James Moffatt

James Moffatt books and biography

James Moffatt

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James Moffatt (1870-1944) was a theologian and graduate of Glasgow University.

Moffatt trained at the Free Church College, Glasgow, and was a practising minister before becoming Professor of Greek and New Testament Exegesis at Mansfield College, Oxford in 1911. He returned to Glasgow in 1915 as Professor of Church History at the United Free Church College. From 1927-1939 he was Washburn Professor of Church History at the Union Theological Seminary, New York.

He translated one of the standard Modern English Bible translations:

  • New Testament, 1913
  • Old Testament, 1924
  • Moffatt, New Translation, 1926
  • Complete Moffatt Bible, revised, 1935
  • Shorter version, 1941
  • Commentary (17 volumes), 1928-1949
  • Concordance, 1949

Moffatt's self-admitted goal was to provide the Bible in plain English. His translation is certainly easy to read, though he departed from traditional translations in several areas. First, he held to the documentary hypothesis (that the first five books of the Old Testament were written by four different authors, and not Moses as many theologians believe). He printed this section of the Bible in different typefaces according to which author he believed had written each particular section. Second, he dated most books hundreds of years later than most theologians of the time; this stemmed from his doubt about the historical accuracy of many of the biblical books (especially those in the Old Testament) and no doubt affected his translation of various passages. Last, he rearranged the biblical texts (usually by switching chapter orders) in seemingly random ways based on his personal beliefs about the content, authorship, and historicity of the texts. For example, John chapter 14 comes after John 15 and 16 in the Moffatt Bible. These methods raised objections from many scholars, but proved very popular and started a trend toward more paraphrased translations.

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