King James I's translators; The King James Bible Translators, by Olga S. Opfell. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co. (Box 611, 28640). 179 pp. $15.95.
Who were the translators of the King James Bible? What were their qualifications for such a comprehensive undertaking? What rules governed their work? These and other questions are answered in this carefully researched and tightly organized little book.
Although the primary emphasis is on the translators themselves, with a brief character sketch of each, the format of the book follows exactly the development of the project.
King James I of England was ''the principal mover'' when persuaded of the need for a more excellent English translation. It was by his command that a conference of six prominent scholars was convened at Hampton Court in 1604 to set the standards and make preparations for the work. It was he who selected the Bible Committee of about 50 (records differ) of the most prestigious scholars in the land to carry it out.
Renowned as professors, theologians, and High-Churchmen, all were brilliant linguists thoroughly proficient in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and other languages. King James himself at a very early age had mastered the classical languages, and it was his lifelong love of Greek that spurred his enthusiasm for the idea.
The scholars were divided into six ''companies'': the first Westminster, working out of Westminster Abbey, and the first Cambridge and the first Oxford, working out of the universities, each assigned to parts of the Hebrew Old Testament; and the second Westminster, the second Cambridge, and the second Oxford, assigned to the Greek Apocrypha and New Testament. The work was begun in 1605 A.D. The translators worked individually, then in committee, and the completed version was worked over by the two final editors.
When the first printing appeared in 1611, reception was mixed. Some scholars who had not been selected to take part criticized it severely. Many people preferred the earlier familiar versions. But the King James Bible has never been surpassed. Today it is universally acknowledged to be the most majestic and best-loved English Bible, an enduring monument to the vision of the King and the diligence of his translators.