The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible
A New Edition Of The Authorised Version: The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible
Rev E J Malcolm
University Press has published the latest edition of the Authorised Version.
Entitled The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible (ISBN: 0521843863), this
major work represents the latest scholarly attempt to standardise and correct
the English translation, which was first published in 1611.
EDITIONS OF THE AV
According to the
companion volume, A Textual History of the King James Bible (ISBN:
0521844452), the final draft of the 1611 edition that was sent to the printer
may not have been as carefully edited as the translators would have wanted.
Due to pressure to complete the project some errors were not removed, and a new
edition, in 1612, was required. Further editions have gone to press over the
years, though the edition in use today has, in reality, changed little in two
hundred and fifty years.
The work has been
undertaken by David Norton, Reader in English at Victoria University of
Wellington, New Zealand. The extensive research, collating a large number of
much older editions, the careful deciphering of such notes and ‘work in
progress’ as has survived the passage of time, and the sensitive nature of the
editing, have produced a remarkable result. Mr Norton is to be congratulated
on publishing a work which reads as the Authorised Version always has, while
easing out some of the more antiquated aspects of this long-standing version.
His changes include modernizing spelling (‘spoke’ for ‘spake’, ‘bore’ for
‘bare’ – but see 1 Cor 15:37, where this change should not have been made!),
the removal of some errors and anomalies (‘ankle-bones’ for ancle bones’, Acts
3:7, ‘since’ for ‘sith’, Exek 35:6, ‘a-hundgered’ for ‘an hungred’ Matt 4:2 and
others) and the laying out of the text in paragraphs rather than just by
verses. All this serves to give the reader – and so, hopefully, the hearer –
an edition that reads very well to the modern ear, while retaining all this is
good about the King James Bible.
VERSES AND NOTES
In the new
edition, it is probably the typesetting that will be noticed first. The
publishers have chosen a font that is classic in style, as every good book
typeface ought to be, yet modern in appearance. This is an aid to reading,
especially in public. Verse numbers are deliberately small; this is a slight
inconvenience when looking up a reference, but a great asset in reading the
text as narrative, since the verse numbers do not interrupt the flow. In
setting out the text in paragraphs the organic unity of passages has been
maintained, while chapter numbers are large, so the ready need never feel
lost! There are no headings or cross-references, and the only marginal notes
follow the style and intention of the original translators, and give more
literal translations, or alternative translations from the original, and
occasional information on subjects such as weights and measures. There are no
words in italics.
In two matters
the new text does appear different to all previous editions. Norton has chosen
to include speech-marks in the text, though he admits that this is not always
as easy as may be imagined. In places he has to use multiple sets of speech
marks (see Jer 26:6, where four sets close at the end of the verse!). Some
ursers of the Authorised Version may feel that speech marks, not being part of
Hebrew or Greek writing, ought not to be used in a literal translation.
However, as Norton points out, the reason why they were not used originally is
more prosaic; they had not been invented! Their inclusion in this edition is
yet another sign of the contemporary nature of this version.
The second area
of noticeable change is in the laying out of poetry. The Psalms, for instance,
are laid out in (usually) short lines, two to a verse. This represents the
structure of the Hebrew poetry. The book of Job both looks better and reads
better for its poetic form, though one might quibble with Norton’s failure to
make the first words of a speech (e.g., ‘But Job answered, and said,’ Job 26:1)
prose rather than poetry, but that is both a minor and a debatable point.
Poetry is not limited to the Wisdom literature, but will be found in various
places in both Testaments, and in the Apocrypha.
The Apocrypha was
part of the 1611 version, and Norton has included it, edited in the same manner
as the sixty-six inspired books. Perhaps the major contribution it makes here
is to add to the bulk of the finished volume, which runs to 1868 pages plus 36
preliminary pages, which include an equally revised ‘Translators to the
Whether the new
edition will catch on remains to be seen. The original Cambridge Paragraph
Bible, edited by Dr F H A Scrivener in 1875, did not. What is certain is
that the companion volume provides a fascinating insight into both the work of
translation as carried out following the Hampton Court Conference, and into the
history of revisions. What is equally certain is that anyone who uses the new
edition for any length of time will notice the change when he or she returns to
the standard text. Although the changes are so very minor, their cumulative
effect far outweighs their individual value. Looked at one by one, a reader
may be tempted to ask, ‘Why bother in the first place?’; looked at overall, the
result is very satisfying. Much more could be said about the companion volume,
not least about the extensive and wonderfully informative appendices, which shed
a good deal of light on both the history of revisions, and on the changes in
the present work. It is well worth getting and reading.
As to the cost,
at £45 for a cloth-bound book of such size, the price is not unreasonable.
However, the as-yet unpublished leather-bound version is set to sell at £70.
The Bible is available as a set with the History, and the two together
cost £90. The set is available, plus postage, from The Protestant Truth
Society bookshop on 020 7405 4960.
E J Malcolm