Master Bible Directory

The Authorized Version: or the King James Version of  Today

    Before William Tyndale's day the English versions of the Bible had been but translations of a translation, being derived from the Vulgate or older Latin versions. Tyndale, for the first time, went back to the original Hebrew and Greed. And not only did he go back to the original languages seeking for the truth, but he embodied that truth when found in so noble a translation that it has ever since been deemed wise by scholars and revisers to make but few changes in it; consequently every succeeding version is in reality little more than a revision of Tyndales. It has been truly said that "the peculiar genius which breathes through the English Bible, the mingled tenderness and majesty, the Saxon simplicity, the grandeur--unequalled, unapproached in the attempt improvements of modern scholars--all are here, and bear the impress of the mind of one man, and that man William Tyndale."

    The New Testament was the work to which he chiefly devoted himself, bringing out edition after edition as he saw anything to be improved. Of the Old Testament he translated only the Pentateuch, the historical books, and part of the prophets.

Later English Bibles

    Only three years passed by, after Tyndale's cruel death, and a great change had come over England. The Reformation gained ground among clergy and laity. the king, who had openly quarreled with the pope, no longer opposed the desire of his subjects for a "people's Bible." Myles Coverdale, the man who after Tyndale played the most prominent part of any in the history of the English Bible, was the first man to translate and publish the entire Bible in the English language.

    Unlike his great predecessor, Tyndale, whose work was inspired solely by religious enthusiasm and self-devotion, Coverdale's translation was made by the order, and with the encouragement of others; his chief supporters being Sir Thomas More, and Lord Thomas Cromwell the minister of king Henry VIII. Coverdale was also a man of very different stamp from Tyndale. He had neither his ability nor strength of character, nor was he, like him, qualified by lifelong study for his task as a translator, and the difference comes markedly out in the work produced by each. But it is only fair to say, that he was quite conscious of his defects, and that he did the work before him to the best of his ability. "seeking it not, neither desiring it," but feeling that his country needed it done, and modestly regretting that no better man was there to do it.

    Coverdale's Bible makes no pretence to be an original translation; it is "translated out of German and Latin into English," with the help of "five sundry interpreters" (translators), and the chief of these "interpreters" is evidently William Tyndale, whom, in the New Testament especially, he closely follows.

    Like his predecessor, Tyndale, Coverdale also suffered for the fierce opposition of the priesthood against the translators and publishers of the Bible, while the many changes in the policy of the government placed him in frequent peril. He escaped all these dangers however, and lived to the good old age of eighty-one.

    Many different editions and translations of the Bible quickly followed that of Coverdale. Instead of being secretly printed in foreign lands and shipped to England, hidden in hales of merchandise, the Bible was openly printed in London. Of the "Great" Bible or "Cromwell" Bible, which lord Thomas Cromwell had published, seven editions were printed between the years 1539 to 1541, and a copy of the Bible was ordered to be placed in every parish church, fastened with a chain so that no one could carry it away.

The Authorized Version: or the King James Version of  Today

    Seventy years after Tyndale's death a king of England himself directed a new translation and revision of the Bible. In 1604, king James I held a conference of bishops and clergy, and among other subjects considered by them was that of revising the defective translations of the Scriptures then in use in England. The best scholars of the day were selected to do the work. The revisers were divided into six companies, each of which took its own portion, and every aid obtainable was furnished to make their work a success. They carefully studied the Greek and Hebrew; they used the best commentaries of European scholars; the Bibles in Spanish, Italian, French, and German were examined for any help they might afford in arriving at the exact sense of each passage; and when the sense was found, no pains were spared to express it in clear vigorous, idiomatic English. All the excellencies of the previous versions were noted, for the purpose of incorporating them in the work, and for the expressive phrases they contained. "Neither," says Dr. Miles Smith, in the preface, "did we disdain to revise that which we had done, and to bring back to the anvil that which we had hammered, fearing no reproach for slowness nor coveting praise for expedition;" and the result was the production of the splendid Authorized Version of which all English speaking people to-day are so justly proud.

    For nearly three centuries English Protestants have reverenced the grace and dignity, the flowing words, the masterly English style of the King James version of the Bible. It dwells on the ear like music that can never be forgotten, or like the sound of a sweet-toned bell thrills the hearts of Christians by its melody.

    Then came the new Revised Version It marks one further step onward in the revision and correction of the Holy Scripture.

    Since have followed many more translations, while some were translated for financial profit most are good translations in a more modern English style.