusual about such a discovery, for this section of the 
country is honeycombed with caves, some little more 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 143 

than depressions in the side of a hill, others of consider- 
able size and extent. One of the lads, a young man of 
fifteen, idly tossed a stone into the opening, perhaps in 
an attempt to dislodge the goat from its hiding place, 
and was startled by the sound of breaking pottery. Curi- 
osity soon got the better of his fright, and he and his 
companion entered the small mouth of the cave to dis- 
cover some large earthenware vessels of unusual shape, 
one of which the stone had broken. As their eyes grew 
more accustomed to the deep shadow after the blazing 
light of the Syrian sun, it became evident that the jars 
contained what appeared to be scrolls of parchment. 
They were weathered with age, in spite of the care with 
which they had been wrapped in linen and consigned 
to the carefully covered jars, which many authorities now 
feel to have been specially designed for the purpose. 

Unwittingly the two young men had stumbled upon 
the first indications of what is now conceded to be the 
most important discovery of ancient manuscripts to be 
made in modern times! This, of course, they had no means 
of knowing, but since even their untrained eyes could 
readily see that the scrolls were inscribed with an un- 
familiar form of writing, they sensed that here might 
well be objects of value which they could sell in one of 
the neighboring Judean market towns. 

Unconsciously following the thought of other more 
famous shepherds who had tended their flocks in that very 
province almost two thousand years before— "let us now 



144 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

go even unto Bethlehem" (Luke 2: 15)— they made their 
way to that same ancient village which lay some fifteen 
miles distant. In doing so they no doubt followed the 
immemorial track through the hills over which Naomi 
and Ruth had walked on their return to Bethlehem from 
the land of Moab in the days of the Judges. Little did 
the twentieth-century shepherds dream that some if not 
all of the scrolls they carried with them were afterwards 
to be proved to date from still earlier than the birth of 
Jesus. 

At first their priceless finds were considered to have 
little or no importance. On the one hand, it was argued 
that they could not possibly be as ancient as they looked 
and therefore must be carefully fabricated forgeries; 
while on the other, it was thought that if they were rel- 
atively modern manuscripts, they were too tattered to 
be useful. Finally an Arab merchant in Bethlehem to 
whom they were shown, recognizing that they were not 
written in his native tongue and supposing they might 
have been composed in Syriac, sent them to Jerusalem, 
but even there they met at first with lack of interest and 
indeed with open skepticism. 

Eventually several of the manuscripts from the orig- 
inal cave came into the custody of the Hebrew Univer- 
sity and the others were purchased by the head of the 
Syrian Monastery of St. Mark at Jerusalem, Archbishop 
Athanasius Yeshue Samuel, but even he seems to have 
been unaware at this time of their great importance. 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 145 

One of the first to glimpse their nature and value was 
Dr. John C. Trever, a fellowship student at the American 
School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem. He had the 
opportunity of examining one of the scrolls and recog- 
nized the archaic Hebrew script in which it was written, 
noting, moreover, that the portion he saw came from the 
book of Isaiah. Further study confirmed the fact that this 
scroll was one of the earliest and most important of those 
found in the original cave, containing as it does the 
complete book of Isaiah in a remarkably fine state of 
preservation. 

Since that time numerous exhaustive and independent 
tests have led scholars to the conclusion that the manu- 
script which came to be known as the St. Mark's Isaiah 
Scroll— from the monastery to which it was transferred— 
was probably penned shortly before 100 B.C., only about 
half a century after the book of Daniel, considered to 
be the latest of the Old Testament books, was originally 
composed. This dating for the Isaiah scroll provides us 
with a manuscript of a complete Old Testament book 
in Hebrew, many hundreds and perhaps even a thousand 
years older than any which had been known prior to 
1947— for, as we have seen, before that time the earliest 
known Hebrew manuscripts appear to have come from 
the tenth or possibly the ninth century a.d., with the 
exception of a few small fragments, such as what is known 
as the Nash Papyrus, which contains a few verses from 



146 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

Deuteronomy and may even be contemporary with the 
Isaiah scroll. 

Naturally the reader may ask, "What effect has the dis- 
covery of this ancient scroll, and of others of closely 
similar date, had upon the understanding and translation 
of the Old Testament so familiar to us?" In reply it may 
be said at once that relatively few changes are indicated 
in the Hebrew text as we have long had it, and such 
changes as there are do not involve any major variations 
in the message of the Old Testament books as they have 
come down to us. In short, the value of the Dead Sea 
Scrolls in connection with the text and translation of the 
Hebrew Scriptures is indirect rather than direct— con- 
firming what we already have rather than disputing its 
validity. Obviously their function in this respect is of 
deep importance, while the minor variations preserved 
by the scrolls are, of course, of historical and linguistic 
interest to scholars. 

One of the points which makes the St. Mark's Isaiah 
Scroll appeal especially to the imagination of the student 
of Christianity is his recollection of the Gospel account 
of what has sometimes been described as Christ Jesus' 
first sermon in the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4: 16ff. ), 
when he read the words of the prophet Isaiah from the 
opening verses of chapter sixty-one of the book which 
bears his name, beginning: "The Spirit of the Lord God 
is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach 
good tidings unto the meek " The manuscript of Isaiah 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 147 

found near the Dead Sea was apparently in existence a 
century before Jesus' birth, and it was unquestionably 
a scroll of similar character from which he read this in- 
spiring message in the synagogue. 

While special attention has been paid to this Isaiah 
scroll partly because of its age, its completeness, and 
the association of a similar scroll with the life of Christ 
Jesus, it is well to bear in mind that it represents but 
one among a very large number of scrolls— some relatively 
complete, some all too fragmentary— which have come to 
light in recent years in the vicinity of the Dead Sea. 

Even the original find in the cave near Ain Feshkha— 
now known as Cave I— provided, in addition to the St. 
Mark's Isaiah Scroll, some ten manuscripts or parts of 
manuscripts, forming, it appears, five separate composi- 
tions, the names of which indicate something of the broad 
field which they covered. They included an interesting 
commentary on the book of Habakkuk; a scroll apparently 
telling of the Biblical Lamech, mentioned in Genesis; a 
manuscript describing the War of the Sons of Light with 
the Sons of Darkness and a collection of Thanksgiving 
Psalms. The fifth manuscript from this cave has come to 
be widely known as the Manual of Discipline and might 
almost be described as the bylaws of the Qumran com- 
munity, which will be discussed in a moment. If not 
perhaps as early as the Isaiah Scroll, the others are agreed 
to have been set down certainly no later than a.d. 70. 

Since 1947, no fewer than ten additional caves have 



148 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

been discovered in the same general vicinity, yielding 
quantities of additional manuscripts, many of them 
Biblical. 

Naturally the question arises as to why so many scrolls 
should be recovered in a limited area, and the answer 
seems to be that they formed part of an ancient library 
and were dispersed among the various near-by caves for 
safekeeping in a time of dire emergency— in all prob- 
ability due to an attack by a Roman force stationed at 
Jericho which is not far distant. 

For many years there has been known a place some 
eight miles south of Jericho named Khirbet Qumran ( the 
ruin of Qumran), which, until the discovery of the scrolls, 
called forth relatively slight interest among archaeolo- 
gists. But, as increasingly large numbers of manuscripts 
came to light in that vicinity, steps were taken to exca- 
vate Qumran to see whether it might possibly provide 
some clue to the origin and preparation of the scrolls. 

The efforts of the archaeologists were well rewarded, 
for careful digging revealed the foundations and part of 
the walls of an extensive community center, founded in 
pre-Christian times by a Jewish sect almost certainly to 
be identified with the Essenes, a semi-monastic group 
with which John the Baptist may possibly have been 
associated. Careful exploration and study of the build- 
ings revealed, among other things, the existence of an 
extensive library and of another room considered to 
have been a scriptorium— a place set apart for the copy- 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 149 

ing of manuscripts— with tables, stools, inkwells and other 
indications of its nature and use. Additional clues dis- 
covered during the excavation of Qumran were pieces of 
pottery which were proved to belong to jars of the same 
distinctive type as those in which the manuscripts found 
in Cave I were hidden. 

The evidence, then, combines to suggest that in its 
day Qumran was noted for its literary studies, and it is 
probable that it was at the peak of its prestige during 
the period of the Master's life and ministry. For many 
years, in fact, there have been those who contended that 
Jesus himself had some direct contact with the Essenes. 
Be that as it may, and it is far from being established, 
he must often have passed within a few miles of Qumran 
during his various visits to Jericho, as well as at the time 
of his baptism in the River Jordan. 

There seems to be little doubt that Qumran was cap- 
tured and its Essene inhabitants either slain or scattered 
shortly before the fall of the city of Jerusalem in 70 a.d., 
and that in anticipation of some such tragedy they made 
plans for secreting the valuable contents of their exten- 
sive library in the caves which we have been discussing. 

Already upwards of five hundred manuscripts, some of 
them virtually complete but a far greater number tan- 
talizingly fragmentary, have been painstakingly assem- 
bled by scholars from the caves in the general vicinity 
of Qumran and it is entirely possible that many more 
may still be recovered. 



150 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

As we have seen, the original cave near Ain Feshkha 
yielded several almost complete scrolls and the same is 
true of Cave XI, but in some respects the fourth cave in 
order of discovery is the most significant of all. Situated 
at a distance of no more than two hundred yards from 
the great center of Qumran itself, it appears to have 
formed the main depository for the contents of the 
Qumran library when circumstances forced its abandon- 
ment. 

Meticulous search and excavation in Cave IV have 
brought to light an incredible quantity of manuscript 
fragments. In fact, one of the best informed authorities 
on the subject estimates their number in tens of thou- 
sands. (See Frank M. Cross, Jr.: The Ancient Library of 
Qumran, and Modern Biblical Studies, page 18, etc. ) These 
fragments are being laboriously pieced together and 
already have borne witness to the presence of almost 
four hundred scrolls in this one cave, a number of them 
dating from a period prior to that which produced the 
famed Isaiah Scroll, often considered to be the earliest 
manuscript found in Cave I. Notable among these very 
early records from Cave IV are manuscripts of Exodus 
and Samuel, believed to date from the third century B.C. 

Some of the Qumran manuscripts are written in He- 
brew, others in Greek. By no means all of them are 
Biblical— perhaps one in four, judging by the evidence 
provided by Cave IV— but all are of deep interest to the 
scholar and each contributes its quota to our knowledge 



OUR AGELESS BIBLE 151 

of the background of the Bible. Every book in the Old 
Testament is represented to some extent in the Qumran 
discoveries, with the possible exception of the book of 
Esther; while many portions of the Jewish Scriptures 
occur again and again, as, for example, the books of the 
Pentateuch (Genesis to Deuteronomy) which have some 
thirty representatives in Cave IV alone. 

Fragmentary though most of the Biblical scrolls are 
after the vicissitudes they have undergone in the past 
two thousand years, it is agreed that many date from 
the second century B.C. They bear witness to the fact 
that these books were well established at that early date, 
and their text and content are seen to be basically the 
same as those of the later Old Testament manuscripts on 
which even our modern English translations are founded. 
There are, of course, numerous variations in detail, but, 
as we have already seen, these are not sufficient to sug- 
gest any drastic or even material changes in the familiar 
records of the lives and teachings of the leaders of Israel 
as they have come down to us. 

It may be added that the Dead Sea Scrolls, to again 
give them their popular name, have provided, among 
so many objects of vital interest, a manuscript of the book 
of Daniel estimated to date from a time no more than 
fifty years after the date when that book was first written, 
now conceded to be 167 or 168 b.c. Here we come nearer 
to reaching the autograph— the original writing— of any 
Biblical book than we have ever come before. 



152 OUR AGELESS BIBLE 

In view of the completely unexpected finding of the 
Dead Sea Scrolls and the wealth of new knowledge about 
the Bible and its background which they have given and 
are continuing to give us, there may easily remain other 
treasures of a similar character awaiting discovery in 
the Bible lands. It is even within the bounds of possibility 
that we may still find manuscripts actually penned by 
Biblical patriarchs, prophets or apostles, or even by Christ 
Jesus himself. 

Thus the vital and ever interesting study of the sources 
and development of the Book of Books continues un- 
abated, contributing to our understanding of what the 
original writers recorded in their own languages and to 
our efforts to render what they had to say clearly and 
accurately into the speech of today. 



Bibliography 



Angus, Samuel, The Environment of Early Christianity. New 
York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1915. 

Baikie, James, The English Bible and Its Story. London: Seeley, 
Service & Co. Ltd., 1928. 

The Romance of the Bible. Philadelphia: J. P. Lippin- 

cott Co., 1930. 

Burrows, Millar, The Dead Sea Scrolls. New York: The 
Viking Press, 1955. 

Cross, Frank M., Jr., The Ancient Library of Qumran and 
Modern Biblical Studies. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & 
Company, Inc., 1958. 

Deissmann, G. Adolf, New Light on the New Testament from 
Records of the Graeco-Roman Period. Edinburgh: T. & T. 
Clark, 1907. 

Edgar, Andrew, The Bibles of England. London: Alexander 
Gardner, 1889. 

English Hexapla, The. London: Samuel Bagster & Sons, 1841. 

Finegan, Jack, Light From the Ancient Past: The Archeological 
Background of the Hebrew-Christian Religion. Princeton, 
N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1946. 

Gilmore, Alrert F., The Bible: Beacon Light of History. Chi- 
cago: Associated Authors, 1936. 

Goodspeed, Edgar J., The Making of the English New Testa- 
ment. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1925. 

Goodspeed, Edgar J. (Editor). The Translators to the Reader: 
Preface to the King James Version 1611. Chicago: The Uni- 
versity of Chicago Press, 1935. 

153 



154 BIBLIOGRAPHY 

Hoaee, H. W., The Evolution of the English Bible, 4th edition. 

New York: E. P. Dutton Company, 1901. 
Kenyon, Sm Frederic, Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, 

( Revised by A. W. Adams ) . London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 

1958. 
Milligan, George, The English Bible. A Sketch of Its History. 

Edinburgh: A. & C. Black, 1896. 
Here and There Among the Papyri. London: Hodder & 

Stoughton Ltd., 1923. 
Newgass, Edgar, The Everlasting Gospel. A Panorama of the 

English Bible. London: Charles Skilton Ltd., 1950. 
An Outline of Anglo-American Bible History. B. T. 

Batsford Ltd., 1958. 
Price, Ira M. The Ancestry of Our English Bible, 9th edition. 

New York: Harper & Brothers, 1934. 
Robinson, George L., Where Did We Get Our Bible? New 

York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., 1928. 
Simms, P. Marion, The Bible in America. New York: Wilson- 

Erickson Inc., 1936. 
Smyth, J. Paterson, The Ancient Documents and the Modern 

Bible. New York: James Pott & Company (no date). 
How We Got Our Bible, 16th edition. London: Samp- 
son, Low, Marston & Company Ltd., 1903. 
Souter, Alexander, The Text and Canon of the New Testa- 
ment. London: Duckworth and Company, 1913. 
Weigle, Luther A. (Editor), An Introduction to the Revised 

Standard Version of the New Testament. New York: Thomas 

Nelson & Sons, 1946. 
(Editor), An Introduction to the Revised Standard Ver- 
sion of the Old Testament. New York: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 

1952. 
Westcott, Brooke F., A General View of the History of the 

English Bible, 3rd edition (Revised by William Aldis Wright). 

London: Macmillan & Co., 1905. 
Wilson, Edmund, The Scrolls from the Dead Sea. New York: 

Oxford University Press, 1955. 



Index 



Abraham, 37, 63, 141 

Aelfric, Abbot, 81 

Africa, North, 58f . 

Ain Feshkha, 142, 147, 150 

Akiba, Rabbi, 24 

Aldhelm, 79 

Aldred, 81 

Alexandria, 17f ., 51 

Alexandrian Manuscript (Co- 
dex Alexandrinus ), 45, 50, 
53,73,107 

Alfred the Great, King, 80 

Allen, William, 99 

American Standard Version, 
117-120, 128f., 134, 136 

American Translation, The 
Bible: An, 122 

Apocrypha, 46, 60, 136f . 

Aquila's Greek Version, 24-26 

Aramaic, 29, 31-35, 61f., 64, 
137 

archaeology, 30, 126, 148 

Authorized ( King James ) Ver- 
sion, 31, 37-39, 48, 52, 60, 
71f., 74, 83, 87, 89, 95-99, 



103-112, 115-117, 119f., 
122, 128-135, 137f. 



Babylon, 17 

Bede, The Venerable, 80 

Bezan Manuscript ( Codex 

Bezae),45,52-54,73 
"Bishops' Bible," 98f ., 106 
Book of Common Prayer, 95, 

104 
Book of the Law, 21f ., 31 
"Breeches Bible," (see Gene- 
van Version ) 
British Museum, 46, 51, 62 



Caedmon, 79f. 
Caesarea, 46f. 
Calvin, John, 96f . 
Cambridge University, 36, 53, 

84, 108f . 
Clement of Alexandria, 75 
Clement of Rome, 50 



155 



156 



INDEX 



codex (codices), 45-54, 73, Gilbey, Anthony, 97 



107 
Constantine, Emperor, 46-48 
Coverdale, Miles, 88-90, 93- 

95, 97, 106, 111 
Cranmer, Archbishop, 94 
Cromwell, Thomas, 94 
Curetonian Syriac Version, 62 
Cyprian, 58, 75 



Goodspeed, Edgar J., 74, 122 
Gospels, 32, 34-36, 44f., 53, 

61f., 81f ., 109 
"Great Bible," 93-95, 98, 106 
Gutenberg, John, 61 



Hampton Court, 103 
"Harmony of the Gospels," 35, 
62 
Damasus, Bishop of Rome, 59 healing 20 31 
Dead Sea Scrolls, 15f., 19, Henry VIII, King, 94 

127f , 141-152 "Hermit of Hampole," 81 

Demetrius Phalerus, 18 "Higher Criticism," 69 

Diatessaron, 62 
Douai Version, (see Rheims- 

Douai Version ) 

Ignatius, 75 

International Council of Re- 
Ebal, Mount, 23 H g ious Education, 129 

Egypt, 17f., 24, 30, 36, 40, 44, Isaia ^ c ™ n ;. n " St Mark ' s ' 
51f.,62 



Eleazar, 18 

Ephraem, Codex of, 52f., 63, 

73 
Erasmus, 84 
Essenes, 148f. 
Eusebius, 25, 34, 46f . 
Ezra, 22 



Genevan Version ("Breeches 

Bible"), 95-99, 106 
Gerizim, Mount, 21, 23 



145-147, 150 
Italy, 17, 57 



James I, King, 103ff. 

Jericho, 148f . 

Jerusalem, 22, 32f., 39, 144f., 

149 
Jerome, 59f ., 131 
Jesus, Christ, 20, 37, 39, 54, 

61, 142, 144, 146f., 149, 

152 
Josephus, 21 



INDEX 



157 



King James Version, (see Au- Nehemiah, 21, 31 



thorized Version ) 
Knox, John, 96-98 
Koine, 31 



'New Testament Greek," 29-31 

Nicaea, Council of, 51 

Nicaso, 21 

Nicholas de Hereford, 82 

Nile,17f.,43 



Lamsa, George M., 33 
Lewis, Agnes Smith, 63 
Lewis Syriac Version, 63 
Lightf oot, Bishop, 36f . 
Lindisfarne Gospels, 81 



"Old Latin" Versions, 57-61 

Origen, 75 

Ormulum, The, 81 
Logia of Matthew, The, 34-36 Oxford University, 81, 83f ., 99, 
"Lower," or "Textual, Criti- 108f. 

cism," 69 
Lucar, Cyril, 51 

Luther, Martin, 89, 137 Pagninus, 89 

LXX (The Septuagint), 17 Palestine, 16, 20, 32, 46, 57 

palimpsest, 52, 63 

Papias, 34 

papyri, 36-40 

papyrus, 30, 36, 39f., 43-45, 
126, 145 

Parker, Archbishop, 98f . 

Pentateuch, 21-24, 86, 151 

Peshitta Syriac, 64f . 

Ptolemy Philadelphus, 18 

punctuation, 13f ., 49 



Manasseh, 21f . 

Manual of Discipline, 147 

Martin, Gregory, 99 

Masorah, 14 

Masoretes, 14-16, 71 

"Matthew's Bible," 93-95, 106 

Messiah, 20, 25 

Millenary Petition, 104 

Moffatt, James, 39, 72, 74, 121, Purvey, John, 83f . 

130 
Munmouth, Humphrey, 85 

"Q" (The Logia of Matthew), 
35 
Nablus ( Shechem ) , 22 "Queen of the Versions," 65 

Nash Papyrus, 145 Qumran, 147ff . 



158 INDEX 

Rabbula, Bishop of Edessa, 64 Teschendorf, 45 

Reformation, 96 Torah, 21 

Revised Standard Version ( or Trent, Council of, 61 

RSV Bible), 39, 95, 125- Trever, John C, 145 

138 Tunstall, Cuthbert; Bishop of 
Revised Version, 38, 83, 115- London, 84 

120, 128 Twentieth Century New Tes- 
Rheims-Douai Version, 99f. tament, 74, 121 

Rogers John, 93 Tyndale, William, 81, 83-90, 

93-95, 106, 111, 128 

Samaritan Version, 21-24 

Samaritans, 22f ., 25 

Sampson, Thomas, 97 Vatican Manuscript (Codex 

Samuel, Archbishop Athana- Vaticanus), 45-50, 53, 73, 

sius Yeshue, 144 75 ' 107 

Sanballat, 21 Vilvorde, castle of, 86 

Septuagint, 16-21, 24-26, 71, vowel-letters, 14 

r 13 f Vulgate, 57, 59-61, 64, 79, 82, 

Sinai, Mount, 45, 63, 126 87 ' 89 ' 95 ' "' 131 > 137 

Sinaitic Manuscript ( Codex 

Sinaiticus), 45-51, 53, 63, 

73, 75, 107 Westminster, 109 

Sinaitic Syriac Version, 63 Weymouth, Richard F., 74, 
Smith, J. M. P., 122 7 m 

Symmachus' Greek Version, whittingham, WilHam, 96f . 

24-26 Wycliffe, John, 81-83, 95, 106, 
Syriac, 24, 61f., 64f, 71, 144 ill 



Tatian, 62 

Taverner, Richard, 95 Zion, Mount, 21 

Theodotion's Greek Version, "Zurich Bible," 89 

24, 26 Zwingli, Ulrich, 89 



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