VIII. Changes in Translation
Having considered those departures of the R.V. from the A.V. that are due to the use of a different Greek Text, we come now to changes of another sort, namely, changes of words and sentences where there was no change in the corresponding part of the Greek Text.
In speaking of this class of changes we do not fail to recognize, what is admitted by all competent authorities, that the A.V. could be corrected in a number of passages where the meaning is now obscured because of changes which three centuries have brought about in the meaning of English Words, or where diligent study or recent discoveries have brought to light better readings. Such instances, however, are comparatively few, whereas the R.V. give us about 36,000 departures, small and great, from the A.V. What shall we say of such a host of changes? Sir Edmund Beckett writes about it as follows:
“The two principal complaints of the work of the Revisers made by nearly every review, and by some of their own members (who protested in vain) are of the enormous number of alterations which convict themselves of being unnecessary; and the still more serious one that they have hardly changed a sentence without spoiling its English, sometimes by the smallest touch or transposition of a word and still more by the larger alterations.
“The condemnation of a great deal of the Revisers’ work, in real fidelity of translation, as well as in style, by such a scholar as the Bishop of Lincoln has been from his youth, is a blow from which they will not easily recover…. Another dignitary and scholar of eminence has publicly declared that he dissented from one-third (which is 12,000) of the alterations the more ambitious majority persisted in; and it is generally understood that another Dean resigned for the same reason in despair. “
In a great many, instances changes were made in the tenses of verbs, upon the theory advocated by Drs. Westcott and Hort, that the proper rendering of the Greek aorist demanded such changes. But this has since that time been seriously called into question. Indeed a writer in the London Times for January 17, 1920, remarks that “Some years ago Bishop Westcott’s son told the readers of The Times that the view taken by the Revisers of the proper meaning of the Greek aorist, which led to so many alterations, was now known to be mistaken.”
One need not be a Greek scholar in order to form an opinion of his own regarding the many changes of words and phrases which the Revisers have made in cases where there was no thought of changing the meaning. Such changes appear from a mere comparison of the two Versions. And if one has become at all used to the unap- proachable style of the A.V. his ear must certainly suffer continual offence and annoyance as he listens to the rendering of familiar passages in the R.V.
Speaking to this point Dean Burgon (in his Revision Revised) says:
“The English, as well as the Greek, of the newly Revised Version, is hopelessly at fault. It is to me simply unintelligible ‘We how a company of scholars can have spent ten years in elaborating such a very unsatisfactory production. Their uncouth phraseology and their jerky sentences, their pedantic obscurity and unidiomatic English, contrast painfully with the happy turns of expression, the music of the cadences, the felicities of the rhythm of our Authorized Verion…. It is, however, the systematic depravation of the underlying Greek which does so grievously offend me. For this is nothing else but a poisoning of the River of Life at its Sacred Source. Our Revisers stand convicted of having deliberately rejected the words of Inspiration in every page, and of having substituted for them fabricated readings which the church has long since refused to acknowledge, or else has rejected, with abhorrence , readings which survive at this time only in a little handful of documents of the most depraved type.”
Dr. Alexander Carson (Inspiration of the Scriptures, p. 198) has well said:
“There is no greater mistake than to suppose that a translation is good according as it is literal. It may be asserted that, without exception, a literal translation of any book cannot be a faithful one . For if the word is not used in its literal sense in the original it is a mistranslation of it to translate it literally. This is a canon of Biblical Interpretation of universal application, and of the greatest moment-a canon not only often violated, but to violate which is, in the estimation of some translators, the highest praise. A translation of this kind, instead of conveying the original with additional light, is simply unintelligible.”
Such being the case (and we think the truth of Dr. Carson’s statement is self-evident) it will be clearly seen that the making of a real translation is not merely a matter of giving the literal meaning of the words of the original. Further, in order to be a good translator, one needs other qualifications besides a knowledge of the original tongue.
So, as between the two rival Versions, much depends upon me question whether the translators of 1881 were as well qualified for their work as those of 161 1. As a help in the decision of this question we give, in this chapter, a few comparisons where changes have been made. We believe, however, that merely upon viewing broadly the two Versions most readers will recognize the great superiority of the Old Version.
That work has commended itself to the acknowledged masters of the English tongue, as well as to the millions of ordinary readers, for more than three centuries, and it has occupied in the world a place unapproached by any other book in any language. Although we know it is only a translation, and although we know also that (as Joseph Parker said) “a translation may have its faults, and copyists may make blunders, yet we still call it the Holy Bible,” and it is to us, as it has been to ten generations pas, in truth and reality, the Living Word of the Living God.
Such being the state of the case our wisdom is to hold on to the old version, and to every part of it, except in specific cases (and they are but few) where it can be shown by clear proof that a change is needed.
Examples of Changes in Translation.
In taking notice of a few of the thousands of new readings introduced by the Revisers, it should be remembered that, according to the instructions under which they acted, they were not to make “any new translation of the Bible, nor any alteration of the language, except where, in the judgment of the most competent scholars, such change is necessary.” They were further instructed that “in such necessary changes, the style of the language employed in the existing Version be closely followed.”
Can any competent scholar tell us that even a sizable fraction of the host of changes now embodied in the R.V. were “necessary”? And will anyone pretend that, in the changes which have been introduced, the style of the existing Version has been “closely followed”?
We have already pointed out that, in the first chapter of Matthew alone, the Revisers have made sixty changes, of which, according to a competent authority (Dr. Malan) fifty-eight were “either ill-judged or unnecessary.”
Going on to Matthew 4:12, we find that the words “John was cast into prison” are changed to “was delivered up.” It may be claimed that the latter is a more literal rendering. But it is not an improved translation, for the best translation is that which best gives the sense of the original, and “delivered up” has no definite meaning for the English reader.
In Luke 8:5, 46 the R. V. has introduced no less than nineteen changes into 34 words; and in 2 Peter 1:5- 7 thirty changes have been made in a passage containing only 38 words. These are extreme examples of the extraordinary propensity of the Revisers for making uncalled-for changes. Concerning the former of these two passages Dean Burgon writes:
“I challenge any competent scholar in Great Britain to say whether every one of these changes be not absolutely useless, or else decidedly a change for the worse; six of them being downright errors.”
His comment on the other passage is:
“To ourselves it appears that every one of these changes is a change for the worse, and that one of the most exquisite passages in the N.T. has been hopelessly spoiled- rendered in face well-nigh unintelligible-by the pedantic officiousness of the Revisers.”
Paul Before King Agrippa
In Acts 26:24 the words of Festus to Paul, “much learning hath made thee mad,” are changed in the R.V. to “thy much learning doth turn thee to madness.” Concerning this novel and uncouth expression Sir E. Beckett says:
“We have heard of men being driven to madness by despair, and of being turned mad; and of wisdom being turned to madness; but never before have we heard of a man being turned to madness. It is idle to say the Greek required it, for the literal sense would be nonsense; and they have not given even the literal sense. What they have given us is a translation neither literal, nor sensible, nor idiomatic, nor harmonious, nor anything but an absurd and cacophonous piece of pedantry for nothing!“
Concerning 2 Timothy 3:16
Of all the changes introduced into the Text of the R.V., that which has raised the greatest storm of protest is the alteration of the words, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable,” so as to make the passage read, “Every Scripture given by inspiration of God is profitable.” This apparently slight change gives a very different turn to the sense of the verse, for it suggests that there are “Scriptures” which are not given by inspiration of God. Inasmuch as it has been often pointed out by competent scholars that there is no warrant whatever for this alteration, we do not dwell upon it.
The Testimony of the Version of 1911.
As to the merits (or demerits) of the myriads of changes of translation brought in by the Revisers of 1881, we would call attention (as well worthy of consideration) to the judgment of the Committee of 34 Hebrew and Greek scholars who prepared the Tercentenary Edition of the Bible. The duty committed to them was to make “A careful scrutiny of the Text, with the view of correcting, in the light of the best modem research, such passages as are recognized by all scholars as in any measure misleading or needlessly obscure.” And this as we understand it, is substantially what the Rebsen of 1881 were instructed and expected to do.
The result of this scrutiny of the entire Text of the English Bible by the Committee of 1911 was that theyrepudiated over 98 percent of the changes introduced by the Reviers of 1881. That is to say, they accepted less than two out of every hundred of the changes brought in by the Revisers.
From the Preface to the 1911 Tercentenary Edition of the Bible (issued by the Oxford Press) we quote the following:
“The continued confidence of the Church Universal throughout English-speaking lands in the Authorized Version is seasoned and mature. Despite a limited number of passages in which the Revisers of 1611 seem to have missed the true meaning, and of a number of other passages which have, through changed usage, become obscure, the A.V. is still the English Bible.”
So it is, and so it is likely to be to the end.
This Tercentenary Commemoration Edition of 1911 may property be regarded as the carefully deliberated verdict of a representative company of scholars, chosen with special reference to their knowledge of Biblical Hebrew and Greek and of all matters pertaining to the Text of the Holy Scriptures, a verdict reached after a comparative trial of the two Versions (A.V. and R.V.) side by side, for a period of thirty years. Their verdict was, in our opinion, fully warranted by the facts; and the passage of years since it was rendered has but served further to establish it.
IX. The Use Made of the Margin in the R.V.
In the preparation of the Authorized Version the useful expedient was adopted of putting in the margin of the page an alternative reading, in the few and comparatively unimportant passages which seemed to warrant this treatment. Also in the margin was given the translation of proper names appearing in the Text, and occasional items of information calculated to be a help to a better understanding of the Scripture.
Such was the precedent the Revisers had before them for their guidance. Furthermore, a rule adopted by the Committee required that wherever a change was made in the Greek Text that change should be noted in the margin. Nevertheless, in the preparation of the New Version the Committee departed wholly from the A.V. and also com- pletely ignored the rule referred to.
Dean Burgon is authority for the statement that “use has been made of the margin to insinuate suspicion and distrust in countless particulars as to the authenticity of the text which has been suffered to remain unaltered” (Preface to Revision Revised).
Again, in the same volume (Revision Revised) he says:
“The Revisionists have not corrected the ‘Known Textual Errors.’ On the other hand, besides silently adopting most of those wretched fabrications which are just now in favor with the German school, they have encumbered their margin with those other readings which, after due examination, they had themselves deliberately rejected…. What else must be the result of all this, but general uncertainty, confusion and distress! A hazy mistrust of all Scripture has been insinuated into the hearts and minds of multitudes who, for this cause, have been forced to become doubters; yes, doubters in the truth of Revelation itself.
“How was it to have been believed that the Revisionists would show themselves industrious in sowing over four continents doubts as to the truth of Scripture, doubts which it will never be in their power to remove or recall?
“And here we must renew our protest against the wrong which has been done to English readers by the Revisionists’ disregard of the IVth rule laid down for their guidance, viz., that whenever they adopted a new textual reading such reading was to be ‘indicated in the margin.’ “
And he addresses to the Revisionists this question regarding their failure in duty to the English reader:
“How comes it to pass that you have never furnished him the information you stood pledged to furnish, but have, instead, volunteered on every page, information, worthless in itself, which can only serve to unsettle the faith of unlettered millions, and to suggest unreasonable as well as miserable doubts to the minds of all?”
Examples of Vagaries In Marginal Notes
The Name “Jesus”
Matthew 1:18 in the A.V. reads: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise.” The R.V. marginal note says, “Some ancient authorities read ‘of the Christ’ “-that is to say, they omit the name Jesus. But Dean Burgon says:
“Now what are the facts? Not one single known manuscript omits the word Jesus; while its presence is vouched for by the fathers Tatian, Irenaeus, Origen, Eusebius, Epiphanius, Chrysostom, Cyril, in addition to every known Greek copy of the Gospels, and not a few of the versions.”
“Thine is the Kingdom”
In Matthew 6:13 the Revisers have rejected the important clause: “For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen”. In the margin they have put this: “Many authorities, some ancient but with variations, add, ‘For Thine is’ “-etc. Concerning this radical alteration of the Text, and concerning the marginal note thereon, Dean Burgon has this to say:
“All the manuscripts in the world”. (over 500, remember) “except but nine contain these words. Is it in any way credible that, in a matter like this, they should all have become corrupted? No hypothesis is needed to account for this, another instance of omission in copies which exhibit a mutilated text on every page.”
“The Son of God”
In the Gospel of Mark the first marginal note relates to the supremely important words of verse 1, “the Son of God.” The note says: “Some ancient authorities omit ‘the Son of God.’ ” But the fact is (according to Dean B.) that “the words are found in every known copy but three, in all the Versions, and in many Fathers. The evidence in favor of the clause is therefore overwhelming.” What can have been the object of the Revisers in raising suspicion regarding a verse of supreme importance, as to the authenticity of which the proofs leave no room for any doubt what- ever?
“Where Their Worm Dieth Not”
Concerning Mark 9:44-48 and other passages, Dean Burgon, in his Revision Revised, says:
“Not only has a fringe of most unreasonable textual mistrust been tacked on to the margin of every inspired page (as from Luke 10:41-11:1); not only has many a grand doctrinal statement been evacuated of its authority (as by the shameful misstatement found in the margin against John 3:13, affecting the important words ‘which is in heaven,’ and the vile Socinian gloss which disfigures the margin of Romans 9:5-(‘Christ, Who is over all, God blessed forever’); but we entirely miss many a solemn utterance of the Spirit, as when we are assured that verses 44 and 46 of Mark 9 are omitted by ‘the best ancient authorities,’ whereas, on the contrary, the manuscripts referred to are the worst.”
“Which is in Heaven”
And concerning the note on John 3:13, referred to in the foregoing quotation-“Many ancient authorities omit which is in heaven,’ ” Dean Burgon asks with indignation:
“Why are we not rather assured that the precious clause in question is found in every manuscript in the world, except five of bad character? And is recognized by all the Latin and Syrian Versions; is either quoted or insisted on by a host of Fathers: in short is quite above suspicion? are we not told that? Those ten Versions, those thirty-eight Fathers, that host of copies in proportion of 995 to five-why, concerning all these, is there not so much as a hint let fall that such a mass of counter evidence exists?”
Surely such a supression of the facts and misrepresentation of the truth in regard to a supremely important passage concerning the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, is deserving of the strongest reprobation.
“The Number of a Man”
In Rev. 13:18, opposite the words “and his number is six hundred and sixty and six,” the Revisers have put a note which says, some ancient authorities read six hundred and sixteen- As to this Dean Burgon asks:
“Why are we not informed that only one corrupt uncial, only one cursive, only one Father, and not one ancient Version, advocates this reading? Which, on the contrary, Irenaeus (170 A.D.) knew but rejected, remarking that ‘666’ which is ‘found in all the best and oldest copies, and is attested by men who saw john face to face,’ is unquestionably the true reading.”
The Island of Melita
Finally, from Dean Burgon’s list of useless marginal glosses introduced by the Revisers, we take the following as fairly typical:
Acts 28:1. “For what conceivable reason is the world now informed that, instead of Melita, ” some ancient authorities read Miltene’? Is every pitiful blunder of the Codex Vaticanus to live on in the margin of every Englishman’s copy of the New Testament forever?” And after showing that all (Aber DDSS. and all Latin Versions and all “Fathers” who quote the passage, also the coins, and the ancient geographers, all read Melita, he says that this reading “has also been acquiesced in by every critical editor of the N.T. (excepting always Drs. Westcott and Hort) from the invention of printing until now. But, because those two misguided men, without apology, explanation, note or comment of any kind, have adopted Militene into their Text, is the Church of England to be dragged through the mire also, and made ridiculous in the eyes of Christendom?”