THE TRANSLATORS REVIVED
Having thus traced the history of our Common Version, through the successive steps by which it has come down to us in its present shape, it remains for us to inquire as to the PERSONS who put the finishing hand to the work, and to satisfy ourselves as to their qualifications for the task. It is obvious that this personal investigation is of the utmost importance in settling the degree of confidence to which their labors are entitled. Unless it can be proved that they were, as a body, eminently fitted to do this work as it ought to be done, it can have no claim to be regarded as a “finality” in the matter of furnishing a translation of the Word of God for the English speaking populations of the globe.
It is exceedingly strange that a question of such obvious importance has been so long left almost unnoticed. Numerous histories of the Translation itself have been drawn up with great labor; but no man seems to have thought it worth his while to give any account of the Translators, except the most meagre notices of a few of them, and general attestations to their reputations, in their own time, for such scholarship and skill as their undertaking required. Even the late excellent Christopher Anderson, in his huge volumes, replete as they are with research and information upon the minutest points relating to this subject, allots but a page or two of his smallest type to this essential branch of it.
It is nearly twenty years since the writer of these pages began to consider the desirableness of knowing more of those eminent divines, and he has ever since pursued a zealous search wherever he was likely to effect any “restitution of decayed intelligence” respecting them. At first, he almost despaired of ascertaining much more than the bare names of most of them. But by degrees he has collected innumerable scraps of information, gathered from a great variety of sources; amply sufficient, with due arrangement, to illustrate the subject. His object is simply to shew, that the Translators commissioned by James Stuart were ripe and critical scholars, profoundly versed in all the learning required; and that, in these particulars, there has never yet been a time when a better qualified company could have been collected for the purpose.
Of the forty-seven, who acted under king James’s commission, some are almost unknown at this day, though of high repute in their own time. A few have left us but little more than their names, worthy of immortal remembrance, were it only for their connection with this noble monument of learning and piety. But their being associated with so many other scholars and divines of the greatest eminence, is proof that they were deemed to be fit companions for the brightest lights of the land. This is confirmed by the fact that, though the king designed to employ in this work the highest and ripest talents in his realm, there were still many men in England distinguished for their learning, like Broughton and Bedell, who were not enrolled on the list of translators. It is but just to conclude, therefore, that even such as are now less known to us, were then accounted to deserve a place with the best. What we many know of the greater part of them, must lead to the highest estimate of the whole body of these good men. The catalogue beings with one whose name is worthy of the place it fills.