An Analysis of Dr. D.A. Waite’s King James Only Seminar, Slides #84-108: The KJV Translators

john-reynoldsPart VI – The Translators (Slides #84-108)

If I were to mention to a KJV user that modern biblical scholarship continues to advance so that today we have more precise texts and translations of the Bible, I would be charged with “scholarolatry” – the heresy of trusting in man’s wisdom to teach me God’s truth. One pastor in particular prides himself on a sermon called, “Shut up, you don’t speak Greek!” And he’s not alone.  Many KJVO preachers love to purposely down-play the study of original languages, calling Greek scholars “Geek” scholars, and, in more extreme circles, accusing those who engage in those kinds of studies as having lace in their underwear.

Now obviously not every King James Only advocate will engage in the tactics explained above, but nearly all of them love to point out the “unsurpassed” scholarship of the King James translators. For the KJVO, scholarship is not all bad – it just ceased to have a place in the conversation in 1611.

In Slides #84-108, Dr. Waite cites Alexander McClure’s Translators Revived to show the amazing credentials of the King James translators. No one doubts that these men were great scholars. But just showing their credentials doesn’t prove they were the best ever. They built upon scholarship of the past and improved it to be the best of its day. Who is to say that hasn’t continued since the Hampton Court conference convened? More discoveries have been made, lexicons have been updated, meanings of words have been given more precision, and much more has been done since the 17th century. Even if McClure is right, and no other group will ever match the scholarship of those men, that doesn’t stop the scholarship and overall work of Bible translation and editing (an ancient practice) from continuing. The whole point brings very little to the table, as no one disputes the fact that these men were great scholars. Still, great scholars have existed since then, and do exist, and all of those men are fallible. I doubt the KJV translators would want the honor of being the last great scholars producing the final Bible ever. They even urged the reader not to take their word all the time when it comes to other possible, variant readings, but to consult other sources.

When reading The Translators to the Reader, it’s interesting how much the King James translators themselves would disagree with the positions of modern King James Only advocates. They support a “variety of senses” in the margins, that not all of the scriptures can be “dissembled” yet matters of faith, hope, charity, and salvation, are “plain”, that difficulties in the scriptures don’t concern doctrinal points of salvation but things “of less moment”, and that a variety of translations is “helpful for the finding out of the sense of the Scriptures.”

“Some peradventure would have no variety of senses to be set in the margin, lest the authority of the Scriptures for deciding of controversies by that show of uncertainty, should somewhat be shaken. But we hold their judgment not to be so sound in this point. For though, whatsoever things are necessary are manifest, as S. Chrysostom saith, and as S. Augustine, In those things that are plainly set down in the Scriptures, all such matters are found that concern Faith, Hope, and Charity. Yet for all that it cannot be dissembled, that partly to exercise and whet our wits, partly to wean the curious from loathing of them for their every-where plainness, partly also to stir up our devotion to crave the assistance of God’s spirit by prayer, and lastly, that we might be forward to seek aid of our brethren by conference, and never scorn those that be not in all respects so complete as they should be, being to seek in many things ourselves, it hath pleased God in his divine providence, here and there to scatter words and sentences of that difficulty and doubtfulness, not in doctrinal points that concern salvation, (for in such it hath been vouched that the Scriptures are plain) but in matters of less moment, that fearfulness would better beseem us than confidence, and if we will resolve, to resolve upon modesty with S. Augustine, (though not in this same case altogether, yet upon the same ground) Melius est dubitare de occultis, quam litigare de incertis, it is better to make doubt of those things which are secret, than to strive about those things that are uncertain. There be many words in the Scriptures, which be never found there but once, (having neither brother nor neighbor, as the Hebrews speak) so that we cannot be holpen by conference of places. Again, there be many rare names of certain birds, beasts and precious stones, etc. concerning which the Hebrews themselves are so divided among themselves for judgment, that they may seem to have defined this or that, rather because they would say something, than because they were sure of that which they said, as S. Jerome somewhere saith of the Septuagint. Now in such a case, doth not a margin do well to admonish the Reader to seek further, and not to conclude or dogmatize upon this or that peremptorily? For as it is a fault of incredulity, to doubt of those things that are evident: so to determine of such things as the Spirit of God hath left (even in the judgment of the judicious) questionable, can be no less than presumption. Therefore as S. Augustine saith, that variety of Translations is profitable for the finding out of the sense of the Scriptures: so diversity of signification and sense in the margin, where the text is no so clear, must needs do good, yea, is necessary, as we are persuaded. We know that Sixtus Quintus expressly forbiddeth, that any variety of readings of their vulgar edition, should be put in the margin, (which though it be not altogether the same thing to that we have in hand, yet it looketh that way) but we think he hath not all of his own side his favorers, for this conceit. They that are wise, had rather have their judgments at liberty in differences of readings, than to be captivated to one, when it may be the other. If they were sure that their high Priest had all laws shut up in his breast, as Paul the Second bragged, and that he were as free from error by special privilege, as the Dictators of Rome were made by law inviolable, it were another matter; then his word were an Oracle, his opinion a decision. But the eyes of the world are now open, God be thanked, and have been a great while, they find that he is subject to the same affections and infirmities that others be, that his skin is penetrable, and therefore so much as he proveth, not as much as he claimeth, they grant and embrace.” (The Translator’s to the Reader, “Reasons Moving Us To Set Diversity of Senses in the Margin, where there is Great Probability for Each”, King James Translators)


2 comments so far

  1. reglerjoe on

    They that are wise, had rather have their judgments at liberty in differences of readings, than to be captivated to one, when it may be the other.

    I liked that part. So, I guess the KJV translators were not against their translation being corrected? Funny, ’cause I get flamed by some preachers if dare correct the KJV from the pulpit.

  2. Damien T Garofalo on

    this is probably where the KJVO would say that the KJV translators were wrong in saying that. It’s a convenient way out – when the translators contradict the position of KJVonlyism (which they do quite often), the KJVO points out their fallibility, and the fact that we don’t trust in man (and probably yell at you for bringing it up, charging you with trusting man). But on the other hand, they virtually did no wrong when it came to translational and textual decisions, even when the evidence is decidedly against them. In that case, we trust them as the greatest scholars who ever lived.

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