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Studying Jots and Tittles through the Centuries

And they had in their inheritance Beersheba, or Sheba, and Moladah, And Hazarshual, and Balah, and Azem, And Eltolad, and Bethul, and Hormah, And Ziklag, and Bethmarcaboth, and Hazarsusah, And Bethlebaoth, and Sharuhen; thirteen cities and their villages, Joshua 19:2-6.

I have selected the above verses to hopefully give my readers a sense of the history of our beloved text.

Microfilm copy of an a 1611 Bible

The above picture is a microfilm copy of one of the first 1611 Bibles ever printed. If you compare the 1611 to the modern Cambridge reading the obvious difference is the font, the spelling of such words as "foure/four) and look at the punctuation after the word "Sharuhen in verse 6. It is no longer a colon. It is a semicolon. Semicolons were not used in 1611.

Perhaps one of the greatest myths afflicting the Bible believing crowd (my crowd), is the myth that the King James Bible is unchanged from 1611. The problem with that belief is that no one alive has ever seen the original 1611 Bible. That was a handwritten manuscript purchased by Robert Barker for 3500 pounds in a day and age when an upper middle class person could live comfortably on 30 pounds a year.

Barker was an eye witness to that manuscript and his printing was a hurried attempt by a man deeply in debt and unscrupulous to reproduce with 5,000,000 pieces of movable type what he saw in the manuscript. There are over 5000 known errors. The history of the King James Bible is twofold. It is a history of men seeking to collate existing King James Bibles and the translators' notes to root out printing errors, and it is a history of slowly improving printing techniques that could forever cement the proper text when finally achieved.

The first substantial attempt at using the translators's notes to purge the text of printing errors produced the 1638 Cambridge Bible. It is not perfect. It has known error, but it was a work of love and scholarship. One of my great privileges in life has been to hold original Bibles representing editions throughout the centuries. I have turned their pages carefully as they crumbled at my touch, collated key passages, and as you see below made photographs of some passages to demonstrate the editing work.

Look at what has changed. The font is now Roman Type with the exception of the internal "s" that looks like an "f". There is a dash in Hazar-Shual which is lacking in the same word in verses 3. More importantly, the phrase Beer-sheba, or Sheba has been changed to read Beer-sheba, and Sheba. Which one is correct? The division still stands today in Oxford and Cambridge Bibles. Oxford reads "and". Cambridge reads "or".

I'll give you a hint. Beersheba is Sheba. Imagine listening to a blowhard brag at a party of all the places he's visited. Then he trips himself up, he says that he has been to both San Fransisco and Frisco. You smile to yourself because you know that he has just tripped himself up because you know that Frisco is short for San Fransisco. The 1638 is wrong here and some versions of the King James Bible still repeat the error. Beersheba is Sheba.

The next Bible I'll show you is the Bishop Lloyd of 1701. That is one of the three Bibles that Benjamin Blayney was ordered to compare when he edited the 1769 Blayney edition. Those of you who have read some of my history on this point will remember that I have said that the Bishop Lloyd Bible was merely Oxford printing the Cambridge 1638 in their shops. All he seems to have added is marginal notes.

The first editor who edited the text after the 1638 editors was F.S. Parris in his 1762 printing for Cambridge. He is also the first editor to introduce the semicolon.

Parris has retained both Bishop Lloyd's marginal notes and the spelling of Hazar-shual. What he has also done is to change the colon after the word Sharuhen, to a semicolon. It has stayed that way for 246 years since then. He updated the punctuation.

Seven years later Benjamin Blayney edited the Oxford Bible using Parris's text, the Bishop Lloyd Bible 1701 and a 1611 printing. Some enemies of the concept of an inspired King James Bible erroneously charge that Blayney retranslated the text from Greek and Hebrew. He did no such thing. In his letter explaining his work he says that he studied those languages to better render marginal notes and to inspect the use of italics.

Look what Dr. Blayney has done. He clearly doesn't trust the Bishop Lloyd Bible and by extension, the 1638. He merely prints Beer-sheba, Sheba. I am not sure by what authority he does that, and I am tempted to say that he punted. It could be however that he got ahold of a 1611 Bible that only had a comma instead of a word. Barker printed two 1611s in 1611 and they don't agree. He was very slack. In 1612 he printed a slew of King James Bibles and often labeled them as 1611 printings. They grew progressively worse. Perhaps Blayney had an aberrant copy.

It took Scrivener to finally uncover the truth. His 1873 Cambridge Paragraph Bible finally sets it straight. Scrivener spent from 1866 to 1873 examining about every King James Bible printed over the years. He explains his edits in the forward to his Bible in Addendum C. That can also be found in a separate book entitled, The Authorized Edition of the English Bible (1611) Its subsequent Reprints and Modern Representatives. In the end he ended up putting too many edits into the product. That is explained in A.W. Pollard's excellent book, Documents of the English Bible which can still be purchased online.

Pollard explains that Scrivener made the mistake of thinking that every time Barker printed in the early 1600s that he improved his work. That is a mistake made by someone who assumed that Barker would have printed like we do today, slowly discovering error and editing it out. Barker did no such thing. In haste and under financial duress he churned out edition after edition. He slowly incorporated more and more error as he reset each of those 5,000,000 pieces of moveable type. That is why Scrivener's work is the untrustworthy fountain spewing forth both sweet and bitter water.

The Cambridge Bible as we know it today is the editing work of A.W. Pollard during WWI. It was further refined by a test period in which it was submitted to the English speaking public who were rewarded financially for finding the most minute errors. By the early 1920s it was the Cambridge Bible that we knew and loved until in 1985 a Pharaoh arose at the Cambridge Printers who knew not Joseph. Since that time they have been subtly changing jots and tittles at will and sadly, Fundamental printers have followed.

Church Bible Publishers currently offers the Note Takers Bible, the turquoise Bible and the Cameo 120L Bible that reflect that seventh purification of the text. The Jots and Tittles are exactly what God wants. I believe and teach that the seventh purification of the King James Bible is exactly what the handwritten original said with updates in Capitalization, punctuation and spelling as befits our rules of orthography today.

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