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(Originally Titled "The Learned Men": The Text Here Used Is That Of "The Learned Men")
Chapter 2: Bishop's Move
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Bishops’ Move

            The King James Bible came about partly because forceful men thought they could use the project to further their private aims. In London, when the plague abated, old Archbishop Whitgift caught cold going from Lambeth Palace to see Bishop Bancroft at Fulham. Next, dining at Whitehall, he had a stroke and on the last day of February, 1604, he died. This was Bancroft’s opportunity for promotion to the archbishopric, and he seized upon it with eager energies.

            Of the ways to win James’s approval, the new Bible might well be one. The task would certainly employ many of influence within the Church; among those present at Hampton Court on the day Rainolds made his speech were half a dozen – William Barlow, John Overall, Thomas Bilson, Thomas Ravis, Richard Edes, and Lancelot Andrewes – well able to grapple with the work. Good churchmen all, they toadied to James yet got along with Rainolds and his Puritan supporters.

            In the summer of 1604 Bancroft was busy writing to the other bishops to announce that the king had “appointed certain learned men . . . for the translation of the Bible,” and to ask that others be nominated. The bishops were required to inform themselves of all men learned in the Bible tongues within their districts. The king wanted to know of all who had “taken pains in their private study of the Scriptures,” who could clear up places that were obscure in the ancient texts, and correct mistakes in former English versions. The bishops would report their findings to Mr. Lively, “our Hebrew reader in Cambridge, or to Dr. Harding, our Hebrew reader in Oxford, or to Dr. Andrewes, Dean of Westminster.” Thus the translation would have the help of “all our principal learned men within this our kingdom.”

            When learned men had been appointed to the number of four and fifty, it became necessary to think about paying them. Of the fifty-four, some had no preferred places in the Church, or else had “too little for their deserts.” Since the king could not “in any convenient time” give them more, he asked Bancroft to inquire about any vacant prebends* (*A prebend was that part of a church’s income granted to a canon or member of the chapter as his stipend. Twenty pounds then would in purchasing power equal a thousand dollars or more now.) or livings worth twenty pounds a year or more which might be saved for the learned men. The king would reserve for one at work on the Bible any vacant office within his own gift; the Archbishop of York and the bishops in the metropolitan see of Canterbury, which still had no head since the death of Whitgift, were asked to do the same. Bancroft’s reward was royal authority to write letters, surely a sign of preferment to come.

            But the king wanted more learned men, even after he had named the fifty-four, and the handing out of livings alone would not suffice to pay them. In a letter to the Bishop of Norwich written on the last day of July, 1604, Bancroft had to propose that the prelates and clergy subscribe to the cost of the new Bible. The king, he said, was ready to bear “from his own princely disposition” the charges of some learned men, although it was only too well known that the Crown was hard up. Bancroft prayed his brethren the bishops, and each single dean and chapter, to give. “I do not think,” he wrote, “that a thousand marks will finish the work.” A mark was about two-thirds of a pound.

            Although Bancroft added that he would acquaint the king with how much each gave, the bishops, deans, and chapters showed no quick zeal in sending money. In fact, it seems fair to say that the scheme fell through, for nothing further of it has come to light. Bancroft’s estimate of costs must have been far too low. The scholars struggled along on their own means, though Oxford and Cambridge and Westminster seem to have given them free board and room when they were at work.

            Of the three named to receive the reports of bishops and deans in the search for learned men, two, Lively and Harding, were Hebrew scholars at the two universities. Dr. John Harding, the rector at Halsey near Oxford, had been proctor of the university and in 1608 he was elected president* (*President, provost, master, or warden all were used as titles for the heads of various colleges.) of Magdalen College by a unanimous vote. The unanimity suggested a recommendation from the king, as one of the awards promised translators. But Magdalen had seethed with unrest since the days of Elizabeth, and the vote of confidence in Harding could have been a protest against the policy of his predecessor, put in at the queen’s request “to reform late decays and disorders.” That election had been far from unanimous, in a college regarded as a “nursery of Puritans” in its objections to vestments and ritual. Harding’s election marked a return of the Puritans to power, and during his two years of administration many “poor scholars” were admitted, the admission of commoners being part of Puritan policy.

            Edward Lively, who for nearly thirty years had held the regius chair of Hebrew at Trinity College, Cambridge, was a man of all work—he had to be, to survive. Born about 1545, he studied Hebrew at Trinity under the noted John Drusitus, and married Catherine, daughter of Thomas Larkin, M.D., who occupied the regius chair of physic. She bore him thirteen hungry children.

            Then as now, the rewards of college teaching consisted largely of the feelings of well-doing, honor, and hope. To feed the family. Lively eked out his earnings with hack writing; the publisher Samuel Purchas said that he was one of his anonymous writers for his great series of His Pilgrims. In 1597 Lively signed and published A True Chronology of the Times of the Persian Monarchy, a work written in a quaint but hardly graceful style. Although it contained a random speculation about the nature of the locusts eaten by John the Baptist, it had little connection with the Bible.

            Not even by his writing efforts could Lively make a living for his household. Once he sold his precious books to a bishop for three pounds. The most forlorn of all the learned men, the one for whom we may feel most sorry, he was never clear of suits at law or other disquieters of his study. He once had his goods distributed and his cattle driven off his ground, like Job’s; he “led a life which in a manner of speaking was nothing else but a continual flood of waters,” and even “his deer, being not so well able to bear so great a flood as he, even for very sorrow, presently died.” Clearly his was a “lamentable and rueful” case, though such was the lot of many a scholar in England at that time.

            Perhaps Lively’s troubles made him patient; in contrast with most scholars, he was said to be a humble man who often suffered the foolish gladly. By the time the king made him a sort of drudge in the Bible task, his greatly burdened wife had died, leaving him eleven surviving offspring. Surely he needed preferment in accordance with the plan, and on September 20, 1604, he must have been grateful to get the living at Purleigh in Essex, fairly near to Cambridge.

            The third member of the committee to sift recommendations, and the most important, was very different; he was the Dean of Westminster, supreme in the affairs of the abbey and subject to no higher prelate. Dr. Lancelot Andrewes had been among the highest of the high churchmen at the Hampton Court meeting. Now he was to become the real head, or chairman, of all those chosen to revise the Scriptures.

            Andrewes was a man for all to like, and one whose fame has lasted. There are over a million words by and about him in print, and a volume of his sermons has lately been reissued. For the Anglo-Catholic he is almost a saint; T. S. Eliot wrote an essay, “For Lancelot Andrewes.” Among the churchmen who were to translate he was the strongest, but the most graceful and polite, foil to the Puritans.

            Andrewes [“He” in “The Men Behind The King James Version”.] was born in the parish of All Hallows, Barking, in 1555. A contemporary biographer wrote that his father, Thomas Andrewes, was a merchant who for most of his life “used the seas.” Lancelot went early to the Coopers’ free school at Ratcliff, and then to the well-known Merchant Tailors’ school. “From his tender years,” the biographer testified, “he was totally addicted to the study of good letters.” Andrewes “studied so hard when others played that if his parents and masters had not forced him to play with them, all the play would have been marred.” As a young scholar at the university, “he never loved or used any games of ordinary recreation, either within doors as cards, dice, table chess, or abroad as bats, quoits, bowls, or any such, but his ordinary exercise and recreation was walking, either alone by himself or with some other selected companion, with whom he might confer or argue, and recount their studies.” Once a year, before Easter, he walked the thirty miles home to Barking from Pembroke College, where Sir Francis Walsingham helped in his support. One of the friends with whom he walked and talked was Edmund Spenser.

            Did Spenser affect at all the writing style of Andrewes, and through him that of the King James Bible? To such questions there can be no present answer. We do know that later Francis Bacon, his friend for twenty years, asked Andrewes’ advice on writing. And we know that the great poetry of the age was all around the scholars as they worked on the Bible, was in their thought and feeling, and quickened the flow of their language.

            Though he was no Elizabethan Wordsworth, Andrewes observed and loved the tamer kinds of nature: “He would often profess that to observe the grass, herbs, corn, trees, cattle, earth, water, heavens, any of the creatures, and to contemplate their natures, orders, virtues, uses, was ever to him the greatest mirth, content and recreation that could be.” This penchant for common nature showed in his own writings and perhaps through some Bible passages in which he had a hand.

            On his walks along the highways from Barking to Cambridge Andrewes must have seen the rogues who had long wandered there, the tinkers and peddlers, the wild homeless boys, the rufflers or holdup men and beggars, the minstrels singing and selling coarse ballads, the vagrant former soldiers. About these, pamphlets by Thomas Dekker and others, most of them with second-hand knowledge, appeared while the work on the Bible went on and may have helped Andrewes and the other translators cope with the scriptural censures of evil people.

            After he finished his courses at Pembroke, young Andrewes became the catechist, giving lectures on the Ten Commandments at three o’clock on Saturdays and Sundays. People came to hear him from other colleges and from the country round about; they made notes and passed them on to friends. Thus samples of his early lectures are still extant.

            On the command to make no graven images, Andrewes said, “Though God the law-maker appointed the representation of cherubim and of the brazen serpent, yet may not man presume to devise the like; he must take such resemblances as God himself gave him, and not of his own invention propound any.” Unless of course, he added, God should direct him as He directed Moses.

            Of “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain,” Andrewes spoke to distinguish between oaths and vows, and between those necessary and those voluntary. He dealt with swearing in a later sermon. Throughout his logic was clever, like that of the earlier schoolmen; and to the words of Scripture, though of course he believed them all, he applied what he thought was a divine common sense. He knew for instance that certain work must proceed on the Sabbath, and made strenuous effort to reconcile the Decalogue with the law of nature which, he said, was the image of God. Thus of killing he found that beasts have no right of society with us, because they lack reason. It cannot be a sin to use them for the end for which they were ordained: the less perfect for the more perfect, herbs for beasts and both for man. In the Bible God ordered a lot of killing, so to Andrewes it would have been foolish to say that God forbade the taking of any life.

            Of the commandment to honor father and mother, he said we should all know what honor is and where it is due. God had not made all men alike, but made some partakers of His excellence and set them in superior places, others after a meaner degree and set them in a lower place, that society might be maintained. Did God create men equal? Surely not.

            After Pembroke, Andrewes was chaplain to his patron Walsingham and to Archbishop Whitgift, and later rector of St. Giles in London’s Cripplegate. In 1586, when he was only thirty-one, he was made one of the twelve chaplains to Queen Elizabeth, who loved having young men around her. She found Andrewes humane, cordial, gracious, benign, and took delight in the grave manner of his preaching. Of this preaching there are varied reports. One said that he was an angel in the pulpit. T. S. Eliot said he took a word and derived the world from it, and ranked his sermons with the finest English prose of their time or any time. Yet some of his contemporaries said his style was jerky, with too much word play, too many conceits, quirks, puns. He was learned but did play with his text as a jackanapes does, who takes up a thing and tosses it. Witty, he was sometimes satirical; yet Thomas Fuller said that he had a guileless simplicity both of manner and mind, an unaffected modesty and a rare sense of humor.

            We have Andrewes only on paper; in action he must have had a charm of delivery that we fail to find in the printed words. A biographer who had been his secretary, Henry Isaacson, said that God blessed his painful preachings; painful, in those days, meant taking pains.

            Besides preaching Andrewes loved to manage. In 1589 he became Master of Pembroke Hall, where he managed to pay off the college debts and have a surplus. Such capability would be useful in directing the Bible work.

            Andrewes also loved teaching and when in 1601 Elizabeth made him Dean of Westminster, he often took charge of the Westminster School in his own person. The young students were his special care. “What pains Dr. Andrewes did take both day and night. . . . He did often supply the place both of the head school master and usher for the space of a whole week at a time, and gave us not an hour of loitering from morning to night. . . . He caused our exercises in prose and verse to be brought to him, to examine our style and proficiency. . . . He never walked to Chiswick for his recreation without a brace of this young fry, and in that wayfaring leisure had a singular dexterity to fill those narrow vessels with a funnel.” Thrice a week or oftener he called the uppermost scholars to his lodgings from eight till eleven at night, unfolding to them the rudiments of Greek and the elements of Hebrew grammar; he was a night worker and said they were no true scholars who came to speak with him before noon.

            All this he did, they said, without compulsion or correction; “Nay, I never heard him utter so much as a word of austerity among us.” So we get glimpses of the rigid, but on the whole kind, schooling of the English divines.

            Andrewes was with Elizabeth when she died and preached when she was buried. Then he aided in the Abbey rites at the coronation of James. The new king admired him “beyond all other divines, not only for his transcendant gift in preaching, but for his excellency and solidity in all kinds of learning.” Fuller said, “His gravity in manner awed King James, who refrained from that mirth and liberty in the presence of this prelate which he otherwise assumed to himself.” Yet Andrewes’ smiling face in a portrait suggests his own very real sense of humor.

            One of the rarest linguists in Christendom, Andrewes knew fifteen languages, and was so skilled in all of them, especially the Oriental ones, that Fuller suggested he might “almost have served as an interpreter general at the confusion of tongues.” In writing he was tireless, using an amanuensis only to transcribe that which he had first written in his own hand.

            Many thought him most fit to succeed old John Whitgift as Archbishop of Canterbury, King James, under the eye of Richard Bancroft who was already acting in Whitgift’s place, delayed in raising anyone to that position. The king liked Andrewes but had to depend more on Bancroft, who threw his weight about and was less easygoing with the Puritans.

            While Andrewes valued a high ritual, he never forced it on others. He had the highest scruples in giving preferments to the clergy, abhorred simony and strove always to find the fittest man for any place he had to fill. He had a wide knowledge of scholars throughout England and good judgment in weighing their talents. In short, this thoughtful walker possessed the traits most useful in choosing the men to make over the English Bible, and in welding them into a working unit.

            Scholars and preachers were then poring over all portions of the Bible and writing on all the texts. Though the king had named fifty-four learned men, he intended many more to share in the work. Some lists today name only forty-seven but I have found more than the fifty-four, if we include replacements for those who died. The final version contains contributions from countless unknown linguists.

            Many who sought advancement buzzed around the new king with servile praises. For instance William Thorne, about thirty-three and Dean of Chichester at the end of 1601, royal Hebrew reader at New College, Oxford, and greatly skilled in the sacred tongues, wrote and printed his Kenning Glass for a Christian King based on the text “Behold the man.” Though Thome’s mirror for the perfect monarch repeated the Pauline advice against “acceptance of persons,” of course James was flattered and made Thorne one of the learned men.

            Thome’s name has never appeared on the many lists of translators. That he belonged with the rest is proved by a paper, preserved in The Public Works Office, London, saying that Mr. Thorne, king’s chaplain, “is now . . . very necessarily employed in the translation of that part of the Old Testament” being done at Oxford, and urging that the church promote him further, as “very good and honest.”* (*Manuscript, Public Records Office. London, 1606.) Thorne, in fact, must have been one of the scholars early chosen.

            Though many sought to be considered worthy, the nature of the design demanded men of proved ability. And so, although the new king would give his name to the new Bible, its translators were Elizabethans all.

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