In our last post, we traced the debates between William Tyndale and Thomas More about the word “charity.” When it came to the English Bible, More was convinced we should follow the lead of the Latin Vulgate in creating a distinction between “love” in most passages where the Greek agape occurs, verses “charity” in some of those passages. Tyndale was adamantly opposed, claiming that the English “charity” has a different meaning. More charged Tyndale with trying to slip in Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith alone. Tyndale didn’t disagree, but didn’t see himself as slipping in anything – he was adamant that the English Bible should teach justification by faith alone, because that was, he was convinced, what Paul himself taught in the original Greek. See the last post for all those details.
Love Lost – The AV Rendering
But having looked at Tyndale’s valiant fight to banish charity from the English Bible, convinced as he was that it was no English word that could capture the sense of the Greek agape, we now face the question – what happened to Tyndale’s love in the Authorized Version? Studies have shown that the KJV NT is 83.7% the words of William Tyndale, retweeted without direct credit being given. In fact, they sometimes return to Tyndale even against their base text. Yet here, they have demonstrably and intentionally rejected him. The KJV NT, while using “love” for most uses of agape, has “charity” for 29 of those uses. And this can surely be no accident, nor can they be unaware of the historic and public disputes of Tyndale and More.
Why bring charity back, after Tyndale fought so hard, at such cost, to exclude it?
Charity Through A Century
At this point, some kind of visual history of the frequency of the word’s usage might prove helpful. If we take the century from 1550-1650 and chart the uses of Charity, the results are revealing, (see the NgRam chart);
Notably, the word seems to have enjoyed a very brief stint of favor just as the 1572 revision to the Bishop’s Bible would have been worked on (not surprisingly, with the spelling the Bishops’ Bible used – see below), then another and larger one right at the time the revision to the 1602 Bishop’s Bible (the KJV) was being worked on (with the KJV spelling), and then a small spurt for a few short years just after its release, before slipping back into relative oblivion. Obviously, the stats here are limited, and provide no way to parse out biblical citations verses other uses. (And only examination of each result would show its use in context).
This is all the more striking when we compare it in the same period to the broader love, at which point, charity all but relatively disappears, with a notable decline in love to almost non-usage just as the KJV was being worked on;
If “charity” as a common synonym for love was not obscure when the KJV was printed, it clearly was within a few short years of that printing. The results might suggest that for one small decade or so, Charity could have been legitimately understood as something broader, perhaps, than giving to the poor. In this small window of time, perhaps they even overlapped as almost synonymous. The window was clearly small, and it passed quickly, lasting for only the window of time in which the KJV had the misfortune of being first worked on.
Charity in the Bible Today?
This raises the question of whether charity might be fitting English today for these biblical texts. One could make an argument that the KJV has itself so shaped the English language that it is now fitting, conveying a distinctly Christian notion (see the OED entry below). Others are more skeptical. C. S. Lewis, that master of the English language and its history, took up the question of what the word means in modern usage;
First, as to the meaning of the word. ‘Charity’ now means simply what used to be called ‘alms’—that is, giving to the poor. Originally it had a much wider meaning. (You can see how it got the modern sense. If a man has ‘charity’, giving to the poor is one of the most obvious things he does, and so people came to talk as if that were the whole of charity. In the same way, ‘rhyme’ is the most obvious thing about poetry, and so people come to mean by ‘poetry’ simply rhyme and nothing more.) Charity means ‘Love, in the Christian sense’. But love, in the Christian sense, does not mean an emotion. It is a state not of the feelings but of the will; that state of the will which we have naturally about ourselves, and must learn to have about other people.
—C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperOne, 2001), 129.
David Crystal (a contributor to the Oxford English Dictionary) likewise offers some hesitation;
The meaning of charity has weakened somewhat over the centuries, so that it now includes such notions as benevolence and fair-mindedness. It has sometimes even acquired negative connotations, as in the phrase cold as charity, especially heard in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, referring to the unfeeling way that some public charities were administered. The proverbial expression charity begins at home is often used in a self-serving context. Today, charity shops, Charity Commissioners, and other such phrases have added an institutionalized tone to the word.
Notwithstanding St Paul’s reiterated use in 1 Corinthians 13 (ending with And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity), anyone these days wanting to emphasize the emotional force originally carried by this word would do better to use love. The point is well illustrated in John 15: 13, where the use of charity would denude the sentence of its poignancy:
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
This formulation has carried the day. The first part competed with Douai-Rheims (Greater love than this no man hath), Tyndale and Geneva (Greater love than this hath no man), and Wycliffe (No man hath more love than this). The second part competed with Wycliffe (put for lay down) and Tyndale/ Geneva (bestow for lay down). There is still some stylistic variation today, but Greater love hath no man than this is the favourite expression, often summarized as No greater love.
Begat, The King Jame Bible And The English Language, kindle locations 3317-3333
If one thinks of that great Bard of love, William Shakespeare, his works put the matter into some historical perspective not far removed from the KJV. In the playright’s works, (the Folger editions), a quick search shows that while “love” occurs literally thousands of times, “charity’ occurs a mere three-score times, and often even in those rare uses clearly as a reference to almsgiving. For example, when Katherine in the Taming of the Shrew exclaims,
Beggars that come unto my father’s door
Upon entreaty have a present alms.
If not, elsewhere they meet with charity.
She equates charity with Almsgiving. For Shakespeare, charity is a weak and lifeless thing, usually referring to the act of almsgiving, but with no inherent notion of feeling, or passion. One may see the difference when, in Love’s Labour Lost, Longaville comes forward and pontificates,
Dumaine, thy love is far from charity.
A woman’s love, if only an act of “charity” or an act of pity wherein she condescends to an undeserving poor dupe, is a poor substitute for real love. “Charity” was simply too passionless a word, and too connected specifically to almsgiving, to find any real place in the Bard’s sonnets of love. He was speaking of a thing with a much higher affect.
In fact, that the KJV translators themselves shared a rather similar view seems clear. In a sermon on Tithing from Deut. 26, Thomas Harrison explains pedantically,
‘Tis due to Him…as a royall revenue….I wish triall were made whether it may not be proved (if the point were well studied, but I shall only hint it) that the tenth part (or other proportion) of every mans increase, acquisitions, improvements, and incoms is due unto the Lord even to this day: I am farre from thinking or saying that it is due unto the Ministry or to any sort of men, but that it is due and ought to be dedicated to God, and to the everlasting Priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ, by way of thankfull acknowledgement to God for the same, a tenth which even the Ministers and the Glebe it self ought to pay, and so ought to be expended in the supporting of publick worship, in the relieving of the poore at home and abroad, under the rage of persecution in other Countries, and in the education of poore Children, the advancement of Learning (that inestimable Jewell) and other pious uses, and would every man that abounds make such a purse and account it depositum pietatis, as a sacred treasury or Corban not to be opened but for pious uses; how many necessitous parents, perishing orphans, poore aged people, persons ruined by fire, shipwrack, or the like, might speedily be releived? there is no pious person but judges, something due this way, and the holy Ghost calls even a mans charity due debt, Prov. 3.27. Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it. Say not unto thy neighbour, Go and come again, and to morrow I will give, when thou hast it by thee, verse 28. What we call giving, God calls paying; what we call charity, He counts due debt; all the question is about the quantum, how much ought thus to be dedicated to God, and to fix it upon the tenth part; is neither Popish nor Legall, or Jewish, but a known truth, or duty long before the oldest of these was heard of in the world; this was no naturall but an adoptive Child of Moses, nor was it a Type or Ceremony as sacrificing was (which was also before the Law) for then there must be some spirituall substance tiped out by it, but it was practised by the light of nature and law of reason, morall Law, and Law of Nations every where. Why else did Abraham Gen. 14.20. Pay tythes to Melchisedec, the great Representee of Christ, who is brought upon the stage like a man dropt out of the Clouds, only to shadow out Christ, as if he had neither Father nor Mother, birth nor death, Heb. 7.2.
—Thomas Harrison, Topica Sacra: Spiritual Logick: Some Brief Hints and Helps to Faith, Meditation, and Prayer, Comfort and Holiness. / Communicated at Christ-Church, Dublin, in Ireland. By T.H. Minister of the Gospel, Early English Books Online (London: Printed for Francis Titon, and are to be sold at the sign of the three Daggers in Fleet-street, 1658), 158–161.
“What we call giving, God calls paying; what we call charity, He counts due debt.” That’s the lifeless and passionless view of Harrison about the word, which here means giving to the poor, and can be included as part of paying tithe to the church.
No wonder Tyndale objected that this is clearly not what Paul was talking about.
I strongly prefer love, with Tyndale, and with more modern masters of the English language like Crystal and Lewis. Bill Cooper, in a review in the Tyndale Society Journal, raised the question of why, in I Cor. 13 in particular,
Tyndale’s and Coverdale’s love (translated from the Greek agape) was subverted and replaced in the KJV by Jerome’s charity. As was known by all on the KJV Committee, charity is entirely a mistranslation of agape, yet it has grand ecclesiastical ramifications. Charity is a monetary commodity (where love is not), and can therefore be bought and sold on the market of good works and merit. Instead of Tyndale’s love covering a multitude of sins, it is the Roman charity that ‘does it’ for the faithful, who thus must earn their sal- vation by good works. It was, in short, a deliberate return to the ways of the Latin church.
He goes on to point out that this was done by men (the KJV Translators) “who would not have been unaware of the important differences between the two words, nor their immense ramifications,” and concludes that the revival of charity in the KJV is, “after all, and in the opinion of many, the one great flaw in the KJV.”
An Artificial Distinction Not Grounded In The Biblical Text
But perhaps the strongest reason to object to “charity” in the KJV today is that it creates a distinction between “love” and “charity” that is not consistent or exegetically defensible. It is sometimes claimed that “charity” is used whenever “brotherly” love is in view, while “love” is used when other kinds of love (for God, or a spouse) are in view. See also here, or here, edit – or the article I just read here. Others claim that “charity” is used when a love of action or behavior is in view, while “love,” apparently, refers only to an emotion, as here. Thus, the KJV is actually more accurate, it is claimed, in making this distinction.
Perhaps the ablest voice defending the KJV here is that of William Burgon, who was always ready to step up and champion the KJV against any changes made by the 1881 Revisers. Burgon turns his attention to, “the calamitous fate which has befallen certain other words of infinitely greater importance,” in their work, and writes,
And first for Ἀγάπη—a substantive noun unknown to the heathen, even as the sentiment which the word expresses proves to be a grace of purely Christian growth. What else but a real calamity would be the sentence of perpetual banishment passed by our Revisionists on “that most excellent gift, the gift of Charity ,” and the general substitution of “Love” in its place? Do not these learned men perceive that “Love” is not an equivalent term? Can they require to be told that, because of S. Paul’s exquisite and life-like portrait of “ Charity ,” and the use which has been made of the word in sacred literature in consequence, it has come to pass that the word “ Charity ” connotes many ideas to which the word “Love” is an entire stranger? that “Love,” on the contrary, has come to connote many unworthy notions which in “ Charity ” find no place at all? And if this be so, how can our Revisionists expect that we shall endure the loss of the name of the very choicest of the Christian graces,—and which, if it is nowhere to be found in Scripture, will presently come to be only traditionally known among mankind, and will in the end cease to be a term clearly understood? Have the Revisionists of 1881 considered how firmly this word “ Charity ” has established itself in the phraseology of the Church,—ancient, mediæval, modern,—as well as in our Book of Common Prayer? how thoroughly it has vindicated for itself the right of citizenship in the English language? how it has entered into our common vocabulary, and become one of the best understood of “household words”? Of what can they have been thinking when they deliberately obliterated from the thirteenth chapter of S. Paul’s 1st Epistle to the Corinthians the ninefold recurrence of the name of “that most excellent gift, the gift of Charity ”?
—Burgon, John William. The Revision Revised. Kindle Edition.
Burgon, of course, bases his argument primarily on how the KJV has influenced the English language after it. And that’s a valid point. Just not the one that matters. He does not so much as mention the long history of battles about the word between Catholics and Protestants. He complains about, “the sentence of perpetual banishment passed by our Revisionists” on the word, making the same mistake as the OED we will see below, assuming that charity was the reading of all English versions until 1881, as though the Revisers had been responsible for first banishing it. He ignores all English translations prior to 1602. William Tyndale’s name is not even mentioned, as though he had fought for nothing.
Tyndale has been totally forgotten, and his passions with him.
But the problem with all such claims is that they create a distinction between “charity” and “love” that clearly distorts the biblical text. A few arguments make this clear;
First, there is another Greek word altogether for the more specific concept of brotherly love, when required, which the KJV often explicitly translates, “Brotherly love” (Rom. 12:10; I Thess. 4:9; Heb. 13:1).
Second, often the KJV used “love” to translate the same Greek word, agape, when love for the brethren is clearly in view. For example, Paul clearly speaks of his own brotherly love for the Corinthians in II Cor. 2:4; 11:11; 12:15, and explicitly urges love for the expelled bother in II Cor. 2:8. He urges their love for him in II Cor. 8:7-8.
As to the claim that charity is used rather when a love of action is in view, one need only point to texts like Gal. 5:13, Eph. 1:15; 4:2; Col. 1:4; I Thess. 1:3; 3:12; James 2:8, and, explicitly, I John 3:18, where love alone conveys this idea. John writes, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” He could not be more explicit that he means here a love of “deed.” And yet the KJV has love and not charity here. Peter speaks as clearly as possible urging, “unfeigned love of the brethren,” and commanding that “ye love one another with a pure heart fervently” (I Pet. 1:22). And yet, charity doesn’t make it into this verse in the KJV. The same could be said for I Pet. 2:17; 3:8; I John 3:11; 3:14; I John 4:7, 11, 12, 20, 2 John 5, 3 John 1.
The reality is, the use of “charity” in some passages where agape appears, and “love” in others, perpetuates a patently artificial and unbiblical distinction where the Greek text has no such distinction. And anyone demanding some kind of distinction between them will invariably face the problem that the KJV itself ignores their distinctions, making it an inferior product by their own parameters. As we saw last time, this distinction arose out of a desire to read almsgiving and works into the text where it wasn’t present. It was defended by those (like More) who didn’t like the justification by faith that Tyndale was advocating, and used these texts about “charity” as prooftexts to support justification by works. It simply is not a distinction present in the Greek text.
Examining The Primary Sources Related to the KJV
A number of primary resources related to the history and origins of the KJV are regularly used by scholars such as David Norton to investigate the KJV. A few are worth glancing at here to trace out the history of the insertion of charity.
The marginal notes of the KJV mention charity, as best I can tell, only at Romans 14:15.
John Bois, one of the translators of the KJV, in the notes he took during the General Assembly at Stationer’s Hall (where most of the final tweaks were put on the text), gives only one hint of even noting the differences, which is that at Jude 12, he writes out, “these are, when they banquet with you, spot, or rockes in your Love feasts.” No more discussion is evident at this later stage of the work, and the notice serves only to underscore what we know already from the regular use of Tyndale, Geneva, etc. by the Revisers, and that is that they are aware of Tyndale and his readings.
What of the earlier stages? The epistles (where almost every use of charity occurs in the KJV) were commissioned to the Second Westminster Company. Lookin over their draft work (Ms. 98, which I had the privilege to spend a day with, and photographed thoroughly a few months ago), we find that, while a few passages have no text here (they apparently only penned text into their copy when they intended to alter the Bishops’ text), none of the KJV “charity” passages present have anything other than “charity,” not even Jude 12. The resulting realization is that there was, even at the earlier stages of the work, for this company at least, no evident discussion or overt attempt to do anything other than what was the final result here. Which strikes us as odd given how rare charity is outside the work of this company (for example, in the Gospels, Acts, and the OT). The 2nd Westminster Company seems quite convinced of what it has done.
The OED has a note specifically dedicated to the word charity as used to render the NT word, via the Vulgate;
The Greek word for ‘love’ in the New Testament (occasionally also in the Septuagint) is ἀγάπη , from root of verb ἀγαπᾶν ‘to treat with affectionate regard’, ‘to love’; in the Vulgate, ἀγάπη is sometimes rendered by dilectio (noun of action < diligere to esteem highly, love), but most frequently by caritas , ‘dearness, love founded on esteem’ (never by amor ). Wyclif and the Rhemish version regularly rendered the Vulgate dilectio by ‘love’, caritas by ‘charity’. But the 16th cent. English versions from Tyndale to 1611, while rendering ἀγάπη sometimes ‘love’, sometimes ‘charity’, did not follow the dilectio and caritas of the Vulgate, but used ‘love’ more often (about 86 times), confining ‘charity’ to 26 passages in the Pauline and certain of the Catholic Epistles (not in 1 John), and the Apocalypse, where the sense is specifically 1c below. In the Revised Version 1881, ‘love’ has been substituted in all these instances, so that it now stands as the uniform rendering of ἀγάπη, to the elimination of the distinction of dilectio and caritas introduced by the Vulgate, and of ‘love’ and ‘charity’ of the 16th cent. versions.
The first definition of the OED and its third subheading further highlights that “charity” came into English Bibles via the Vulgate, and its overall treatment reveals that its most common usage today has quite a different meaning than might have been intended in the KJV;
1. Christian love: a word representing caritas of the Vulgate, as a frequent rendering of ἀγάπη in New Testament Greek. With various applications: as,
a. God’s love to man. (By early writers often identified with the Holy Spirit.) Obsolete
b. Man’s love of God and his neighbour, commanded as the fulfilling of the Law, Matt. xxii. 37, 39. Obsolete.
c. esp. The Christian love of one’s fellow human beings; Christian benignity of disposition expressing itself in Christ-like conduct: one of the ‘three Christian graces’, fully described by St. Paul, 1 Cor. xiii.
One of the chief current senses in devotional language, though hardly otherwise without qualification as ‘Christian charity’, etc. In the Revised Version, the word has disappeared, and love has been substituted.
d. In this sense often personified in poetic language, painting, sculpture, etc.
e. in, out of, charity: in or out of the Christian state of charity, or love and right feeling towards one’s fellow Christians.
f. In various phrases: see the quotations.
a. Without any specially Christian associations: Love, kindness, affection, natural affection: now esp. with some notion of generous or spontaneous goodness.
In Wyclif, representing caritas of the Vulgate, which (like ἀγάπη, ἀγάπησις) is used very generally in the Old Testament. In other cases influenced perhaps by Old French chierté, Latin caritas, or simply with generalized sense.
b. plural. Affections; feelings or acts of affection.
a. A disposition to judge leniently and hopefully of the character, aims, and destinies of others, to make allowance for their apparent faults and shortcomings; large-heartedness. (But often it amounts barely to fair-mindedness towards people disapproved of or disliked, this being appraised as a magnanimous virtue.)
Apparently a restricted sense of 1c, founded upon one of the special characteristics ascribed to Christian charity which ‘thinketh no evil’ 1 Cor. xiii. 6; cf. also 1 Pet. iv. 8 ‘Charity shall cover the multitude of sins’.
b. Fairness; equity. Obsolete.
4. Benevolence to one’s neighbours, especially to the poor; the practical beneficences in which this manifests itself.
a. as a feeling or disposition; charitableness.
b. as manifested in action: spec. alms-giving. Applied also to the public provision for the relief of the poor, which has largely taken the place of the almsgiving of individuals.
[Some would explain quot. 1154 as hospitality, or ‘agape Christianorum, convivium quo amici vel etiam pauperes excipiuntur’ (Du Cange).]
c. plural. Acts or works of charity to the poor.
5. That which is given in charity; alms.The phrase do one’s charity, in 4b, easily passed into give one’s charity.
6. A bequest, foundation, institution, etc., for the benefit of others, esp. of the poor or helpless.
The term, especially under the influence of legislative enactments, such as the statute on charitable uses 43 Eliz. c. 4, and the various modern Charitable Trusts Acts, has received a very wide application; in general now including institutions, with all manner of objects, for the help of those who are unable to help themselves, maintained by settled funds or voluntary contributions; the uses and restrictions of the term are however very arbitrary, and vary entirely according to fancy or the supposed needs of the moment; chief among the institutions included are hospitals, asylums, foundations for educational purposes, and for the periodical distribution of alms.
7. A refreshment dispensed in a monastic establishment between meals; a bever. (Apparently only a modern rendering of medieval Latin charitas in sense of ‘quævis extraordinaria refectio, maxime illa quæ fiebat extra prandium et cœnam in Monasterio.’ Du Cange.)
8. A popular name of the plant ‘Jacob’s ladder’, Polemonium cæruleum.
In my own experience, 3a, 4, 5, and 6, are by far the most common uses today. Notably, 1c is the one which would have to be argued to make the KJV contemporary, (and at that, it clearly represents an interpretive choice by the translators in 28 of the Greek word’s uses, not a distinction present in the Greek text itself), but I have a suspicion one could find few uses with that meaning that aren’t in, or directly influenced by, the KJV itself.
Early Protestant English Translations
Tyndale, as we have seen, searching the Logos edition, banished the noun charity entirely from his NT in both his major editions (he used the adverb only once, in Rom. 14:15). He would have no allowance for a Roman notion of works.
A quick search of the Logos edition of the Geneva Bible shows that the Genevan reformers followed suite – charitie is entirely absent from their Bible, save one use in Jude 12 (though it’s instructive to note how often charitie occurs in their heading and marginal notes, usually as an explanation of works of love, and even at times specifically distinct from love, as in the note at Is. 1:17).
Coverdale has charite only once, in Romans 14:15, searching the Logos edition.
Skimming an electronic edition of the Great Bible shows roughly the same.
As does a search of the Matthew’s Bible.
Charity was virtually unknown in these early Protestant translations (while being prolific in the Wycliffe translation of the Catholic Latin Vulgate).
It is now widely recognized that the KJV took the Bishops Bible as its base text, and revised it as little as was necessary, per Bancroft’s first rule for the Translators. Matthew Parker in the 1568 Bishop’s Bible, the initial printing, formally titled, The Holie Bible Conteynyng the Olde Testament and the Newe, (the Early English Books Online edition), while using charitie often in the headings, seems to have used charitie in the text only at Rom. 13:10 and Jude 12. I Corinthians 13 reads more like Tyndale. See it on the right.
As it turns out then, when the OED asserts that, “the 16th cent. English versions from Tyndale to 1611,” used charity in 26 passages in Paul, it is at best only telling part of the story, and perhaps even misleading. The historical reality is almost exactly the opposite of the picture one would assume from their words. All the more so when the OED astonishingly claims (like Burgon) that it was the 1881 RV that displaced charity, as though Tyndale and his campaign against the word had never even existed! So much the worse for the forgotten Tyndale.
In reality, Tyndale banished charity from the English Bible, and it remained in almost total and complete exile through all of the major Protestant English translations. The KJV was not continuing a long tradition that the 1881 ERV would finally reject; it was rejecting a long tradition that Tyndale had begun, and others had long perpetuated.
So how did we get from that to the AV revival of charity? The answer, in part, lies in the realization that it was specifically the 1602 edition of the Bishops Bible which served as the basis for the AV which was a revision of that text, not the earlier editions, as has been conclusively shown by Vance.
When we examine the 1602 edition (I have not examined any intervening editions, and the text may have changed as early as the 1572 – Vance suggests in passing that the 1572 first introduced the word charity in I Cor. 13 at least), we realize it has come straight into the KJV. The 1602 has charitie or its similar forms at Rom. 14:15, I Cor. 8:1; 13:1-13; 14:1; 16:14; Col. 3:14; I Thess. 3:6; II Thess. 1:3; I Tim. 1:5; 2:15; 4:12; II Tim. 2:22; 3:10; Titus 2:1; I Pet. 4:8; 5:14; II Pet. 1:7; III John 6; Jude 12; Rev. 2:19. That is, in the exact places where the AV also has the word. (And perhaps some others besides – I have not searched the whole text, though preliminary spot checks show it having love in most places I would suspect it to differ, like Rom. 5:8; 13:10). Tyndale’s great poem to love has become the odd ode to charity already in Parker’s revisions.
What changed at some point between 1568 and 1602 that directly caused the restoration of charity to the English text remains to be investigated.
The KJV translators (or better, revisers of the Bishops Bible) had before them the options of many or even most of the English translations that had gone before them. Yet, without so much as a word, they retained the wording not of Tyndale, or any of the later Protestant translations, not the wording of the original Bishops’s text, but exactly the word used in each place in the 1602 revision of the Bishop’s text.
Notably, with the one exception of Rev. 2:19, every other use of charity is in a part of the text handled by the Second Westminster Company. “Love” seemed to work just fine in every other place for every other company. This Company alone preferred “charity” in places where the Bishop’s text had it. Headed by William Barlow as President, this company had some of the strongest anti-Puritan sentiments of any that worked on the KJV. Barlow himself had made his disdain for the Puritans clear from the very start of the Hampton Court Conference that birthed the KJV, and his account of the Conference drips with hatred for them. In the Second Westminster Company’s work, apparently, Separatist ideas could be allowed no pass. And Rule 1a and 3 have apparently given them license to snub Tyndale.
And when we turn to the KJV preface, penned by Miles Smith, at least one possible reason thus suggests itself. (See a detailed explanation of this section and the whole preface here). In a brief note towards the end, under the last heading of the Preface, they explain,
Lastly, we have on the one side avoided the scrupulosity of the Puritans, who leave the old Ecclesiastical words, and betake them to other, as when they put washing for Baptism, and Congregation instead of Church: as also on the other side we have shunned the obscurity of the Papists, in their Azimes, Tunike, Rational, Holocausts, Prœpuce, Pasche, and a number of such like, whereof their late translation is full, and that of purpose to darken the sense, that since they must needs translate the Bible, yet by the language thereof it may be kept from being understood. (Scrivener, CPB)
This quiet admission, which almost escapes notice, perhaps explains as best as anything else we can find. Here are several of Tyndale’s very batch of explosive words, and while “love” is not mentioned directly, their “as” with the examples of baptism and church might well stand for the whole group. Tyndale’s words got him killed, a fate he faced with courage. But from Tyndale’s perspective at least, the King, on the other hand, has fallen prey to fame. Study divorced from passion was thought better. The King wants little to do with Tyndale and his battles. The Puritans have had little or no say in the work, short of the fact that they asked for it (though they didn’t actually want it, and are now stuck with it against their wishes, for theirs was, “but a poore and empty shift”).
And in a quite literal way, love has been lost.
All that dangerous and nasty business that Tyndale has fought for has been let go as too extreme, too messy, and too, well, radical. They judge Tyndale far too concerned to follow the dictates of his conscience. He should have cared less. They do. Like the Puritans of their day, he was too “scrupulous.” He would think they have hidden his blood-wrought legacy behind a wall of easy compromise. From his stake, he might claim, with prayerful lips, that they have sacrificed flippantly what he had fought for so valiantly. Tyndale was willing to die for his words. The KJV translators instead at best sit silently by while he is burned.
The annual reckoning has come to the King. It turns out that all that protestation, said over and over, was little more than empty blunder.
Love’s labor has been lost.