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Such, so far as can be gathered from the rules and modes of procedure, is the character of the time-honoured Version which we have been called upon to revise. We have had to study this great Version carefully and minutely, line by line; and the longer we have been engaged upon it the more we have learned to admire its simplicity, its dignity, its power, its happy turns of expression, its general accuracy, and, we must not fail to add, the music of its cadences, and the felicities of its rhythm. To render a work that had reached this high standard of excellence still more excellent, to increase its fidelity without destroying its charm, was the task committed to us. Of that task, and of the conditions under which we have attempted its fulfilment, it will now be necessary for us to speak.
II. The present Revision had its origin in action taken by the Convocation of the Province of Canterbury in February 1870, and it has been conducted throughout on the plan laid down in Resolutions of both Houses of the Province, and, more particularly, in accordance with Principles and Rules drawn up by a special Committee of Convocation in the following May. Two Companies, the one for the revision of the Authorised Version of the Old Testament, and the other for the revision of the same Version of the New Testament, were formed in the manner specified in the Resolutions, and the work was commenced on the twenty-second day of June 1870. Shortly afterwards, steps were taken, under a resolution passed by both Houses of Convocation, for inviting the co-operation of American scholars; and eventually two Committees were formed in America, for the purpose of acting with the two English Companies, on the basis of the Principles and Rules drawn up by the Committee of Convocation.
The fundamental Resolutions adopted by the Convocation of Canterbury on the third and fifth days of May 1870 were as follows:'1. That it is desirable that a revision of the Authorised Version of the Holy Scriptures be undertaken.
2. That the revision be so conducted as to comprise both marginal renderings and such emendations as it may be found necessary to insert in the text of the Authorised Version.
'3. That in the above resolutions we do not contemplate any new translation of the Bible, or any alteration of the language, except
where in the judgement of the most competent scholars such change is necessary.
'4. That in such necessary changes, the style of the language employed in the existing Version be closely followed.
5. That it is desirable that Convocation should nominate a body of its own members to undertake the work of revision, who shall be at liberty to invite the co-operation of any eminent for scholarship, to whatever nation or religious body they may belong.'
The Principles and Rules agreed to by the Committee of Convocation on the twenty-fifth day of May 1870 were as follows:
'1. To introduce as few alterations as possible into the Text of the Authorised Version consistently with faithfulness.
'2. To limit, as far as possible, the expression of such alterations to the language of the Authorised and earlier English Versions.
'3. Each Company to go twice over the portion to be revised, once provisionally, the second time finally, and on principles of voting as hereinafter is provided.
'4. That the Text to be adopted be that for which the evidence is decidedly preponderating; and that when the Text so adopted differs from that from which the Authorised Version was made, the alteration be indicated in the margin.
5. To make or retain no change in the Text on the second final revision by each Company, except two thirds of those present approve of the same, but on the first revision to decide by simple majorities.
'6. In every case of proposed alteration that may have given rise to discussion, to defer the voting thereupon till the next Meeting, whensoever the same shall be required by one third of those present at the Meeting, such intended vote to be announced in the notice for the next Meeting.
7. To revise the headings of chapters and pages, paragraphs, italics, and punctuation.
'8. To refer, on the part of each Company, when considered desirable, to Divines, Scholars, and Literary Men, whether at home or abroad, for their opinions.'
These rules it has been our endeavour faithfully and consistently to follow. One only of them we found ourselves unable to observe in all particulars. In accordance with the seventh rule, we have carefully revised the paragraphs, italics, and punctuation. But the
revision of the headings of chapters and pages would have involved so much of indirect, and indeed frequently of direct interpretation, that we judged it best to omit them altogether.
Our communications with the American Committee have been of the following nature. We transmitted to them from time to time each several portion of our First Revision, and received from them in return their criticisms and suggestions. These we considered with much care and attention during the time we were engaged on our Second Revision. We then sent over to them the various portions of the Second Revision as they were completed, and received further suggestions, which, like the former, were closely and carefully considered. Last of all, we forwarded to them the Revised Version in its final form; and a list of those passages in which they desire to place on record their preference of other readings and renderings will be found at the end of the volume. We gratefully acknowledge their care, vigilance, and accuracy; and we humbly pray that their labours and our own, thus happily united, may be permitted to bear a blessing to both countries, and to all English-speaking people throughout the world.
The whole time devoted to the work has been ten years and a half. The First Revision occupied about six years; the Second, about two years and a half. The remaining time has been spent in the consideration of the suggestions from America on the Second Revision, and of many details and reserved questions arising out of our own labours. As a rule, a session of four days has been held every month (with the exception of August and September) in each year from the commencement of the work in June 1870. The average attendance for the whole time has been sixteen each day; the whole Company consisting at first of twenty-seven, but for the greater part of the time of twenty-four members, many of them residing at great distances from London. Of the original number four have been removed from us by death.
At an early stage in our labours, we entered into an agreement with the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge for the conveyance to them of our copyright in the work. This arrangement provided for the necessary expenses of the undertaking; and procured for the Revised Version the advantage of being published by Bodies long connected with the publication of the Authorised Version.
III. We now pass onward to give a brief account of the particulars of the present work. This we propose to do under the four heads of Text, Translation, Language, and Marginal Notes.
1. A revision of the Greek text was the necessary foundation of our work; but it did not fall within our province to construct a continuous and complete Greek text. In many cases the English rendering was considered to represent correctly either of two competing readings in the Greek, and then the question of the text was usually not raised. A sufficiently laborious task remained in deciding between the rival claims of various readings which might properly affect the translation. When these were adjusted, our deviations from the text presumed to underlie the Authorised Version had next to be indicated, in accordance with the fourth rule; but it proved inconvenient to record them in the margin. A better mode however of giving them publicity has been found, as the University Presses have undertaken to print them in connexion with complete Greek texts of the New Testament.
In regard of the readings thus approved, it may be observed that the fourth rule, by requiring that the text to be adopted' should be 'that for which the evidence is decidedly preponderating,' was in effect an instruction to follow the authority of documentary evidence without deference to any printed text of modern times, and therefore to employ the best resources of criticism for estimating the value of evidence. Textual criticism, as applied to the Greek New Testament, forms a special study of much intricacy and difficulty, and even now leaves room for considerable variety of opinion among competent critics. Different schools of criticism have been represented among us, and have together contributed to the final result. In the early part of the work every various reading requiring consideration was discussed and voted on by the Company. After a time the precedents thus established enabled the process to be safely shortened; but it was still at the option of every one to raise a full discussion on any particular reading, and the option was freely used. On the first revision, in accordance with the fifth rule, the decisions were arrived at by simple majorities. On the second revision, at which a majority of two thirds was required to retain or introduce a reading at variance with the reading presumed to underlie the Authorised Version, many readings previously adopted were brought again into debate, and either re-affirmed or set aside.
Many places still remain in which, for the present, it would not be safe to accept one reading to the absolute exclusion of others. In these cases we have given alternative readings in the margin, wherever they seem to be of sufficient importance or interest to deserve notice. In the introductory formula, the phrases 'many ancient authorities,'' some ancient authorities,' are used with some latitude to denote a greater or lesser proportion of those authorities which have a distinctive right to be called ancient. These ancient authorities comprise not only Greek manuscripts, some of which were written in the fourth and fifth centuries, but versions of a still earlier date in different languages, and also quotations by Christian writers of the second and following centuries.
2. We pass now from the Text to the Translation. The character of the Revision was determined for us from the outset by the first rule, 'to introduce as few alterations as possible, consistently with faithfulness.' Our task was revision, not re-translation.
In the application however of this principle to the many and intricate details of our work, we have found ourselves constrained by faithfulness to introduce changes which might not at first sight appear to be included under the rule.
The alterations which we have made in the Authorised Version may be roughly grouped in five principal classes. First, alterations positively required by change of reading in the Greek Text. Secondly, alterations made where the Authorised Version appeared either to be incorrect, or to have chosen the less probable of two possible renderings. Thirdly, alterations of obscure or ambiguous renderings into such as are clear and express in their import. For it has been our principle not to leave any translation, or any arrangement of words, which could adapt itself to one or other of two interpretations, but rather to express as plainly as was possible that interpretation which seemed best to deserve a place in the text, and to put the other in the margin.
There remain yet two other classes of alterations which we have felt to be required by the same principle of faithfulness. These are, -Fourthly, alterations of the Authorised Version in cases where it was inconsistent with itself in the rendering of two or more passages confessedly alike or parallel. Fifthly, alterations rendered necessary by consequence, that is, arising out of changes already made, though not in themselves required by the general rule of faithful