King James Version Of The Bible (1873 Preface)

(Christian Study Topics)

Cambridge Paragraph Bible

christian33_300x300The most time-honored and widely used edition of the English Bible is the translation of 1611, commonly known as the Authorized Version of or King James Version (KJV). But though it has served as the standard translation for millions of users through nearly four centuries, there has never been a standard edition to which all printings are conformed.

No two early printings of the KJV were identical – not even the two printings of 1611 – and no two modern settings are identical, either. These differences are due to accidental human error as well as to intentional changes by printers and editors, who sought to eliminate what they judged to be the errors of others and to conform the text to their standards of English usage. This said, most differences involve only spelling, punctuation, and italics, and few variations materially affect the meaning of the text.

As early as 1611 there were systematic attempts to revise and standardize the KJV. Other important early editions were issued by Cambridge in 1629 and 1638. In the eighteenth century, the two great English universities (who were also officially chartered printers) commissioned thorough and systematic revisions. the edition of Dr. F. S. Paris was published by Cambridge in 1762 and that of Dr. Benjamin Blayney by Oxford in 1769. Though far from perfect, these remained the standard editions until the Cambridge Paragraph Bible of 1837.

The Cambridge Paragraph Bible began with the simple plan of arranging the text of the KJV according to the sense of the literature: arranging the prose sections into paragraphs and the poetic sections into parallel lines. This simple plan, however, was enhanced by the editor’s desire to create the most thorough standardization of the text ever attempted. To this task Dr. F. H. A. Scrivener devoted seven laborious years: 1866 to 1873.

Because the translators’ original manuscript no longer exists, the KJV text must be established by consulting the earliest settings. Dr. Scrivener compared at least 15 early settings and important revisions, including both settings of 1611; Bibles of 1612, 1613, 1616, 1617, 1629, 1630, 1634, 1638, 1640; and the significant editions of Drs. Paris (1762) and Blayney (1769).

In his 120-page introduction, Dr. Scrivener addressed the various features of the KJV he worked to standardize, among them were:

  • Italic Type – Italic type was used in the KJV, as in the Geneva Bible, to indicate words in the English translation that have no exact representative in the original language. Dr. Scrivener, following many earlier scholars, noted that the KJV translators were noticeably inconsistent in their use of italics, sometimes even in the same paragraph and verse. To cite one small pattern from the 1611 edition, Leviticus 11:20 has “upon all foure,” while for the same Heberw 11:21 and 42 have “upon all foure,” and 11:27 has “on all foure.”

    Dr. Scrivener carefully analyzed why italic type was sued throughout the KJV, reduced this analysis to 14 major principles, and then applied these principles with meticulous consistency throughout the entire Bible. A substantial portion of the editor’s “seven laborious years” was devoted to this significant improvement.

  • Punctuation – Later printings of the KJV added a great deal of punctuation of the KJV added a great deal of punctuation to the editions of 1611, and used commas and semicolons to help divide longer sentences into more manageable units for reading.
  • Spelling and Capital Letters – Spelling of proper names and common words was very fluid in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: “Inquire” and “enquire” were interchangeable, as were “ceiling,” “cieling,” and “sieling.” Most differences between modern settings of the KJV and early settings involve standardization of spelling. Dr. Scrivener’s general rule was that whenever a word was spelled more than one way, he conformed all occurrences to the standard spelling of the late nineteenth century. Proper names, on the other hand, vary according to their spelling in the original languages, so “Elijah” throughout 1 and 2 Kings and in Malachi 4:5 becomes “Elias” throughout the New Testament, as in Matthew 11:q4 and 17:3.

    For the benefit of modern readers, three spelling patterns are changed in this edition: twenty-nine occurrences of “Mo” and “moe” are conformed to “more”; four occurrences of “unpossible” are conformed to “impossible”; and “neesed” in 2 Kings 4:35 is spelled “sneezed.”

  • Paragraphs and Poetry – According to Dr. Scrivener and other scholars, the paragraph marks (Image) were unequally and inconsistently distributed, and they disappear altogether after Acts 20:26. So, while consulted, the original marks were not always followed in the Cambridge Paragraph Bible.

In the KJV Gift and Award Bible, Zondervan conforms its setting of the King James or Authorized Version to it’s highly regarded edition: the Cambridge Paragraph Bible of 1873, edited by F. H. A. Scrivener. As in the case of the first of the first edition of the version of 1611, this is done out of “zeal to promote the common good, whether it be by devising any thing ourselves, or revising that which hath been laboured by others” (“The Translators to the Reader,” the preface to the version of 1611). With the original translators, we hope our efforts will be “welcomed,” not “with suspicion” but with “love,” and that the reissue of this edition will contribute to improvement of this great treasure of the English-speaking church.

~ John R. Kohlenberger III