THE RULES FOR TRANSLATING
The King was for appointing fifty-four learned men to this great and good work; but the number actually employed upon it, in the first instance, was forty-seven. Order was also taken, that the bishops, in their several dioceses, should find what men of learning there were, who might be able to assist; and the bishops were to write to them, earnestly charging them, at the king's desire, to send in their suggestions and critical observations, that so, as his Majesty remarks, "our said intended translation may have the help and furtherance of all our principal learned men within this our kingdom."
Seventeen of the translators were to work at Westminster, fifteen at Cambridge, and as many at Oxford. Those who met at each place were divided into two companies; so that there were, in all, six distinct companies of translators. They received a set of rules for their direction.
To these rules, Which were delivered to the Translators, there appears to have been added another, providing that, besides the directors of the six companies, "three or four of the most ancient and grave divines in either of the Universities, not employed in translating be designated by the Vice-Chancellors and Heads of Colleges, to be overseers of the Translation, as well Hebrew as Greek, for the better observation of the fourth rule."
The learned Selden says, that when the Translators met to compare what they had done, each of them held in his hand a Bible in some language. If any thing struck any one as requiring alteration, he spoke; otherwise the reading went on. The final revision was made, not by six men, as the tenth of the above rules would seem to indicate, but by twelve. At least, such was the statement made in the Synod of Dort in--1618, by Dr. Samuel Weird, who was one of the most active of the Translators. It seems to have been carried through the press by Dr. Miles Smith and Bishop Bilson, aided perhaps by Archbishop Bancroft and other prelates. All the expense of making and printing the translation was defrayed by Robert Barker, "Printer to the King's most excellent Majestie." The copyright thus cost him three thousand five hundred pounds; and his heirs and assigns retained their privilege down to the year 1709…Popery, apparently believing that Ignorance is the mother of devotion, and especially ignorance of the Word of God, would fain have supplanted it by priestly inventions and monkish corruptions…
The printing of the English Bible has proved to be by far the mightiest barrier ever reared to repel the advance of Popery, and to damage all the resources of the Papacy. Originally intended for the five or six millions who dwelt within the narrow limits of the British Islands, it at once formed and fixed their language, till then unsettled; and has since gone with that language to the isles and shores of every sea. And now, during the lapse of almost two and a half centuries, it has gladdened the hearts, and still gladdens the hearts of millions upon millions, not only in Great Britain, but throughout North America and the Indies, in portions of Africa, and in Australia.
At the present day, the English is probably the vernacular tongue of more millions than of any other one language under heaven; and the English Bible has brought and still brings home the knowledge of God's revealed truth to a myriad more of minds than ever received it through the original tongues. The Translators little foresaw the vast results and immeasurable influence of what they had thus done, both for time and for eternity. Venerated men! their veny names are now hardly known to more than a few persons; yet, in the providence of God, the fruits of their labors have spread to far distant climes; have laid broad and deep the foundations of mighty empires; have afforded to multitudes strength to endure adversity, and grace to resist the temptations of prosperity; and only the revelations of the judgment-day can disclose how many millions and millions, through the instrumentality of their labors, have been made wise unto salvation.
*Report of the Committee on Versions, made to the Board of Managers of the American Bible Society, and adopted May 1st, 1851.
Surely it is time, that the names of these venerated men were rescued from such unjust oblivion; and that at least some considerable part of those who have received such incalculable benefits at their hands, should know to whom they are so deeply indebted. The sensation of gratitude is one of pleasure; and it is hoped that this little book may serve to awaken it in many a bosom, both toward the men who wrought so good a work, "and made all coming ages their own," and toward Him who gave them their skill, and the opportunity to exert it in thus widely diffusing his saving truth.
Main Listing of Translators