King James Bible Find
Montclair State University’s Jeffrey Miller, assistant professor of English, unearthed what is believed to be the earliest draft of the King James Bible.
Last summer Miller was at University of Cambridge’s Sidney Sussex College in the archives looking for information about Samuel Ward, one of the translators of the King James Bible. The notebook he was looking through was mis catalogued as a commentary about the Bible, rather than a draft and translations.
Miller said, “It’s one of those things that you certainly weren’t expecting to find. It’s a weird kind of mixture between an accident and more than unexpected.”
This find challenges what scholars thought they knew about the creation of the King James Bible because of the collaborative nature of it.
Dr. Lee Behlman, assistant professor of English and colleague of Miller said, “People seem to think that the King James Bible was started from scratch, but it wasn’t. There were other English bibles before this, but nothing as lasting. [Miller’s discovery] reminds us that they were working off other translations and making new choices. It wasn’t completely original.”
Miller has gained international attention since his article was published on the Times Literary Supplement on October 14 explaining his discovery.
Dr. Adam Rzepka, assistant professor of English and another colleague of Miller said, “This is a discovery where you need to have a deep understanding of Renaissance theology, the textual process of creating the King James Bible, who worked on what with whom and when, textual history, then you’ve got to be able to read Greek and Latin really well, and be able to read Renaissance handwriting. Jeff has all of those really sophisticated skills. So being in the right place at the right time with the amazing knowledge that he has was exactly what it took to get here.”
Miller explained in the Times Literary Supplement that the Bible has many parts with no drafts at all that leaves something to be desired. With this find he said “a number of these gaps and others can at last begin to be filled.”
Also in the Times Literary Supplement, Miller said that this notebook of Ward’s is probably from 1604 and “shows him not just recording group decisions about the translation after the fact, or even doing so in the process of group decisions being made, but rather working out the translation for himself as he went along, making mistakes and changing his mind.” The King James Bible was officially published in 1611.
Miller is very humble and gracious about all the attention that he is getting. “What you hope is that you’re a part of a conversation. I’m certainly not the first person that has started this conversation. There’s been 400 years of scholars talking about it. What you hope is that you’ve contributed to the conversation and other people pick up the conversation and bring it to places you’ve never even thought of or imagined, which is fun. That’s when work lives.”
You can find this piece published at The Montclarion’s website.