The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt (3) Week Two: Sessions 6-12

Session 6: Monday, November 19 AM
    In 1618, at least two Dutch Bible translations existed–a translation of the Latin Vulgate, and one of Luther’s German Bible. In response to a question which came from one of the provincial synods, the Synod of Dordt agreed that a new translation would profit the churches. Synod began to discuss how to implement this. (This translation would become the Statenvertaaling, the “States Translation”).

Session 7: Tuesday, November 20 AM
    The delegates from Great Britain explained the method used in translating the King James Version: six different committees were assigned separate portions of Scripture, after which the translation was carefully edited twice. The British delegation also mentioned the rules that governed the translators in their work.

Session 8: Tuesday, November 20 PM
    Continuing its discussion on Bible translation, the Synod decided that this translation: 1) should not be a revision of the existing translations, but a new translation directly from the Hebrew and Greek; 2) should be a careful translation of the Hebrew and Greek, treating God’s word carefully, and at the same time express the Scriptures in the vernacular Dutch; 3) should include a note on the side of the text, when the Hebrew or Greek was difficult to express in Dutch; and 4) should use a different font for words which were added to fill out the text (similar to the KJV’s use of italics).

Session 9: Wednesday, November 21 AM
    Should the Apocrypha also be translated? Some argued against it, because they were not inspired, they contradict the inspired Scriptures at some points, and neither the Jews nor the ancient Christian church included them. One of the Utrecht Remonstrant delegates retorted that the Heidelberg Catechism should be treated similarly. The Dutch Bibles of that day included the Catechism after the New Testament; this delegate said that the new translation should not include the Catechism, and that the Catechism should not be preached.
    The Synod did not make a final decision at this session.

Session 10: Thursday, November 22 AM
    Four hundred years later, the United States observes this day as Thanksgiving. We give thanks to God not only for His earthly and material gifts, but also for the Synod’s work, and the ways in which we benefit.
    After more discussion, the Synod decided to include the Apocryphal books in the Bible translation, but said that these did not need to be as carefully translated as did the inspired books, that the Apocrypha should be placed after the New Testament, and that it should be introduced by a disclaimer that these are human writings.
    Synod decided it would appoint three men to translate the Old Testament and three to translate the New. It also decided to ask the national government, through its delegation at the Synod, to promote and fund the translating work.

Session 11: Friday, November 23 AM
    The fifth Dutch professor delegated to the Synod (Prof. Lubbertus) arrived. So did John Hales, chaplain to the English delegate Carlton, who would observe the synod and write letters regarding the proceedings of the Synod.
    Synod decided that the work of Bible translation should begin three months after the Synod adjourned, and that the translators should report every three months regarding their progress.

Session 12: Saturday, November 24 AM
    Regarding Bible translation, Synod decided 1) to use the Dutch du when translating the second person singular pronoun referring to God (this meant that the less formal Dutch pronoun would be used); 2) to translate the word “Jehovah” in large letters (as the KJV does with LORD); 3) to use the Hebrew form, rather than the Dutch, in translating Old Testament proper names; 4) to use the current division of chapters and verses, but note in the margin where the chapter divisions are poor; and 5) to add a table of chronologies and genealogies at the end of the translation, but not to include any pictures.
    Not yet finished with the matter of Bible translation, Synod recessed for the Sabbath, as was its practice.

Douglas Kuiper, Professor of Church History and New Testament
Theological School of the Protestant Reformed Churches