Montclair professor discovers what is believed to be oldest draft of King James Bible

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Mallory Hoff has the details. (WABC)

A professor from New Jersey has made a historic find more than 400 years in the making, discovering what is believed to be the earliest draft of the King James Bible.

The bible, published in 1611, is the most read book in the English language. So when Montclair State University assistant professor Jeffery Miller came across what's believed to be the earliest draft, he did exactly what he tells his students to do: he checked his work.

"I wanted to make sure I was 100 percent certain that it was what I thought it was," he said. "So there was a lot of further research."

Miller, a Rhodes scholar, has degrees from Oxford and Princeton. The English professor made the discovery while researching a translator named Samuel Ward at the University of Cambridge's Sidney Sussex College in England.

"There was that a-ha moment, when the whole thing just snaps into focus," he said. "And there's still an element of disbelief that goes along with that."

Ward was one of about 50 people commissioned by King James in 1604 to translate the bible from Hebrew and Greek into English.

"The draft maybe challenges what you might think a draft of that might look like," he said. "It became clear he wasn't using the King James version. He was in fact creating the King James version by drafting it."

Miller was looking for an essay when he came across the draft, one that no one even knew existed.

What Professor Miller's Discovery does is help us understand a bit more about the process that led up to he outcome.

Alan Cottrell is the Associate Dean of the college of humanities and social Sciences at Montclair State University.

"Professor Miller was not only there engaged in his work and happened to come across this," Montclair State Associate Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences said. "He also had the knowledge base that was necessary to recognize what he was looking at."

Now, Miller hopes the finding will inspire his students.

"I would certainly encourage anyone who comes across a catalogue where something else had been identified as an unknown biblical context give it a second look," he said.

It is a reminder that pieces of history and literature are still waiting to be discovered.

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