Principles Of Bible Preservation
By Jack Moorman
TABLE OF CONTENTS
One: The starting point of apostasy
Two: Preservation must be approached in an attitude of faith
Three: Preservation is grounded in the eternal counsels of God
Four: Preservation is brought to pass through the priesthood of believers
Five: Preservation extends to the actual words
Six: Preservation is operative in the spread of the Scriptures
Seven: Preservation must of necessity apply to key translations
Eight: The meaning of the term "Scripture"
Nine: The bearing of John 16:13 upon the translation and preservation process
Ten: Lifegiving qualities in a translation
Eleven: A standard translation should be accepted as the preserved word of God
Twelve: Will there be another standard Bible?
A final word
One hundred years ago John Burgon wrote:
"If you and I believe that the original writings of the Scriptures were
verbally inspired by God, then of necessity they must have been
providentially preserved through the ages."
This is the crux of the matter; does God preserve that Word which He
originally inspired? And if so, to what extent? Is it merely the concepts
and basic message that is kept intact; or does preservation, as
inspiration, extend to the words themselves?
That the Bible declares both the fact and extent of its preservation is
made abundantly clear in the following.
"Know now that there shall fall unto the earth nothing of the word of the
LORD" (2 Kings 10:10).
"The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of
earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD; thou shalt
preserve them from this generation for ever" (Psa. 12:6,7).
"The law of the LORD is perfect converting the soul: the testimony of the
LORD is sure, making wise the simple" (Psa. 19:7).
"The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to
all generations" (Psa. 33:11).
"For the LORD is good, his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to
all generations" (Psa. 100:5).
"For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven" (Psa. 119:39).
"Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it" (Psa. 119:140).
"Concerning thy testimonies, I have known of old that thou hast founded
them for ever" (Psa. 119:152).
"Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous "Every
judgments endureth for ever" (Psa. 119:160).
"Every word of God is pure..." (Prov. 30:5).
"The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall
stand for ever" (Isa. 40:8).
"So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return
unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall
prosper in the thing whereto I sent it" (Isa. 55:11).
"For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one
tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matt. 5:18).
"Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (Matt.
"And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law
to fail" (Luke 16:17).
"The scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35).
"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the
word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever" (1 Pet. 1:23).
"But the word of the Lord endureth for ever" (1 Pet. 1:25).
We have a strange anomaly today; Christians claim to believe what the Bible
says about it's own inspiration but virtually ignore the equally direct
statements concerning preservation. To say that you believe in the full
inspiration of Scripture while at the same time accepting the textual
theories inherent in the modern versions, is about as incongruous as taking
Genesis one literally while holding to the theories of Darwin.
ONE: THE STARTING POINT OF APOSTASY
The questioning of the Bible's preservation is the starting point of all
other kinds of apostasy. Satan in Genesis 3 did not begin his attack by
questioning whether there was a God, or whether God created, or whether the
doctrine of the Trinity is true. Nor did it begin with the question of
whether God's word was inspired in the originals. Apostasy began when
Satan asked Eve, "Yea hath God said?" "Eve, are you certain that you
presently have a full recollection of what God said?" When doubt was given
a bridgehead at this point, the other defenses soon fell. The same
principle applies today: Has God preserved His word and kept intact His
original work of inspiration or has He not? It is a fact that the one
common denominator in all the varied errors, deviations, and heresies is
that their advocates will first criticize the standard received edition or
translation of Scripture.
TWO: PRESERVATION MUST BE APPROACHED IN AN ATTITUDE OF FAITH
Like all other Bible truths, the Scripture's teaching on its own
preservation is to be in the first instance accepted by faith. Edward F.
Hills in his outstanding book, The King James Version Defended calls it
"the logic of faith." The facts and evidence of such preservation will then
THREE: PRESERVATION IS GROUNDED IN THE ETERNAL COUNSELS OF GOD
The Bible's preservation is rooted in the eternal counsels of God. The
Scriptures are as eternal as God Himself.
"For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven" (Psa. 119:89).
FOUR: PRESERVATION IS BROUGHT TO PASS THROUGH THE PRIESTHOOD OF BELIEVERS
The preservation of the Scriptures took place through the priesthood of
believers. The Old Testament text was preserved by the Aaronic priests and
the scribes who grouped around them. "Unto them were committed the oracles
of God" (Rom. 3:2).
In the New Testament dispensation every believer is a priest under Christ.
Hence, the New Testament text has been preserved by faithful Christians in
every walk of life. "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will
guide you into all truth" (John 16:13).
It was not the pronouncements of church fathers or counsels that determined
the text and canon of the New Testament. Rather, the Holy Spirit guided His
own into the acceptance of the true word of God. Such copies proliferated,
while defective ones were ignored. The Holy Spirit continues this work
today in the questions that arise over the wording in the modern versions.
FIVE: PRESERVATION EXTENDS TO THE ACTUAL WORDS
Preservation has to do with the actual words of Scripture, not merely the
general teaching or concepts. This is made clear in the list of verses just
given. Advocates of the modern versions commonly say: "There is not a
single doctrine missing." But what they fail to tell you is that the words
which support and develop these doctrines are frequently missing. Thus, the
force of the doctrine is diminished. As inspiration of the Scriptures is
verbal so also is preservation.
SIX: PRESERVATION IS OPERATIVE IN THE SPREAD OF THE SCRIPTURES
Preservation has taken place in the diffusion of God's word, not in its
being hidden or stored. Stewart Custer, in seeking to somehow equate the
use of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus with the doctrine of preservation, said:
"God has preserved His word in the sands of Egypt." (This statement was
made in a debate at the Marquette Manor Baptist Church in Chicago, 1984.)
To take such a position would mean that believers have had the wrong text
for 1800 years, and it has been only with the advent of two liberal British
churchmen, and the retrieval of two disused Alexandrian manuscripts that we
now have the "true preserved" Word of God. No! The miracle of preservation
was operative while the Scriptures were being disseminated.
"The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it"
"Have they not heard? Yes, verily, their sound went into all the earth, and
their words unto the ends of the world" (Rom. 10:18).
SEVEN: PRESERVATION MUST OF NECESSITY APPLY TO KEY TRANSLATIONS
As so few can read the original languages, God's promise to preserve His
Word has no practical relevance if it does not extend to translations. The
Scripture frequently affirms "that we are born again by the Word of God"
(James 1:18; 1 Cor. 4:15; 1 Pet. 1:23). If a translation cannot be equated
with the actual Word of God, then ultimately this leads to the situation
that one must know Hebrew and Greek before they can be saved, or built up
in the faith (Rom. 10:17; Matt. 4:4).
Further, the Bible's use of the term "preserved" demonstrates that it is an
absolute and not a relative term. To speak of the Bible, or in this
discussion, a translation as being "almost preserved" is a misnomer. Either
it is preserved or it isn't, either it has errors or it doesn't. Either the
flower fades and the grass withers or it does not.
EIGHT: THE MEANING OF THE TERM "SCRIPTURE"
While it may be assumed that the Bible usage of the word "Scripture" has
reference to the original autographs; yet virtually each time the word is
used it is the copies or even translations of the Scriptures that are in
view, e.g. it is the Scriptures that the people had access to.
"But I will shew thee that which is noted in the scripture of truth" (Dan.
"Did ye never read in the scriptures?" (Matt. 21:42)
"Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures" (Matt. 22:29).
"How then shall the scriptures be fulfilled" (Matt. 26:54)?
"That the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled" (Matt. 26:56).
"That the scriptures must be fulfilled" (Mark 14:49).
"The scripture was fulfilled, which saith" (Mark 15:28).
"This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears" (Luke 4:21).
"He expounded unto them in all the scriptures" (Luke 24:27).
"And while he opened to us the scriptures" (Luke 24:32).
"That they might understand the scriptures" (Luke 24:45).
"They believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said" (Jn.2:22).
"Search the scriptures" (Jn. 5:39).
"He that believeth on me as the scripture hath said" (Jn. 7:38).
"Hath not the scripture said" (Jn. 7:42).
"The scripture cannot be broken" (Jn. 10:35).
"That the scripture may be fulfilled" (Jn. 13:18).
"That the scripture might be fulfilled" (Jn. 17:12; 19:24; 19:36).
"Another scripture saith" (Jn. 19:37).
"They knew not the scriptures" (Jn. 20:9).
"This scripture must needs have been fulfilled" (Acts 1:16).
"The place of the scripture which he read" (Acts 8:32).
"And began at the same scripture and preached " (Acts 8:35).
"Reasoned with them out of the scriptures" (Acts 17:2).
"They searched the scriptures daily (Acts" 17:11).
"Mighty in the scriptures" (Acts 18:24).
"Showing by the scriptures" (Acts 18:28).
"Promised before by his prophets in the holy scriptures" (Rom. 1:2).
"What saith the scripture" (Rom. 4:3)?
"The scripture saith unto Pharaoh" (Rom. 9: 17).
"The scripture saith" (Rom. 10:11).
"Wot ye not what the scripture saith" (Rom. 11:2).
Comfort of the scriptures" (Rom. 15:4).
Scriptures of the prophets" (Rom. 16:26).
"Christ died...according to the scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3).
"He rose again...according to the scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:4).
"The scripture, foreseeing that God would justify" (Gal. 3:8).
"The scripture hath concluded all under sin " (Gal. 3:22).
"What saith the scripture" (Gal. 4:30)?
"The scripture saith" (1 Tim. 5:18).
"That from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures" (2 Tim. 3:15).
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Tim. 3:16).
"The royal law according to the scripture" (James 2:8).
"The scripture was fulfilled which saith" (James 2:23).
"Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain?" (James 4:5)
"It is contained in the scripture" (1 Pet. 2:6).
"No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation" (2 Pet. 3:16).
"Wrest, as they do the other scriptures" (2 Pet. 3:16).
The above shows clearly that the word "Scripture" refers to what the people
had access to, what was at hand, what was current, what they could then
actually read and hear. Therefore, the biblical usage of the word refers
primarily to copies rather than the original autographs.
The fact that these copies and possibly even translations are called
"Scripture" strongly implies their preservation, and that the very
qualities of the inspired original have been brought over unto them.
These copies are holy (II Tim. 3:15; Rom. 1:2).
These copies are true (Dan. 10:21).
These copies are not broken (Jn. 10:35).
These copies are worthy of belief (Jn. 2:22).
The prophecies contained in these copies have been fulfilled to the very
letter and await fulfillment (Luke 4:21).
These copies are the very voice of God.
This can be shown by a comparison of the following:
"And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand
before Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the
Hebrews...For this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my
power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth" (Ex.
"For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I
raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might
be declared throughout all the earth" (Rom. 9:17).
"Now the LORD had said unto Abram...In thee shall all families of the earth
be blessed" (Gen. 12:1-3).
"And the scripture...preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying in
thee shall all nations be blessed" (Gal. 3:8).
"Wherefore she [Sarah] said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her
son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with
Isaac" (Gen. 21:10).
"Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son:
for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the
freewoman" (Gal. 4:30).
These verses establish the fact that there is no difference between the
Scriptures speaking and God speaking. And as the Scriptures refer to that
which is current and available, it follows that our copies are as much the
voice of God as the original is.
Consider also that classic passage on inspiration:
"And that from a child thou has known the holy scriptures, which are able
to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for
doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good
works" (2 Tim. 3:15-17).
There are some remarkable things about this passage that are often
overlooked. The words "is given by inspiration of God" are translated from
the one Greek word, theopneustos (God-breathed). And "is profitable" is
from Ophelimos. These two words are joined by the conjunction kai. Thus,
all scripture (graphe) is said to be "God-breathed and profitable."
The Jamieson, Fausett and Brown Commentary says of this phrase:
"Graphe is never used in the Bible of any writings except the sacred
Scriptures. The position of the two Greek adjectives (theopneustos kai
ophelimos) forbids taking the one as a modifier and the other as a
predicate. i.e. `every God-breathed scripture is also profitable.' The
adjectives are so closely connected that as one is a predicate the other
must be too."
Therefore, the translation "All scripture is given by inspiration of God,
and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof..." must be adhered to.
But what is remarkable here, is that while the Scriptures were inspired in
the past and their profitability has to do with the present, yet both facts
are joined together in an identical grammatical construction. Therefore, it
is the work of past inspiration which makes the Scriptures profitable in
the present. And conversely, the Scriptures cannot be profitable in the
present if the manifold blessings of inspiration have not been preserved.
Past inspiration is inseparably linked to present profitability.
NINE: THE BEARING OF JOHN 16:13 UPON THE TRANSLATION AND PRESERVATION PROCESS
"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all
truth" (John 16:13).
God has promised to guide His people into all truth. "All" here does not
mean "basically," "generally," "almost," "nearly," "relatively." It must
surely mean ALL!
"Truth" is defined in the next chapter of John as referring to the Bible.
"Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth" (Jn. 17:17).
Through the priesthood of believers, God guided His people into all truth
as to the canon of Scripture, e.g. which books were and were not inspired.
He also guided them into all truth as to the text of Scripture (which were
and were not the correct readings). And in order to make this relevant and
practical He must also guide them into all truth concerning the translation
Three important things can be seen in John 16:13:
(1) The Guide--"the Spirit of Truth"
(2) The Journey--"will guide you"
(3) The Arrival--"into all truth"
The history of how our Bible came down to us after its' inspiration in the
original autographs is to be found under these three points. These must be
considered in the history of every Bible of every language.
The same Holy Spirit of Truth who verbally inspired the Word in the
autographs is committed also to its verbal preservation in the textual,
transmissional, and translation process.
The statement "will guide you" indicates that a process is in view.
In the history of a given Bible where God was actively guiding there will
be at least three key periods:
(1) The Manuscript Period
(2) The Early Printed Edition Period
(3) The Period of an Authoritative Standard Edition
In each of these periods God's Word will be current and available to His
people. "But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy
heart that thou mayest do it" (Deut. 30:14).
In the first two periods God's Word may not have been available from the
same written source. Relatively minor variations existed in the hand copied
manuscripts of the Received Text tradition. The early printed Greek texts
of Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza had some variation, as did the early
printed English versions. Yet, God's promise of guiding into all truth
could still be counted on, and through the comparing of several sources He
would put upon the heart of his people which of the variants was the true
For example, Wycliffe's Bible was based on the Latin Vulgate and was
therefore flawed. Yet it could be clarified with the Celtic, Waldensian,
and Old Latin translations which had a Received Text tradition.
This same general principle could hold even today in those remote and
primitive areas where only a preliminary translation is available. The
earnest seeker of truth can know what a true reading is, for God has
promised to "guide into all truth." There is, however, the disadvantage
today that many missionary Bibles are based on the Alexandrian text.
If "will guide you" refers to the process or journey; then "into all truth"
must refer to the arrival at a destination. This destination refers to that
point when a given language receives an authoritative standardized Bible
accepted over a considerable period of time by the great mass of believers.
By any criterion the publication of the King James Version in that language
which is most used in international communication is the single most
important event in the transmissional history of Scripture.
Certainly here we see the biblical principle of 1 Corinthians 13:10 (at
least in a secondary application): "But when that which is perfect is come,
then that which is in part shall be done away."
History has shown this version in its widespread appeal to tower above the
other great standard versions of Europe. Even to this day it is the
measuring rod against which all others are judged.
The King James Version is the grand culmination of God's promise to guide
His people into all truth. Our conviction that this pinnacle was reached in
1611 is enforced by the fact that since then textual scholarship has been
rationalistic, has denied the inspiration of Scripture, and has moved in
precisely the opposite direction.
TEN: LIFE GIVING QUALITIES IN A TRANSLATION
Inspiration in the originals will not only ensure preservation in certain
key translations, but also animation. It is this quality which enables a
translation to convict the sinner and bring manifold grace to the believer:
Heb. 4:12; Acts 2:37; Isa. 55:11; Psa. 119:9,11,130; Rom. 10:17. It is
this which ensures that a translation will become an enduring standard
among the humble people of God. The Old Latin, Syriac Peshitta, Ethiopic,
Armenian, Georgian, Gothic, Slavonic, Luther, Tyndale, Geneva, and King
James are examples of versions which in a sweetly natural way worked their
way into the hearts of millions of God's people. High pressured promotion
was not needed as in the case of Constantine's Bible, the Latin Vulgate, or
the New International Version.
Thus when a translation is being prepared in accordance with the will of
God, the life giving breath of God will be felt in that translation. Modern
versions claim to be the "results of the most recent scholarship," but
there is no life in them and they fall flat after a few years.
God's work of preservation does more than keep the Bible from error in its
transmission and translation, it gives to the Bible an enduring freshness.
Therefore, a translation can be as much the Sword of the Spirit as the
original autographs. When God is active in the work of a translation (and
is there are reason to think that He would not be?), the manifold blessings
of the once delivered work of inspiration are transmitted to that
translation. Our standard translation is not a valley of dry bones, it has
breath! To test this fact, read John 14 in the New International Version
and then in the Authorized Version.
ELEVEN: A STANDARD TRANSLATION SHOULD BE ACCEPTED AS THE PRESERVED WORD OF GOD
It is only God who can make a translation or version a true Standard. Such
a Standard will endure the test of time, receive universal acceptance, and
result in widespread conversion. Such a Standard will spawn and encourage
the publication of vast amounts of supplemental literature: commentaries,
concordances, theological works, study helps of all kinds. And such a
Standard will evoke the wrath of Satan. Since it's inception, the King
James Version has been called "the paper pope of the Protestants."
That the Authorized Version is such a Standard and the only Standard in the
English language for nearly 400 years argues convincingly that it is God's
preserved word in that language. In response to God's promises of
preservation and the abundant evidence of the same, the believer may be
fully confident that the AV has no blemishes and is without proven error.
There are places that may need explanation, and it is right for the teacher
within reasonable limits to amplify, elucidate, and expound the English as
well as the underlying text. But this must not be done in such a way as to
imply to the listener that errors exist. For example, "This word means" is
acceptable; but, "A better rendering would be" is not. Certainly also,
before being too concerned about the "force of the Greek or Hebrew," the
reader should be certain that he has a grasp on "the force of the English"!
I say that the KJV is without "proven error" because I am not aware of
errors having been proven! Given all that can be said in behalf of the King
James Bible, the burden of proof must rest with the one making the charge.
If he feels he has better understanding and spiritual insight at a given
point than did the fifty AV translators--not to mention the translators of
the seven Bibles from Tyndale to the Bishops which prepared the groundwork
of the AV--then he must set forth his evidence.
That this is not so easy can be seen from the following incident involving
one of the AV translators:
Dr. Richard Kilby, the translator in the Old Testament group at Oxford,
heard a young parson complain in an earnest sermon that a certain passage
should read in a way he stated. After the sermon Dr. Kilby took the young
man aside and told him that the group had discussed at length not only his
proposed reading but thirteen others; only then had they decided on the
phrasing as it appeared (Gustavis S. Paine, The Men Behind the KJV (Baker
Book House, 1959), pgs. 137,138).
Great and totally unnecessary harm has been done by "young parsons" (and
old ones too!) who do this.
Long ago it was said:
Nothing can be more unseemly than for the unskillful to be always
correcting with their literal translations and various readings,
distressing simple souls rather than seeking that which tends to godly
edifying.Anyone who approaches a so-called problem passage in an attitude
of honour toward God's Word will find the solution equally honoring. He
will find that God's promise of preservation has been vindicated.
TWELVE: WILL THERE BE ANOTHER STANDARD BIBLE?
It is possible that in the providence of God another universally accepted
standard translation could be produced. However, given the lateness of the
hour, the lack of spiritual scholarship, and the fact that our language no
longer has the depth and vitality it once had, this seems most unlikely.
All indications point to the KJV as the Bible God would have His people use
in these last days before the Second Coming of Christ.
A FINAL WORD:
What is it that make the King James Version unique? Does it indeed have a
sense of the supernatural that is lacking in the modern versions? That is
does, is given remarkable confirmation in the following extended quotation
from the research of a secular author:
Can a committee produce a work of art? Many would say no, yet we have seen
that this large group of the king's translators, almost threescore of them,
together gave the world a work greater not only in scope but in excellence
than any could have done singly. How did this come to be? How explain that
sixty or more men, none a genius, none even as great a writer as Marlowe or
Ben Jonson, together produced writings to be compared with (and confused
with) the words of Shakespeare?
... if hard work alone were the secret of success, we would have the
answer, for we know that the learned men worked hard. Many of them labored
like monks in rooms so cold and damp, except close to the fires, that
fingers and joints got stiff even though they swathed themselves in their
thick gowns. They worked at odd hours, early in the mornings and late at
night, as other duties permitted. They endured rigors that we would think
But hard work alone, singly or in groups, does not insure a great result.
Were the learned men saints, under direct inspiration?
As we have seen, these men who made the translation for King James were
subject to like passions as we are. Even as they gave themselves to the
great work, they yielded also to petty vanities and ambition and prejudice
zeal for the great undertaking survived their own wrangles over doctrine
and their differences of opinion in personal matters. The quarrels that
are recorded were over such differences rather than the work in
hand. There they must have learned to rise above themselves for the good
of the whole, an act of grace deserving of reward. But does even this
account for the result?
To know that the Bible words were beyond the choosing of the best of them,
we have only to look at their individual writing. And this writing of
theirs in books or sermons or attempted poetry also answers the suggestion
that their work on the Bible was great because they lived in a great age.
It was an age of great writing, in which poets and dramatists flourished,
yet these men as individuals lacked the skills of those who made the
Mermaid Tavern and the Globe Theater live in literature. In vain do we look
to the eloquent Lancelot Andrewes or even to Miles Smith for the dulcet
temper and torrents of sound in concord that mark the religious prose of
Sir Thomas Browne, or for the dooming ire, like a knell, of Dr. John Donne.
At the same time their Bible surpassed others in an excellence not to be
attributed wholly to the original writers in the ancient tongues, so that
Lytton Strachey could say of the prophets, "Isaiah and Jeremiah had the
extraordinary good fortune to be translated into English by a committee of
Elizabethan bishops." Badly as some of the committee could write on other
occasions, not only was theirs the best of the English Bibles; there is, in
no modern language a Bible worthy to be compared with it as literature.
Though such verse as we have of their own lacks value for us, they were
poets who fashioned prose without knowing how expert they were ... Keats,
silent on a peak as he marveled at Chapman's Homer, might have marveled
still more if he had much traveled through the realms of gold in the King
James Bible. Chapman's Homer of those same years no longer has the power to
dazzle us, while the Bible's power has shown increase. At Oxford and
Cambridge the learned men breathed the air of noble language, amid
brilliant buildings and gardens which could excite them to lofty efforts in
a domain that seemed timeless. And they produced a timeless book.
Are we to say that God walked with them in their gardens? Insofar as they
believed in their own calling and election, they must have believed that
they would have God's help in their task. We marvel that they could both
submerge themselves and assert themselves, could meekly agree yet firmly
declare, and hold to the words they preferred as just and fitting. At the
same time they could write and they could listen, speak clearly, and
hearken to the sounds they tested, as well as to the voice of what they
deemed the divine Author. And that must have been the secret of their grace
and their assurance: they agreed, not with the other men like themselves,
but with God as their guide, and they followed not as thinking themselves
righteous but as led by a righteousness beyond them.
... So they put down what they had to put down; their wrting flows with a
sense of must. Some of it they took wholly from former works, yet the must
extends to what the 1611 scholars had the wisdom to adopt and, as it were,
to inlay in the rest.
... They knew how to make the Bible scare the wits out of you and then calm
you, all in English as superb as the Hebrew and the Greek. They could make
their phrasing proceed as though caused by the First Cause, without shadow
of turning; they could make the stately language of threat and wrath or the
promises of tender mercy come word for word from God Himself.
... Soul and body, the work of the learned men still moves the world
because they wrought inside each sentence a certain balance of letter and
spirit. If other versions have their day and pass, it is because this
balance is somehow marred.
Miles Smith in his preface bears out this idea that the work carried them
above themselves. "The Scripture ... is not an herb but a tree, or rather a
whole paradise of trees of life, which bring forth fruit every month, and
the fruit thereof is for meat, and the leaves for medicine ... And what
marvel? The original thereof being from heaven, not from earth; the author
being God, not man; the inditer, the Holy Spirit, not the wit of the
Apostles or prophets. But how shall men ... 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 speaketh a barbarian, and he that
speaketh shall be a barbarian to me'."
"Translation it is," Smith continued, "that openeth the window, to let in
the light; that breaketh the shell, that we may eat the kernel; that
putteth aside the curtain, that we may look into the most holy place; that
removeth the cover of the well, that we may come by the water."
..."After the endeavors of them that were before us, we take the best pains
we can in the house of God ... Truly (good Christian reader) we never
thought from the beginning, that we should need to make a new translation,
nor yet to make a bad one a good one ... but to make a good one better, or
out of many good ones, one principal one."
..."neither did we disdain," Smith declared, "to revise that which we had
done, and to bring back to the anvil that which we had hammered: but having
and using as great helps as were needful, and fearing no reproach for
slowness, nor coveting praise for expedition, we have at the length,
through the good hand of the Lord upon us, brought the work to the pass
that you see."
..."And in what sort did these assemble? In the trust of their own
knowledge, or of their sharpness of it, or deepness of judgment, as it were
in an arm of flesh? At no hand. They trusted in him that hath the key of
David, opening and no man shutting; they prayed to the Lord" (Gustavus
Paine, The Men Behind The KJV, pgs. 167-76).
God has preserved in the King James Version His original work of
inspiration. The flower has not faded. The sword is as sharp as in the day
it was first whetted.