Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Geneva Bible

Are you part of the “King James Only” crowd? You know the people I’m referring to. They eschew any translation of the Word of God that is not the King James Version. I’ve read many of their arguments, and admittedly they make many very good ones. There is every reason to suspect translations that use Westcott and Hort as their source text. These two guys were not even Christians, and yet their Greek and Hebrew source texts were used to translate many modern versions of the Bible, including the New International Version.

Because of my reading on this topic, I have grown especially fond of the King James Bible, and to some extent, the New King James Bible. When I memorize scripture, I have always done it in the original King James Version. I love the poetic form embodied in that beautiful translation.

However, did you know that the King James Bible was actually written in response to King James’ distaste for the Geneva Bible? Particularly upsetting to King James were the notes written by the early Reformers that claimed a moral right to oppose tyranny. For instance, the Geneva Bible claimed that the Hebrew midwives who hid their male children from the Pharaoh were right to do so. King James, with his view on the divine right of kings did not approve of what he considered seditious advice appearing in the Word of God. Additionally, the Geneva Bible had the Roman Catholic Church as its enemy. The papacy was actively burning Protestants at the stake when this Bible was written, and the evils of the Roman church were decried in the notes. One prominent example is the claim in Revelation 11:7 that the Pope is the beast described as coming out of the bottomless pit, deriving his power from hell.

So we see that in reality, the King James Bible was written in a “politically correct” manner in order not to offend. Somehow this fact is missed by those making the same claims against the TNIV. While I would certainly agree with the critics of the TNIV, in that the Bible should not be rewritten to remove gender specific language, I believe that the King James Bible needs scrutiny as well on their attempts to remove the “offensive language” of their day. When the authors of the King James Version approached King James, they boasted to the king that the word “tyrant” or “tyranny” does not appear anywhere in this Bible.

What I find amazing is that for over 300 years the Geneva Bible has not been published. The last time it was published all the English text was written in “Old English” style (of course) where the character “s” looked like an “f” much of the time and spelling was different. For instance, the word “son” was spelled as “sonne,” etc. For several years now, I have desired to find a copy of the Geneva Bible. On the internet, I have found places that sold reprints of the 1599 edition. These are hand-bound, and quite expensive. Plus, all the old style was preserved. So, serious study would be difficult. However, just this month I have discovered that Tolle Lege Press is publishing a brand new edition of the original 1599 Geneva Bible. It is a word for word copy of the original, but all the hindrances have been removed. Modern typefaces and spellings have been used. Also, rather than cramming all the notes on the sides of the pages, they are listed at the bottom of the page like a modern day study Bible. I have preordered my copy at an introductory price of $59.99 in genuine leather. I make no commission if you decide to order one of these Bibles. I share it with you for your own enjoyment. The website for more information is http://www.1599genevabible.com. I am looking forward to receiving mine in the mail.

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