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Who were the translators that created the venerate KJV translation and what guidelines did they use? What "kind" of translation was intended and how is it generally categorized today?

Note that there is a separate question for the historical motivation and context so this question is just about the linguistic style and translation methodology employed in the making of the text, not the historical context.

Full disclosure: I believe the KJV was a landmark translation as far as quality and impact and am thankful for it, but don't believe it to be inerrant or more guided by the Spirit than other scholarly translations and that it is showing it's age because English is not the same as it was 400 years ago. I'm not asking if it should be revered or discredited, only what went into the making of the text.

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+1 excellent question. I totally agree about the "landmark tranlsation" comment. –  Richard Aug 29 '11 at 12:21

2 Answers 2

The answer is found in the preface to the AV KJV of 1611 (The Translators to the Reader 11 pages), which has been removed from American KJV Bibles, and is not available on official King James Version web sites. This AV also lists the translators (Pages 36-38) who were all ordained except one; Sir Henry Saville. Many were Bishops, several Deans. On the WEB, ordination of the translators is seldom mentioned, but is is given in the AV (pp 36 -38). In the C of E Bishops were always the final authority on the text.

Tyndale's introduction to his NT also explains why he kept the word order of the original MSS (partly to retain Aramaic colloquialisms that were not then understood,) and how he made the translation. He was ordained (a Deacon) and a Cambridge scholar expert in classical languages. Many of his verses were adopted en masse by the English Bishops who were supervising the AV KJV translation, though Tyndale was not acknowledged as the creator of the work because he had been excommunicated and strangled to death (1535).

The guideline the translators received (though they did not follow it explicitly,) was to build upon the text of the Bishops' Bible, and they rather followed Tyndale's language and style.

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The King James Version or Authorized Version as it was originally known, was translated by a group of 47 scholars.

It was actually a thought-for-thought translation, rather than word-for-word translation. The idea is that they tried to take the original meaning of the text (not just the individual word) and translate that into the (then) common language.

Compared to modern paraphrase translations, the King James version is almost a word-for-word translation. However, there were places where the scholars explicitly rejected the word-for-word translation in favor of wording that would make more sense to the contemporary English reader of the day.

Here's an example in Romans 5:2-3

2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;

The words "rejoice" (in verse 2) and "glory" (in verse 3) are the same word in the original text. A word-for-word translation would have given the same word for those in both cases.

Having said all of this and in light of today's translations, it's commonly accepted as a word-for-word translation. If you compare this, for example, to a thought-for-thought translation or a paraphrase, this translation is much closer to the original text (dramatically so in the case of a paraphrase).

While the original scholars intentionally rejected word-for-word translations, it's commonly accepted as a word-for-word translation when compared to thought-for-thought or paraphrase translations.

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