Reformation Era Bibles from Hendrickson Publishers


Most students of the King James Bible are familiar with the history of English Bible translation. They have heard of William Tyndale and his sacrifice in bringing us the New Testament in English, the first translation from the Greek ever in our language. Tyndale paid for his love of the Bible with his death and burning at the stake in 1536.

After Tyndale, there was the Coverdale Bible and then Matthew’s Bible, the first Bible actually endorsed by the nation of England. The jewel of the Reformation was of course, the Geneva Bible with its controversial study notes. This Bible reigned supreme for a hundred years or so.

The King James Bible took its place and gradually stole the hearts of all Englishmen. It is undoubtedly the finest translation of the bunch and continues to be used widely to this day.

I remember a little over ten years ago, when I had the privilege of opening an early printing of the King James Version — a 1612 text, I believe. I got to handle a 1535 Tyndale New Testament and see authentic pages from a 1611 King James. I was with a group of college students visiting the Rare Book Reading Room in the library at Colgate University. I still get shivers thinking about that experience. I got to see the “f”-s used as “s”-s, the “y” abbreviation used for “the”, and the strange Gothic block print, which is very hard to read. But that wasn’t what thrilled me. Thinking of the treasure of the Bible and the sacrifice of those who gave it to us, was what made that moment so special.

The next best thing to seeing the original Bibles yourself, is having a reprint edition. I have treasured a 1611 edition reprint from Hendrickson Publishers for several years now. The font is more friendly to the eye, than the original 1611 font, but other than that all the orthography is original. Seeing the marginal notes and reading the KJV translation of the Apocrypha are some of the unique pleasures that reading from the 1611 edition offers. Occasionally, comparing that edition with a more modern KJV will also reveal a place where later KJV’s improved the text (or possibly departed from it) — which appeals to my critical eye.

Hendrickson Publishers now has a commemorative 400th Anniversary edition, of the 1611 Bible. I will be giving away one copy of that Bible here on our site in the next few weeks. Details will be forthcoming. Hendrickson also has special reprint editions of Tyndale’s 1526 New Testament, Matthew’s 1537 Bible, and the 1560 edition of the Geneva Bible. Throughout the next month I’ll be posting a brief review of each of these historic Bibles, leading up to the special giveaway of the 1611 Anniversary Edition, King James Bible.

The King James Commentary Book Giveaway (week 4)

Week 4 Giveaway Details

This is the final week to enter for a chance at a free Zondervan King James Commentary set, compliments of Zondervan. There’s one more set waiting for one more lucky winner. I want to thank Andrew Rogers again for sponsoring the giveaway.

I wanted to have some fun though with the entry form this week. You’ll call me crazy, I’m sure. But filling out the form may be a bit more fun than the last three weeks. Thanks again for reading our blog, and putting up with everything around here! Oh, and there are ways to get extra entries in the contest this week again, just be sure to fill out the entire form and you’ll see the details.

For more info on the commentary set, go on over to Zondervan’s product page for the commentary set, and look around. To purchase a copy of the commentary, if you’ve given up hope for winning the contest, you can do so at or direct from Zondervan.

Thanks again, and I hope everyone had fun with the March King James Commentary Book Giveaway.

[If you’re in the mood for filling out giveaway forms and you like free books, you should bookmark Zondervan’s Koinonia blog, where they have at least one giveaway a month. Also this week, Christian Focus Publications’ new blog is giving away some theology books to two lucky winners.]

Contest closed. Congratulations to Tom White the winner of this week’s contest.

The King James Bible Trust

This being the year of the King James Bible’s 400th anniversary, celebrations of the enduring legacy of the King James Bible are planned all over the world. In England, the King James Bible Trust has been founded, and they are trying to educate the people of England about the literary treasure that is the King James Bible.

If you haven’t already been to the King James Bible Trust’s website, you really should give it a look. There is a wealth of historical information, and several interesting projects they are doing. The YouTube Bible Project seems especially intriguing. They are hoping to get video clips of people reading thorugh each chapter of the King James Bible uploaded to YouTube. I might have to try my hand at that and share my entry here with you all. [As a complete sidenote, I noticed that the University of Michigan’s website for the King James Bible text is what the Trust recommends to readers for their project. As a big Michigan fan, I thought that was great!]

Here are the stated aims of the Trust from their PDF brochure, available for free download.

The King James Bible is the book that changed the world. For 400 years its words have rung out across the length and breadth of Britain – its phrases on the lips of millions, its cadences the music of English literature. In America it inspired the rhetoric of politicians from Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King, and has thus been a potent weapon in the struggle for freedom and social justice.

Yet the King James Bible has become – in its own telling phrase – ‘a prophet without honour’ in the country of its birth and one of the most important books in the English Language has practically disappeared from state schools.

Our aim is to raise awareness of what has been, for too long, one of Britain’s best-kept secrets. It is impossible to understand the history and culture of this country without a knowledge of the King James Bible, and so we intend not only to re-awaken memories among the older generation, but to lay down new memories for the young.

There will be many celebrations through the year, but we also want to leave a legacy to ensure that the King James Bible lives on for future generations.

Education will play a key role in achieving these aims. We have already funded the development of 3 modules for the Religious Education curriculum, and we also want the King James Bible to take its proper place elsewhere in the curriculum, so that children from all backgrounds will have the chance to encounter its power and beauty.

The King James Commentary Book Giveaway (week 3)

Week 3, Giveaway Details

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. This week, we have another 2 volume set of the Zondervan King James Bible Commentary to give away to one lucky reader.

Once again an extra credit question will earn you additional entries to the contest. Just go on over to Zondervan’s product page for the commentary set, and look around. You may want to search Zondervan’s site too, if needed.

If you can’t stand suspense, and you want to just purchase a copy of the commentary and forget about the contest, you can do so at or direct from Zondervan.

We’ll see who has the “luck of the Irish” and wins the contest this week. Once again, our thanks go to Andrew Rogers of Zondervan for sponsoring the contest.

Congratulations to Harrison Hamada for winning week 3’s contest. Stay tuned for the final contest details later this week. One last chance at this great commentary from Zondervan.

Precedence for the 1881 Revisions

I don’t necessarily accept the work of the 1881 Revision Committee that produced the English Revised Version of the Scriptures. I think there was a lot of faddish academics involved and the text that was produced was not of a high caliber at all, setting aside for a moment the Greek text used. I wanted to open this article with that disclaimer.

I was more or less surfing through Google Books and I happened upon this book by Philip Schaff, the author of the multi-volume History of the Christian Church that most pastors got on discount to fill their bookshelves and haven’t cracked since. From 1870 until his death, Schaff was a professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York, and he served as the president of the committee that oversaw the American Standard Version (although he died before it was finished).

The book is titled A Companion to the Greek Testament and the English Version, published in 1883. This was two years after the publication of the RV New Testament, and two years before the Old Testament was published. The book is, in fact, dedicated to the members of the American committee. He wrote:

I dedicate this book to my brother-Revisers as a memorial of the many happy days we spent together, from month to month and year to year, in the noble work of improving the English version of the Word of God.

It is truly a fascinating book because it is published at the same time as John William Burgon was publishing Revision Revised but shows a very different perspective on the entire process of revision. But that is a topic for another post.

What struck me as intriguing about A Companion to the Greek Testament and the English Version was that Schaff demonstrates at great length that, in his words:

It may well be said, without the least disparagement of the merits of the Revising Committees, that the great majority of the changes of text and version (probably more than four fifths) which they finally adopted had been anticipated by previous translators and commentators, and had become the common property of biblical scholars before the year 1870. But these improvements were scattered among many books, and lacked public recognition. They had literary worth, but no ecclesiastical authority. They were the work of individuals, not of the Church. (p 368)

Schaff goes on to say that essentially the Revision Committee felt they were under obligation to the Church at large to consider and evaluate not only the King James Version but also all of the many efforts to do translation since. They felt it was necessary because:

The subject of an authoritative revision was discussed with great ability by W. Selwyn (1856), Trench (1858), Alford, Ellicott, Lightfoot, and many others. Different opinions prevailed as to the extent of the changes, but the vast majority deprecated a new version, and desired simply such a revision of the time-honored old version as would purge it of acknowledged errors and blemishes, conform it more fully to the original Greek and Hebrew, adapt it to the language and scholarship of the present age, and be a new bond of union and strength among all English-speaking churches. (p 369)

We could argue endlessly about whether and to what extent the revision committee accomplished any of the three goals that Schaff outlines, but notice how he keeps talking about all the difference work that preceded the Revision Committee. It is a much bigger picture than just Westcott and Hort gathering a committee to carry out a translation of their Greek text. Here is the list that Schaff provides:

The number of English versions is much larger, and began as early as the last century with Campbell (the Gospels, 1788), Macknight (the Epistles, 1795), Archbishop Newcome (1796). From the present century we have several translations of widely differing merits, by Charles Thomson (1808), John Bellamy (1818), Noah Webster (New Haven, 1833), Nathan Hale (Boston, 1836, from Griesbaeh’s text), Granville Penn (London, 1836), Edgar Taylor (London, 1840), Andrews Norton (the Gospels, Boston, 1855), Robert Young (Edinburgh, 1863, very literal), Samuel Sharpe (1840, 6th ed..London, 1870, from Griesbaeh’s text), L. A. Sawyer (Boston, 1858), J. Nelson Darby (published anonymously, London,2d ed. 1S72),T.S.Green (London, 1865), G. R. Noyes (Professor in Harvard University, Boston, 1869; 4th ed. 1S70, published by the American Unitarian Association; a very good translation from the eighth edition of Tischendorf in Matthew, Mark, and part of Luke; Dr. Ezra Abbot added a list of Tischendorf’s readings from Luke xviii. 10 to John vi. 2, 3, and critically revised the proofs), Alford (London, 1869), Joseph B.Rotherham (London, 1872, text of Tregelles), Samuel Davidson (prepared at the suggestion of Tischendorf from his last Greek text, London, 1875), John Brown McClellan (the Gospels, London, 1875, on the basis of the Authorized Version, but with a “critically revised” text), the “Revised English Bible,” prepared by four English divines (London, 1877), the Gospel of John and the Pauline Epistles, by Five Anglican Clergymen (Dean Henry Alford, Bishop George Moberly, Rev. William Gh Humphry, Bishop Chas. J. Ellicott, and Dr. John Barrow, 1857,1S61).

Nor were these attempts confined to individuals. “The American Bible Union,” a Baptist association in America, spent for nearly twenty years a vast amount of money, zeal, and labor on an improved version, and published the New Testament in full (second revision, New York and London, 1869, with “immerse,” “immersion,” and “John the Immerser”), and the Old Testament in part (with learned comments, the best of them by Dr. Conant, on Job, Psalms, and Proverbs). Last, though not least, we must mention The Variorum Bible for Bible Teachers, prepared by five Anglican scholars (T. K. Cheyne, E. L. Clarke, S. R. Driver, Alfred Goodwin, and W. Sanday), and pnblished by Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 1880 (in very small print); it contains a judicious selection of various readings and renderings from the best critical and exegetical authorities—we may say a full apparatus for the reader of the English Version. (pp 366-367)

I can honestly say that I have not heard of most of these translations. There are a few (such as Daniel Webster’s) which I have heard of, but I was blown away. It never occurred to me that the Baptists might have spent twenty years attempting to develop a superior translation more in keeping with their own doctrines. (I looked into this and it seems that the Bible Union was frustrated with using a Bible translated by Anglicans and which did not translate terms like baptize and congregation more literally.)

Why present all of this?

I think that it is interesting that most of the people who write for or against the work of Westcott and Hort zone in on a few writers. Usually we talk about John William Burgon or F.H.A. Scrivener, and occasionally people read a biography or a commentary that deals with Bishop Westcott.

Just how much do we know about the other people involved? Philip Schaff was no slouch. After all, he was born in Sweden, studied all over Europe and taught in the United States (learning English as a third language) for nearly fifty years. How was it then that I had to happen upon a book like this? I’ve never encountered his name in any reading on the issue. Maybe I just missed it.

More than anything, I’m thinking that perhaps we should expand our reading a bit and look beyond the big names of the debate. Burgon, Scrivener, Westcott and Hort get thrown around an awful lot but my opinion is that these kinds of things don’t occur in a vacuum. There were other intelligent, spiritually discerning individuals in the mix. Did they necessarily make the right decisions or have the right beliefs? I leave that for you to think about.

The King James Commentary Book Giveaway (week 2)

Week 2, Giveaway Details

We had a great turnout for the first week’s giveaway. This week, we have another 2 volume set of the Zondervan King James Bible Commentary to give away to one lucky reader.

This week, the extra credit for the contest will be more direct (and require a bit more work). Just go on over to Zondervan’s product page for the commentary set, and click on “Read Sample”. Then you’ll have be looking for Matthew 2 to find the answer for the question on the entry form below. There, I gave you the secret.

If you can’t stand suspense, and you want to just purchase a copy of the commentary and forget about the contest, you can do so at or direct from Zondervan.

One final word about entering the contest. Only one entry will be accepted into the contest. If double or triple entries are received from the same person, all their entries will be rejected.

Contest closed. Congratulations to David Spice for winning this week’s contest!! Stay tuned because we have two more commentary sets to give away, one each for the next two weeks.

New Documentary on the King James Bible

2011 marks the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. The King James Bible has shaped the English language, inspired political and religious thought for generations and, arguably, changed the world.

The story behind the King James Bible has been told before. And several new books this year will aim to tell it again. 1A Productions and Lions Gate studio have created a first class documentary featuring John Rhys-Davies which puts this story on screen. And the result is almost as breathtaking as the powerful prose of the King James Bible itself.

KJB: The Book That Changed the World takes us on a historical survey of the years preceding 1611 and the political and religious landscape which confronted the new King. The story follows James I from his birth to his ultimate ascension to the English throne. Particular focus is placed on the role the King James Bible would play in James’ strategy to unify the landscape, politically and religiously.

Director and producer, Norman Stone does a fantastic job of capturing the life of Jacobean England with all of its intrigue. The plot of Guy Fawkes is detailed in memorable fashion. Filmed on location in England and Scotland, the film takes one inside Westminster Abbey and Oxford College to some of the actual rooms where the translators labored over their charge. The photography and quality of the film is superb, countrysides and cathedrals alike are displayed in all their evocative power.

John Rhys-Davies exudes energy and vigor in his lively narration. His booming, deep voice adds to the grandeur of the story. At one point he climbs up into the pulpit of a centuries-old church to read from the pages of the King James Bible.

The documentary focuses almost exclusively on the historical setting and making of the King James Bible, only briefly explaining its lasting impact. While acknowledging the place the Bible has for Christians, the film aims at a wider audience. At times some historical license seems to be taken to make the story fit the producer’s goals. While Puritans and Anglicans worked together on the various translation committees, it should be noted the Puritans were at a decided minority. More detail on translation techniques and practices could have been expected, too. Still the film does not disappoint. It brings to life the world of King James and the creation of his most lasting monument.

This documentary should be available on DVD in the United States next month, and Amazon is already taking pre-orders. If you are in the UK, you can pick up a copy now. Learn more about the film (and watch the trailer) at

Disclaimer: This DVD was provided by 1A Productions Ltd. for review. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.

Even the Catholics Need an Updated Translation

According to an article in USA Today, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops will be releasing an update to the New American Bible on March 9. The new edition will be called “The New American Bible, Revised Edition” or NABRE for short.

If you don’t know, the NAB (which is entirely different from the American Standard Version or New American Standard Bible) is used by the USCCB in all American editions of the Roman Catholic liturgy.

What I find particularly interesting about this new edition is that in many places, it restored the older readings – many of which sound very much like Protestant Bibles. For example, in Psalm 23, the NAB reads “even when I walk through a dark valley” but the NABRE will read “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.”

This trend toward the older, more accepted readings, can be observed in Protestant Bibles as well. In 1995, the New American Standard Bible was revised and some readings, particularly in the Psalms, took on much more familiar forms – forms far more in keeping with the heritage of the King James Version than had been there previously. In the same vein, the English Standard Version sought to restore some of the majesty of the English text and adopted the feel, if not the exact wording, of and older translation.