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(Originally Titled "The Learned Men": The Text Here Used Is That Of "The Learned Men")
Chapter 11: The Good Word
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The Good Word 

            In a time of intense conflict within and without the churches, the work on the Bible did not escape. One who in anger opposed it was the great Puritan Hebraist, Hugh Broughton. Broughton himself had urged a revised version and had hoped to be among those chosen for the work, but was left out because he was so acrid in his humors.

            Broughton’s first conflict had been with Edward Lively, the Cambridge translator, over Lively’s time scheme for the Bible. Now he was bitter against Archbishop Bancroft and Bishop Bilson about the latter’s thesis, the common belief of many churches today, that the soul of Jesus went for a short time to hell.

            Bancroft, he said, “is a deadly enemy to both testaments and unallowable in this course to be a teacher or to rule in learning.” In a pamphlet he went on with the attack on Bancroft, who had no love for him. “Tell his majesty,” he wrote among other things, “that I had rather be rent to pieces with wild horses than any such translation by my consent should be urged upon poor churches.” The statement against Bancroft, the chief prelate in what was still Broughton’s church, was addressed to the House of Lords. Now, in the reaction against the Puritans, Broughton was in danger, while Bancroft firmly managed the new Bible.

            Among the papers of John Rainolds are some Broughton comments and advice set down with respect for his learning. Broughton made his own partial version of the Bible from which the King James men appear to have taken some wordings. Speaking of wild horses, Broughton said of the horse, in Job 39:19, “Canst thou clothe his neck with thunder?” The King James Bible asks, “Hast thou given the horse strength? Hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?” The English Revised Version has it, “Hast thou given the horse his might? Hast thou clothed his neck with the quivering mane?” No doubt this last conveys more of the Hebrew meaning. The King James men were working with, among other versions, the Bishops’ Bible. That says oddly, “Hast thou given the horse his strength or learned him to neigh courageously?” This seems to be just a leaping guess at what appeared obscure. Yet all these wordings proclaim the power of God, and each has its rhythm and delight for us. Thunder is a figure for that which quivers; what a splendid phrase we lose if we object to “clothed his neck with thunder.” We can thank rabid Hugh Broughton for his inspired word.

            And as the work went on even Hugh Broughton was softening somewhat his thoughts about the new version. In 1609 he wrote, “None should bear sway in translating but the able.” But he added, “The king’s care to have the law and gospel learnedly translated hath stirred much study and expectation of good, and all true hearted subjects will be ready for forebearance.”

            It was, as we all know, a time of lambent English writing in other fields. Whitehall may have had Shakespeare’s Othello on November 1, 1604. King Lear seems to date from 1605. Even Michael Drayton was writing his A gin-court – “Fair stood the wind for France” – and his ringing sonnet, “Since there’s no help, come let us kiss and part.” Samuel Daniel, along with his masques and other poems, wrote the lovely, expert sonnet, “Look, Delia, how we stem the half-blown rose.” Raleigh, in the Tower, and Bacon were, as writers, in their prime. The blooming of even the minor Elizabethans appeared at its best while the translators labored, and may have given their hearts and minds some of its lushness. Yet the Bible and those flaming Elizabethans existed in realms apart.

            Shakespeare seldom quoted or mentioned the Scriptures, There are, of course, words, phrases, and images common to both his plays and the Bible. In the earlier plays the promise of Deuteronomy 32:2, “My doctrine shall drop as the rain,” has a parallel in Portia’s description of mercy that “droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven.” The rhetorical question, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” found in Psalm 8:4, and quoted in Hebrews 2:6, was echoed again in Hamlet’s “What a piece of work is a man!” But these are similes and ideas inevitably occurring in works of such magnitude as the combined Old and New Testaments and the collected plays of Shakespeare.

            If we compare the work done at the same time we find that while Bois, Downes, and the rest were shaping up the new Bible, Shakespeare was writing, had just written, or was about to write The Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline, and The Tempest. There are no completed thoughts in these three plays that appear in the Bible too. Almost never in them does Shakespeare so much as arrange two words in any exact likeness to a Bible phrase. In The Winter’s Tale there is a Biblical allusion in the line “my name be yoked with his that did betray the Best.” In the same play one clause reads “lift up your countenance,” inviting comparison with the Bible’s “lift up his countenance.” This is probably just a chance likeness. The Winter’s Tale also contains a topical reference to a Puritan who sings psalms to hornpipes, but this shows mainly that Shakespeare did not take the Puritans seriously.

            Indeed much writing of the age seemed opposed to the Bible. Though George Chapman, for instance, often quoted the Scriptures, he also wrote in Bussy D’Ambois, 1607, 

Nature lays

A deal of stuff together, use by use,

Or by the mere necessity of matter,

Ends such a work, fills it, or leaves it empty

Of strength or virtue, error or clear truth,

Not knowing what she does. 

The Bible and the preachers had to do their utmost against such blasphemous talk, implying that nature, or matter, could evolve itself without divine purpose. Because of such speculations the translators had distrust for the writing of plays, lyrics, and profane pieces of most kinds, even though the king enjoyed them.

            The age had countless contests between the lovely and the ugly, and the king’s poor grandeur could further the worst and the best. Ben Jonson, who made so many masques for the king, could be vulgar in the extreme. He could also write, “Drink to me only with thine eyes.” Thomas Campion, who wrote rather tawdry masques, wrote also “The man of life upright.” Did Shakespeare have clean hands and a pure heart? His plays, especially in the bloodier and bawdier passages, cast doubt on that. Inner conflicts, or those in contemporary society, may be good for artists in words.

            Yet the learned men, though together they made a masterpiece, were not primarily artists or men of letters, and the question remains how fifty to sixty men of as many minds achieved, in one great joint undertaking, the verbal felicities of the King James version. The king and his bishops who assigned the task apparently acted on the assumption that the work would be handled like any other churchly task, proceeding under authority from the lowest to the highest, at each stage to be approved by the next-ranking superior until it should reach the Crown. Such a plan allowed little leeway for individual artistry in expression or even for inspiration.

            When they went to work, the translators themselves outlined a more democratic procedure by which, after each had translated assigned passages, the proposed new version should be read aloud and listened to by the whole group, each hearer holding a different version of the passage for comparison. How well this plan of work was adhered to, after the start, it is difficult to say.

            Yet we can discover a good deal about the way the learned men actually worked, and how carefully—they would have said painfully —they tried each word before setting it down. This knowledge we owe to notes made by John Bois of Cambridge.

            Beginning probably some time in 1609, and continuing daily for three-fourths of a year, John Bois, Andrew Downes, and four others went daily to Stationers’ Hall in London to revise the first draft of the Bible as it came from the groups in the universities and at Westminster.

            Stationers’ Hall was a plain structure of brick, with square casement windows and ovals above them. An iron railing enclosed the court before the building. A flight of stone steps in a circle led up to the grand entrance. Inside were good halls and rooms large and small. The place had a feeling of placid worth. There for hundreds of years nearly all who would bring out books had to “enter” them, and thus obtain certain rights—the beginning of today’s copyright laws—to prevent pirating. Oddly, in the published lists of Stationers’ Hall there is found no entry for the 1611 Bible, to which Robert Barker, the King’s Printer, alone had any title.

            Among the six men who went over the first drafts of the Bible manuscript at Stationers’ Hall, besides Bois and Downes, were probably Arthur Lake and John Harmer. Arthur Lake, brother to the king’s secretary, was born at St. Michael’s, Southampton, in September, 1559, a son of Almeric Lake. He went to Winchester College, and was a fellow at New College, Oxford, where he became a doctor of divinity. May 16, 1605. In July, 1607, he was an archdeacon in Surrey, and in 1608 Dean of Worcester. An early written list, partly of queries, at Lambeth Palace mentions him among the translators. The Bois notes on their work refer here and there to AL, which of translators’ initials could be only Arthur Lake. Conceivably the two letters stood, instead, for alius or alii, “one other” or “the others.” However, in the notes for Philippians 4:1 we find alii spelled out, all in small letters. So Arthur Lake may have been one of the six men at Stationers’ Hall.

            John Harmer, whom Bois names, was born in Newbury, Berkshire, about 1555. The Earl of Leicester was his patron, and in 1569 got him into St. Mary’s College, Winchester. In 1572 he transferred to New College, Oxford, where he had a scholarship, being of lowly parents. There he became a master of arts ten years later. Then, aided by Leicester, he went abroad and held disputations with great doctors of the Romish party. In 1585 Leicester had him made regius professor of Greek at Oxford. From 1588 to 1596 he was headmaster at Winchester. The next year he settled down for life as warden of St. Mary’s. Meanwhile he was also rector at Droxford, Hampshire. Well read in patristic and scholastic theology, he was a most noted Latinist and Grecian. He rendered into English Calvin’s sermon on the Ten Commandments. Clearly he was qualified to sit among the learned Bible men.

            John Bois, or Boys, had been a student under Andrew Downes. On the new Bible both worked first in Cambridge o^ the Apocrypha, as we have seen, with John Duport, William Branthwaite, Jeremy Radcliffe, and the two Wards. When all the translators had prepared their versions, alone and in groups, Bois and Downes with the four others began their nine months’ work on the whole in the daily meetings at Stationers’ Hall.

            An early account of the work at this stage is found in a life of Bois written by his friend and admirer, Anthony Walker.* (*Included in Francis Peck’s Desiderata Curiosa. London, 1779.) “When it pleased God,” Walker wrote, “to move King James to that excellent work, the translating of the Bible, when the translators were to be chosen for Cambridge, he (Bois) was sent for thither by those therein employed, and chosen one. Some university men thereat repining (it may be not more able, yet more ambitious to have a share in the service) and disdaining that it should be thought that they needed any help from the country, forgetting that Tully was the same at Tusculum that he was at Rome.” Thus even at Cambridge some were jealous of Bois, who had his living outside the university.

            “Sure I am,” Walker went on, “that part of the Apocrypha was allotted to him (for he hath showed me the very copy that he translated by) but I know not what part thereof. All the time he was about his own part his diet was given to him at St. John’s [College] where he abode all the week till Saturday night and then went home to discharge his cure, returning thence on Monday morning.” 

A little instance of further conflict follows. “When he had finished his own, at the earnest request of him to whom it was assigned, he undertook a second part, and then was in commons at another college. But I will forbear to name both the person and the house. Four years* (*The “four years” seem to have been from late 1604 or early 1605 to late 1608 or early 1609, and the three-fourths of a year to have been in 1609, or perhaps a little into 1610.) he spent in this service, at the end whereof (the whole work being finished and three copies of the whole Bible being sent to London, one from Cambridge, a second from Oxford, and a third from Westminster) a new choice was to be made of six in all, two of each company, to review the whole work, and extract one out of all three, to be committed to the press. For the dispatch of this business, Master Downes and he, out of the Cambridge company, were sent for up to London, where meeting their four fellow laborers, they went daily to Stationers Hall, and in three quarters of a year fulfilled their task. . , . Whilst they were conversant in this last business, he (Bois) and he only took notes of their proceedings, which he diligently kept to his dying day.”

            Walker added that the six received daily “thirteen shillings each of them by the week from the company of stationers, though before they had nothing.” The tall, rugged Downes was stubbornly bent on getting more, and sometimes avowed that he would go to Stationers’ Hall only if he was fetched or threatened with a pursuivant bearing a warrant for arrest. He doubtless believed that his travel on account of the Bible should be at public expense. We may conclude that Church and state told Downes and any others with mercenary thoughts to get on with what they had to do.

            However, there are papers to show that Downes had long been aggrieved and “humbly resolved” to get his due, with some small success. In 1608 Downes had sent to the king a humble plea about the maintenance of the Lady Margaret’s divinity lecture which he gave at Cambridge. He said that he had been the king’s professor of Greek now for almost two and twenty years, “employed beside in the translation and put to the greatest and hardest part of all,” referring to the revision he was about to undertake, and had “not yet received any consideration for it, as others gave my inferiors far more in time and pains.” He had looked and hoped all this while to be remembered with the others, but seeing young men preferred before him, “and myself still left behind,” he was “driven at the last” to speak for himself. “I have been the king’s professor so long,” continually conversant with all ancient authors, and with Latin and Greek – he did not mention the Hebrew learned at five – “it will not seem I trust unreasonable for me the king’s reader to have some allowance out of that ample portion assigned to the Lady Margaret’s reader till I can be better provided for.” He was thus direct in asking for a good part of the sum given for the Lady Margaret’s reader, 160 pounds. At last, on May 17, 1609, a royal grant “in regard of his pains” bestowed on him fifty pounds as a “free gift and reward.”

            This seems to have been the only cash that any translator received from the king. The wages paid at Stationers’ Hall, nine pounds a week for the six men, for nine months, came to £360. It is certain only that this money did not come from the Crown. Did the Worshipful Company of Stationers advance the amount for a worthy project, out of the goodness of their hearts? (Not long before, they had subscribed £125 toward founding the colony of Virginia, and five years later would give £45 more.) It seems more likely that Robert Barker, already licensed to publish, advanced the money through the company, of which at about this time he was Master. The amount was only a little more than a tenth of what he would spend, all told, on the new Bible. And at any rate the Stationers provided working space.

            If we try to determine the identity of the half dozen, besides Bois and Downes, John Harmer and possibly Arthur Lake, the notes mention Hutchinson, presumably of the original group working on the New Testament at Westminster. But a reference does not prove that the translator named was working at Stationers’ Hall; the men there could have been discussing work done earlier, Bois’s biographer says only that at Stationers’ Hall they started afresh, not with those who had previously been overseers or supervisors of the groups.

            Harmer had translated into English certain sermons by the French scholar Beza, who followed Calvin at Geneva and published a New Testament in Latin. Beza’s influence on the work of the translators has been noted by scholars, and besides Harmer’s direct contributions to the Bois jottings, the several references to Beza may have been made at his instigation. AL also is quoted, but the most frequent contributor of recommended readings is Downes. Downes and Bois were old working partners, having been master and student in the early days of Greek scholarship at Oxford, and together assisting Sir Henry Savile in his mammoth translation of St. Chrysostom.

            Thus as the six men worked their daily stint, presumably around a table piled with papers and books of reference, the readings recommended by the scholars at Oxford and Cambridge and Westminster, and the Bibles already translated into English and Latin as well as the original Hebrew and the variant texts in Greek, we can see Bois keeping his faithful notes—scribbling away at the pages still preserved for us in the Oxford copy. We can hear Downes – “our most subtle thinker in words,” Bois called him – compare one Greek reading with another, discuss the position of modifiers, or decide which preposition should be supplied to fit the needs of English grammar. Did he, as was his habit when lecturing at his own college, lounge with his long legs on the table? Or did he, in deference to the company and their solemn task, sit more decorously; and then, baffled by a puzzling construction in St. Paul, stand and walk about, perhaps stare at his own reflection in a window made a mirror by the black London fog, and think how we “see in a glass darkly”?

            Bois’s notes run from Romans through the Apocalypse, and for the debatable passages present a number of alternate readings. At Stationers’ Hall the work was still in the stage of searching for the right word or combination of words to express an idea, and even of deciding which idea to adopt, among the possibilities suggested by the different translations or inherent in the different grammatical structure of the ancient texts. So Bois put down word meanings as a dictionary would, or alternates as a thesaurus would; later still would come a choice among possible constructions for sound and rhythm and euphony of the whole. The Bois notes show how careful the translators were, first of all, to determine exact meanings or establish a permissible range of meaning.

            Final constructions thus appear, almost always, to simplify the Bois suggestions. Thus in Romans 3:9 the notes suggest: “What then? Are we safe and out of danger? Are we preferred? Are we God’s darlings?” The King James question is “What then? Are we better than they?”

            In I Corinthians 9:18 Bois offered: “that I strain not to the utmost my power in the gospel, or that I rack not, or stretch not, etc.” The King James reading is, “that I abuse not my power in the gospel.”

            Andrew Downes in I Corinthians 10:20 proposed: “and I would not have you partakers with the devil.” The 1611 Bible said, “and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.” Here as elsewhere Downes’ comments are in Latin, and long, as he filtered the sense from the Greek through the Latin, the language of scholars. The plural “devils,” by the way, seems better than “devil” in the passage, for it appears to mean little demons rather than the great fiend or Satan. The Revised Standard Version uses “demons.”

            Chapter 15, verse 33 of I Corinthians we all know well. Downes wanted “good manners,” “good natures,” or “good dispositions.” The learned men at last settled on the first of these: “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.”

            For II Corinthians 2:10 Bois proposed “in the person, in the sight or in the name of Christ.” The 1611 Bible uses a Bois word in its reading, “in the person of Christ.” For 5:3, the Bois suggestion was “if so be that we shall be found clothed, and not naked.” The king’s Bible changes the order: “if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.” For 5:19 Bois put down “that God in Christ reconciled the world,” The 1611 Bible reads “that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself.” Here the changes are small and mainly of grammar and rhythm, but again we see the fusing of the 1611 Bible going on as we read.

            In the final editing the last learned men. Smith and Bilson, used the Bois words “perfecting holiness” in II Corinthians 7:1. In the next verse they refused the Bois phrasing, “we have made a gain of no man,” in favor of “we have wronged no man.” For 8:4 they took the whole Downes reading, “that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.”

            A near miss by Bois is in II Corinthians 9:5 where he recommended, “as a bounty and not as a thing extorted.” The 1611 Bible reads “as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness.” The Revised Standard Version chose “not as an exaction but as a willing gift,” which is better, and nearer Bois, than the 1611 wording.

            Trying phrases for Galatians 4:15, Bois wrote: “What is become then of the happiness that was ascribed unto you, of your magnifying of yourselves, of thinking yourselves happy for my sake, your happiness that is talked of or spoken of?” Many a writer thus tries many phrasings. The reading finally adopted was “Where is then the blessedness ye spake of?”

            In Philippians Bois tendered for 1:19, “the bounty of the Spirit.” The final version reads “the supply of the Spirit.” For 1:21 he set down “life unto me is Christ, and death an advantage.” The king’s Bible chose one-syllable words: “To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” For Philippians 2:20 Bois and AL suggested, “no man like minded . . . who will truly be careful of your matters, or careful from the heart.” Andrew Downes, struggling hard with Paul’s Greek, made literal notes: “so dear unto me, whom I love of my own soul.” The 1611 Bible says with greater ease, “I have no man like-minded who will naturally care for your state.”

            For the well-known Philippians 3:14, Bois offered: “I follow directly to the price (prize) of the high calling ...” and AL proposed, “I follow toward the mark for the price (prize). . . .” We all know that the King James verse reads, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

            Bois suggested for Philippians 3:20, “your city in heaven” or “heaven for our city.” This illustrates the difficulty with connectives, lacking in the Greek text and sometimes requiring a decision as to the meaning of a phrase, a clause, or a sentence. Here the final King James version is the phrase much used, “our conversation is in heaven.” To Elizabethans “conversation” meant much more than talk; it was the action of living or having one’s being in and among. The Revised Standard Version has it “our commonwealth is in heaven,” which accedes somewhat to the Bois concept of “city.”

            In I Thessalonians 5:23, Downes proposed “that your spirit may be kept perfect.” The king’s Bible has, “your whole spirit ... be preserved blameless.” The Revised Standard Version says, “. . . be kept sound and blameless.”

            “May be schooled not to blaspheme” was what Bois offered for I Timothy 1:20. The king’s Bible says, “that they learn not to blaspheme”; this stresses learning where Bois stressed teaching. Another rare passage in which the meaning was changed in revision is II Timothy 2:5, for which Downes recommended, “and though a man labor for the best gain, try masteries . . . unless he strive and labor lustily.” The King James Bible says, “And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.” The Revised Standard has, “An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” The word “strive” or “contend” is, in the Greek, the word from which we get “athlete,” one who strives in the public lists. The passage is a demand that one follow the rules of the game, but Downes missed the point that the verse refers to a contest of athletes.

            We may assume that the scriptural passages for which Bois made no notes passed on to Smith and Bilson from the first draft without much change. Yet we must not suppose that the Bois notes preserved to us are more than hints of all that he, Downes, and the other four worked over; the forty pages of these notes are but a teasing fragment. At the end, someone has written: “These notes were taken by John Bois, one of the translators of the king’s Bible,” and added that they were “transcribed out of a copy by some unskilled hand, very confused and faulty, especially in the Greek.” But the notes are not faulty in Greek, only terse and stenographic. Perhaps the annotator did not like Bois’s ligatured Greek writing, which shortly went out of style.

            But are there any other such notes about the making of a true world masterpiece? Why should these have survived when we have nothing comparable from Shakespeare?

            Commentators have pored over the only other material evidence, available in another form – that copy of the Bishops’ Bible which is cherished in the Bodleian Library, with marginal notes for suggested changes inked in. Yet the changes are not always those of the King James version, and may have been those of an amateur working independently with the zeal so widely felt. If they were made by one of the Oxford translators it would be interesting to see whether the phrases which differ from the final version are among those discussed by Bois.

            There are various interpretations of the nature of the work done at Stationers’ Hall and its importance to the whole undertaking, especially with reference to the final editing done by Miles Smith and Bishop Bilson. Read carefully, the Bois notes show at least two things: first, that at this stage the work was still subject to changes, and second, that to the very end the learned men tried and tried again, so that we can share the very creakings of their thoughts.* (*Dr. Frederick C. Grant of Union Theological Seminary, New York, upon seeing the notes, observed a parallel with his own experience in work on the Revised Standard Version: “The King James translators faced many problems that we did—or rather, we faced those which they faced, long ago. One can almost hear the committee at work.”) Thus the notes which Bois “diligently kept to his dying day” seem to warrant attention, although apparently they have never been published.

            Nor did the work of the Stationers’ Hall men end with the printing of the 1611 Bible. Minor revisions were made after the first edition, having to do chiefly with uniform usage of a different type face to distinguish the connective words added to make better sense in English. John Bois himself was concerned with such small revisions as late as the Cambridge Revised Edition of 1638.

            All these efforts with word meanings are of course laborious and, in the case of Scripture, highly important. Bois’s biographer said, “Surely it will be easily granted that a man of a pregnant fancy and ready invention may sooner, and with more ease, write a leaf of his own than he can examine a line, it may be a word, of a decayed, crabbed author, or a dark manuscript which perchance cannot be done without perusing twenty more.” Bois it was whose father taught him Hebrew at a tender age; his mother, a bluestocking of her period, had read the Bible through twelve times, presumably in the Geneva version. This sort of patience and piety the men at Stationers’ Hall had and needed.

            Yet their notes are evidence only of the essential spade-work, the digging away at roots to lay a firm foundation. We still have no sure answer for that final choice and arrangement of words that makes the Bible translated for the king tower above the rest. 

A page of the Bois notes, reproduced by permission of the President and Fellows of Corpus Christi College, Oxford. FROM PAGE 121 OF THE ORIGINAL DOCUMENT (UNREADABLE) 

            In evaluating the work of the editors, some have supposed that the men at Stationers’ Hall did most of the real work and that Miles Smith and Bishop Bilson, although they went over the work once more before it was sent to the printer, merely approved a final version submitted to them, and wrote the chapter headings.

            Another possibility, however, is that the men at Stationers’ Hall were concerned chiefly with disputed meanings, and that they served as expert arbitrators between variants—not only those proposed by the earlier readings made by the translators in groups, but variants in the original texts. Then Smith and Bilson presumably reworked the raw material of acceptable meanings into the smooth vibrant prose of the printed version.

            No way of settling these questions of literary credit now suggests itself. The Bois notes, if taken to represent the work at Stationers’ Hall – as seems entirely reasonable – strongly support the second assumption, because the readings offered differ from the final King James version. Also there are usually several readings, indicating that Bois put down possible alternates rather than final selections. When none of the Bois words is identical with the final readings, there is today no way of telling whether additional work at Stationers’ Hall inserted the accepted phrase in the manuscript, whether Smith and Bilson found it, or whether the final reading was one chosen by the group originally assigned to translate the passage.

            The time schedule is no help because, although the Stationers’ Hall work went on for nine months and so lasted longer than Smith and Bilson worked afterwards, we cannot know whether the work overlapped; Smith and Bilson may well have started while the men at Stationers’ Hall continued. Thus the range of possibility is from a board of final editors at Stationers’ Hall, with Smith and Bilson giving nominal approval, to the hypothesis that the men at Stationers’ Hall were mainly concerned with problems of verbal meaning, with a final editing to supply “polish” – in this case, the poetic rhythm so important in the King James Bible.

            All we know is that somewhere within the range of talents at work on the 1611 Bible were those necessary for a good and complete translation, one that would represent the original writing in a new language in quality as well as in sense. It is often said that a good translation should be done by at least two people, one a linguist to provide literal meanings, one a skilled writer to look out for cadence and style. Thus today it might be suggested that the Isaiah of the Dead Sea Scrolls would be best translated into English by a learned philologist plus an English stylist of the rank of Christopher Fry. If we apply this reasoning to the King James Bible it seems clear that Bois and Downes, and perhaps the other four at Stationers’ Hall, were the linguists supplying various supportable renderings of the difficult passages. There may have been artists in words, too, among them; certainly there were talented men among the translators who had worked at Oxford and Cambridge and Westminster. But what if Miles Smith, with or without real help from Bishop Bilson, had still to make literature of the result?

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