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Sunday, August 20, 2017
Date Posted:
5/20/2005

The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible


A New Edition Of The Authorised Version: The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible


Rev E J Malcolm

Cambridge 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.

EARLIER 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.

SPELLING AND ANOMALIES

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.

TYPEFACE, 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.

SPEECH MARKS

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.

POETRY

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

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 Reader’.

THE COMPANION VOLUME

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.

Rev E J Malcolm 

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