“The draft shows Ward making mistakes and changing his mind.”
October 18, 2015 4:42 AM   Subscribe

Fruit of good labours. [Times Literary Supplement] Earliest known draft of King James Bible discovered by Jeffrey Alan Miller, assistant professor of English at Montclair State University in New Jersey.
The draft appears in a manuscript notebook formerly belonging to Samuel Ward (1572–1643), who was part of the team of seven men in Cambridge charged with translating the Apocrypha. At the time of his selection as a translator, probably in 1604, Ward was still a young Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. In 1610, though, he became Master of Sidney Sussex, a post he held until his death. Today, a trove of Ward’s notebooks and other manuscripts survive in the college’s archives, and among them is a small notebook now identified as MS Ward B.
posted by Fizz (22 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I think anyone who's had their creative work edited by committee, or been on such a committee, will be very sympathetic to the idea that trying to work out who did what, when, by examining the final product, is a task for madmen, the incorrigibly optimistic, or an academic with a career to fill.

We should perhaps just be grateful that the Stuarts hadn't got round to inventing email or Powerpoint. Otherwise, 1 Esdras would still be awaiting sign-off and the entire Apocrypha would be dwarfed a thousand times over by the nested comments from marketing.
posted by Devonian at 5:32 AM on October 18, 2015 [10 favorites]

We should perhaps just be grateful that the Stuarts hadn't got round to inventing email


Love the punch-up on the Gospels, but I think Jesus still needs a little extra something. Make him, like, 20% holier. Love ya!

King J-Dog
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:37 AM on October 18, 2015 [10 favorites]

We should definitely publish an electronic version with "Track Changes" on.
posted by stevis23 at 6:43 AM on October 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

“Uh oh....”
“What happened?”
“I think I forgot to hit the save draft button and I kind of forgot some things...”
“Meh, so make it 10 Commandments instead of 15, like anyone will really notice.”
“Yeah but that one about how: 'Thou shalt not.....something something scan....something something...cats.'”
“Look, its fine. These things happen. Just remember to back up your files next time. Upload them to the cloud, its just easier that way.”
posted by Fizz at 6:44 AM on October 18, 2015 [5 favorites]

You could try the "I agree, there is a very special inspiration suffusing the KJV. I think it gained from the deep spiritual insight into the truths and beauty that lie beyond the normal affairs of men that James' open bisexuality afforded him." line.
posted by Devonian at 6:45 AM on October 18, 2015 [5 favorites]

Mod note: Couple of comments deleted. Let's not go directly to the more general skepticism about religion line; it'll probably be more interesting if we can stick more closely to the specifics here.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:25 AM on October 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Was so hoping this would be a Leave it to Beaver post.

"Ward, I think you were a little hard on the Beaver last night"

Sorry. I'll see myself out.
posted by raider at 7:36 AM on October 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

Mr. Bad Example - The Apocrypha is not Gospel.

Imagine someone doing Powerpoints of Leviticus and Numbers - and you though the ones you sat through were dry and tedious.
posted by marienbad at 7:48 AM on October 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

> We should definitely publish an electronic version with "Track Changes" on.

For the Jewish Bible that's the Talmud:
The Talmud has two components: the Mishnah (Hebrew: משנה, c. 200 CE), a written compendium of Rabbinic Judaism's Oral Torah (Talmud translates literally as "instruction" in Hebrew); and the Gemara (c. 500 CE), an elucidation of the Mishnah and related Tannaitic writings that often ventures onto other subjects and expounds broadly on the Hebrew Bible. The term "Talmud" may refer to either the Gemara alone, or the Mishnah and Gemara together.
Heck, look at a page and its structure. You recognize those side notes from Microsoft Word.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:28 AM on October 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

"We should definitely publish an electronic version with "Track Changes" on."

This is basically what heavily footnoted scholarly Bibles are, especially the ones that have both explanatory footnotes and separate textual footnotes that are typically a set of gibberish abbreviations: they're listing all extant versions of the original text and which Hebrew or Greek word appears if there are variances. There will be a table explaining the abbreviations in the front or back. Sometimes they include dates for the manuscripts cited, sometimes they just assume that's the kind of Information you walk around with in your head already if you're the kind of person who checks textual footnotes.

People always act like differing translations and multiple source texts is shocking news to Bible scholars but in fact they came up with extremely sophisticated pre-internet, and even pre-printing press, methods to catalog, mark, and disseminate that information for easy reference. Lazy people just ignore the gibberish footnotes or don't bother to learn how to cross reference their KJV to their BDB.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:40 AM on October 18, 2015 [5 favorites]

Mr. Bad Example - The Apocrypha is not Gospel.

Mea culpa. I should have more meticulously researched my throwaway email gag about J-Dog the First.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 9:54 AM on October 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

No, my son. That's a [typo]. I meant celebrate, not celibate.

(Emphasis mine...ed.)
posted by mule98J at 10:38 AM on October 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

"At one point, for instance, one finds Ward wrestling with the syntax of 1 Esdras 6:32. In the Bishops’ Bible, the verse relates, in somewhat convoluted fashion, the declaration of King Darius that anyone found disobeying his decrees “of his own goods should a tree be taken, and he thereon be hanged”. Proposing a revision to the front half of the passage, Ward at first began, “A tre”, but then crossed it out. No, “out of h”, he started writing on second thought, but then crossed that out, too. At last, he reverted back to the more straightforward construction with which he had abortively begun, which also more closely mirrors the Greek of the passage: “a tree should be taken out of his possession”.

"Such an example, however, also shows the complex relationship that Ward’s draft has to the translation as eventually published. In the KJB, only a very small piece of Ward’s proposed revision for 1 Esdras 6:32 has been followed. The Bible broadly retains the Bishops’ Bible’s syntax, even as it includes the clarifying “out” recommended by Ward, specifying that the convicted man should be hanged on a tree taken “out of” his own property. Furthermore, there appears an additional revision to the passage not suggested in Ward’s draft at all: the word “goods” in the Bishops’ Bible, which Ward had proposed changing to “possession”, instead appears in the KJB as “house”. In full, the King James translation of the passage would come to read, “out of his own house should a tree be taken, and he thereon be hanged”. "

One of the things that's underappreciated these days about the KJV is how very good a translation it is, and what pains they took to remain faithful to the original Hebrew. (I know less about the New Testament, as I read only the most basic Biblical Greek, probably only 100 words.) They try, for example, to preserve as much of the original Hebrew syntax as possible (which accounts for the sometimes confusing or tortured English), and they strive to use the same English word for the same Hebrew word over and over, and different English words where it's a different Hebrew word, even when those words are synonyms. So like in Genesis 1:2, where it says "the earth was without form and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep," it's not just going in for being poetic. The word "void" (bohu) appears only 3 times in the Bible (once as "emptiness" to suggest the uselessness of a destroyed wall, twice as void in the cosmic sense), and they want to differentiate it from similar words like "empty" (as a vessel) or "empty" (as having no value), which two words are from the SAME root in Hebrew so they both use the word "empty" rather than "void."

("Deep" is even more interesting but too long to go into here; it's used almost exclusively to refer to the primeval sea, which has associations with the pre-ordering chaos of the universe, and sometimes metaphorically to the danger of the still-untamed sea because the Israelites are not a seafaring people and they are scared of it (they are always hiring Phonecians or Philistines when they need ships, have you noticed? They don't sail.), but the Hebrew word derives from the same root as the Babylonian goddess "Tiamat," the primordial ocean goddess whose body the king of the gods dismembers to build the human universe. So we're pretty sure the composers of Genesis specifically chose the word "tehom" as a call-out to that set of mythology, and the KJV translators are careful to preserve that through the use of the word "deep" to suggest the primordial ocean, and to preserve that specific use throughout their entire OT text wherever "tahom" appears so that you don't lose the reference to the scary, primordial salt-water chaos-ocean and -- if you know a bit of Hebrew -- to Tiamat. Which the translators did, and we believe they wanted to make sure to preserve that resonance.)

Anyway, the KJV is so good and makes it so easy to go back and forth between English and Hebrew that when I was working from English to Hebrew, I would often use my New Oxford Annotated New Revised Standard Version (my preferred scholarly English Bible for general use) for most of my work, then flip to same verse in a KJV edition I kept handy, and THEN flip to the same verse in my Biblica Hebraica Stuttgartensia (the standard printing-press scholarly edition of the Hebrew Bible (kosher Torahs are handwritten, and there are standard printed religious editions too not all mucked up with annotations). Because I needed the scholarly notes in my NRSV and my NRSV is where I kept all my personal handwritten notes and post-its and whatnot, but it was just so much faster to go from KJV to BHS and back.

Also there are far more scholarly tools keyed to the KJV because it was standard in English for so long -- notably the Strong's numerical concordance and the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon (and the corresponding Greek lexicon, which is the Liddell-Scott or Scott-Liddell, I can never remember -- it comes in the Little Liddell, Middle Liddell, and Great Scott! depending on how big a book you care to lug to class). So it behooves you to keep a KJV around even if you're not too keen on the translation for modern use. Whenever the Gideons showed up on campus with free, tiny KJV editions, someone would run breathlessly in the theology classroom and shout, "GIDEONS ON THE QUAD!" and they'd get swarmed by excited theology students who wanted free, tiny KJVs that are easy to carry around without adding weight so you can do your KJV cross-referencing in class without having to carry a full-sized Bible. They were always so bemused and gratified to have two dozen people BEGGING for copies and taking their entire stock in three minutes.

(It's also good to have spare free KJVs around when you're a theology student because idiots come to your dorm room and are like, "Hey, can I borrow your Bible for my Bible as literature class?" "No, no you fucking can't, because I have three years of notes in there and I use it every twenty minutes and if you don't return it I will be literally forced to murder you, but you can have this free KJV to keep." People are always like, "Hey, Stacy studies theology, I bet I can borrow a Bible from her!" NO YOU CAN'T WE ARE USING THOSE.)

Also I took you guys a picture of the first page of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, which has sidenotes and two sets of footnotes, and a something-like fifteen-page key of old extant editions of the Bible that are cited in those notes as having a different word (or vowel point, or unclear stroke). (I started counting thinking it'd be like five pages of key and then I got bored, it's more than I recalled.) The side notes are the Masoretic Notes -- which are these textual notes that note possible errors or known variations in source texts dating from the 7th to 10th centuries, Bible scholars have been at this business of noting variations in copying and translation for a very long time! The first set of footnotes refers to the Masorah Magna (which is sort of like a prologue to each book that includes the scholars' commentary from the 10th century or so); the second set to more modern scholarship and includes notes to very old manuscripts that have been floating around for millennia, and to very recent discoveries like the Qumran manuscripts. New BHS editions traditionally come out every 40 years or so -- as soon as one gets published they start on the next round to include the newest set of scholarship -- but I think the next two editions are on projected 20-year schedules since scholarship and typesetting are both much faster with computers.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:43 AM on October 18, 2015 [44 favorites]

It's OK, Mr Bad Example. I'm sure he'll forgive you.

I can't forgive you, Eyebrows McGee, for making me feel for the first time* since I was about 16 that studying theology would be a deeply, deeply wonderful thing to do. But I got as far as getting Peake's Commentary (which used to be used in training priests in the C of E, dunno its current status) and since everyone including me knew I was really going to be an electronics engineer...

(* not strictly true, but I'm discounting visits to Jerusalem, because that place bends normal thought like a black hole bends light.)
posted by Devonian at 11:08 AM on October 18, 2015

Eyebrows, that was a fantastic comment and I have marked it as such. I love that kind of intimate, cheerfully shared specialist knowledge!
posted by languagehat at 11:32 AM on October 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

"Ward, I think you were a little hard on the Beaver last night"

"Ward, I think you were a little hard on the Believers last night."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:25 PM on October 18, 2015

Once again, in reference to languagehat today, what he said. If ever a comment was sidebar worthy, that is it. I was and am blown away.
posted by y2karl at 1:44 PM on October 18, 2015

Agreeing that it's a great comment, but I have to ask whether the KJV translators had heard of Tiamat or would have associated the Hebrew word תְּהוֹם (tehom) with it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:31 PM on October 18, 2015

Local news article on the discovery (17th Oct, with pictures). College archivist says it's nice to find something that's not just Cromwell. Also has fantastic facial coiffure.
posted by lokta at 2:47 AM on October 19, 2015

Gideons On The Quad is now the name of my new punk band.
posted by Bob Regular at 6:21 AM on October 19, 2015

Biblica Hebraica Stuttgartensia is now the name of my new punk band.
posted by marienbad at 8:14 AM on October 19, 2015

Sure, they call themselves "punk", but we all know "Biblica Hebraica Stuttgartensia" actually is more art-rock. C'mon guys, accept yourselves for what you are.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:20 AM on October 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

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