On the Reality of the King James Translation


Here, succinctly stated, is the truth I've come through time to recognize about the King James Bible.

from God's Secretaries
Adam Nicolson

English was simply the target, the destination, not the language in which questions of precise meaning were naturally addressed. The Englich sentences were being prepared for others, the non-educated, who had no access to the essence of the text which these scholars, like Bois, had been drinking in for decades. The English, in other words, was itself subservient to the original Greek.

That linguistic hierarchy is also one of the sources of the King James style. This English is there to serve the original not to replace it. It speaks in its master's voice and is not the English you would have heard on the street, then or ever. It took up its life in a new and distinct dimension of linguistic space, somewhere between English and Greek (or, for the Old Testament, between English and Hebrew). These scholars were not pulling the language of scriptures into the English they knew and used at home. The words of the King James Bible are just as much English pushed towards the condition of a foreign language as a foreign language translated into Englilsh. It was, in other words, more important to make English godly than to make the words of God into the sort of prose that any Englilshmen would have written, and that secretarial relationship to the original languages of the scripture shaped the translation.

The majesty of the King James Bible is that the language there spoken has never been spoken by any people as the common tongue.

Taste in translation and in approaches to the Bible is largely, I think, similar to taste in the types of liturgies people prefer. Some prefer Latin Masses of the Tridentine School, others the Novus Ordo, still others the vernacular. All of these are excellent vehicles approved by the Church. The translation of the Bible is similar, although not all translations are of comparable worth. Some sing, and some plod; however all serve one audience or another and are therefore intrinsically valuable.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on October 5, 2004 7:42 AM.

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