KING JAMES’ INSTRUCTIONS TO THE TRANSLATORS

"The king‘s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will." (Proverbs 21:1)

Richard Bancroft prepared the following Instructions to the Translators for King James:

For the better ordering of the proceedings of the translators, his Majesty recommended the following rules to them, to be very 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 vulgarly used.

3. The old ecclesiastical words to be kept; as the word church, not to be translated congregation, &c.

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 the faith.

5. The division of the chapters to be altered, either not at all, or as little as may be, if necessity so 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 of 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 dispatched 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, and therewithal to send their reasons; to which if they consent not, the difference to be compounded at the general meeting, which is to be 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 directly 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 as being skillful 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 the king’s letter to the archbishop.

13. The directors in each company to be 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. Tyndale’s, Coverdale’s, Matthew’s, Whitchurch's, Geneva.”

15. Besides the said Directors before mentioned, three or four of the most Ancient and Grave Divines, in either of the Universities, not employed in Translating, to be assigned by the vice-Chancellor, upon Conference with the rest of the Heads, to be Overseers of the Translations as well Hebrew as Greek, for the better observation of the 4th Rule above specified.


NOTES BY INSTRUCTION NUMBERS:

8. There were 47 highly qualified translators who worked on the KJV translation. They were divided into six companies with two companies at Westminster, two companies at Cambridge, and two companies at Oxford. Each company was given a portion of the Bible to translate. There were evidently at least seven members in each company, so each passage would be translated a minimum of seven times during the first stage. Then each company would go over the work together and and agree upon a joint translation. So when the initial company got through each word had been translated eight times.

9. Once the a company finished their translation, it was passed along to the five other companies for their review and correction. When the other five companies finished their reviews the entire Bible would have been translated thirteen times. And there would be a final review making fourteen translations of each chapter of the Bible.

12. Other scholars not on the formal committees were also encouraged to make suggestions throughout the translation process.

14. “Whitchurch” here refers to the Great Bible. Edwarde Whitchurch was King Henry VIII’s printer, who printed the Great Bible. With the six English translations of the Bible consulted (Tyndale’s Bible [1526], Coverdale’s Bible [1535], Matthew’s Bible [1537], Great Bible [1539], Geneva Bible [1560], Bishop’s Bible [1568]), the King James Bible became the seventh and final purification of the English Bible. "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." (Psalm 12:6-7) The KJV has been bless, used and produced more fruit than any other translation in any language in history.

REFERENCES:

1. McClintock & Strong's Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, Edited by John McClintock & James Strong, 1895

2. Translators of the King James Bible

3. Brief History of the King James Bible