The King James Bible is arguably the single most significant book of the English language. Because of its centrality to the British Empire and the Church of England, the King James Bible had the unique placement to be the primary English language teaching and formation book for centuries, including all the colonies that the British Empire launched.
What people may not realize is that the King James Bible was the fourth English translation of the Bible. In fact, some of its language and interpretation is owed to the previous translations that were banned for a time. You might recognize the name of the predecessor translations: Tyndale, Wycliffe, Cloverdale.
It is those 3 English translations that are the real launching point for our visit with the Scriptures.
When we read this passage from Genesis, we are missing a few important pieces. First, the Hebrews had a long history with Egypt. Abraham and Isaac sojourned there for a time (also during famines). The one time Jacob was about to enter Egypt, God stopped him.
In a very unorthodox way, Joseph was sent before his father. Joseph’s faithfulness, integrity, and managerial skills allowed Joseph to be second only to Pharaoh. And, really, if you read that part of the story, it seems that even Pharaoh only kept a little power for appearances sake.
Now, however, Jacob was to go! God promised him as the God of his (Jacob’s) predecessors. This is God’s testimony to Jacob that God continues to be faithful to the first promise, and that this is part of the fulfilling of the promise. What is striking is that God uses the promise of many promises to echo the previous ones, making it all but assured. It only required that Jacob go.
Tyndale, Wycliffe, and Cloverdale were not universally loved for their translations. Part of the King James’ directive for the “Authorized” version was translating the scriptures so as to justify the Episcopate (Archbishops and bishop hierarchy of the Church of England) and the “Divine right” of kings. That’s pretty self-serving for the translation of Holy Scriptures. This would override some of what Tyndale, Wycliffe, and Cloverdale had done.
Tyndale, Wycliffe, and Cloverdale would have likely (mostly) supported the KJV because it did what they had wanted. It brought the Scriptures into the language that the people actually used. Despite the less than happy ending of their translations, it seems likely that without them going before, the importance of an English Bible would not have been seen or understood until much later.
Who went before us we may never know. We may never know who we went before.
It not for us to know. It is for us to trust.
- Who went before you?
- Who follows behind you?