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Religion: Missionary’s English

2 minute read

In his 27 years in India and Africa, the Rev. Charles Kingsley* Williams found that English-speaking natives often had trouble understanding the rich prose of the King James Bible.

In reading aloud, Missionary Williams came to use his Greek New Testament, translating into simple English as he went along.

When he retired to England 15 years ago, Williams set to work putting his scattered translations together. In London this month, his New Testament in Plain English was published, a short, common-sense translation based on an English vocabulary of some 1,500 words. Samples:

¶ Matthew 6:27: “And which of you by worrying can add one more hour to his life-time?”

King James version: “Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?”

¶ Luke 6:42: “You double-dealer, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the dust out of your brother’s eye.”

King James: “Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.”

Methodist Williams intended his New Testament for the mission field, but, said he, “I now find that it can be of use also in this country among those who left school at 16.”

*Named for but no kin to famed Charles Kingsley, 19th century clergyman and novelist (Westward Ho!), who served as Queen Victoria’s chaplain.

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