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King James Version: Preface

Author's Bias: Unknown

Epistle and Dedicatory

TO THE MOST HIGH AND MIGHTY PRINCE,
JAMES
BY THE GRACE OF GOD
KING OF GREAT BRITAIN, FRANCE, AND IRELAND
DEFENDER OF THE FAITH. &c.
The translators of The Bible wish Grace, Mercy, and Peace, through JESUS CHRIST our LORD.

Great and manifold were the blessings (most dread Sovereign) which Almighty GOD, the Father of all Mercies, bestowed upon us the people ENGLAND, when first he sent your Majesty's Royal person to rule and reign over us. For whereas it was the expectation of many, who wished not well unto our ZION, that upon the setting of that bright Occidental Star Queen ELIZABETH of most happy memory, some thick and palpable clouds of darkness would so have overshadowed this land, that men should have been in doubt which way they were to walk, and that it should hardly be known, who was to direct the unsettled State: the appearance of your MAJESTY, as of the Sun in his strength, instantly dispelled those supposed and surmised mists, and gave unto all that were well affected, exceeding cause of comfort; especially when we beheld the government established in your HIGHNESS, and your hopeful Seed, by an undoubted Title, and this also accompanied with Peace and tranquility, at home and abroad.

But amongst all our joys, there was no one that more filled our hearts, than the blessed continuance of the Preaching of GODS sacred word amongst us, which is that inestimable treasure, which excels all the riches of the earth, because the fruit thereof extended itself, not only to the time spent in this transitory world, but directs and disposes men unto that eternal happiness which is above in Heaven.

Then, not to suffer this to fall to the ground, but rather to take it up, and to continue it in that state, wherein the famous predecessor of your HIGHNESS did leave it; nay, to go forward with the confidence and resolution of a man in maintaining the truth of CHRIST, and propagating it far and near, is that which hath so bound and firmly knit the hearts of all your MAJESTY'S loyal and religious people unto you, that your very Name is precious among them, their eye doth behold you with comfort, and they bless you in their hearts, as that sanctified person, who under GOD, is the immediate author of their true happiness. And this their contentment doth not diminish or decay, but every day increases and takes strength, when they observe that the zeal of your Majesty towards the house of GOD, doth not slacken or go backward, but is more and more kindled, manifesting itself abroad in the furthest parts of Christendom, by writing in defense of the Truth, (which hath given such a blow unto that man of Sin, as will not be healed) and every day at home, by Religious and learned discourse, by frequenting the house of GOD, by hearing the word preached, by cherishing the teachers thereof, by caring for the Church as a most tender and loving nursing Father.

There are infinite arguments of this right Christian and Religious affection in your Majesty: but none is more forcible to declare it to others, then the vehement and perpetuated desire of the accomplishing and publishing of this Work, which now with all humility we present unto your Majesty. For when your Highness had once out of deep judgment apprehended, how convenient it was, That out of the Original sacred tongues, together with comparing of the Labors, both in our own and other foreign Languages, of many worthy men who went before us, there should be one more exact Translation of the holy Scriptures into the English tongue; your Majesty did never desist, to urge and to excite those to whom it was commended, that the work might be hastened, and that the business might be expedited in so decent a manner, as a matter of such importance might justly require.

And now at last, by the Mercy of GOD, and the continuance of our Labors, it being brought unto such a conclusion, as that we have great hope that the Church of England shall reap good fruit thereby; we hold it our duty to offer it to your Majesty, not only as to our King and Sovereign, but as to the principal mover and Author of the Work. Humbly craving of your most Sacred Majesty, that since things of this quality have ever been subject to the censures of ill meaning and discontented persons, it may receive approbation and Patronage from so learned and judicious a Prince as your Highness is, whose allowance and acceptance of our Labors, shall more honor us and encourage us, then all the calumniations and hard interpretations of other men shall dismay us. So that, if on the one side we shall be traduced by Popish persons at home or abroad, who therefore will malign us, because we are poor Instruments to make GODS holy Truth to be yet more and more known unto the people, whom they desire still to keep in ignorance and darkness: or if on the other side, we shall be maligned by self-conceited brethren, who run their own ways, and give liking unto nothing but what is framed by themselves, and hammered on their anvil; we may rest secure, supported within by the truth and innocence of a good conscience, having walked the ways of simplicity and integrity, as before the Lord; And sustained without, by the powerful Protection of your Majesty's grace and favor, which will ever give countenance to honest and Christian endeavors, against bitter censures, and uncharitable imputations.

The LORD of Heaven and earth bless your Majesty with many and happy days, that as his Heavenly hand hath enriched your Highness with many singular, and extraordinary Graces; so you may be the wonder of the world in this later age, for happiness and true felicity, to the honor of that Great GOD, and the good of his Church, through JESUS CHRIST our Lord and only Savior.

The Translators To The Reader

Zeal to promote the common good, whether it be by devising any thing our selves, or revising that which hath been labored by others, deserves certainly much respect and esteem, but yet finds but cold entertainment in the world. It is welcomed with suspicion in stead of love, and with emulation in stead of thanks: and if there be any hole left for cavill to enter, (and cavill, if it do not find a hole, will make one) it is sure to be misconstrued, and in danger to be condemned. This will easily be granted by as many as know story, or have any experience. For, was there ever any thing projected, that savored any way of newness or renewing, but the same endured many a storm of gain-saying, or opposition? A man would think that Civilitie, wholesome laws, learning and eloquence, Synods, and Church-maintenance, (that we speak of no more things of this kind) should be as safe as a Sanctuary, and out of shot, as they say, that no man would lift up the hele, no, nor dogge moove his tongue against the motioners of them. For by the first, we are distinguished from brute-beasts led with sensuality: By the second, we are bridled and restrained from outrageous behavior, and from doing of injuries, whether by fraud or by violence: By the third, we are enabled to inform and reform others, by the light and feeling that we have attained unto our selves: Briefly, by the fourth being brought together to a parley face to face, we sooner compose our differences then by writings, which are endless: And lastly, that the Church be sufficiently provided for, is so agreeable to good reason and conscience, that those mothers are holdn to be less cruel, that kill their children as soon as they are borne, then those nursing fathers and mothers (wherever they be) that withdraw from them who hang upon their breasts (and upon whose breasts again themselves do hang to receive the Spiritual and sincere milk of the word) livelihood and support fit for their estates. Thus it is apparent, that these things which we speak of, are of most necessary use, and therefore, that none, either without absurdity can speak against them, or without note of wickedness can spurn against them.

Yet for all that, the learned know that certain worthy men have been brought to untimely death for none other fault, but for seeking to reduce their countrymen to good order and discipline: and that in some Common-weales it was made a capital crime, once to motion the making of a new law for the abrogating of an old, though the same were most pernicious: And that certain, which would be counted pillars of the State, and patterns of Virtue and Prudence, could not be brought for a long time to give way to good Letters and refined speech, but bare themselves as averse from them, as from rocks or boxes of poison: And fourthly, that he was no babe, but a great cleark, that gave forth (and in writing to remain to posterity) in passion peradventure, but yet he gave forth, that he had not seen any profit to come by any Synod, or meeting of the Clergy, but rather the contrary: And lastly, against Church-maintenance and allowance, in such sort, as the Ambassadors and messengers of the great King of Kings should be furnished, it is not unknown what a fiction or fable (so it is esteemed, and for no better by the reporter himself, though superstitious) was devised; Namely, that at such time as the professors and teachers of Christianity in the Church of Rome, then a true Church, were liberally endowed, a voice forsooth was heard from heaven, saying; Now is poison poured down into the Church, &c. Thus not only as oft as we speak, as one says, but also as oft as we do any thing of note or consequence, we subject our selves to every ones censure, and happy is he that is least tossed upon tongues; for utterly to escape the snatch of them it is impossible. If any man conceit, that this is the lot and portion of the meaner sort only, and that Princes are privileged by their high estate, he is deceived. As the sword devours as well one as the other, as it is in Samuel; nay as the great Commander charged his soldiers in a certain battle, to strike at no part of the enemy, but at the face; And as the King of Syria commanded his chief Captains to fight neither with small nor great, save only against the King of Israel: so it is too true, that envy strikes most spitefully at the fairest, and at the chief. David was a worthy Prince, and no man to be compared to him for his first deeds, and yet for as worthy an act as ever he did (even for bringing back the Ark of God in solemnity) he was scorned and scoffed at by his own wife. Solomon was greater then David, though not in virtue, yet in power: and by his power and wisdom he built a Temple to the LORD, such a one was the glory of the land of Israel, and the wonder of the whole world. But was that his magnificence liked of by all? We doubt of it. Otherwise, why do they lay it in his sons dish, and call unto him for easing of the burden, Make, say they, the grievous servitude of thy father, and his sore yoke, lighter. Belike he had charged them with some levies, and troubled them with some cariages; Hereupon they raise up a tragedy, and wish in their heart the Temple had never been built. So hard a thing it is to please all, even when we please God best, and do seek to approve our selves to every ones conscience.

If we will descend to later times, we shall find many the like examples of such kind, or rather unkind acceptance. The first Roman Emperor did never do a more pleasing deed to the learned, nor more profitable to posterity, for conserving the record of times in true supputation; then when he corrected the calendar, and ordered the year according to the course of the Sun: and yet this was imputed to him for novelty, and arrogancie, and procured to him great obloquie. So the first Christened Emperor (at the leastwise that openly professed the faith himself, and allowed others to do the like) for strengthening the Empire at his great charges, and providing for the Church, as he did, got for his labor the name Pupillus, as who would say, a wasteful Prince, that had need of a Guardian, or overseer. So the best Christened Emperor, for the love that he bare unto peace, thereby to enrich both himself and his subjects, and because he did not seek warre but find it, was judged to be no man at arms, (though in deed he excelled in feats of chivalry, and showed so much when he was provoked) and condemned for giving himself to his ease, and to his pleasure. To be short, the most learned Emperor of former times, (at the least, the greatest politician) what thanks had he for cutting off the superfluities of the laws, and digesting them into some order and method? This, that he hath been blotted by some to be an Epitomist, that is, one that extinguished worthy whole volumes, to bring his abridgements into request. This is the measure that hath been rendered to excellent Princes in former times, even, Cum beenè facerent, malè audire, For their good deeds to be evil spoken of. Neither is there any likelihood, that envy and malignity died, and were buried with the ancient. No, no, the reproof of Moses takes hold of most ages; You are risen up in your fathers stead, an increase of sinful men. What is that that hath been done? that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the Sun, says the wise man: and S. Steven, As your fathers did, so do you. This, and more to this purpose, His Majesty that now reigns (and long, and long may he reign, and his offspring for ever, Himself and children, and children's children always) knew full well, according to the singular wisdom given unto him by God, and the rare learning and experience that he hath attained unto; namely that whosoever attempts any thing for the public (especially if it pertains to Religion, and to the opening and clearing of the word of God) the same sets himself upon a stage to be gloated upon by every evil eye, yea, he casts himself headlong upon pikes, to be gored by every sharp tongue. For he that meddles with men's Religion in any part, meddles with their custom, nay, with their freehold; and though they find no content in that which they have, yet they cannot abide to hear of altering. Notwithstanding his Royal heart was not daunted or discouraged for this or that color, but stood resolute, as a statue immoveable, and an anvil not easy to be beaten into plates, as one says; he knew who had chosen him to be a Soldier, or rather a Captain, and being assured that the course which he intended made much for the glory of God, & the building up of his Church, he would not suffer it to be broken off for whatsoever speeches or practices. It doth certainly belong unto Kings, yea, it doth specially belong unto them, to have care of Religion, yea, to know it aright, yea, to profess it zealously, yea to promote it to the uttermost of their power. This is their glory before all nations which mean well, and this will bring unto them a far most excellent weight of glory in the day of the Lord Jesus. For the Scripture says not in vain, Them that honor me, I will honor, neither was it a vain word that Eusebius delivered long ago, that piety towards God was the weapon, and the only weapon that both preserved Constantines person, and avenged him of his enemies.

But now what piety without truth? what truth (what saving truth) without the word of God? what word of God (whereof we may be sure) without the Scripture? The Scriptures we are commanded to search. Joh. 5.39. Esa. 8.20. They are commended that searched & studied them. Act. 17.11. and 8.28, 29. They are reproved that were unskillful in them, or slow to believe them. Mat. 22.29. Luk. 24.25. They can make us wise unto salvation. 2. Tim. 3.15. If we be ignorant, they will instruct us; if out of the way, they will bring us home; if out of order, they will reform us, if in heaviness, comfort us; if dull, quicken us; if cold, inflame us. Tolle, lege; Tolle, lege, Take up and read, take up and read the Scriptures, (for unto them was the direction) it was said unto S. Augustine by a supernatural voice. Whatsoever is in the Scriptures, believe me, says the same S. Augustine, is high and divine; there is verily truth, and a doctrine most fit for the refreshing and renewing of men's minds, and truly so tempered, that every one may draw from thence that which is sufficient for him, if he come to draw with a devout and pious mind, as true Religion requires. Thus S. Augustine. And S. Jerome: Ana scripturas, & amabit te sapientia &c. Love the Scriptures, and wisdom will love the. And S. Cyrill against Julian; Even boys that are bred up in the Scriptures, become most religious, &c. But what mention we three or four uses of the Scripture, whereas whatsoever is to be believed or practiced, or hoped for, is contained in them? or three or four sentences of the Fathers, since whosoever is worthy of the name of a Father, from Christ's time downward, hath likewise written not only of the riches, but also of the perfection of the Scripture? I adore the fullness of the Scripture, says Tertullian against Hermogenes. And Again, to Apelles an Heretic of the like stamp, he says; I do not admit that which thou brings in (or concludes) of thine own (head or store, de tuo) without Scripture. So Saint Justin Martyr before him; We must know by all means, says he, that it is not lawful (or possible) to learn (any thing) of God or of right piety, save only out of the Prophets, who teach us by divine inspiration. So Saint Basill after Tertullian, It is a manifest falling away from the Faith, and a fault of presumption, either to reject any of those things that are written, or to bring in (upon the head of them,) any of those things that are not written. We omit to cite to the same effect, S. Cyrill B. of Jerusalem in his 4. Cataches. Saint Jerome against Heludius, Saint Augustine in his 3. book against the letters of Petilian, and in very many other places of his works. Also we forebear to descend to latter Fathers, because we will not weary the reader. The Scriptures then being acknowledged to be so full and so perfect, how can we excuse our selves of negligence, if we do not study them, of curiosity, if we be not content with them? Men talk much of , how many sweet and goodly things it had hanging on it; of the Philosophers stone, that it turns copper into gold; of Cornucopia, that it had all things necessary for food in it; of Panaces the herb, that it was good for all diseases; of Catholicon the drug, that is in stead of all purges; of Vulcans armor, that is was an armor of proof against all thrusts, and all blows, &c. Well, that which they falsely or vainly attributed to these things for bodily good, we may justly and with full measure ascribe unto the Scripture, for spiritual. It is not only an armor, but also a whole armory of weapons, both offensive, and defensive; whereby we may save our selves and put the enemy to flight. It is not an herb, but a tree, or rather a whole paradise of trees of life, which bring forth fruit every moneth, and the fruit thereof is for meate, and the leaves for medicine. It is not a pot of Manna, or a cruse of oyle, which were for memory only, or for a meales meate or two, but as it were a shower of heavenly bread sufficient for a whole host, be it never so great; and as it were a whole cellar full of oyle vessels; whereby all our necessities may be provided for, and our debts discharged. In a word, it is a Panary of wholesome food, against fenowed traditions; a Physions-shop (Saint Basill calls it) of preservatives against poisoned heresies; a Pandect of profitable laws, against rebellious spirits; a treasury of most costly jewels, against beggarly rudiments; Finally a fountain of most pure water springing up unto everlasting life. And what marvel? The original thereof being from heaven, not from earth; the author being God, not man; the enditer, the holy spirit, not the wit of the Apostles or Prophets; the Pen-men such as were sanctified from the womb, and endowed with a principal portion of Gods spirit; the matter, verity,piety, purity, uprightness; the form, Gods word, Gods testimony, Gods oracles, the word of truth, the word of salvation, &c. the effects, light of understanding, stableness of persuasion, repentance from dead works, newness of life, holiness, peace, joy in the holy Ghost; lastly, the end and reward of the study thereof, fellowship with the Saints, participation of the heavenly nature, fruition of an inheritance immortal, undefiled, and that never shall fade away: Happy is the man that delights in the Scripture, and thrice happy that meditates in it day and night.

But how shall men meditate in that, which they cannot understand? How shall they understand that which is kept close in an unknown tongue? as it is written, Except I know the power of the voice, I shall be to him that speaks, a Barbarian, and he that speaks, shall be a Barbarian to me. The Apostle excepted no tongue, not Hebrew the ancient, not Greek the most copious, not Latin the finest. Nature taught a natural man to confess, that all of us in those tongues which we do not understand, are plainly deaf; we may turn the deaf ear unto them. The Scythian counted the Athenian, whom he did not understand, barbarous: so the Roman did the Syrian, and the Jew, (even S. Jerome himself calls the Hebrew tongue barbarous, belike because it was strange to so many) so the Emperor of Constantinople calls the Latin tongue, barbarous, though Pope Nicolas do storm at it: so the Jews long before Christ, called all other nations, Lognazim, which is little better then barbarous. Therefore as one complains, that always in the Senate of Rome, there was one or other that called for an interpreter: so lest the Church be driven to the like exigent, it is necessary to have translations in a readiness. Translation it is that opens the window, to let in the light; that breaks the shell, that we may eat the kernel; that puts aside the curtain, that we may look into the most Holy place; that removes the cover of the well, that we may come by the water, even as Jacob rolled away the stone from the mouth of the well, by which means the flocks of Laban were watered. Indeed without translation into the vulgar tongue, the unlearned are but like children at Jacobs well (which was deep) without a bucket or some thing to draw with: or as that person mentioned by Esau, to whom when a sealed book was delivered, with this motion, Read this, I pray the, he was fain to make this answer, I cannot, for it is sealed.

While God would be known only in Jacob, and have his Name great in Israel, and in none other place, while the dew lay on Gideons fleece only, and all the earth besides was dry; then for one and the same people, which spoke all of them the language of Canaan, that is, Hebrew, one and the same original in Hebrew was sufficient. But when the fullness of time drew near, that the Sun of righteousness, the Son of God should come into the world, whom God ordained to be a reconciliation through faith in his blood, not of the Jew only, but also of the Greek, yea, of all them that were scattered abroad; then loe, it pleased the Lord to stir up the spirit of a Greek Prince (Greek for descent and language) even of Ptolome Philadelph King of Egypt, to procure the translating of the Book of God out of Hebrew into Greek. This is the translation of the Seventy Interpreters, commonly so called, which prepared the way for our Savior among the Gentiles by written preaching, as Saint John Baptist did among the Jews vocally. For the Grecians being desirous of learning, were not wont to suffer books of worth to lie molding in Kings Libraries, but had many of their servants, ready scribes, to copy them out, and so they were dispersed and made common. Again, the Greek tongue was well known and made familiar to most inhabitants in Asia, by reason of the conquest that there the Grecians had made, as also by the Colonies, which thither they had sent. For the same causes also it was well understood in many places of Europe, yea, and of Africa too. Therefore the word of God being set forth in Greek, becomes hereby like a candle set upon a candlestick, which gives light to all that are in the house, or like a proclamation sounded forth in the market place, which most men presently take knowledge of; and therefore that language was fittest to contain the Scriptures, both for the first Preachers of the Gospel to appeal unto for witness, and for the learners also of those times to make search and trial by. It is certain, that the Translation was not so sound and so perfect, but that it needed in many places correction; and who had been so sufficient for this work as the Apostles or Apostle like men? Yet it seemed good to the holy Ghost and to them, to take that which they found, (the same being for the greatest part true and sufficient) rather then by making a new, in that new world and green age of the Church, to expose themselves to many exceptions and cavillations, as though they made a Translation to serve their own turn, and therefore bearing witness to themselves, their witness not to be regarded. This may be supposed to be some cause, why the Translation of the Seventy was allowed to pass for current. Notwithstanding, though it was commended generally, yet it did not fully content the learned, no not of the Jews. For not long after Christ, Aquila fell in hand with a new Translation, and after him Theodotion, and after him Symmachus: yea, there was a fifth and a sixth edition the Authors whereof were not known. These with the Seventy made up the Hexapla, and were worthily and to great purpose compiled together by Origen. Howbeit the Edition of the Seventy went away with the credit, and therefore not only was placed in the midst by Origen (for the worth and excellency thereof above the rest, as Epiphanius gathereth) but also was used by the Greek fathers for the ground and foundation of their Commentaries. Yea, Epiphanius above named doth attribute so much unto it, that he holdth the Authors thereof not only for Interpreters, but also for Prophets in some respect: and Justinian the Emperor enjoying the Jews his subjects to use specially the Translation of the Seventy, renders this reason thereof, because they were as it were enlightened with prophetical grace. Yet for all that, as the Egyptians are said of the Prophet to be men and not God, and their horses flesh and not spirit: so it is evident, (and Saint Jerome affirms as much) that the Seventy were Interpreters, they were not Prophets; they did many things well, as learned men; but yet as men they stumbled and fell, one while through oversight, another while through ignorance, yea, sometimes they may be noted to add to the Original, and sometimes to take from it; which made the Apostles to leave them many times, when they left the Hebrew, and to deliver the sense thereof according to the truth of the word, as the spirit gave them utterance. This may suffice touching the Greek Translations of the old Testament.

There were also within a few hundred years after CHRIST, translations many into the Latin tongue: for this tongue also was very fit to convey the law and the Gospel by, because in those times very many Countries of the West, yea of the South, East and North, spoke or understood Latin, being made Provinces to the Romans. But now the Latin Translations were too many to be all good, for they were infinite (Latini Interpretes nullo modo numerari possunt, saith S. Augustine.) Again they were not out of the Hebrew fountain (we speak of the Latin Translations of the Old Testament) but out of the Greek stream, therefore the Greek being not altogether clear, the Latin derived from it must needs be muddy. This moved S. Jerome a most learned father, and the best linguist without controversy, of his age, or of any that went before him, to undertake the translating of the Old Testament, out of the very fountains themselves; which he performed with that evidence of great learning, judgment, industry and faithfulness, that he hath for ever bound the Church unto him, in a debt of special remembrance and thankfulness.



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