What if you were asked to translate the Bible?

Today, hundreds of scholars are doing just that in the jungles of South America, Africa and the Pacific, bringing God’s word to cultures whose language has no Holy Bible in their native tongue. In universities and libraries worldwide, scholars are also updating existing translations in Spanish, Russian and scores of other languages. So, what does it feel like to take on such a holy task?

Professor Norton

University Professor David Norton, author of the just-released The King James Bible: A Short History from Tyndale to Today, has had a taste of the experience. In 2005, Cambridge University Press published the The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible, which he edited.

He is quick to note that he didn’t do any translation. Instead, like some of the King James scholars who worked with previous translations by Myles Coverdale and William Tyndale, his task was to separate the text into appropriate paragraphs, check spelling, update punctuation and so forth.

Spelling? Yes, the English language has changed in the 400 years since the King James Version was finished. So, he updated the King James Version’s spelling and modernized such things as the commas, periods and semi-colons — updating them from 1611 usage to what’s good English in 2011.

“I was trying to serve both the translators and the reader,” he explains, “so that all the unnecessary distractions of antiquated spelling and odd punctuation were removed.”

So, what was it like to follow in the footsteps of such giants of the faith as St. Jerome and John Wycliffe?

“Humbled but useful, like a charlady [janitor] in a Cathedral.” says the professor of English at New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington. “It was a great honor and responsibility to work on so great a book.

“I wasn’t doing work comparable to that of the translators. Every cathedral needs its charlady to keep it clean, and a craftsman to do little bits of restoration work.

“I was working to get as truly as possible the text the translators themselves had decided on, and then to present it in the spelling they would have used today.”

“I suspect that the King James translators, commissioned to revise the work of Tyndale and his successors felt both honored and, like the charlady, humbled,” he says. “I took the translators’ words as my motto, ‘Do nothing without advice, and when thou hast once done, repent not.’”

His new book is available from Cambridge University Press.

More from Beliefnet and our partners
previous posts

President Barack Obama passed a key test Monday night in case anybody is worried that he is the Antichrist. Speaking at a campaign fundraiser at the House of Blues in Los Angeles, Obama was interrupted by a man identified as David Serrano who repeatedly yelled that “Jesus is God.” As Serrano was being physically removed by Secret Service agents, he accused Obama of being the Antichrist. That figure […]

Asked by Joy Behar onHeadline News whether America would vote for a “fat” candidate for President, controversial film-maker Michael Moore, who has never been accused of being too skinny, responded that most of America is fat and would probably identify with an overweight Commander-in-Chief. Historical note: There have been a number of chunky Presidents. William […]

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union have joined forces to create the pro-abortion “Mississippians for Healthy Families” with a goal of defeating a constitutional amendment limiting abortion in the Magnolia State. Christine Dhanagom of LifeSiteNews writes that “Yes on 26,” a coalition of anti-abortion groups, obtained a copy of the Mississippians for Healthy Families’ Statement of Organization […]

Are there irreconcilable differences between faith and science? Not in the opinion of prominent scientists who participated in a five-year study by Rice University. Researchers there found that only a minority of scientists questioned at major research universities say that religion and science required distinct boundaries. “When it comes to questions about the meaning of life, ways of understanding […]

Close Ad