Henry Ainsworth, 1609, on Translating the Scripture into English

God’s word may be set over into English, for the most part word for word without absurdity. Where our language will not bear the strict propriety of the original phrases, we are warranted by the Apostles allegations of Scripture in another tongue, to use such words as the language will afford, to express other withal. Though tongues differ one from another in propriety of speeches, yet God hath sanctified them all, for instruments to convey his word and law unto us, and this is writing as well as in speaking, Dan. 2:4, etc., Acts 1:4; 8:9-11; 15:23; Rev. 1:11, 19.

Written sermons are the works of men. God’s book set into English, though with some diversities of phrase, is God’s book and word still, (as hath been shown) it is not the letter or sound, but the thing signified and meant by them, which properly is God’s word, and which we are so to reverence.

Henry Ainsworth, A Defense of the Holy Scriptures, worship and ministry used in the Christian Churches separated from Antichrist: Against the challenges, cavils and contradiction of M. Smith, in his book entitled The Differences of the Churches of the Separation (Amsterdam: Giles Thorp, 1609), 60.

Published by Dr. Peter Van Kleeck, Sr.

Dr. Peter William Van Kleeck, Sr. : B.A., Grand Rapids Baptist College, 1986; M.A.R., Westminster Theological Seminary, 1990; Th.M., Calvin Theological Seminary, 1998; D. Min, Bob Jones University, 2013. Dr. Van Kleeck was formerly the Director of the Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, Grand Rapids, MI, (1990-1994) lecturing, researching and writing in the defense of the Masoretic Hebrew text, Greek Received Text and King James Bible. His published works include, "Fundamentalism’s Folly?: A Bible Version Debate Case Study" (Grand Rapids: Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, 1998); “We have seen the future and we are not in it,” Trinity Review, (Mar. 99); “Andrew Willet (1562-1621: Reformed Interpretation of Scripture,” The Banner of Truth, (Mar. 99); "A Primer for the Public Preaching of the Song of Songs" (Outskirts Press, 2015). Dr. Van Kleeck is the pastor of the Providence Baptist Church in Manassas, VA where he has ministered for the past twenty-one years. He is married to his wife of 43 years, Annette, and has three married sons, one daughter and eighteen grandchildren.

One thought on “Henry Ainsworth, 1609, on Translating the Scripture into English

  1. Thanks for calling attention to Ainsworth’s comments about the Scripture and translation. That is very helpful. I enjoyed finding an online transcription and looking at it further. I found this comment (below) helpful, when he addresses the problem of Smyth considering a translation a human work of men’s wit, and the logical end to which it leads.

    “Now if because translating is an human action, therefore the thing translated must also be human, & the work of mans wit and learning: then also because writing and printing are human actions, therefore the bible written or printed in Hebrew, Greek, & all languages, must likewise be human, and the work of mens wit and learning: and then there can be no divine scriptures but the very first copies which the Prophets & Apostles wrote with their own hands: And if Satan could persuade this; he would be glad.” (p. 48)

    By the way, here is something that might interest you all, related to Ainsworth. A friend of ours, in connection with the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim landing at Plymouth, produced a new edition of Henry Ainsworth’s Psalter. Here is some information about it:


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