Fundamental Baptist Institute

Facts From History About Our

King James Bible.

Written and Published by

by Rev. Ronald D. Lesley, Th. M., D.D.

Chapter IV

The Manuscript Period

A quote from Queen Victoria,

"That book (the Bible) accounts for the supremacy of England."

The English Bible, and how it came to us, should be a ready subject of great importance to Godís people everywhere today. Without a real knowledge of itís lineage and history we cannot appreciate how precious our Bible really is. Neither would we know how it should be treated in the future.

It also would be difficult to know which version of the Bible to use. There are so many versions today. Which Bible is the Bible? Does God have more than one Word of God?

"Yea, hath God said," was the first tactic of Satan in the Garden of Eden.

The scriptures were written originally upon tables of stone, skins of leather, papyrus, or rolls of parchment. These leather, or parchment rolls, were similar to those seen in Jewish Temples and Synagogues at the present time.

Copied manuscripts were done with the utmost care. From the earliest of time man has known God by a name. A scribe would wash his hands, and work diligently to be certain of mistake free, and beautiful work. Early Hebrew scribes would even take a bath, put on fresh clean clothes, and make a new pen, when writing the name of God.. The primary names of Elohim ( rendered God in the King James Bible ), Jehovah (rendered LORD in the KJB Bible), or Adonai ( rendered Lord in KJB) are very sacred to the Jews even today.

Most believers today, do not know, and respect the definitions of the names of God as they should. The definitions are very important to the believer in behavior and relationship of men to God. There are many relationships related to the names LORD, Lord, and God. We can enjoy Him in these names as they are defined.

The Scofield Reference Bible gives these names, and their definitions as they are set forth in the King James Bible. They are in the Scofield Reference Bible at Malachi 3:18.

These notes are taken from the Scofield Reference Bible. It is very important that a Christian learn the way in which the KJB translators presented the names of God to the reader. They were very consistent with their setting forth these names for the reader.

[1] God Summary of the OT revelation of Deity: God is revealed in the OT

(1) through His names, as follows:

Primary Names Hebrew Name

God El, Elah, or Elohim (Gen. 1:1. note )

LORD Jehovah (Gen. 2,4, note)

Lord Adon or Adonai (Gen. 15:2, note)

Compound Names (w/El) Hebrew Name


Almighty God El Shaddai (Gen. 17:1, note) (w/El = God)

Most High, or

most high God El Elyon (Gen. 14:18, note)

everlasting God El Olam (Gen. 21:33, note)

Compounds of these names. (w/Jehovah)

LORD God Jehovah Elohim (Gen. 2:4, note)

Lord GOD Adonai Jehovah (Gen. 15:2, note) = Lord)

LORD of hosts Jehovah Sabaoth (1Sa 1:3, note)

The trinity is suggested by the three times repeated groups of threes. This is not an arbitrary arrangement, but inheres in the OT itself. This revelation of God by His name is invariably made in connection with some particular need of His people, and there can be no need of man to which these names do not answer as showing that manís true resource is in God. Even human failure and sin but evoke new and fuller revelations of the divine fullness.

(2) The OT Scriptures reveal the existence of a Supreme Being, the Creator of the universe and of man, the Source of all life and of all intelligence, who is to be worshipped and served by men and angels. This Supreme Being is One, but, in some sense not fully revealed in the OT, is a unity in plurality. This is shown by the plural name, Elohim, by the use of the plural pronoun in the interrelation of deity as evidenced in Gen. 1:26; Gen. 3:22; Ps 110:1; Isaiah 6:8 That this plurality is really a Trinity is intimated in the three primary names of Deity, and in the threefold ascription of the Seraphim in Isaiah 6:3 That the interrelation of Deity is that of Father and Son is directly asserted Ps 2:7; Heb 1:5 and the Spirit is distinctly recognized in His personality, and to Him are ascribed all the divine attributes (e.g. Gen. 1:2; Num. 11:25; Num. 24:2; Jdg. 3:10; Jdg. 6:34; Jdg. 11:29; Jdg. 13:25; Jdg. 14:6, 19 Jdg. 15:14; 2 Sa 23:2; Job 26:13; Job 33:4; Ps 106:33; Ps 139:7; Isa 40:7 Isa 59:19; Isa 63:10 (See Note for Mal. 2:15)

(3) The future incarnation is intimated in the theophanies, or appearances of God in human form (e.g. Gen. 18:1, 13, 17-22; Gen. 32:24-30 and distinctly predicted in the promises connected with redemption (e.g. Gen. 3:15 and with the Davidic Covenant (e.g. Isa 7:13, 14; Isa 9:6, 7; Jer 23:5, 6 The revelation of Deity in the NT so illuminates that of the OT that the latter is seen to be, from Genesis to Malachi, the foreshadowing of the coming incarnation of God in Jesus the Christ. In promise, covenant, type, and prophecy the OT points forward to Him.

The revelation of God to man is one of authority and redemption. He requires righteousness from man, but saves the unrighteous through sacrifice; and in His redemptive dealings with man all the divine persons and attributes are brought into manifestation. The OT reveals the justice of God equally with His mercy, but never in opposition to His mercy. The flood, e.g., was an unspeakable mercy to unborn generations. From Genesis to Malachi He is revealed as the seeking God who has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and who heaps up before the sinner every possible motive to persuade to faith and obedience.

The scribe held a respected position for his workís sake. Due to their hard work, craftsmanship and vigilance many manuscript copies of Scriptures have survived for centuries. These beautiful works were made from the original Hebrew, and Greek, into other tongues. Their craftsmanship made a quality work of exquisite beauty. It is from these manuscripts that the King James scholars made the translation of the English Bible.

It should be noted that Bibles are made for use. The use wears the material into deterioration. Most people will use several good quality Bibles in a lifetime of constant use. This would be true of early men as well. It is a testimony to the quality and craftsmanship that caused material to last through the centuries.

It is noted that Miles Coverdale spoke of many books and manuscripts in his generation that were not available a hundred or so years later. We do not know what happened to these works, however we can imagine, fire, flood, misuse and so forth would cause their extinction.

There are many complete manuscript copies of the scriptures, and parts of transcripts of the scriptures in the original languages which have survived time to this day. Early Bibles were translated into the Latin, Saxon and other tongues at an early date. They were previous to the invention of printing. These transcripts were obtained with great difficulty and were purchased at unimaginable prices. They are priceless today and can be found in museums in England and around the world.

The land of England was given the Gospel early in the history of the Church. There is testimony of records that England was given the Gospel during the time of the Apostle Paul. Claudia and Pudens (2 Timothy 4:21) are Celtic names recorded with Paul at Rome. It is very possible that the Gospel was brought to Britian from Rome.

Of Creation:

Now must we praise

The grandeur of Heavenís Kingdom,

The Creatorís might,

And His mindís thought;

Glorious Father of men,

The Lord the Eternal,

Who formed the beginning.

And the Cross:

He on the tree ascended

And shed his blood,

God on the Cross

Through the Spiritís power.

Wherefore we should

At all times

Give to the Lord thanks

In deed and works

For that he us from thralldom

Led home

Up to heaven

Where we may share

The greatness of God."

This is a poem of the time of King Alfred 877 AD

Augustine settled in Kent, England in 597 AD. This gave new life to the few Christians already there. Bede, 673 - 735 AD, a great Anglo-Saxon scholar, composed many verses for the people and translated verses into the Anglo-Saxon tongue. Aldhelm, who died in 709 AD, translated the Psalms, and some of the Gospels. These works are exhibited in the British Museum. King Alfred, 848 - 901 AD, contributed much to the evangelization of the people of his realm. He had a Latin Psalter, and had translation done into an interlinear English - Latin translation. This is also in the British Museum.

During the dark ages scholarship in continental Europe was almost destroyed. Literacy was virtually wiped out among the common people of Europe. This destruction did not reach some of the Christians of England. God had a seed bed, England, for His future evangelization of the world.

May I inject a thought at this point. Latin has been removed from the disciplines of modern education. Many vast libraries of great historical significance will be left behind. I think this is due to the desire of the ecumenical efforts of modern education led by Roman Catholicism . They desire that these works die in the knowledge of mankind. It is the desire of the Roman Catholic Church to remove the history of their wicked actions against the saints of God. There has been of very recently the false idea that it was Roman Catholics that were the martyrs of the dark, and middle ages. What a farce to those who read the works of history.

John Foxe AD. 1517 - April 20, 1587


(Every Christian should read "The Christian Martyrs" by John Foxe.)

The people of Northumbria were not likely to be able to understand other than their native tongue. As far back as the English language can be followed, there are traces of translations of the Scriptures into English. The materials used would be of constant deterioration. Only the best materials lasted, of which there many. Yet, it is easy to understand the passing of manuscripts that were in constant use.

St. Aidan, bishop of Lindisfarne in the first half of the 7th century (died 651 AD), is said by Bede to have employed those who were about him, laymen as well as clergy, in reading and learning the Scriptures, especially the Psalms and Gospels.

There seems indeed to have been copies of a vernacular version in the earlier language of the country, for Gildas writes in the beginning of his history that, when English martyrs gave up their lives for Christianity during the Diocletian persecution, in the beginning of the 4th century, "all the copies of the Holy Scriptures which could be found, were burned in the streets."

A little later Caedmon, a lay monk of Whitby (died 680), whose gifts as a poet had been discovered while he was a cow herdsman in a neighboring downs, composed a metrical version of several parts of the Old and New Testaments from English translations which had been made for him by monks who understood the Latin Vulgate. Rather later still, Eadfrith, bishop of Lindisfarne (died 721), is said, on some authority known to Archbishop Ussher (Works, ix. 282), to have translated most of the books of the Bible; and similar translation are handed down as stated by the Venerable Bede (died 735), Alcuin (died 804), and King Alfred (died 901). The earliest vestige of such work that actually remains extant is an English Psalter, the first fifty Psalms of which are in prose and the rest in verse, which was translated by St. Aldhelm, abbot of Malmesbury, and at his death (709) bishop of Sherborne, and of which a copy is preserved in the National Library at Paris. This Psalter was printed at Oxford, under the editorship of Thorpe, in 1835, and is one of the earliest examples of the English language.

Next in date comes a volume known as the Lindisfarne, Or St. Cuthbert's Evangelistarium. This beautiful volume is now preserved in the British Museum. It was written in Latin by Eadfrith about 680, and afterwards illuminated by Ethelwold, (724-740) the bishop of Lindisfarne. At a later date an interlinear English translation was added by Ealdred, probably the monk who afterwards became (957-968) bishop of Chester-le-Street. The Lindisfarne Gospels were edited, with a learned introduction, by Bouternek in 1857, and also by Stevenson and Waring for the Surtees Society in 1854-65.

At a little later date is a similar volume, known as the Rushworth Gospels, which is preserved in the Bodleian Library. This manuscript was originally written in Latin by MacRegol, an Irish scribe, about 820, and the interlinear English version was added about 80 or 100 years afterwards by a scribe named Owen and a priest of Harewood named Faerman. The three later gospels are so nearly identical with those of the Lindisfarne book as to show that the translation contained in the latter represents a publicly circulated version. The Rushworth Gospels were printed by the Surtees Society in the 1860ís.

There was in circulation, also, in the tenth century, a translation of the first seven books of the Old Testament, which had been made by AElfric, who was during the later part of his life (994-1005), archbishop of Canterbury. These seven books were probably part only of a much larger work, for translations of the books of Kings, Esther, Job, Judith, the Maccabees, and of the four gospels, also exist, which are of the same date, and are supposed to be from the same pen. Copies of the Heptateuch exist in the British Museum, and in the Bodleian Library, a copy of the gospels being preserved in the Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. The Heptateuch was printed by Edward Thwaites in 1698.

In addition to the above, there are also many copies of the Anglo- Saxon Psalter, and the Gospels in the British Museum, in the libraries of Oxford, and Cambridge, and elsewhere, some of which are written in between the lines of the Latin, and others of which are, like AElfric's Heptateuch, and independent works. Such manuscripts are found of as late a date as the end of the 12th century, showing that the more ancient form of the English language was in use long after the Norman Conquest, and even when the transition was far advanced from Anglo-Saxon to the medieval English of Chaucer. The general character of the older English may be seen by the following the interlinear specimen of AElfricís Heptateuch.. This allows the comparison with modern English which can be made easily by the parallel version.

The English which was spoken before the Norman Conquest underwent much change during the reigns of the Norman and Angevin kings. And although the reproduction of the older translations shows that there were some Englishmen who still used their language in its ancient form, yet there can be no doubt that many of the old words had become obsolete by the time of the occupation of several ethnic occupiers, and that the vernacular tongue of the country had been so altered by its contact with the French spoken by the upper classes as to make new translations of the Scriptures necessary. Of such new translations Cranmer writes in his preface to his Bible of 1540. "The Holy Bible was", he says, "translated and read in the Saxons' tongue, which at that time was our mother tongue," many hundred years before the date at which he was writing, " whereof there remaineth yet divers copies, found in old abbeys, of web antique manner of writing and speaking: that few men now have been able to read and understand them. And when this language waxed old and out of common usage, because folk should not lack the fruit of reading, it was again translated into the newer language, whereof yet also many copies remain, and be daily found."

Sir Thomas More also wrote that "the whole Bible was, long before Wickliffe's days, by virtuous and well-learned men, translated into the English tongue, and by good, and godly people with devotion and soberness well and reverently read". Similar evidence is given by Foxe who says in his dedication to an edition of the Anglo-Saxon gospels, " If histories be well examined, we shall find both before the Conquest and after, as well before John Wickliffe was born as since, the whole body of the Scriptures by sundry men translated into our country tongue."

But there are none but fragmentary remains of the "many copies " which remained when Cranmer wrote in 1540. They having doubtless disappeared in the vast and ruthless destruction of libraries which took place within a few years after that date of Cranmer.

There are, however, two English versions of the Psalms still remaining which were made early in the 14th century, together with many abstracts and metrical paraphrases of particular books of the Bible; translations of the epistles and gospels used in divine service; paraphrases of gospel lessons; narratives of the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord; and other means for familiarizing the people with Holy Scripture. It was also the custom of medieval preachers and writers to give their own English version of any text which they quoted.

Bale writes in 1549, " I judge this to be true, and utter it with heaviness, that neither the Britons under the Romans and Saxons, nor yet the English people under the Danes and Normans, had ever such damage of their learned monuments as we have seen in our time" (Bale's Declaration upon Leland's Journal), About that time, among hundreds of other libraries, those of the city of London and of the university of Oxford entirely disappeared, the very book shelves of the latter being sold for firewood.

Of the two Psalters mentioned above, the earlier one was translated by William de Schorham, who was vicar of Chart Sutton in Kent in the year 1320. One copy is preserved in the British Museum (add MS. 17,376), and two others are in the library of Trinity College, Dublin. The other work was made by Richard Rolle, a chantry priest and hermit of Hampole, near Doncaster (died 1349). Among many works that he wrote was a Latin commentary on the Psalms. He was persuaded to rewrite this in English, and an English version of the Psalms was incorporated with it in the same way as the Latin had been in the original work.

"In this werke," wrote the author-- "I seke no straunge Ynglys, but lightest and communest, & swilk is moste lyk unto the Latyne, so that thai yt knawes noght ye Latyne be the Ynglys may com, to many Latyne wordis. In ye translscion I feloghe the letter als- mekille as I may, and ther I fynd no propre Ynglys, I feloghe ye wit of ye wordis, so that thai that schulen rede It them thar not drede erryng."

The commentary of Hampole (Rolle), as the author is frequently called, was very extensively circulated, and many copies of it exist today. It was also printed at Cologne in the year 1536.

Treading worthily in the footsteps of these and many other worthy predecessors, come the translators of the two noble 14th century versions, which have been long regarded as the exclusive work of John Wickliffe The first of these two complete versions was completed about 1384, the year of Wickliffe's death, and may be distinguished by the names of the principal translators, as Hereford and Wickliffe's Bible The second was completed about 1388, and for the same reason may be called Purvey's translation. Purvey was assistant to Tyndale throughout his time in Europe.

Wickliffe's earliest work was of the same nature as that of Rolle, being a commentary on the book of Revelation, which finished in 1352. This was followed in 1360 by a commentary on the gospels. It is this translation of the gospels alone which can be certainly identified as the work of Wickliffe in the Bible which goes by his name

The Old Testament, and Apocryphal books, were translated principally by Nicolas de Hereford, of Queen's College, Oxford. This will be considered more fully later in this work.

The following specimen of the later version (John 11:1-13) will show that its language is not very far removed from that of the present day: --

"And ther was a sijk man, Lazarus of Bethanye, of the castel of Marie and Martha, hise sistris. And it was Marye, which anoyntide the Lord with oynement, and wipte hise feet with hir heeris, whos brother Lazarus was sijk. Therefor hise sistris senten to hym, and seide, Lord, lo ! he whom thou louest is sijk. And Jhesuu herde, and seide to hem, This syknesse is not to the deth, but for the glorie of God, that mannus sone be glorified bi him. And Jhesus louyde Martha and hir sistir Marie, and Lazarus. Therfor whanne Jhesus herde that he was sijk, thsnne he dwellide in the same place twei daies. And after these thingiu he seide to hise disciplis, Go we eft in to Judee. The disciplis seien to hym, Maister, now the Jewis soughten for to stoone thee, and eft goist thou thidir ? Jhesus answerde, whether ther ben not twelue onris of the dal ? If ony man wandre in the dal he hirtith not, for he seeth the light of this world. But if he wandre in the night, he stomblith, for light is not in him. He seith these thingis and aftir these thingis he seith to hem Lazarus oure freend, slepith, but Y go to reise hym fro sleep. Therfor hise disciplis seiden: Lord, if he slepith, he schal be saaf. But Jhesus hadde seid of his deth; but thei gessiden that he seide of slepyng of sleep. Thaune therfor Jhesus seide to hem opynli, Lazarus is dead; and Y have ioye for you, that ye bileve, for Y was not there; but go we to hym."

This was the latest English style in which the Holy Bible appeared during those seven centuries or more in which it was a reproduction of the Latin Vulgate, and before the invention of printing was brought to bear on the circulation of the Scriptures.

Greek Latin from the sixth century

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Second Edition  Copyright 1997  All Rights Reserved.

Ronald D. Lesley

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Shelby, NC 28152