In the opening pages of some copies of the King James Version of the Bible, one will find a section labled, (The Translators to The Reader). Within this rather lengthy article Dr. Miles Smith writes, “There were many chosen that were greater in other men’s eyes than in their own, and that sought the truth rather than their own praise.”
Clearly the translators of this version understood the fact that more is required of a translator than a certain knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew languages. They understood the need for capturing in their translation a Bible which would be correct, point by point, with that of the original. The plain command of God being to these men, that those who have his Word should speak it faithfully and “diminish not a word.”
The great reformer, Martin Luther, recognized the danger of allowing everyone to translate the Word of God. He said, “Translating is not an art that everyone can practice. It requires a right, pious, faithful, diligent, God-fearing, experienced, practiced heart.” (P. 331, Here I Stand, Abington Press.) While it is a necessary requirement that translators of the Scriptures be sincere men of God, it also takes men of exceptional linguistic ability. The combined characteristics are necessary! One may be given by his God, a right and true heart, and yet if his knowledge of he past and present languages is insufficient, he will fail to render to the translation the correct meaning of the original.
At a court conference in 1604, Dr. John Reynolds, a Puritan leader, made the suggestion that a new version of the English Bible be produced to replace the different versions in common use. His suggestion was at first opposed and then adopted by the members of the conference, and won the hearty approval of King James I.
Fifty-four men, including “High Churchmen” and Puritans, the greatest language scholars of the age, were chosen to form six committees to complete the task. Of the fifty-four chosen some died or withdrew before the translating began. The final list is composed of forty-seven men. Each of the six committees was given a portion of the Scriptures to translate. Each of the six committees was given a portion of the Scriptures to translate. Every man in each committee was required to translate in its entirety the portion assigned to his group prior to meeting with the entire group to compare the results and agree upon the final form.
Arriving at the final form, a complete draft of the translated portion was sent to each of the five other committees for their comments and consent. And yet, another committee of selected men from each of the groups went over the entire work again. At last, two from this committee were selected to go over the work once again and were given the responsibility for the final checking.
The above process of translating is in itself a safeguard against poor workmanship. In addition, we can also see that those advocates of the modern versions, who assume that they possess scholarship superior to that of the translators of our King James Version, err in this assumption, which is not supported by the facts.
Space does not allow me to list each of the forty-seven men and their accomplishments, but a sampling* of them may serve to illustrate the quality of scholarship the translators of the Authorized Version possessed. Men whom God raised up and brought together to give us the Bible we read each day.
Dr. Lancelot Andrews distinguished himself as a diligent and excellent preacher, and became Chaplain to Queen Elizabeth I. “His knowledge in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic, besides fifteen modern languages, was so advanced that he may be ranked as one of the rarest linguists in Christiandom.”
Dr. John Reynolds represented the Puritans at the Hampton Court Conference, where he made the suggestions that the Bible be translated anew. One man living at the time relates that Reynold’s “memory and reading were near to a miracle.”
Dr. Adrian Saravia, in the controversies of the period, was often referred to as “that learned foreigner.” He was of Spanish descent and resided in Holland. He was able to assist in the translation with his firsthand knowledge of the work of Spanish as well as Dutch scholars.
Dr. John Layfield, a Greek lecturer, was specially trained in architecture, and his judgement was relied on in regard to passages describing the Tabernacle and the Temple.
Dr. Richard Kilby is the author of a work on Exodus prepared from Hebrew commentators. An interesting story is related concerning this man. Dr. Kilby and a friend from the college where he was professor in Hebrew, visited a neighbouring church one Sunday evening. The young minister spent a large amount of the time, allotted for hi sermon, explaining where the translators had failed to give the most correct reading to several words in the then recent translation. Invited together to a meal with the young preacher after the service, Dr. Kilby took this opportunity to explain to the young preacher that he could have used his time more wisely. The learned Doctor explained how the translators had given serious consideration to the points the young man brought up in his sermon, but another thirteen weightier reasons had been found to support the translation to which the young man had so seriously objected. (A case of a little learning being a dangerous thing.)
William Bedwell was recognized as the “Father of Arabic studies in England.”
Dr. Miles Smith authored the long Translators’ Preface – “The Translator to the Reader,” which can still be found in some Bibles. It is said of this man that, “He had Hebrew at his fingertips, and he was so conversant with Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic, that he made them as familiar to himself as his own native language.” Dr. Smith is one of the two men that stayed with the task of translating until its completion.
Edward Liveley enjoyed the reputation of an acquaintance with the Oriental languages unequalled in that day.
John Boys began to read Hebrew at the age of five. He was admitted to St. John’s College at the age of fourteen, where he distinguished himself by his knowledge of the Greek language. It was a language that he often studied in the library from 4 A.M. to 8 P.M.
The list of men could be continued, with their lists of achievements equalling or bettering those already presented. But we can rest most assured that the translators of our Authorized Version were qualified men.
It is not reasonable on our part to imagine that the translators were infallible, or that their work was perfect in every detail, but neither is it reasonable to lightly discard this version in favour of others that would claim greater scholarship. Of the may attempts to replace the Authorized Version by a translation in more modern English, none has excelled this volume which has held its place in the English-speaking world for more than 350 years.
*Sampling taken from an article entitled “The Learned Men” – published by the Trinitarian Bible Society.
Hebrews 11 is a biography of the saints of old. Men and women gave up the treasures of this life for that which was not yet seen. By faith these saints of the Old Testament lived, suffering afflictions with the people of God, rather than enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season. (verse 25)
From the Bible stories heard as children, from the sermons we have heard preached in our churches, and from the discussion with friends in societies, the lives of the Old Testament fathers and mother we can easily recall. The same is not always true in regard to those saints who lived after the time of the writing of the Scriptures.
As in the Old Testament, men since that time have, “suffered torture, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection.” (v. 35) Even as the Apostle Paul calls men to walk as he walked, (Philippians 3:17) following his and others examples of faith, so also must we do the same. Numerous accounts are given us of saints whose lives are a tribute to Paul’s command.
“They are stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;…They wandered in mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.” (Hebrew 11:37,38b)
The cruel treatment of the children of God described here in Hebrews is matched and often surpassed by future enemies of Christ. Already in the first century, after Christ’s death on the cross, we find that the tortures inflicted upon Christians are as terrible as the minds of men, inspired by the devil, can invent.
During the reign of Nero, the sixth Roman emperor, that which is known as the “first general persecution of the Christians” began. It is said of this emperor, that he “fiddled while Rome burned.” This same man is credited with the death of his wife and mother.
Anger and hatred directed at the emperor was diverted by false accusations against the Christians. Accusing them of burning the city of Rome, Nero gave orders to hunt them out, slay and torture them in such a variety of horrible ways, that their tormentors often joined them rather than carry out their orders. Christians were placed in the skins of wild animals and then attacked by dogs until they died. Especially cruel, and revealing the character of this Nero, were his “torches”. Men and women were coated with pitch, placed upon poles, and burned to provide light for Nero’s gardens.
It is also at this time that the “catacombs” became prominent. They were long tunnels where slaves had been employed by the Romans to cut out stone in which to build the city. In these recesses of the earth, Christians could gather for the preaching of the Word, and partake of the sacraments in safety. As has been the case throughout our history, Christianity has thrived and grown under persecution. Having experienced the peace and joys of believing, despite the cruelty of the age, believers spread the good news of the Gospel, often at the expense of their own lives.
Coliseums were built by the evil Roman emperors. Within the walls of these buildings, hundred of Christians were brought to suffer death in some of its most terrible forms. Popularity of the emperor rested upon his ability to procure the greatest amount of such death. Despite the near unbelievable, coldbloodness of their assailants the Christians often met their death with cheerful countenances. Reflecting upon the growth of Christianity, it is proper that we view these tortures also as a means whereby God brings the weary and heavy laden to rest.
The “second and third persecution” of the Christians took on much the same form as that begun by the evil Nero. History records the beheading of Diounysius the Areopagite, then bishop of Athens, taking place at this time. His name is made known to us in the seventeenth chapter of Acts, which also records the account of Paul’s speaking to the Athenians of THE UKNOWN GOD.
“The fourth persecution” began under Marcus Aurelius in the year 163 A.D. Marcus Aurelius was the stoic philosopher, whose “Meditations” unlearned men have unwittingly compared with Christian thought.
Polycarpus, bishop of Smyrna, had sat at the feet of John, the beloved disciple. For sixty years he had served in the ministry of Christ. The martyrdom of this aged man, then in his eighty-sixth year, is told us by ancient historians.**
An angry mob called for the life of this old man, whom they saw as the source of much Christian activity. A military squad was sent to deliver him into the hands of the Asian proconsul. This man taking pity upon the aged Polycarpus attempted to persuade him to reject Christ and swear to the divinity of Caesar. Asked of the proconsul to say, “Away with the atheists” (a name given to Christians), Polycarpus solemnly pointed his hands at the pagan crowd and said, “Away with the atheists.”
The proconsul continued to press him to give up his belief. His reply came in the form of a noble confession. “Eighty-six years have I served Him, and he has done me no wrong; How then can I blaspheme my Savior and King?” Polycarpus was burned at the stake.
The next six persecutions were all carried out by the Roman empire. So great was the growth of Christianity at this time, that Tertullian tells us that had all the Christians left the Roman territories, the Roman empire would have been seriously weakened.
The means of death at the hands of the Romans was varied for the martyrs. Some were beheaded, some stoned, some stabbed with hot irons, some drowned some starved, some killed by cold, some killed by cutting off their limbs, and the list goes on. Yet, despite the terrible cruelty of their tormentors, so great was the power of God in His saints, they were able to praise His name unto the end.
Oh! What comfort must have been found in Paul’s words to the Hebrew. (12:2) “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Then indeed must they have looked upon their suffering as a blessing for Christ’s sake.
*The information presented in this article has been drawn from Foxe’s Christian Martyrs of the World, unless otherwise indicated.
** 1. F.F. Bruce, M.A., D.D., The Spreading Flame., page 174-175
As one looks back upon his past, it is natural that he sees the influence of others upon himself. We as young men and women in the Protestant Reformed Church have a great heritage upon which we can set our sights. Parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and older friends whose lives reflect the love they have for their God. Men and women who would not waver; whose walk was pure. Our elders in their day to day living gave evidence of their love in the manner in which they spoke.
All things work for the glory of our God. In their simplest conversations, our forefathers reflected a belief in this truth. Simply, and honestly, they have shown us the intent of their hearts and in so doing have influenced us.
In this 50th Anniversary Year, perhaps we can capture in our own minds a few of the often-heard phrases which reflect this devotion to their God and the covenant children he has give them. For as we look to the future of our church, it would be well that we also look back to the examples of our forefathers. In doing so, may God be praised.
“Wonder what he’ll write about? Probably go back to about 1950. Quite a way really, but I’m sure he doesn’t remember much that early. Maybe he’ll start from when he was five. Of course, he could always fill in the first five years. You know how they do it. Say how it was really nice to be born into such a family, and he could mention the line of generations and the covenant and those things.”
“Some fill in things though by watching other people. Maybe his nephews. He has a bunch you know. Some about that age too. Five years old I mean. I would think he could do it that way.”
“Of course, he’s heard things about himself when he was that age. Like, remember the time he was so sick? Pneumonia, asthma or something like that. Didn’t even know if he was going to make it. Funny how them little kids do it. They look so weak, but they catch a lot of things and snap right out of them. God sure makes them a lot stronger than they look. Seem so helpless at that age. Too small really to know what’s going on. They cry a lot, but you don’t always know what they need. Seems though, when they do get what they want, they’re quiet.”
“Hard to believe at that age about total depravity and all. They look so innocent. Never really done nothing. But it don’t take long and a bit of the stinker comes out in them. You hear them crying and as soon as you walk toward the crib they quit. Stop walking and they start all over again. Often wonder what goes on in them little heads.”
“Quite a wonder really with them little ones. Fingers and toes so small. Some fit in a shoebox when they’re born. Almost a miracle itself. You look at their little bodies and you can hardly believe it. Everything working together like that. Just that everything is smaller. Really a blessing, you know it? A wonder at God’s hand.”
“Boy they grow up in a hurry. It’s not so long and they’re into everything. On the farm though they always had plenty to do. Chores and field work kept them out of a lot of trouble. I don’t know though, seemed like they were always into something. Weren’t much taller than the dog and they were pulling its tail. Got bit too if I remember. And that B-B gun. More windows cracked then than ever. Nothing was really safe. Even practiced on each other, though dad didn’t put up with that for long.”
“Started school and catechism about together. Catechism first though, that’s the way it should be. Wouldn’t take them long and they knew all their question. They memorize better when their younger. You get so old and it don’t come so easy anymore.”
“At that age they really know what they believe. A childlike faith you know. Jesus is really Jesus and he loves children, that they know for sure. Of course, when they go to catechism and a Christian school they hear it plenty. Don’t hear all them crazy ideas until their older. Didn’t have T.V. either then.”
“Had good teachers too. Them ministers must train for that. Isn’t easy trying to teach all them kids. Can’t sit still for a minute. They got more energy when their young. Remember that first grade teacher? She’d sit for hours with them kids. But boy they had better listen too! She wasn’t much more than a kid herself. Right out of high school, don’t hear of that much anymore.”
“And could them kids sing. Not always the right words, but they put their hearts into it. They’d get up on the Christmas program and you could hear them for miles. It’s not long and they get pretty self-conscious.”
“Don’t have the energy they had either. Used to wake them in the morning and they would be right up, but that sure changes in a hurry. Of course, their bodies are changing too. Becoming little men and women. Happens way too fast though. One day they’re your babies and the next they’re going out.”
“The boys are worse. They can go out anytime they want, but the girls have to wait until their asked. Doesn’t seem fair really, but I guess that’s the way it’s supposed to be. And I guess that’s the way it is after they get married too. The man the head of the house and all.”
“They get in high school and things really begin to change. Start getting minds of their own. Want to try things by themselves. Start dating then. Looking for that one and only. Mostly puppy-love I think. It’s good when they get girls from the church. You don’t have to worry about them then, but plenty good ones come from outside.”
“They say that girls grow up faster than the boys. Can’t tell the boys that though. They think maybe it’s true for everybody else, but not for them. Boys will be boys! And I suppose the girls will always keep thinking about them.”
“That’s not really fair though, they both did a lot around here when they were in high school. Had chores to do morning and night. Even too busy to play sports in school. Sometimes it’s easier to remember the bad things they did. You kind of forget how much help they were. The minister says children can be a blessing in your old age, but really, they are no matter how old you are. Sometimes they get on your nerves, but it’s all worth it. A privilege really, raising them, and then too, you know you should do it for God’s glory and he blesses you too.”
“Look at them now. Go to church every Sunday. Raising kids of their own. Teaching the kids what we taught them. Some of them become teachers, ministers, and a lot of different things. They serve as elders and deacons in the church, give a hand when something needs to be done at the school and it seems like they always have some meeting to go to at church. Takes a lot of time. If the kids don’t have to go, then the parents do. What with church and school there always seems to be something to do. That’s good though.”
“Gives them a chance to study the Bible and see all the other people from the church. Better than that they have friends from the world. In these times, you need the strength and help that friends can give you. Things changing so fast the way they do. That way the kids can see plenty of their friends too. Not so long you know, and they will have little ones of their own. What did Hoeksema say, the third and fourth generation already? Don’t seem that long.”
“Fifty years already! Can you imagine! Doesn’t seem so long ago that the folks took our papers out of the Christian Reformed Church. A lot of hard feelings then, you know with the relation still being there, things didn’t always go so good. But they wanted the truth, nothing going to stop that. We weren’t supposed to last, but now look at us.”
“Our church has really been blest when you look back over the years. Things haven’t always been so easy, but we have the truth. Look at the kids, it’s a comfort to know that they are still where they belong. The little ones are in good schools and they can go to catechism every week. They’re building new schools everywhere and it seems like everybody got a good church to go to. We got missions opening up everywhere, that’s good, because we got a lot of students in the seminary. It’s a wonder how God always seems to provide. He really blesses his people. Uh yah, He is good.”
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