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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Noah Webster's... Bible

Noah Webster  (by Samuel Morse)
Noah Webster's father was a deacon of the Congregational church, and his mother was a descendant of the famous Separatist leader
William Bradford.  You might therefore surmise that Webster came by his religious leanings honestly.

Although during his youth Webster was more pedantic (what with his spellers and all) than he was religious, he became more and more devout as time went on.  Wikipedia reports that by the time Webster was 50, he had  become "a convert to Calvinistic orthodoxy, and thereafter… preached the need to Christianize the nation."

Since Webster lived to the then-ripe old age of 84, this left him with plenty of time to practice what he preached.  He began busily combining his vast literary talents with his newfound evangelical fervor.
This resulted in an 1828 American Dictionary that "contained the greatest number of Biblical definitions given in any reference volume."

It also resulted in a rewrite of the Bible itself.  Believing the King James Version to be basically sound, but somewhat outdated in its grammar, vocabulary, and phraseology – Webster set about to soften some of those perceived rough edges.  The result was his 1833 edition of the Bible called the Common Version.

Some (with axes to grind, no doubt) criticized Webster for not also tweaking the basic theology of the King James Version (KJV).  However, since Webster's own staunch views were a good match with the KJV theology, he saw no reason to "fix what wasn't broken." 


Copyright October 16, 2013 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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