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THE Revision of the Authorised Version was undertaken in consequence of a Resolution passed by both houses of the Convocation of the Province of Canterbury, as has been fully explained in the Preface to the Revised Version of the New Testament, which was first published in May 1881. When the two Companies were appointed for carrying out this work, the following General Principles, among others, were laid down by the Revision Committee of Convocation for their guidance :
'I. To introduce as few alterations as possible into the Text of the Authorised Version consistently with faithfulness.'
2. To limit, as far as possible, the expression of such alterations to the language of the Authorised and earlier English Versions.'
'4. That the Text to be adopted be that for which the evidence is decidedly preponderating; and that when the Text so adopted differs from that from which the Authorised Version was made, the alteration be indicated in the margin.'
'7. To revise the headings of chapters and pages, paragraphs, italics, and punctuation.'
In order to shew the manner in which the Old Testament Company have endeavoured to carry out their instructions, it will be convenient to treat the subjects mentioned in the foregoing rules in a somewhat different order.
It will be observed that in Rule 4 the word 'Text' is used in a different sense from that in Rule 1, and in the case of the b
Old Testament denotes the Hebrew or Aramaic original of the several books. In this respect the task of the Revisers has been much simpler than that which the New Testament Company had before them. The Received, or, as it is commonly called, the Massoretic Text of the Old Testament Scriptures has come down to us in manuscripts which are of no very great antiquity, and which all belong to the same family or recension'. That other recensions were at one time in existence is probable from the variations in the Ancient Versions, the oldest of which, namely the Greek or Septuagint, was made, at least in part, some two centuries before the Christian era. But as the state of knowledge on the subject is not at present such as to justify any attempt at an entire reconstruction of the text on the authority of the Versions, the Revisers have thought it most prudent to adopt the Massoretic Text as the basis of their work, and to depart from it, as the Authorised Translators had done, only in exceptional cases. With regard to the variations in the Massoretic Text itself, the Revisers have endeavoured to translate what appeared to them to be the best reading in the text, and where the alternative reading seemed sufficiently probable or important they have placed it in the margin. In some few instances of extreme difficulty a reading has been adopted on the authority of the Ancient Versions, and the departure from the Massoretic Text recorded in the margin. In other cases, where the versions appeared to supply a very probable though not so necessary a correction of the text, the text has been left and the variation indicated in the margin only.
In endeavouring to carry out as fully as possible the spirit of Rules 1 and 2, the Revisers have borne in mind that it was their duty not to make a new translation but to revise one already existing, which for more than two centuries and a half had held
1 The earliest MS. of which the age is certainly known bears date A.D. 916.
2 See, for instance, 2 Sam. xvi. 12; 2 Chr. iii. 1, xxii. 6; Job xxxvii. 7; Ezek. xlvi. 10; Am. v. 26; Hag. i. 2.