An American scholar has found the oldest known draft of the King James Bible, which was first published in 1611, along with other ancient manuscripts in a university in Cambridge, England.
Professor Jeffrey Alan Miller, assistant professor of English at Montclair State University, said that he was going through the archives at Sidney Sussex College last fall, hoping to find a yet undiscovered letter, when he stumbled upon an old notebook dating 1604 to 1608. He wrote about his discovery in The Times Literary Supplement.
Miller said the notebook was labeled as "MS Ward B" and described it as having "verse-by-verse biblical commentary" along with "Greek word studies, and some Hebrew notes." The notebook turned out to be from Samuel Ward, one of the seven men tasked by King James I to translate the Bible into English. Ward later became master of Sidney Sussex College, where his works were archived.
"When I looked at the notebook myself for the first time, there didn't seem to be much more to it than that," Miller said. "And as I sought to determine the biblical verses concerned, and which translation Ward seemed to be using, the manuscript's true significance suddenly came into focus."
Miller said the word "draft" rightfully described the notes he found because there were notes on the pages that indicated Ward was "working out the translation for himself as he went along, making mistakes and changing his mind," writing something and then crossing it out.
"You can actually see the way Greek, Latin and Hebrew are all feeding into what will become the most widely read work of English literature of all time," Miller told The New York Times. "It gets you so close to the thought process, it's incredible."
Miller also said that the draft implied that Ward was working on the translation on his own, not with a team of translators. He suggested that Ward and the other translators could have been assigned specific portions to translate.
"I think it is a fascinating discovery, and wholly credible," said Jason BeDuhn, a professor of comparative study of religions at Northern Arizona University, according to Live Science. "The more we can learn about the process by which the King James Bible was produced, the more realistic our assessment of its merits becomes."