The present revision originated in the convocation, or general assembly of Episcopal clergymen, at Canterbury, England, on May 6th, 1870. Then and there a committee was appointed consisting of eminent Biblical scholars and certain high officials of the Church of England, "with power to revise, for public use, the authorized English versions of 1611, and to associate with them representative Biblical scholars of other Christian denominations using that version."
The movement at its very inception took a form international and inter-denominational. Dr. Philip Schaff pronounces this, "the first effort" of this broad character "in the history of the translation of the Bible;" the present and the older English versions authorized for public use in churches having proceeded from the Church of England, before other evangelical denominations were recognized, or possibly organized, and long before the American people had an independent existence.
The English Committee divided itself into two Companies, one for the work upon the Old Testament, the other for work upon the New. Each Company held regular meetings in the Deanery of Westminster, London.
The American Committee was organized in 1871, on invitation of the British Revisers. It began active work in October, 1872. It was composed of scholars selected from different denominations, and divided into two Companies, which met once a month, in the Bible House, at New York. From their several homes, where they had privately studied over the passages of Scripture under their care, they came together and unitedly toiled for still greater perfection.
From this statement of the case, it is evident that the British and American Committees are virtually one organization, having the same principles and objects, and being in constant correspondence with each other at all stages of their work. It was no purpose of theirs to issue two separate and distinct revisions, but one and the same revision for both nations.
The whole number of scholars who have been connected with this work is one hundred and one. Sixty-seven of these belonged to England, and thirty-four to our own land. Fifteen members of the English Committee have resigned or died, and seven of the American Committee; leaving the combined force as the New Testament work came to completion seventy-nine. Among these are many of the best Biblical scholars of the leading Protestant denominations of Great Britain and the United States. Many of them are well known by their works, both in Europe and America. The American members are nearly all Professors of Hebrew or of Greek in prominent theological institutions. They have been selected with regard to competency and reputation for Biblical scholarship, denominational connection, and local convenience or easy access to New York, where their regular monthly meetings have been held.
Old Testament Company.
The Right Rev. Edward Harold Brown, D. D., Bishop of Winchester (Chairman), Farnham Castle, Surrey.
The Right Rev. Lord Athur Charles Hervey, D. D., Bishop of Bath and Wells, Palace, Wells, Somerset.
The Right Rev. Alfred Ollivant, D. D., Bishop of Llandaff, Bishop's Court, Llandaff.
The Very Rev. Robert Payne Smith, D. D., Dean of Canterbury, Deanery, Canterbury.
The Ven. Benjamin Harrison, M. A., Archdeacon of Maidstone, Canon of Canterbury, Canterbury.
The Rev. William Lindsay Alexander, D. D., Professor of Theology, Congregational Church Hall, Edinburgh.
Robert L. Bensly, Esq., Fellow and Hebrew Lecturer, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.
The Rev. John Birrell, Professor of Oriental Languages, St. Andrew's, Scotland.
Frank Chance, Esq., M. D., Burleigh House, Sydenham Hill, London.
Thomas Chenery, Esq., Reform Club, London, S. W.
The Rev. T. K. Cheyne, Fellow and Hebrew Lecturer, Balliol College, Oxford.
The Rev. A. B. Davidson, D. D., Professor of Hebrew, Free Church College, Edinburgh.
The Rev. George Douglas, D. D., Professor of Hebrew and Principal of Free Church College, Glasgow.
S. R. Driver, esq., Tutor of New College, Oxford. The Rev. C. J. Elliott, Winkfield Vicarage, Windsor.
The Rev. Frederick Field, D. D., Carlton Terrace, Heigham, Norwich.
The Rev. John Dury Geden, Professor of Hebrew, Wesleyan College, Didsbury, Manchester.
The Rev. Christian D. Ginsburg, LL.D., Workingham, Berks.
The Rev. Frederick William Gotch, D. D., Principal of the Baptist College, Bristol.
The Rev. William Kay, D. D., Great Leghs' Rectory, Chelmsford.
The Rev. Stanley Leathes, D. D., Professor of Hebrew, King's College, London.
The Rev. Professor J. R. Lumby, D. D., Fellow of St. Catharine's College, Cambridge.
The Very Rev. John James Stewart Perowne, D. D., Dean of Peterborough, Deanery, Peterborough.
The Rev. A. H. Sayce, Fellow and Tutor of Queen's College, Oxford.
The Rev. William Robertson Smith, Professor of Hebrew, Free Church College, Aberdeen.
William Wright, LL. D., Professor of Arabic, Cambridge.
William Aldis Wright Esq. (Secretary), Bursar of Trinity College, Cambridge.
The English Old Testament Company has lost, by death, the Right Rev. Dr. Connop Thirlwall, Bishop of St. Davids; the Ven. Henry John Rose, Archdeacon of Bedford; the Rev. William Selwyn, D. D., Canon of Ely; the Rev. Dr. Patrick Fairbairn, Principal of the Free Church College, Glasgow; Professors McGill, Weir and Davies. They have lost, by resignation, the Right Rev. Dr. Christopher Wordsworth, Bishop of Lincoln; the Rev. John Jebb, Canon of Hereford, and the Rev. Edward Hayes Plumptre, D. D., Professor of N. T. Exegesis, King's College, London.
New Testament Company.
The Right Rev. Charles John Ellicott, D. D., Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol (Chairman), Palace, Gloucester.
The Right Rev. George Moberly, D. C. L., Bishop of Salisbury, Palace, Salisbury.
The Very Rev. Edward Henry Bickersteth, D. D., Prolocutor, Dean of Lichfield, Deanery, Lichfield.
The Very Rev. Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, D. D., Dean of Westminster, Deanery, Westminster.
The Very Rev. Robert Scott, D. D., Dean of Rochester, Deanery, Rochester.
The Very Rev. Joseph Williams Blakesley, B. D., Dean of Lincoln, Deanery, Lincoln.
The Most Rev. Richard Chenevix Trench, D. D., Archbishop of Dublin, Palace, Dublin.
The Right Rev. Joseph Lightfoot, D. D., LL.D., Bishop of Durham.
The Right Rev. Charles Wordsworth, D. C. L., Bishop of St. Andrew's, Bishopshall, St. Andrew's.
The Rev. Joseph Angus, D. D., President of the Baptist College, Regent's Park, London.
The Rev. David Brown, D. D., Principal of the Free Church College, Aberdeen.
The Rev. Fenton John Anthony Hort, D. D., Fellow of Emmanual College, Cambridge.
The Rev. William Gilson Humphry, Vicarage, St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, London, W. C.
The Rev. Benjamin Hall Kennedy, D. D., Canon of Ely and Regius Professor of Greek, The Elms, Cambridge.
The Ven. William Lee, D. D., Archdeacon of Dublin, Dublin.
The Rev. William Milligan, D. D., Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism, Aberdeen.
The Rev. William F. Moulton, D. D., Master of the Leys School, Cambridge.
The Rev. Samuel Newth, D. D., Principal of New College, Hampstead, London.
The Ven. Edwin Palmer, D. D., Archdeacon of Oxford, Christ Church, Oxford.
The Rev. Alexander Roberts, D. D., Professor of Humanity, St. Andrew's.
The Rev. Frederick Henry Ambrose Scrivener, LL.D., Prebendary, Hendon Vicarage, London, N. W.
The Rev. George Vance. Smith, D. D., Parade, Carmarthen.
The Rev. Charles John Vaughan, D. D., Master of the Temple, The Temple, London, E. C.
The Rev. Brooke Foss Westcott, D. D., Canon of Peterborough and Regius Professor of Divinity, Trinity College, Cambridge.
The Rev. J. Troutbeck (Secretary), Dean's Yard, Westminster.
The English New Testament Company has lost, by death, the Right Rev. Dr. Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Winchester; the Very Rev. Dr. Henry Alford, Dean of Canterbury; the Rev. Dr. John Eadie, Professor of Biblical Literature in the United Presbyterian Church, Glasgow; and Mr. Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, LL. D.; and they lost, by resignation, the Rev. Dr. Charles Merivale, Dean of Ely.
Philip Schaff, D. D., LL.D., President of the General Committee.
George E. Day, D. D., Secretary.
Old Testament Company.
Professor Wm. Henry Green, D. D., LL.D. (Chairman), Theological Seminary, Princeton, N. J.
Professor George E. Day, D. D. (Secretary), Divinity School of Yale College, New Haven, Conn.
Professor Charles A. Aiken, D. D., Theological Seminary, Princeton, N. J.
The Rev. T. W. Chambers, D. D., Collegiate Reformed Dutch Church, N. Y.
Professor Thomas J. Conant, D. D., Brooklyn, N. Y.
Professor John De Witt, D. D., Theological Seminary, New Brunswick, N. J.
Professor George Emlen Hare, D. D., LL.D., Divinity School, Philadelphia.
Professor Charles P. Krauth, D. D., LL.D., Vice-Provost of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
Professor Charles M. Mead, D. D., Theological Seminary, Andover, Mass.
Professor Howard Osgood, D. D., Theological Seminary, Rochester, N. Y.
Professor Joseph Packard, D. D., Theological Seminary, Alexandria, Va.
Professor Calvin E. Stowe, D. D., Hartford, Conn. Professor James Strong, S. T. D., Theological Seminary, Madison, N. J.
Professor C. V. A. Van Dyck, LL.D., D. D., M. D., Beirut, Syria. (Advisory Member on questions of Arabic.)
The American Old Testament Company has lost by death Tayler Lewis, LL.D., Professor Emeritus of Greek and Hebrew, Union College, Schenectady, N. Y.
New Testament Company.
Ex-President Theodore D. Woolsey, D. D., LL.D. (Chairman), New Haven, Conn.
Professor J. Henry Thayer, D. D. (Secretary), Theological Seminary, Andover, Mass.
Professor Ezra Abbot, D. D., LL.D., Divinity School, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
The Rev. J. K. Burr, D. D., Trenton, N. J.
President Thomas Chase, LL.D., Haverford College, Pa.
Chancellor Howard Crosby, D. D., LL.D., New York University, New York.
Professor Timothy Dwight, D. D., Divinity School of Yale College, New Haven, Conn.
Professor A. C. Kendrick, D. D., LL.D., University of Rochester, Rochester, N. Y.
The Right Rev. Alfred Lee, D. D., Bishop of the Diocese of Delaware.
Professor Matthew B. Riddle, D. D., Theological Seminary, Hartford, Conn.
Professor Philip Schaff, D. D., LL. I)., Union Theological Seminary, New York.
Professor Charles Short, LL.D. (Secretary), N. Y.
The Rev. Edward A. Washburn, D. D., Calvary P. E. Church, N. Y.
The American New Testament Company has lost, by death, James Hadley, LL.D., Professor of Greek, Yale College, Conn.; Professor. Henry Boynton Smith, D. D., LL.D., Union Theological Seminary, New York; Professor Horatio B. Hackett, D.D., LL.D., Theological Seminary, Rochester, N. Y.; and Professor Charles Hodge, D. D., LL.D., Theological Seminary, Princeton, N. J.; and it lost, by resignation, Rev. G. R. Crooks, D. D., New York, and Rev. W. F. Warren, D.D., Boston.
The labor of the Revisers in both countries has been given without compensation. The necessary expenses for traveling, printing, etc., of the British Committee, have been paid by the University Presses; those of the American Committee, by voluntary contributions of liberal friends, under the direction of an efficient Committee of Finance, which consisted of the following well-known and highly-esteemed gentlemen:
Hon. Nathan Bishop, LL.D., Chairman.
Andrew L. Taylor, Esq., Treasurer.
William Adams, D. D., LL.D.
James M. Brown, Esq.
Hon. Wm. E. Dodge.
Rev. H. Dyer, D.D.
Hon. E. L. Fancher, LL.D.
Morris K. Jessup, Esq.
Howard Potter, Esq.
Richard S. Storrs, D. D., LL.D.
Jno. B. Trevor, Esq.
Norman White, Esq.
John Elliott, Esq.
Thomas D. Anderson, D. D.
A.S. Barnes; Esq.
William A. Cauldwell, Esq.
John C. Havemeyer, Esq.
Henry C. Potter, D. D., LL.D.
Elliott F. Shepard, Esq.
Charles Tracy, Esq.
Roswell Smith, Esq.
F.S. Winston, Esq.
S. D. Warren, Esq.
The chairman of this Committee, Hon. Nathan Bishop, LL.D., and its leading member, Rev. Dr. William Adams, were both called to their reward above before the New Testament revision was completed. All honor to them, however, and to their associates, by whose business skill and Christian devotion this great work has been thus far pressed toward completion.
From the outset the object sought by the revisers has been "to adapt King James' version to the present state of the English language without changing the idiom and vocabulary,'' and further, to adapt it to "the present standard of Biblical scholarship." Since 1611 this latter has made great advances, especially during the last quarter century.
One of the Committee stated his understanding of the object sought in these words: "The new Bible is to read like the old, and the sacred associations connected with it are not to be disturbed; but within these limits all necessary and desirable corrections and improvements on which the best scholars are agreed will be introduced: a good version will be made better; a clear and accurate version clearer and more accurate; the oldest and purest text is to be followed; errors, obscurities and inconsistencies are to be removed; uniformity in rendering Hebrew and Greek words and proper names to be sought. In one word, the revision is to give, in idiomatic English, the nearest possible equivalent for the original Word of God as it came from the inspired organs of the Holy Spirit. It aims to be the best version possible in the nineteenth century, as King James' version was the best which could be made in the seventeenth century."
Both Committees on both branches of the work adopted at the outset a code of principles upon which the work should proceed. These principles were as follows:
"1. To introduce as few alterations as possible into the text of the authorized version consistently with faithfulness.
"2. To limit, as far as possible, the expression of such alterations to the language of the authorized or earlier versions.
"3. Each Company to go twice over the portion to be revised, once provisionally, the second time finally.
"4. That the text to be adopted be that for which the evidence is decidedly preponderating; and that when the text so adopted differs from that from which the authorized version was made; the alteration be indicated in the margin.
"5. To make or retain no change in the text, on the second final revision by each Company, except two-thirds of those present approve of the same; but on the first revision to decide by simple majorities.
"6. In every case of proposed alteration that may have given rise to discussion, to defer the voting thereon till the next meeting, whensoever the same shall be required by one-third of those present at the meeting, such intended vote to be announced in the notice of the next meeting.
"7. To revise the headings of chapters, pages, paragraphs, italics and punctuation.
"8. To refer, on the part of each Company, when considered desirable, to divines, scholars, and literary men, whether at home or abroad, for their opinions."
Upon these principles a few comments may be of value. Notice, therefore, that while alterations were to be shunned according to the first principle, still faithfulness, which is the translators' first duty, has been found to require a great many changes, though very few of them are of a character essential, or even specially important.
Alterations of language, to be avoided according to the second principle, have been found necessary because the words in many cases have become obsolete, obscure, or of different meaning from that which they possessed when the version of King James was made.
The Greek text followed by these Revisers is of far higher authority than that known and followed by the King James' revisers. Their Greek text was based on manuscripts of the later parts of the Mediaeval Ages, but ours has been Perfected by the discovery of far more ancient manuscripts, and by an abundance of quotations from the early fathers of the Church, and use of ancient versions.
In view of these principles the Chairman of the American Revision Committee has affirmed as follows: "The people need not apprehend any dangerous innovations. No article of faith, no moral precept, will be disturbed, no sectarian views will be introduced. The revision will so nearly resemble the present version, that the mass of readers and hearers will scarcely perceive the difference; while a careful comparison will show slight improvements in every chapter and almost in every verse. The only serious difficulty may arise from a change of the text in a few instances where the overwhelming evidence of the oldest manuscripts makes a change necessary; and perhaps also from a change in the italics, the metrical arrangement of poetry and the sectional of prose and from new headings of chapters, which, however, are no part of the Word of God, and may be handled with greater freedom."
How these widely separated Companies have done their cooperative work, is a matter that will interest those who now enjoy its results. The mode of operation may be briefly described thus: The English Companies upon both Testaments transmit from time to time, confidential copies of their revision to the American Companies, and the American Companies send the results of their labors to The British Companies, likewise in the strictest confidence. A second revision on the part of both Committees then follows, with a view to harmonize whatever differences may appear in the two revisions, and the results of this revision are interchanged.
If any differences remain after the final revision, they will be indicated in an appendix, or by some such means. Doubtless these will be few and unessential as compared with the large number of improvements already adopted.
This work is not distributed among sub-committees, as was the case with the Revisers of King James, but the whole Old Testament Company is going through all the books of the Old Testament, and the New Testament Company as a whole, has gone through those of the New. In this way far better results will be secured than is possible under any other system.
This revision has been carried on without publicity, and the actual results of the work were in no case made known until the recent issue of the completed New Testament. By this wise course the Committees have saved themselves an incalculable amount of profitless controversy. All professed quotations from their work and statements of changes at one point or another, made at an earlier date, have been wholly unauthorized.
Now that the New Testament is revised and given to the world, and that the Old Testament moves onward to the same desired end, the question arises what is to be the final result in the case? It will be for individuals, and churchmen, and Bible Societies to take up this work and to decide whether it shall be used alongside of the old version of King James, or whether it shall supersede that, or whether it shall do neither, but shall fall dead and useless. It may be accepted as unquestionable, that if this revision be not accepted as sufficient in scholarly and denominational advantages, it will be a long time before any more favorable combination can be made.
The sentiment of the Revisers themselves was doubtless voiced by Dr. Schaff, in December, 1878, when he said: "We never had the least fear of the final result. There never has been such a truly providential combination of favorable circumstances, and of able and sound Biblical scholars from all the evangelical Churches of the two great nations speaking the English language, for such a holy work of our common Christianity, as is presented in the Anglo-American Bible Revision Committees. This providential juncture, the remarkable harmony of the Revisers in the prosecution of their work, and the growing desire of the Churches for a timely Improvement and rejuvenation of our venerable English Version, justify the expectation of a speedy and general adoption of the new Revision in Great Britain and America."
Concerning the amount of Work done on this revision, Dr. James Angus, one of the English New Testament Company, says for his particular section: "During the years given to it there were ten meetings held each year, each meeting lasting four days, seven hours a day; so that the Company in its collective capacity devoted 2,800 hours to the revision. This, however, represents only a small part of the labor, since each member of the Committee gave closest study outside of the meetings to every point of the translation."