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Concerning the 1769 Blayney Bible

The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times, Psalm 12:6.

From time to time, I see references to the 1769 Blayney Bible. In some quarters it is proof that the King James Bible was retranslated. In some King James defenders' eyes, it is the perfect edition that we carry today. It is neither.

Because Benjamin Blayney left a written record giving us a brief outline of his commission and how he went about it, his work became a focal point in the history of the King James Bible. In reality, it is a very good piece of editorial work but it is neither perfect nor a version printed today. At least I can find no major printer of the King James Bible who prints it and I never come across any printed versions printed since the very early 20th century.

Benjamin Blayney used three major points of reference to collate all existing King James Bible in order to verify the correct readings after a century and a half of various printers both foreign (mostly Dutch) and domestic who introduced printing errors over the years. He used an original 1611 bible. He used a 1701 Bishop Lloyd (Oxford) Bible and both of the 1762 F.S. Parris editions (they varied slightly after his helper Therold went over it again).

Blayney spent 7 years collating those three sources as well as brushing up on Greek and Hebrew to better render marginal references and to improve the italicization. It is his reference to Greek and Hebrew that set off King James critics to cry that he retranslated. Blayney was very specific in his description of his work to make it known that he only retranslated marginal references.

The original commission from King James to the translators had required the translators to place marginal notes whenever they felt that they had not been literal in their translation of a word. As an example, 1st Kings 13: 33 says; After this thing Jeroboam returned not from his evil way, but made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high places: whosoever would, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places. In the 1611 edition there is a gothic cross that functions as an asterisk in between the words "but" and "made". In the margin we are told that a more literal rendering would be "returned and made".

I don't know of anyone who has ever done a study of the 1769 Blayney Bible and compared it to the 1611 to see if Dr. Blayney did indeed change any of the marginal references. Nevertheless, that is his declared reason for boning up on the original languages. He did not retranslate the text. What he did do was to give us an excellent bible that would have been used during the American Revolution, the founding of Australia and New Zealand, the American Civil War and the first World War. It is the bible that both Spurgeon and General Booth would have used.

The American Bible Society diverged slightly from the Blayney text in the late 1840s. Oxford went with a different text in 1893 or 1894. Cambridge had abandoned the Blayney Text in 1873 by printing the Scrivener Paragraph Bible but quickly restored the Blayney plates when the change was so universally rejected. They officially got rid of the Blayney text during WWI when they melted their plates and let England make bullets out of them. They have never printed it since then.

King James Bible text types often have only very subtle variations. I have a few places to which I can quickly turn to identify a text. A Blayney Bible would read with the modern Oxford Text in Joshua 19:2, And they had in their inheritance Beersheba, and Sheba, and Moladah. Both the 1611 and the Cambridge Text say Beersheba, or Sheba. Scrivener had caught the error and corrected it but the Oxford editors did as Blayney did and left it in.

A Blayney Bible would leave in a typographical error introduced by Parris in 1762. It would say "fleeth" instead of "flieth" in Nahum 3:16. Oxford left that in their text. The American Bible Society gets Joshua 19:2 correct but repeats the error of Nahum 3:16. The Blayney Text leaves the "spirit" of Mark 1:12 as a lower case as well as the "spirit" of 1st John 5:8. The Oxford Text inverts the Cambridge text in both of those places. It leaves Mark 1:12 as lower case and 1st John 5:8 as upper case.

I say all of this to put to rest the idea that we are using the 1769 Blayney Text as our bible today. We are not. The Blayney Bible is the 4th of 7 purifications of our English text. The Cambridge Text of c1920 to 1985 is the 7th purification of the text.

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I use a large size facsimile (~25 lbs.) of the 1769 Blayney edition. So, this is one way to access the original. Also, there are some very good scans available for free online. The chapter summaries are very good, and all of the original marginal notes & references are there as well. Better than some modern reference Bibles.

Thanks for this article.

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Larry Wishon
Larry Wishon
31 oct 2022

One thing not mentioned about the uniqueness of the "Blayney Bible", is it is the first English translation to introduce the letter "J" into the Biblical text. In the 1772 printing of the 1769 edition, Jew was still, "Iewe", and Jesus was "Iesus". However, in the 1774 printing, Iewe becomes Jew, and Iesus became Jefus. Apparently during this time, the usage of the "s" was in transition.

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