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every person could write, which is far from the truth, it was an immense labour to make out a copy of the whole Scriptures with a pen. Many people in our day would rather live and die without a Bible, than submit to it. But such labour was often submitted to, and the frequent transcriptions of the Bible gave rise to many various readings from the mistakes of copyists.
Secondly. The English versions of the Bible. Critics have supposed that the Saxons read the Scriptures in their own language, some part; of them being translated by Adelm, bishop of Sherburne; Eadfrid, or Egbert, bishop of Lindisfeme; the venerable Bede, and king Alfred. Elfric, abbot of Malmesbury, translated the five books of Moses, Judges and Job. These were printed at Oxford, in the year 1G99. See Lewis's History of the English translations. The Four Gospels were printed from an ancient Saxon manuscript, (now in the Bodleian Library,) in 1571 under the care of the martyrologist John Fox, assisted and encouraged by Matthew Parker, archbishop of Canterbury. In the year 1349, the Psalms were translated by Richard Rolle, a hermit of Hampole in Yorkshire; and in the Harleian and King's Libraries, are specimens of other early versions. John Wicliff translated the New Testament, about the year 1377; and William Tyndal printed the first edition of his translation of the New Testament, in the year 1526.
Miles Coverdale printed the first complete English Bible. The first edition bears date 1535, dedicated to King Henry VIII., ornamented with an emblematical border cut in wood, with the following words, 'Biblia, the Bible; that is, the Holy Scripture of the Olde and New Testament; faithfully and newly translated out of Douche and Latyn into Englishe, MDXXXV.' Thomas Matthews printed a Bible, the first edition of which was in 1537. The title is in an emblematical frontispiece cut in wood,' the Byble, which is all the Holy Scriptures; in which are contained, the Olde and New Testament, truely and purely translated into English by Thomas Matthews.' This is partly from Tyndal's, and partly from Coverdale's translation. Archbishop Cranmer's Bible was printed in the year 1539. The Psalms are those now used in the English liturgy. The other parts are a revision of the translations of Coverdale and Matthew's translations. Richard Taverner printed a Bible, the title of which was, 'the most Sacred Bible, which is the Holy Scripture, containing the Old and New Testament, translated into English, and newly recognised with great diligence after most faithful examplars, by Richard Taverner, MDXXXIX.' Elizabeth's translation was printed in the year 1568. And the common translation now in use, was undertaken by order of King James the First, in the year 1603. Calmet says, ' the first division of the New Testament was made by Robert Stephens, in 1551; and of the whole Bible, in 1555.' Michaelis says, ' verses were first used in the New Testament, by Robert Stephens in 1551, and in the Old Testament by Hugo de St. Caro, a Dominican monk, in the twelfth century.' But a Latin Bible, translated by Sanctus Pagninus, and printed at Lyons in the year 1527 or 1528, before Robert Stephens had printed any Bible on his own account, is divided, the verses being numbered in the margin and distinguished in the texts by paragraphical marks, both in the Old and New Testament. See Calmet.
We shall now take a more particular notice of our common English version. It was made by order of king James the First in the year 1603, and the most learned men in the universities of Oxford and Cambridge were appointed to carry it into execution. They met at Westminster, Cambridge, and Oxford, according to the following order. Westminster: To the following persons were assigned the Pentateuch, and the books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel and Kings, viz. Dr. Lancelot Andrews, dean of Westminster; Dr. John Overal, dean of St. Paul's; Dr. Adrian de Saravia; Dr. Richard Clarke; Dr. John Layfield; Dr. Leigh; Mr. Streetford; Mr. Sussex; Mr. Clave; Mr. Bedwell. Cambridge: To the following persons were assigned the books from Chronicles to Ecclesiastes, viz. Dr. Richardson ; Mr. Lively; Mr. Chadderton; Mr. Dillingham ; Mr. Harrison; Mr. Andrews; Mr. Spalding; Mr. Binge. Oxford: To the'following persons were assigned all the Prophets and Lamentations, viz., Dr. Harding; Dr. Reynolds ; Dr. Holland; Dr. Kilby ; Mr. Hereford; Mr. Brett; Mr. Fareclowe. Westminster: To the following persons were assigned all the Epistles, viz., Dr. William Barlow, dean of Chester; Dr. Hutchinson; Dr. Spencer; Mr. Fenton; Mr. Rabbet; Mr. Sanderson ; Mr. Dakins. Oxford: To the following persons were assigned the Gospels, Acts and Apocalypse, viz. Dr. Thomas Ravis, dean of Christ's church; Dr. George Abbot, dean of Winchester; Dr. James Montague, dean of Worcester; Dr. Giles Thompson, dean of Windsor; Dr. Perin; Dr. Ravens; Mr. Savile; Mr. Harmer. Cambridge: To the following persons were assigned the Apocrypha, viz. Dr. Duport; Dr. Branthwaite; Dr. Radcliffe; Mr. Ward; Mr. Downes; Mr. Boyse; Mr. Warde. See Fuller's Church History.
The whole number appointed to make the translation or rather revision of the Scriptures, was fifty-four; and though they were considered the most learned men in the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, it is said there was not a critical Hebrew scholar among them. Seven of them died before the whole work was finished. It was not a translation from the original Hebrew, for it is said they confined themselves to the Septuagint and the Vulgate; and then no translation had been made from the original Hebrew for 1400 years preceding. The study of the Hebrew language in those days was little attended to even by the highest dignitaries in the church. Besides, biblical criticism was then in its infancy, compared with what it is now. But notwithstanding all their disadvantages, they furnished a version of the Scriptures which has done much good, for which every Protestant must venerate their memory. If it has some blemishes, it has also many beauties. If in some places it can be altered for the better, it has also passages which never can be improved.
In judging of their version, we should ever bear in mind the age they lived in, and the circumstances under which it was made. The translators were men, and fallible men like all others. They had their own prejudices, and were surrounded with the prejudices of a whole nation, or rather world, in which much ignorance and superstition prevailed. Besides we shall see presently, that they were circumscribed by royal authority in their liberty as translators. Unrestrained liberty of thinking, and independence of mind to express their thoughts, if these deviated from popular belief, were not so common in those days as in these. We must not judge of the labors of those worthy men by the age we live in, and the circumstances in which we are placed. Forgetting that we are men of like passions and prejudices, we too often condemn those who have preceded us, and vainly think, we in their place would have done better. Our translators did wonders for the day they lived in; and were they now alive, with all our advantages, they would doubtless be the foremost in improving the version which they gave us. They were a selection of the most learned, judicious, and pious men the age afforded. It is true they had their prejudices and imperfections; but then, or now, where are men to be found without them? Now, we might find better scholars, and free from some of their prejudices and imperfections, but were they to make a version of the scriptures, it is likely that modern imperfections and prejudices would be discovered in it. A perfect version is not to be expected, but every age ought to make some approximation towards it.
It appears from the above account, that the Bible was divided into six portions, and these were assigned to six classes of translators. Such an arrangement unavoidably produced a version different in style, and various in the perfection of its execution. Whether such an arrangement was the best which could then be made, I shall not determine. Among the evils which have arisen from it, I shall notice only one. Different translators have sometimes rendered the same Hebrew and Greek words by different English words, when a uniform use of the same terms would have much better sfeited the subject of the original writer, and the scope of the place. For example: sheol&nd hades, they have sometimes rendered by the word grave, and in other places by the word hell. But they have made some amends for this, by the insertion of brief notes in the margin. The evil is, that by not rendering the same original words uniformly, much of the beautiful connexion among the sacred writers, is lost to the English reader. Scripture usage of words is one of the best rules for its interpretation.
Such were the men chosen to make our present English version, and the parts assigned them. That they were not left at liberty to give the best version which their judgments and learning might produce, is apparent from the following instructions to them, taken from Lewis's History of the English translations of the Bible. 'For the better ordering of the proceedings of the translators, his Majesty recommended the following rules to them to be carefully observed. 1. The ordinary Bible read in the church, commonly called the Bishop's Bible, to be followed, and as little altered as the original will permit. 2. The names of the prophets and the holy writers, with the other names in the text, to be retained as near as may be, according as they are vulgularly used. 3. The old ecclesiastical words to be kept, as the word church not to be translated congregation, etc. 4. When any word hath divers significations, that to be kept which has been most commonly used by the most eminent fathers, being agreeable to the propriety of the place, and the analogy of faith. 5. The divisions of the chapters to be altered either not at all, or as little as may be, if necessity may require. 6. No marginal notes at all to be affixed, but only for the explanation of the Hebrew or Greek words, which cannot without some circumlocution so briefly and fitly be expressed in the text. 7. Such quotations of places to be marginally set down, as shall serve for the fit references of one scripture to another. 8. Every particular man of each company to take the same chapter or chapters; and having translated or amended them severally by himself where he thinks good, all to meet together, to confer what they have done, and agree for their part what shall stand. 9. As any one company hath despatched any one book in this manner, they shall send it to the rest, to be considered of seriously and judiciously: for his Majesty is very careful in this point. 10. If any company, upon the review of the book so sent, shall doubt or differ upon any places, to send them word thereof, to note the places, and there withal to send their reasons; to which if they consent net, the difference to be compounded at the general meeting, which is to be of the chief persons of each company, at the end of the work. 11. When any place of special obscurity is doubted of, letters to be directed by authority, to send to any learned in the land for his judgment in such a place. 12. Letters to be sent from every bishop to the rest of the clergy, admonishing them of this translation in hand, and to move and charge as many a* being skilful in the tongues, have taken pains in that kind, to send their particular observations to the company either at Westminster, Cambridge, or Oxford, according as it was directed before in the king's letter to the archbishop. 13. The directors in each company to be the deans of Westminster and Chester, and the king's professors in Hebrew and Greek in the two Universities. 14. These translations to be used, when they agree better with the text than the Bishop's Bible, viz. Tyndal's, Coverdale's, Matthews', Wilchurch's,a Geneva.