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Problems with Norton's editing of the KJB

PostPosted: 27 May 2014, 17:57
by bibleprotector
Problems with Norton’s editing of the KJB

David Norton’s Paragraph Bible was published by Cambridge, and his book “A Textual History” explaining it all was published in 2005.

There are vast problems with Norton’s Edition of the King James Bible.

He writes, “The text needs to be revised in two basic ways”. In reality, the text does not need to be revised at all. But his two ways are: “one is to undo the mistaken changes, the other is to revive the work of modernisation that, in the English, stalled in the eighteenth century.”

By mistaken changes, he is found to charge the major editions with negligence, error or somehow unfaithful dealing with the English. He wishes to undo changes from 1629, 1638, 1769 and even those which have lasted and stood in the King James Bible to this day.

The truth is that there has been a process of editorial purification, which has meant that by progress the presentation has come to stand as it does today. Norton feels this is wrong. He brings the charge of “mistakes” against it. His authority for changing the King James Bible is by consulting some partial drafts which are said to belong to some of the translators before 1611. (Which cannot be proved conclusively, and has been said, by authorities such as B. F. Westcott to actually date after 1611!)

In this alone, Norton, on the pretence of “correcting” the King James Bible actually is found to be undoing the corrections of the editors which were correcting typographical errors from 1611. Moreover, Norton makes untenable changes on this mistaken principle, such as turning the word “hewed” to “shewed” at Hosea 6:5.

Norton goes beyond changing just based on what he might find in some manuscript drafts, but also turns to the original languages to justify his changes. The problem here is that he must use the original languages to justify a different reading of what was normally, properly and historically understood in the original languages. Thus, the use of “original languages” becomes bogus and suspect when it can be used to justify any editorial decision or whim.

As for his modernisation of the language, this too is fraught with error. Changing spelling can change meaning. And it can be equally used to attack the meaning of the Bible by injecting modern interpretations and doubts, whether on “shamefacedness” at 1 Timothy 2:9, or myriad other examples. Thus, Norton makes “astonied” into “astonished”, “born” into “borne”, “clift” into “cleft”, “cloths” into “clothes”, “intreat” into “entreat”, “enflaming” into “inflaming”, “lien” into “lain”, “mixt” into “mixed”, “utter” into “outer”, “ravin” into “raven”, “recompence” into “recompense” and “throughly” into “thoroughly”. Each example is of distinctly different words or distinct grammatical forms, which are not identical, and which result in loss of information under Norton’s barbarian (foreign to Bible English) editing.

Norton claims that the English text which he counts as authoritative is that printed in 1611, not that of the revisors (i.e. later editors). In this, he must have accept various impurities and typographical errors as his standard in opposition to the general and authoritative editing which has corrected these issues.

He says, “Variant readings should be decided in the light of the deliberate decisions of the translators, even if the reasons for those decisions are not necessarily apparent.” This leads to the artificial construction of “variations”, meaning that where the present edition differs to 1611, all differences can be resolved by a method of deferring to the fallible, incomplete and partial notes which may not wholly belong to the translators anyway. This “leave your mind at the door and let the notes reign true” approach is so against proper scholarship that it must necessarily discount all the wise and learned editing from 1611 to the twentieth century, and must uphold waywardness above received tradition.

Were the editors really so incompetent that Norton must juggernaut the King James Bible, making many tedious, vexing, useless changes and, it would appear, as many as can possibly be squeezed in?

He even says, “The text is not whether a later variant can be argued to be better in some way, but whether there is a strong likelihood that an error of copying or printing is involved in the first edition.” Thus, his opinion is subject to whether or not he can explain the state of 1611 without any regard of the learned editorial work which occurred in, say, 1638 or 1769. He adds, “No attempt should be made to correct perceived errors of scholarship.” This implies that he really thinks the King James Bible translators were making mistakes, but he assures the reader that he is not going to change their work... except, when examined, he changes the King James Bible in all kinds of ways which put the truth of Scripture into jeopardy.

Norton also discusses how he modernised the spelling and punctuation of the Bible (which definitely altered words and their meanings). He then says, “A reader troubled by this principle has two alternatives available: the first is to read a facsimile or exact reprint of the first edition, the second is to agree that modernisation is acceptable, but not beyond eighteenth century standards, so to read a text that is neither as the translators presented it nor genuinely modernised.” This is a false dichotomy.

We certainly agree that the spelling and punctuation of 1611 is not final authority. But we do not agree that “modernisation” according to Norton’s use is permissible. If he styles himself as just another moderniser after Blayney, then he is wrong. Blayney was a standardiser and purifier. That is something which Scrivener and Norton both certainly were not.

Moreover, editorial care for the King James Bible did not stall in the eighteenth century, but continued throughout the years of the nineteenth century in normal editions, resulting eventually in the Pure Cambridge Edition of the twentieth century.

In fact, Norton is being deceptive when he says, “neither as the translators presented it”, for in the sentence before, he admits that the translators were not that concerned with spelling and punctuation. Thus, there is no grounds to say that the spelling and punctuation of 1611 must be rigidly followed to every jot and tittle, since it is a fact that in the standard of English use, it is not the final authority.

The genuine purification of the King James Bible has already taken place, thus, Norton’s implication that he is to genuinely modernise it is false on the grounds of its authority and the grounds of its method.

Norton writes, “The result is, it is hoped, more scholarly and trustworthy than any of its predecessors because of its first principle [undoing editorial purifications] and because the [partial, incomplete drafts] ... has been consulted.”

And the heady advertising pitch continues: “It is also readable in a way no other reference editions (that is, editions retained the chapter and verse system of reference) have ever been through its consistent use of modern spelling and its reformation of the punctuation and presentation.”

These changes do not make it more “readable”! This is mere subjective gobbledegook. The use of the word “reformation” is a euphemism for “wholesale revolution”. Down with the old order, in with the new.

Laughably, Norton reveals, “Editing is an unglamorous task and, save only for punctuation, spelling is its leads glamorous aspect.” He then begins his disparaging of Blayney, “making multitudinous changes without achieving ‘exactness’.” And the 1769 work was “inconsistently done.”

Norton points out that “an half” and “a half” are both used in 1611, but fails to appreciate its use for meter and/or sound (phono-linguistics). Again, he misapplies and misunderstands the Biblical grammar, as at Deuteronomy 32:35, which he claims “recompence” is wrong.

He says, “This last examples gives a good indication of Blayney’s noble but flawed attack on the problems of orthography. The overall result is that modern texts contain a mixture of words that are correctly and consistently modernised, words that are treated inconsistently (the inconsistency does not necessarily corresponded, example for example, with the inconsistency of the first edition), and words that, correctly, retain the same variety they had in 1611. All these problems must be tackled.”

Norton is implying that the Pure Cambridge Edition has inconsistencies in it, and that the words or word forms must be “modernised”. Clearly, he has utterly failed to understand or appreciate the exactness of the words as they stand, and the peculiar grammatical situations which are entirely accurate, and how the meaning is clarified by such nuances. Norton’s desire to steamroll the Word of God into his own flat, tasteless and undesirable image must be the result for his contempt for (whether deceptively or ignorantly) God’s providential work of having the very presentation perfected.

Does Norton not realise that when he says, “its spelling should be to the best contemporary standards”, that he is in fact demoting Bible English to the temporary, subjective and changeable ways of modern speech? Surely, this is nothing but Satan’s means to bring the Bible away from its exactness (and its venerability) to be trodden under foot and made unfit for anything. Thank the Lord that true believers are aware, and should not be drawn to such quasi-scholarly vandalism on the Word of God.