January 9, 2012
This image has been posted with express written permission. This cartoon was originally published at Town Hall.
All They That Labored: Scholars piece together the monumental job of creating the King James Bible- and reinterpret its legacy
January 9, 2012
Generations of Protestant Christians have heard God speaking through the language of the King James Bible. Four hundred years after it was first published, in 1611, it still has an unrivalled reputation as a shaper of English prose, its phrases a lasting contribution to how we use the language. It’s given us such expressions as “out of the mouth of babes,” “suffer fools gladly,” “seek, and ye shall find,” and “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Yet the 50 or so learned men who labored in teams to create the King James Bible did not set out to create a literary masterpiece. They wanted to establish as direct a connection as they could to the original languages of the Old and New Testaments. And it’s not a miracle that this monumental exercise in translation-by-committee turned out as well as it did. By the time they set to work, in 1604, the King James translators had a hundred years of pioneering work on which to draw. They leaned heavily on texts and translations put together by theologians and linguists such as Erasmus and William Tyndale.
In recent decades, scholarship on the making of the King James Bible has made it plain just how much cumulative human labor and debate went into its creation. “The King James Bible didn’t drop from the sky in 1611,” says Helen Moore, a fellow and tutor in English at Corpus Christi College at the University of Oxford. Moore led the curatorial committee that put together “Manifold Greatness,” an anniversary exhibit at Oxford’s Bodleian Library devoted to the making of the King James Bible. The most famous Bible in English, she says, was “made by many different people in many different places using many different people’s words and many reference texts.”
The King James Bible got its immediate start at a gathering called by Britain’s King James I in January 1604. The Hampton Court Conference brought together high-ranking clergymen and courtiers to discuss the calls for religious reform made in the Millenary Petition, which the Puritans had submitted to the new monarch the previous year. Present at the conference was John Rainolds, a Puritan and the president of Corpus Christi College at the University of Oxford. Rainolds complained, among other things, that English translations of the Bible from the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI were “corrupt and not answerable to the truth.” (For instance, he pointed out, a line from Psalm 105 should read “They were not disobedient” rather than “They were not obedient.”) James agreed. The following year, six companies, or teams of translators—two based at Oxford, two at Cambridge, and two at Westminster—undertook to create a new, more acceptable version.
The names of the translators won’t be familiar to most contemporary readers. But they were the academic and religious stars of their day, chosen for their knowledge of Scripture and of Greek and Hebrew and other languages. Many were fellows at Oxford and Cambridge; many were working clergymen.
“They were essentially the most learned people in England at the time,” says Hannibal Hamlin, an associate professor of English at Ohio State University. Hamlin co-curated the American version of the “Manifold Greatness” exhibit, which runs through January 15, 2012, at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.
The translators were given a set of rules to follow as they worked. The rules organized them into six companies, each responsible for a particular section or sections of the Old and New Testaments. The companies were to circulate their drafts among the others. After all the teams completed their work, a smaller group drawn from all three met to prepare an agreed-upon final version.
Rainolds, the prime mover of the idea, served on the First Oxford Company, which was charged with translating the Old Testament prophets. Officially headed by John Harding, the president of Magdalen College, that company met in Rainolds’s lodgings. Thomas Ravis, the dean of Christ Church, led the Second Oxford Company, responsible for preparing the four Gospels of the New Testament, the Acts of the Apostles, and the book of Revelation. The First Cambridge Company, under Edward Lively, worked on the Old Testament from 1 Chronicles to Ecclesiastes; the Second Cambridge Company, led by John Duport, took on the Apocrypha. The First Westminster Company, directed by Lancelot Andrewes, handled the Old Testament from Genesis to 2 Kings, while colleagues on the Second Westminster Company, led by William Barlow, the dean of Chester, were assigned the New Testament epistles.
“We know quite a bit about how things worked,” Hamlin says. “The actual process was probably exceptionally dull. They’re basically slogging through, year after year, word by word, thinking about the most minute detail and trying to get it as perfect as possible.”
Moore imagines the process as “very discursive, very communal, and very multiple,” meaning that the translators worked through multiple drafts and from multiple sources. “One of the things that made the translation possible at all was the publication, in 1519, of Erasmus’s Greek New Testament,” Moore says. “Once there was a standard text, translation could really take off.” Erasmus’s text had many idiosyncrasies and flaws but it gave other scholars something substantial to work with.
Every member of the translation companies was given a loose-leaf copy of the Bishops’ Bible, an English translation first published in 1568, to use as a base text. David Norton, a professor of English at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, is author of The King James Bible: A Short History From Tyndale to Today (Cambridge U. Press, 2011), probably the most detailed account of how the translators did their job. In it, he makes the case for the Bishops’ Bible as “of very particular importance as a draft of the King James Bible.”
The translators were also intimately familiar with a translation called the Great Bible of 1539 and with the Geneva Bible (1560), compiled by Protestant exiles in Europe. Small and printed in roman type, the Geneva Bible was much more of a pocket edition than the Great Bible. Moore describes the Geneva Bible as “the reading Bible of the Elizabethan public,” the Bible that Shakespeare used…
January 9, 2012
In December 1987, federal police in Miami made their biggest drug bust of the year. Dubbed “Operation Cobra,” agents arrested six men who ran a $75-million marijuana and cocaine business under the cover of the exotic animal trade. The ring’s kingpin, who had helped hack a federal informant to death in 1980, was sentenced to a hundred years in prison. He was released in 2000 after serving twelve years and doing some informing to the feds himself.
Also released in 2000, after serving twelve years of a twenty-five-year sentence, was a second-tier associate named Orlando Cicilia. At the time of his arrest, Cicilia’s brother-in-law was a high-school student named Marco Rubio.
Twenty-four years later, Rubio is a prominent Florida senator and the Republican party’s fastest-rising star, a Tea-Party darling and the handsome son of hardscrabble Cuban exiles—er, immigrants—who is on a very short list to be the GOP’s candidate for vice president this year.
Perhaps it was inevitable, then, that the senator’s fortunes would eventually collide with those of Univision, the nation’s leading Spanish-language network and Miami’s other fast-rising star.
While Rubio was once a paid commentator for Univision’s local affiliate in Miami, and in May 2011 granted one of the affiliate’s anchors access for a day-in-the-life interview, his relationship with the network itself is less established. He has declined multiple invitations to appear on the network’s flagship programs Al Punto and Aqui y Ahora, and in May refused the network’s request to have Jorge Ramos—Univision’s star reporter—replace the affiliate’s anchor in the day-in-the-life piece. The network’s news executives wanted the piece to air across the network, and ultimately forbid the local anchor to do the interview, saying they would not allow a politician to dictate editorial decisions.
Then, in July, Univision exposed Cicilia’s drug bust in a report broadcast in English and Spanish. The investigation was led by Gerardo Reyes, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist who had joined Univision in March, as director of its new investigative team, after twenty-two years at The Miami Herald.
Reyes came across the information of the past conviction while checking the background of Cicilia’s son, Orlando Cicilia Jr, who, according to reporting by the Herald in 2010, was one of several of Rubio’s relatives to have received payment from his political committee that was incorrectly reported to the IRS.
Reyes also learned that Cicilia now co-owns Rubio’s mother’s home, which is where he lives with his wife, Barbara. Reyes says he wanted to explore how Cicilia’s arrest had shaped Rubio’s life and politics, particularly since his family’s story has been central to his public narrative.
Shortly after Reyes first attempted to contact Cicilia, Rubio’s camp began its efforts to kill the story, saying it was an unfair intrusion into the lives of private citizens. Among their efforts was a letter addressed to Univision’s CEO of two weeks, Randy Falco. Falco forwarded the letter to Univision’s news division.
A phone call between Univision journalists and Rubio’s staff was set up to discuss the senator’s concerns. On the call were two Rubio staffers, two Univision lawyers, and four members of the network’s editorial staff—Reyes; Isaac Lee, the president of news; Maria Martinez-Henao, the managing editor of network news; and Daniel Coronell, the vice president of news. According to Lee, Rubio’s staff demanded that the call be off the record.
While Rubio’s staffers would not comment for this article, the four Univision journalists said the forty-five-minute call involved Rubio’s staff trying to kill the story, and Univision’s team trying to convince Rubio to participate in it. Lee, who did most of the talking, invited the senator to respond to questions about Cicilia on whatever Univision platform he wished, including Al Punto or Aqui y Ahora.
Lee says his message was clear: “What we wanted is for him to answer these questions. Format doesn’t matter, substance does.” No deal was made.
Rubio’s staff and Univision exchanged follow-up letters in the days following the phone call that appear to reflect the discussion and positions that the Univision journalists separately described. Univision provided these documents to CJR, though the Rubio camp’s letter to Univision is also available online.
Lee said his team debated the investigation’s news value, and ultimately decided that even though the story was old and not directly related to Rubio, it involved information about a prominent politician that should be put on the record. “How important this is and if it matters or not, that’s for people to decide,” Lee said in an interview.
The story aired on July 11, and, in lieu of a comment from Rubio or his people, quoted generously from a letter sent by the senator’s staff that called Univision’s pursuit of the story “outrageous.” “This is not news,” the letter read. “This is tabloid journalism.”
At the time, Reuters’s Felix Salmon (whose work also appears on CJR.org) gave a nod to Univision’s investigative efforts while Matthew Hendley, a columnist at the Broward-Palm Beach New Times, criticized the story as irrelevant. Univision’s local Miami affiliate also did a reaction story for which it interviewed a handful of local citizens, all of whom said the story had no effect on their opinion of Rubio. From the wider media, though, outside the Florida bubble and even within it, there was silence.
Three months later, The Miami Herald reacted to the story with an investigation of its own: “The inside story: Univision’s war with Rubio over immigration and drug story.” The page-one article was by Marc Caputo, a political reporter, and Manny Garcia, the executive editor of El Nuevo Herald, the Herald’s Spanish-language sister paper. Garcia also currently serves as the President of Investigative Reporters and Editors, and worked closely with Reyes as an editor at the Herald for many years. In an interview, Garcia described Reyes as an excellent reporter…
Turning thirty-five is neither here nor there: Not quite on the summit of one’s life, but clearly beyond the years of young adulthood
January 9, 2012
Thirty-five is easy to pronounce. On December 28th, it was my birthday again, my thirty-fifth. Just before welcoming the new year, I always enter a new year of my life. Yet my 35th birthday was different from numbers thirty-four, thirty-two, or twenty-eight. Here’s why:
I am not one of those who complain about time passing too quickly. Much has happened in the last twelve months: throughout the world, but also in my personal and professional life. I had the pleasure of meeting many interesting people, and of working with a fantastic team of editors. If we try to look at a year through a magnifying glass, or confuse the residue of memories with the real thing, we might say that “the year flew by”. But that’s not how I approach life.
At age thirty, you’re still fighting adulthood. It is especially easy in Berlin, where a whole class of people is actively avoiding to grow up. They wear expensive sneakers that their parents refused to buy them. The idea of brand prestige was hard to convey to a generation of frugal post-war parents. I, too, wore Nike Air Jordans in Berlin, which my mother refused to buy me when they were a status symbol of adolescence.
At thirty-three, a threshold has been passed. Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, died at that age. The Christian scholar Thomas Aquinas thus taught that the resurrection would give birth to our thirty-three year old selves. In our culture, the number thirty-three carries a special significance. Yet I did not feel anything special when I crossed that threshold.
And now it’s thirty-five. Not quite the summit yet – I’d like to live past seventy-five. But it would not make sense to celebrate 37.5 years, right? So maybe forty is a good age to throw a midlife party? Or is that too conceited, as if growing to be eighty years old was nothing but a formality? I’d say that thirty-five is the proper age to celebrate the ascent to the summit of one’s life.
Some things have indeed changed. I have noticed that my body reacts differently now than it did five years ago.I am not only talking about a reduced tolerance for alcohol. Rather, a certain gravity and sincerity has set in that is unknown to those in their late twenties (or, in Berlin, to those in their early thirties). I now have a “life story”, and I am aware of it. Some events – like my first day of school – are already a quarter century away. During workouts, I pay more attention to endurance and flexibility than to the weights I can lift or bench-press. No doubt: My strength is decreasing. At thirty-five, we become the guardians of our bodies, the administrators of our own health. Getting stronger seems impossible now. To feel the signs of aging personally is different from reading about them in medical journals, or in this article. Age becomes tangible.And what about the mind? Here, the opposite seems true. Over the course of the past year, I repeatedly asked myself: Which convictions are truly important to me – and which beliefs have been reduced to a habitual exercise, unable to stand the test of rational self-examination? This is especially important in the context of politics and religion.
The Christmas service in our village’s church has made it patently obvious: The church (and, thus, the religion) of my childhood has vanished. The things I valued – not out of intellectual concern but because they seemed relevant to my own life – have become shadows of their former selves. When I was a child, Catholicism was like a second home for me. As an adult in Berlin, I ask myself what answers the church can provide to the questions of my life and my generation: How can we make sense of technological progress and of the digital age? Few answers to those questions can be expected to come out of the church.
The question of whether a Left critique of capitalism deserves a second lease on life has transcended academic circles in Germany. We live in interesting times – as a debate magazine, we have had the pleasure of covering many contested issues over the past year. They have forced us to reconsider our own political convictions.
I think that I will continue to vote for the Christian Conservatives, Chancellor Merkel’s party. But my behavior at the voting booth does not mean that conservatives have necessarily found persuasive answers to the dilemma of continued economic growth, or to the issue of mounting debt. At thirty-five, one can also notice that many loved ones have passed away – especially when the crowd diminishes at family Christmas dinners. I think back to my dead grandparents, aunts, uncles, relatives and a dear friend who passed away last year.
I don’t want to spare you some additional sad news. Look at your family tree, and do a bit of math: Unless you live in close proximity to your parents, you will probably see them only four times a year on average. My parents are 63 and 65 years old – to make it easy, I’ll say that each of them has fifteen years left in life. That means that we’ll only see each other sixty more times before they die. Too few hours! Let us make good use of the time that remains…