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November 02, 2007


Yeah, Ecclesiasticus always impresses me when I dip into it (I've never sat down and read the whole thing -- it's long); that guy had clearly lived and thought deeply, and his son probably resented his constant admonitions and Wise Sayings and then in later life came to value them.

For anyone who loves the sonorities of King James English:

Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us.

The Lord hath wrought great glory by them through his great power from the beginning.

Such as did bear rule in their kingdoms, men renowned for their power, giving counsel by their understanding, and declaring prophecies:

Leaders of the people by their counsels, and by their knowledge of learning meet for the people, wise and eloquent are their instructions:

Such as found out musical tunes, and recited verses in writing:

Rich men furnished with ability, living peaceably in their habitations:

All these were honoured in their generations, and were the glory of their times.

There be of them, that have left a name behind them, that their praises might be reported.

And some there be, which have no memorial; who are perished, as though they had never been; and are become as though they had never been born; and their children after them.

But these were merciful men, whose righteousness hath not been forgotten.

With their seed shall continually remain a good inheritance, and their children are within the covenant.

Their seed standeth fast, and their children for their sakes.

Their seed shall remain for ever, and their glory shall not be blotted out.

Their bodies are buried in peace; but their name liveth for evermore.

Thanks, LH. This is interesting. I spent a long time last night trying to find a King James version of this passage, because these are the words I like and are most familiar with, and decided what I found wasn't authentic, because I wasn't sure Ecclesiasticus (or the other so-called Wisdom books) were IN the original King James Bible. If that's so, where did this come from and when? Or was it in there originally?

(Really, I just want to delete my post and substitute this translation! I'm going to be writing more later this month on the process of translating and re-translating the Bible and BCP, and the effect I think this has had on modern English.)

Yeah, the Apocrypha were in the KJV. As it says here:

Although the writings known as the Apocrypha are often not included in Protestant Bibles, due to the fact that these ancient texts came to us in Greek (like the New Testament) and later Latin but not in Scriptural Hebrew. Their rank in terms of authority is thus deuterocanonical, or second level. The fact is, while Anglo-American fundamentalists today reject their canonicity, they were translated and included in the original King James Bible of 1611, and are sometimes overviewed in Bible College or Seminary classes for historical background value. Having said this, we offer them here in faithfulness to the 1611 original.

OK, I see my problem: when I first looked at the KJV Apocrypha (1611) last night, I didn't notice that Ecclesiasticus was listed as Sirach.

Beth, please don't replace your version, I think it's good to see differing translations. I didn't know of the KJV Apocrypha, and shall have to look for it when I'm next in North America (or England).

Neither of my KJV's (London 1869 and Thomas Nelson 1972) includes the Apocrypha, but is in a modern-type reprint of Martin Luther's 1540's translation into German as "Jesus Syrach":

Lasst vns loben den berümbten Leute / und unsere Veter / nach einander.
Vjel herrlichs dings hat der HERR bey jnen gethan / von anfang durch seine grosse macht.

The style of Luther is very different from KJV, to my ears less rounded and not as "speakable". My knowledge of German literature isn't good enough to know with certainty how great an influence he had (as I can say confidently about the KJV); my inclination is to say that his was less influential, or that its influence did not endure.

Thanks for this great post and comments.

Udge! How great to see you here, I've missed you. Thanks for this very interesting comment and the questions about Luther - maybe Language Hat has some more knowledge about his influence (or not) on the KJV. It's fascinating to read the German out loud, and compare. Glad you enjoyed this post - I'm very curious to know more about this subject myself.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.