Letter from the Translators of 1611 KJV.

The Translators

To the Reader

*(note--I translated some of the THEE'S & THOU'S &c. into you all, you, and &c. for easier reading. Other than that it is in the original form.)

The best things have been calumniated

   Zeal to promote the common good, whether it be by devising anything ourselves, or revising that which has been labored by others deserves certainly much respect and esteem, but yet finds but cold entertainment in the world. It is welcomed with suspicion rather than love, and with emulation instead of thanks: and if there be any hole or cavil (to find fault without reason) to enter (and cavil, if it does not find a hole, will make one) it is sure to be misconstrued, and in danger to be condemned. This will easily be granted by as many as know story, or have experience. For, was there ever any thing projected, that savored any way of newness or renewing, but the same endured many a storm of gain-saying, or opposition? A man would think that Civility, wholesome Laws, learning and eloquence, Synods, and Church-maintenance, (that we speak of no more things of this kind) should be as safe as a Sanctuary, and out of shot, as they say, that no man would lift up the heel, no, nor dog move his tongue against the motioners of them. For by the first, we are distinguished from bruit-beasts led with sensuality: By the second, we are bridled and restrained from outrageous behavior, and from doing of injuries, whether by fraud or by violence; By the third, we are enabled to inform and reform others, by the light and feeling that we have attained unto ourselves: Briefly, by the fourth, being brought together to parley face to face, we sooner compose our differences then by writings, which are endless: And lastly, that the Church be sufficiently provided for,is so agreeable to good reason and conscience, that those mothers are holden to be less cruel, that kill their children as soon as they are born, then those nursing fathers and mothers (wherever they be) that withdraw from them who hang upon their breasts (and upon whose breasts again themselves do hang to receive the Spiritual and sincere milk of the Word) livelihood and support fit for their estates. Thus it is apparent, that these things which we speak of, are of most necessary use, and therefore, that none, either without absurdity can speak against them,or without note of wickedness can spurn against them.

   Yet for all that, the learned know that certain worthy men have been brought to untimely death for non other fault, but for seeking to reduce their country-men to good order and discipline: and that in some Commonwealths it was made a capital crime, once to motion the making of a new Law for the abrogating of an old, though the same were most pernicious: And that certain, which would be counted pillars of the State, and patterns of virtue and prudence, could not be brought for a long time to give way to good Letters and refined speech, but bare themselves as averse from them, as from rocks or boxes of poison: And fourthly, that he was no babe, but a great clerk, that gave forth (and in writing to remain to posterity) in passion perhaps, but yet he gave forth, that he had not seen any profit to come by any Synode, or meeting of the clergy, but rather the contrary: And lastly, against Church-maintenance and allowance, in such sort, as the Ambassadors and messengers of the great King of kings should be furnished, it is not unknown what a fiction or fable (so it is esteemed, and for no better by the reporter himself, though superstitious) was devised; Namely, that at such time as the professors and teachers of Christianity in the Church of Rome, then a true Church, were liberally endowed , a voice forsooth was heard from heaven, saying; Now is poison poured down into the Church, &c. Thus not only as oft as we speak, as one says, but also as oft as we do any thing of note or consequence, we subject ourselves to everyone's censure, and happy is he that is least tossed upon tongues; for utterly to escape the snatch of them is impossible. If any man conceit, that this is the lot and portion of the meaner sort only, and that princes are privileged by their high estate, he is deceived. "As the sword devours one as well a another" (2 Sam.11:25); nay as the great Commander charged his soldiers in a certain battle, to strike at no part of the enemy, but at the face; And as the king of Syria commanded his chief captains to fight neither with small nor great, save only against the king of Israel (1 Kings 22:31): so it is to true, that envy strikes most spitefully at the fairest, and at the chiefest. David was a worthy prince, and no man to be compared to him for his first deeds, and yet for as worthy an act as ever he did (even for bringing back the ark of God in solemnity: 2 Sam. 6:16) he was scorned and scoffed at by his own wife. Solomon was greater than David, though not in virtue, yet in power: and by his power and wisdom he built a Temple to the LORD, such a one as was the glory of the land of Israel, and the wonder of the whole world. But was that his magnificence liked of by all? We doubt of it. Otherwise, why do they lay it in his sons dish, and call to him for easing of the burden, "Make", they say, "the grievous servitude of your father, and his sore yolk, lighter" (1 Kings 12:4). Be like he had charged them with some levies, and troubled them with some carriages; Hereupon they raise up a tragedy, and wish in their heart the Temple had never been built. So hard a thing it is to please all, even when we please God best, and do seek to approve ourselves to everyone's conscience.

The highest personages have been calumniated

   If we will descend to latter times, we shall find many the like examples of such kind, or rather unkind acceptance. The first Roman emperor (Claudius Caesar) did never do a more pleasing deed to the learned, no more profitable to posterity, for conserving the record of times in true suppuration; then when he corrected the calendar, and ordered the year according to the course of the sun: and yet this was imputed to him for novelty, and arrogancy, and procured to him great obloquy (abusive language; slander). So the first Christened emperor (Constantine) (at the leastwise that openly professed the faith himself, and allowed others to do the like) for strengthening the Empire at his great charges, and providing for the Church, as he did, got for his labor the name Pupillus, as who would say, a wasteful prince, that had need of a guardian, or overseer. So the best Christened emperor (Theodosius), for the love that he bare unto peace, thereby to enrich both himself and his subjects, and because he did not seek war but found it, was judged to be no man at arms, (though in deed he excelled in feats of chivalry, and showed so much when he was provoked) and for giving himself to his ease, and to his pleasure. To be short, the most learned emperor of former times (Justinian), (at least, the greatest politician) what thanks had he for cutting off the superfluities of the laws, and digesting them into some order and method? This, that he had been blotted by some to be an emperor, that is, one that extinguished worthy whole volumes, to bring his abridgments into request. This is the measure that has been rendered to excellent princes in former times, even, Cum bene facerment, male audire, For good deeds to be evil spoken of. Neither is there any livelihood, that envy and malignity died, and were buried with the ancient. No, no, the reproof of Moses takes hold of most ages; "You are risen up in your fathers stead, an increase of sinful men." (Num.32:14). "What is that that has been done? that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun" (Ecc.1:9), says the wise man: and St. Steven, "As your fathers did, so do you." (Acts 7:51).

His Majesty's constancy, notwithstanding calumniation, for the survey of the English Translation

This, and more to this purpose, his majesty that now reigns (and long, and long may he reign, and his offspring for ever. Himself and children, and children's children always) knew full well, according to the singular wisdom given to him by God, and the rare learning and experience that he has attained unto: namely that whosoever attempts any thing for the public (specially if it pertains to religion, and to the opening and clearing of the word of God) the same sets himself upon a stage to be glouted upon by every evil eye, yes, he casts himself headlong upon pikes, to be gored by every sharp tongue. For he that meddles with men's religion in any part, meddles with their custom, no, their freehold; and though they find no content in that which they have, yet they cannot abide to hear of altering. Notwithstanding, his royal heart was not daunted or discouraged for this or that color, but stood resolute, "as a statue immovable, and an anvil not easy to be beaten into plates" (Suidas), as one says; he knew who had chosen him to be a soldier, or rather a captain, and being assured that the course which he indeed made much for the glory of God, & and the building up of His Church, he would not suffer it to be broken off for whatsoever speech or practices. It does certainly belong to kings, yes, it does specially belong to them, to have care of religion, yes, to know it aright, yes, to profess it zealously, yes to promote it to the uttermost of their power. This is their glory before all nations which mean well, and this will bring to them a far most excellent weight of glory in the day of the Lord Jesus. For the Scripture says not in vain, "Them that honor Me, I will honor" (1. Sam.2:30), neither was it a vain word that Eusebius delivered long ago, that piety towards God was the weapon, and the only weapon that both preserved Constantine's person, and avenged him of his enemies.

The praise of the holy Scriptures

   But now what piety without truth? what truth (what saving truth) without the Word of God? what Word of God ( whereof we may be sure) without the Scripture? The Scriptures we are commanded to search. They are commended that searched & studied them. Acts 17:11 and 8:28,29. They are reproved that were unskillful in them, or slow to believe them. Matt.22:29. Luke 24:25. They can make us wise unto salvation. 2 Tim.3:15. If we be ignorant, they will instruct us; if out of the way, they will bring us home; if out of order, they will reform us, if in heaviness, comfort us; if dull, quicken us; if cold, inflame us. Tolle, lege, Take up and read, take up and read the Scriptures, (for unto them was direction) it was said to S. Augustine by supernatural voice. "Whatsoever is in the Scripture, believe me", says the same S.Augustine, "is high and divine; there is verily truth, and a doctrine most fit for refreshing and renewing of men's minds, and truely so tempered, that every one may draw from thence that which is sufficient for him, if he come to draw with a devout and pious mind, as true religion requires". Thus S.Augustine. And S.Jerome: "Ana scripturas, & amabit te sapientia &c." Love the Scriptures, and wisdom will love you. And S. Cyrill against Julian; "Even boys that are bred up in the Scriptures, become most religious, &c." But what mention we three or four uses of Scripture, whereas whatsoever is to be believed or practiced, or hoped for, is contained in them? or three or four sentences of the Father, since whosoever is worthy the name Father, from Christ's time downward, has likewise written not only of the riches, but also of the perfection of the Scripture? "I adore the fulness of the Scripture", says Tertullian against Hermogenes. And again, to Apelles a heretic of the like stamp, he says; "I do not admit that which you bring in (or conclude) of your own (head or store, de tuo) without Scripture. So Saint Justin Martyr before him; , says he, that it is not lawful (or possible) to learn (anything) of God or of right piety, save only out of the Prophets, who teach us by Divine inspiration." So Saint Basill after Tertullian, "It is a manifest falling away from faith, and a fault of presumption, either to reject any of those things that are written, or to bring in (upon the head of them) any of those things that are not written". We omit to cite to the same effect, S.Cyrill B. of Jerusalem in his 4.Cataches. Saint Jerome against Heluidius, Saint Augustine against the letters of Petilian, and in very many other places of his works. Also we forbear to descend to latter Fathers, because we will not weary the reader. The Scriptures then being acknowledged to be so full and perfect, how can we excuse our selves of negligence, if we do not study them, of curiosity, if we be not content with them? Men talk much of how many sweet and goodly things it had hanging on it; of the philosophers stone, that it turns copper into gold; of Cornu-copia, that it had all thing necessary for food in it; of Panaces the herb, that it was good for all diseases; of Catholicon the drug, that it is in stead of all purges; of Vulcan's armor, that it was an armor of proof against all thrusts, and all blows &c. Well, that which they falsely or vainly attributed to these things for bodily good, we must justly and with full measure ascribe to the Scripture, for spiritual. It is not only a armor, but also a whole armory of weapons, both offensive, and defensive; whereby we may save our selves and put the enemy to flight. It is not an herb, but a tree, or rather a whoe paradise of trees of life, which bring forth fruit every month, and the fruit thereof is for meat, and the leaves for medicine. It is not a pot of Manna, or a cruse of oil, which were for memory only, or for a meals meat or two, but as it were a shower of heavenly bread sufficient for a whole host, be it never so great; and as it were a whole cellar full of oil vessels; whereby all our necessities may be provided for, and our debts discharged. In a word, it is a Panary of wholesome food, against fenowed traditions; a Physicians-shop (Saint Basill call it) of preservatives against poisoned heresies; A Pandect of profitable laws, against rebellious spirits; a treasury of most costly jewels, against beggarly rudiments; Finally a fountain of most pure water springing unto everlasting life. And what marvel? The original thereof being from heaven, not from earth; the author being God, not man; the editor, the Holy Spirit, not the wit of the Apostles or Prophets; the Pen-men such as were sanctified from the womb, and endowed with a principal portion of God's spirit; the matter, verity, piety, purity, uprightness; the form, God's Word, Gods testimony, Gods oracles, the word of truth, the word of salvation, &c., the effects, light of understanding, stableness of persuasion, repentance from dead works, newness of life, holiness, peace, joy in the Holy Spirit; lastly, the end and reward of the study thereof, fellowship with the Saints, participation of the heavenly nature, fruition of an inheritance immortal, undefiled, and that never shall fade away; Happy is the man that delights in the Scripture, and thrice happy that meditates in it day and night.

Translation necessary

   But how shall man meditate in that, which they cannot understand? How shall they 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 speaks, a barbarian, and he that speaks, shall be a barbarian to me." (1 Cor.14:11). The Apostle excepts no tongue; not Hebrew the ancientest, not Greek the most copious, not Latin the finest. Nature taught a natural man to confess, that all of us in those tongues which we do not understand, are plainly deaf; we may turn the deaf ear to them. The Scythian counted the Athenian, whom he did not understand, barbarous: so to the Roman did the Syrian, and the Jew, (even S.Jerome himself calls the Hebrew tongue barbarous, be like because it was strange to so many) so the emperor of Constantinople calls the Latin tongue, barbarous, though Pope Nicolas do storm at it: so the Jews long before Christ, called all other nations, "Lognazim", which is little better that barbarous. Therefore as one complains, that always in the Senate of Rome, there was one or other that called for an interpreter: so let the Church be driven to the like exigent, it is necessary to have translations in a readiness. Translation it is that opens the window, to let in the light; that breaks the shell, that way me eat the kernel; that puts aside the curtain, that we may look into the most Holy place; that removes the cover of the well, that we may come by the water, even as Jacob rolled away the stone from the mouth of the well, by which means the flocks of Laban were watered (Gen.29:10). Indeed without translation into the vulgar tongue, the unlearned are but like children at Jacob's well (which was deep) without a bucket or some-thing to draw with (John 4:11): or as that person mentioned by Isaiah, to whom when a sealed book was delivered, with this motion, "Read this, I pray thee", he was fain to make this answer, "I cannot, for it is sealed". (Isaiah 29:11).

The Translation of the old Testament out of the Hebrew into Greek

    While God would be known only in Jacob, and have His name great in Israel, and in none other place, while they dew lay on Gideons fleece only, and all the earth besides were dry; then for one and the same people, which spake all of them the language of Canaan, that is, Hebrew, one and the same original Hebrew was sufficient. But when the fullness of time drew near, that the Sun of righteousness, the Son of God should come into this world, whom God ordained to be a reconciliation through faith in His blood, not of the Jews only, but also of the Greeks, yes, of all them that were scattered abroad; then lo, it pleased the Lord to stir up the spirit of a Greek prince (Greek for decent and language) even of Ptolome Philadelph king of Egypt, to procure the translating of the Book of God out of the Hebrew into Greek. This is the translation of the Seventy Interpreters, commonly so called, which prepared the way for our Savior among the Gentiles by written preaching, as Saint John Baptist did among the Jews by vocal. For the Grecians being desirous of learning, were not wont to suffer books of worth to lay molding in Kings Libraries, but had many of their servants, ready scribes, to copy them out, and so they were dispersed and made common. Again, the Greek tongue was well known and made familiar to most inhabitants in Asia, by reason of the conquest that there the Grecians had made, as also by the Colonies, which thither they had sent. For the same causes also it was well understood in many places of Europe, yes, and of Africa too. Therefore the Word of God being set forth in Greek, becomes hereby like a candle set upon a candlestick, which gives light to all that are in the house, or like a proclamation sounded forth in the market place, which most men presently take knowledge of, and therefore that language was fittest to contain the Scriptures, both for the first preachers of the Gospel to appeal unto for witness, and for the learners also of those times to make search and trial by. It is certain, that that Translation was not so sound and so perfect, but that it needed in many places correction; and who had been so sufficient for this work as the Apostles or Apostolike men? Yet it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to them, to take that which they found, (The same being for the greatest part true and sufficient) rather then by making a new, in that new and green age of the Church, to expose themselves to many exceptions and cavillations, as though they made a Translation to serve their own turn, and therefore bearing witness to themselves, their witness not to be regarded. This may be supposed to be some cause, why the Translation of the Seventy was allowed to pass for current. Notwithstanding, though it was commended generally, yet it did not fully content the learned, no not of the Jews. For not long after Christ, Aquilla fell in hand with a new Translation, and after him Theodotion, and after him, Symmachus: yes, there was a fifth and sixth edition, the Authors whereof were not known. These with the Seventy made up the Hexapla, and were worthily and to great purpose compiled together by Origen. However the Edition of the Seventy went away with the credit, and therefore not only was placed in the midst by Origen (for the worth and excellency thereof above the rest, as Epiphanius gathered) but also was used by the Greek fathers for the ground and foundation of their Commentaries. Yes, Epiphanius above named does attribute so much to it, that he holds the Authors thereof not only for interpreters, but also for prophets in some respect: and Justinian the emperor enjoining the Jews his subjects to use specially the Translation of the Seventy, renders this reason thereof, because they were as it were enlightened with prophetical grace. Yet for all that, as the Egyptians are said of the Prophet to be men and not God, and their horses flesh and not spirit (Isaiah (31:3): so it is evident, (and Saint Jerome affirms as much) that the Seventy were interpreters, they were not prophets; they did many things well, as learned men; but yet as men they stumbled and fell, one while through oversight, another while through ignorance, yes, sometimes they may be noted to add to the Original, and sometimes to take from it; which made the Apostles to leave them many times, when they left the Hebrew, and to deliver the sense thereof according to the truth of the Word, as the Spirit gave them utterance. This may suffice touching the Greek Translation of the Old Testament.

Translations out of the Hebrew and Greek into the Latin

   There were also within a few hundred years after Christ, translations many into the Latin tongue: for this tongue also was very fit to convey the Law and the Gospel by, because in those times very many countries of the West, yes of the South, East and North, spoke or understood Latin, being made Provinces to the Romans. But now the Latin Translations were to many to be all good, for they were infinite ("Latini Interpretes nullo modo numerari possunt", says S.Augustine). Again they were not out of the Hebrew fountain (we speak of the Latin Translations of the Old Testament) but out of the Greek stream, therefore the Greek being not altogether clear, the Latin derived from it must necessarily be muddy. This moved S.Jerome a most learned father, and the best linguist without controversy, of his age, or of any that went before him, to undertake the translating of the Old Testament, out of the very fountain themselves; which he performed with that evidence of great learning, judgment, industry and faithfulness, that he has forever bound the Church to him, in a debt of special remembrance and thankfulness.

The translating of the Scripture into the vulgar tongues

   Now though the Church was thus furnished with Greek and Latin Translations, even before the faith of Christ was generally embraced in the Empire: (for the learned know that even in S.Jerome's time, the Council of Rome and his wife were both ethnics, and about the same time the greatest part of the Senate also) yet for all the godly-learned were not content to have the Scriptures in the Language which themselves understood, Greek and Latin, (as the good lepers were not content to fare well themselves, but acquainted their neighbors with the store that God had sent, that the also might provide for themselves [2 Kings 7:9]) but also for the behoof and edifying of the unlearned which hungered and thirsted after Righteousness, and had souls to be saved as well as they, they provided Translations into the vulgar for their countrymen, insomuch that most nations under heaven did shortly after their conversion, hear Christ speaking to them in their mother tongue, not by the voice of their ministers only, but also by the written Word translated. If any doubt hereof, he may be satisfied by examples enough, if enough will serve the turn. First S.Jerome says, "Multarum gentiu Scriptura ante translata, docet falsa esse qux addita sunt, &c. The Scripture being translated before in the languages of many nations, does show that those things that were added (by Lucian or Hesychius) are false." So S.Jerome in that place. The same Jerome elsewhere affirms that he, the time was, has set forth the translations of the Seventy, sux lingux hominibus, i.e. for his countrymen of Dalmatia. Which words not only Erasmus does understand to purport, that S.Jerome translated the Scripture into the Dalmatian tongue, but also Sixtus Senesis, and Alphonsus a Casto (that we speak of no more) men not to be expected against by them of Rome, do ingenuously confess as much. So, S.Chysostome that lived in S.Jerome's time, gives evidence with him: "The doctrine of St.John (says he) did not in such sort (as the philosophers did) vanish away, but the Syrians, Egyptians, Indians, Persians, Ethiopians, and infinite other nations being barbarous people, translated it into their (mother) tongue, and have learned to be (true) philosophers", he means Christians. To this may be added Theodorit, as next to him, both for antiquity, and for learning. His words be these, "Every country that is under the sun, is full of these words (of the Apostles and Prophets) and the Hebrew tongue (he means he Scriptures in the Hebrew tongue) is turned not only into the language of the Grecians, but also of the Romans, and Egyptians, and Persians, and Indians, and Armenians, and Scythians, and Savromatians, and briefly into all the languages that any nation uses." So he. In like manner, Vipilas is reported by Paulus Diaconus and Isidor (and before them by Sozomen) to have translated the Scriptures into the Gothic tongue: John Bishop of Sivil by Vassevs, to have turned them into Arabic, about the year of our Lord 717: Beda of Cistertiensis, to have turned a great part of them into Saxon: Efnard by Trithhemius, to have abridged the French Psalter, as Beda had done the Hebrew, about the year 800: King Alfred by the said Cistertiensis, to have turned the Psalter into Saxon: Methodius by Aventinus (printed in Ingolstad) to have turned the Scripture into Sclavonian: Valdo, Bishop of Frising by Beatus Rhenanus, to have caused about that time, the Gospels to be translated into Dutch-rhythm, yet extant in the Library of Corbinian: Valdus, by divers to have turned them himself, or to have gotten them turned into French, about the year 1160: Charles the 5th of that name, surnamed The wise, to have caused them to be turned into French, about 200 years after Valdus his time, of which translations there be many copies yet extant, as witnesses Beroaldus. Much about that time, even in our King Richard the second's days, John Trevisa translated them into English, and many English Bibles in written hand are yet to be seen with divers, translated as it is very probable, in that age. So the Syrian translation of the New Testament is in most learned men's Libraries, of Widminstadius his setting forth, and the Psalter in Aribicis with many, of Augustinus Nebiensis setting forth. So Postel affirms, that in his travail he saw the Gospels in the Ethiopian tongue; And Ambrose Thesius alleges the Psalter of the Indians, which he testifies to have been set forth by Potken in Syrian characters. So that, to have the Scriptures in the mother-tongue is not a quaint conceit lately taken up, either by the Lord Cromwell in England, or by the Lord Radival in Polonie, or by Lord Ungnadius in the Emperors dominion, but has been thought upon, and put in practice of old, even from the first times of the conversion of any nation; no doubt, because it was esteemed most profitable, to cause faith to grow in mens hearts the sooner, and to make them to be able to say with the words of the Psalm, "As we have heard, so we have seen." (Psalm 48:8)

The unwillingness of our chief adversaries, that the Scriptures should be divulged in the mother tongue, &c.

   Now the Church of Rome would seem at the length to bear a motherly affection towards her children, and to allow them the Scriptures in their mother tongue: but indeed it is a gift, not deserving to be called a gift, an unprofitable gift: they must first get a License in writing before they may use them, and to get that, they must approve themselves to their confessor, that is, to be such as are, if not frozen in the dregs, yet soured with the leaven of their superstition. However, it seemed too much to Clement the 8th that there should be any License granted to have them in the vulgar tongue, and therefore he overrules and frustrates the grant of Pius the 4th. So much are they afraid of the light of Scripture, (Lucifugae Scripturarum, as Tertullian speaks) that they will not trust the people with it, no not as it is set forth by their own sworn men, no not with the License of their own bishops and inquisitors. Yes, so unwilling they are to communicate the Scripture to the peoples understanding in any sort, that they are not ashamed to confess, that we forced them to translate it into English against their wills. This seem to argue a bad cause, or a bad conscience, or both. Sure we are, that this is not he that has good gold, that is afraid to bring it to the touch-stone, but he that has the counterfeit; neither is it the true man that shuns the light, but the malefactor, lest his deeds should be reproved: neither is it the pain dealing merchant that is unwilling to have the weights, or the mete-yard brought in place, but he that uses deceit. But we will let them alone for this fault, and return to translation.

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