Skip to comments.Hallelujah! At Age 400, King James Bible Still Reigns
Posted on 04/18/2011 5:23:54 PM PDT by Colofornian
This year, the most influential book you may never have read is celebrating a major birthday. The King James Version of the Bible was published 400 years ago. It's no longer the top-selling Bible, but in those four centuries, it has woven itself deeply into our speech and culture.
Let's travel back to 1603: King James I, who had ruled Scotland, ascended to the throne of England. What he found was a country suspicious of the new king.
"He was regarded as a foreigner," says Gordon Campbell, a historian at the University of Leicester in England. "He spoke with a heavy Scottish accent, and one of the things he needed to legitimize himself as head of the Church of England was a Bible dedicated to him."
At that time, England was in a Bible war between two English translations. The Bishops' Bible was read in churches: It was clunky, inelegant. The Geneva Bible was the choice of the Puritans and the people: It was bolder, more accessible.
"The problem with the Geneva Bible was it had marginal notes," says David Lyle Jeffrey, a historian of biblical interpretation at Baylor University. "And from the point of view of the royalists, and especially King James I, these marginal comments often did not pay sufficient respect to the idea of the divine right of kings."
Those notes referred to kings as tyrants, they challenged regal authority, and King James wanted them gone. So he hatched an idea: Bring the bishops and the Puritans together, ostensibly to work out their differences about church liturgy. His true goal was to maneuver them into proposing a new Bible. His plans fell into place after he refused every demand of the Puritans to simplify the liturgy, and they finally suggested a new translation. With that, James commissioned a new Bible without those seditious notes. Forty-seven scholars and theologians worked through the Bible line by line for seven years.
"It is, I think, the most scrupulous process of Bible translation that has ever been," says Campbell, author of Bible: The Story of the King James Version 1611-2011.
What astonishes Jeffrey is that such beauty could be produced by a committee. "The quality of the poetry is extraordinarily high," he says. "It's memorable. It's beautiful. And in the KJV, it's distinctively the voice of God."
Consider Isaiah 40, he says, where God speaks out of the whirlwind.
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD's hand double for all her sins.
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
"You see, see that's not street discourse," Jeffrey says, laughing. "We don't talk like that to each other, do we?"
Today, newer, colloquial translations have pushed the King James aside. It's mainly used in African-American, Mormon and a few Protestant churches. But in moments of tragedy or turmoil or change, we turn to the King James.
In 1995, President Bill Clinton quoted Proverbs after the bombing in Oklahoma City: "Let us teach our children that the God of comfort is also the God of righteousness. Those who trouble their own house will inherit the wind."
After the space shuttle Columbia was lost in 2003, President George W. Bush turned to Isaiah: "Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing."
And when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed, only the King James would suffice. Quoted from memory, his wording is not exact, but the poetry and passion are straight from the prophet: "I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together."
The King James is the poetry that inspired Handel's Messiah, but the words also captivated modern musicians. The Byrds sang from Ecclesiastes in Turn Turn Turn: proclaiming that there is "A time to be born, a time to die, A time to plant, a time to reap, A time to kill, a time to heal."
Simon and Garfunkel echoed the Gospels when they sang, Like a bridge over troubled waters, I will lay me down.
And when Kansas voiced its existential angst All we are is dust in the wind it was inspired by the Psalms.
And think great literature: Even the secular novel is drenched in the prose and poetry of the King James. "Just think about titles," says Campbell. F. Scott Fitzgerald: This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and the Damned. John Steinbeck: East of Eden, The Grapes of Wrath. William Faulkner: Go Down Moses, Absalom Absalom. "There are loads of them," he says. "Buried in the texture of the modern novel, which is a secular form, is a level of religious allusion that reflects the culture from which those novels emerge."
The King James is woven into our lives. It was read in churches and family devotionals for centuries, and today its language laces hundreds of everyday phrases. Consider: "How the mighty are fallen" (Samuel 1:19), and "Can a leopard change its spot?" (Jeremiah 13:23), and "The writing is on the wall" (Daniel 5: 5/6), and "The blind leading the blind" (Matthew 15:14).
"These phrases have become part and parcel then of the general usage in the English language," says Jeffrey. "We do not recognize them any longer perhaps as biblical unless we have a pretty good memory for the language of the KJV."
Campbell adds that this Bible is foundational to the English-speaking world. "It's in the texture of our society rather than on the surface of it, I think. But if you trace back who we are, how we speak, how we think, many of those things have their origins in the King James Bible."
He and others say that new translations will come and go, as our language changes with each generation. But as long we can understand the King James Bible, this four-century-old book will be seen as the voice of God and the highest poetry of man.
Common English Phrases Found In The King James Bible:
Though it cannot be said that all of these phrases originated in the bible, it is likely that the King James Bible was the first time that many of them appeared in English.
A drop in the bucket (Isaiah 40:15)
A house divided against itself cannot stand (Matthew 12:25)
A man after his own heart (Samuel 13:14 or Acts 13:22)
A wolf in sheep's clothing (Matthew 7:15)
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth (Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21; Matthew 5:38)
Apple of your eye (Deuteronomy 32:10, Zechariah 2:8)
At their wits' end (Psalms 107:27)
Baptism of fire (Matthew 3:11)
Bite the dust (adapted from Psalms 72)
Broken heart (Psalms 34:18)
By the skin of your teeth (Job 19:20)
By the sweat of your brow (Genesis 3:19)
Can a leopard change its spots? (Jeremiah 13:23)
Cast the first stone (John 8:7)
Chariots of Fire (2 Kings 6:17)
Cross to bear (Luke 14:27)
Don't cast your pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6)
Eat drink and be merry (Ecclesiastes 8:15)
Fall by the wayside (Matthew 13:4)
Fall from grace (Galatians 5:4)
Fat of the land (Genesis 45:18)
Feet of clay (Daniel 2:31-33)
Fight the good fight (1 Timothy 6:12)
Fire and brimstone (Genesis 19:24-26)
Flesh and blood (Matthew 16:17)
Fly in the ointment (adapted from Ecclesiastes 10:1)
Forbidden fruit (Genesis 2:9)
From strength to strength (Psalms 84:7)
Give up the ghost (Mark 15:37)
Heart's desire (Psalms 21:2)
He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword (Matthew 26:52)
Holier than thou (Isaiah 65:5)
How the mighty are fallen (Samuel 1:19)
In the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52)
It's better to give than receive (Acts 20:35)
Labour of love (Hebrews 6:10)
Lamb to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7)
Land of Nod (Genesis 4:16)
Law unto themselves (Romans 2:14)
Letter of the law (2 Corinthians 3:6)
Living off the fat of the land (Genesis 45:18)
Love of money is the root of all evil (Timothy 6:10)
Manna from heaven (Exodus 16:15)
Many are called but few are chosen (Matthew 22:14)
My cup runneth over (Psalms 23:5)
No rest for the wicked (adapted from Isaiah 57:20)
Nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
O ye of little faith (Luke 12:28)
Out of the mouths of babes (Psalms 8:2, Matthew 21:16)
Peace offering (Leviticus 3:6)
Pride goes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18)
Put words in her mouth (2 Samuel 14:3)
Put your house in order (2 Kings 20:1)
Reap what you sow (adapted from Galatians 6:7)
See eye to eye (Isaiah 52:8)
Set your teeth on edge (Jeremiah 31:30)
Sign of the times (Matthew 16:3)
Sour grapes (Jeremiah 31:30)
Sweat of your brow (Genesis 3:19)
Tender mercies (Psalms 25:6)
The blind leading the blind (Matthew 15:14)
The ends of the earth (Zechariah 9:10)
The root of the matter (Job 19:28)
The powers that be (Romans 13:1)
The salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13)
The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41)
The Straight and narrow (Matthew 7:13/14)
There's nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
Two edged sword (Proverbs 5:4)
Voice crying in the wilderness (John 1:23)
Wages of sin (Romans 6:23)
Wash your hands of the matter (Matthew 27:24)
White as snow (Daniel 7:9)
Woe is me (Job 10:15)
Writing is on the wall (Daniel 5: 5/6)
Note: Most of these phrases are direct quotations. Others have slight word order changes that make the modern phrase quicker and catchier.
More On The King James Bible
From the article: This year, the most influential book you may never have read is celebrating a major birthday. The King James Version of the Bible was published 400 years ago. It's no longer the top-selling Bible, but in those four centuries, it has woven itself deeply into our speech and culture.
From the article: What astonishes Jeffrey is that such beauty could be produced by a committee. "The quality of the poetry is extraordinarily high," he says. "It's memorable. It's beautiful. And in the KJV, it's distinctively the voice of God."
I know that it is said that the newer translations are more accurate to the original transcripts ...but I have a real friendship with the KJV... it is like poetry and a sweet melody to our ears..
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I don’t use the KJV Bible, but I grew up with it. I learned The Lord’s Prayer, the 23rd Psalm and other passages in KJV. Great article!
I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe much that NPR puts out!! LOL!
Wait ‘til ya read it in Hebrew! Then you get to really plumb the depths of God’s mind!
**I heard this report on NPR today **
Good grief, are you a dimocrat? I thought they were the only ones who listened to NPR. LOL!
NPR = National Protestant Radio?! ; )
Happily, the Bible means things in English too. Read Proverbs 3:5-6 in the KJV and the NIV and see what I mean. KJV isn’t just the Word of God, it’s art.
Reigns over what? Frankly, this Christian isn't at all interested in a bible named after a human King. I'll still take the original Christian bible that was fully assembled, codified and deemed "inspired by God" around 382 A.D. That bible came out of the Christian Church, not from some secular King who decided to make his own version.
Same here, but "much" is the operative word...which means occasionally they get somethin' right or mostly right.
I was scanning & that was the report...
I grew up with the King James Bible.
As a Catholic, I am aware that there are a few mistranslations. And you need the KJV with Apocrypha, since the Protestant canon leaves a number of books out.
But the mistranslations are not very many. The sad truth is that the ICEL translations used in the English-speaking Catholic world after Vatican II, are far worse from the point of view of accuracy as well as strength and beauty.
The NAB is a lousy translation, and so are most of the recent, politically correct translations found in Protestant and Catholic Churches alike.
I still quote the KJV, or AV for Authorized Version as it calls itself, for preference.
Forever O LORD, THY word is settled in Heaven and earth
But I still like the language of the KJV. I have some other translations, but some of the newer tranlations are not so good. KJV is my favorite in most cases.
"For I am the LORD, I change not." - Malachi 3:6a
May I remind you that any and all versions used by the RC church prior to 1546 -- including the fourth-century Vulgate commissioned by Pope Damasus I -- also left "a number of books out" -- namely those same apocryphal books!
If the RC Church could do without their official sanction for 1100+ years, they weren't necessary.
My understanding is that the newer translations are more accurate UNTIL you hit the verses that people of a certain political bent found “offensive” and “discriminatory.” At those points they simply rewrote the passages to suit the feminist/homosexual/church-of-everything-goes agenda. No thanks, I’ll stick to the archaic stuff. Maybe give the Geneva a try.
I’m not sure I understand. You read the Bible in Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek? Which original Bible?
Then there's the commandments... they just don't really sound like they carry any "oomph" unless they are read in the King James Version:
Consider Exodus 20:3, in the KJV: Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
And now in the NIV: You shall have no other gods before me.
KJV to me... It just literally sounds like God is reaching out and grabbing you.
Hand me a Douay-Rheims Version please.
I agree...the edited "readers Digest" version aka KJV leaves a lot to be desired....It is a very good interpretatio0n, as far as it goes, but you cannot edit out entire chapters because you might doubt their validity. The church did just fine for 1,600 years before the "revolters) (notice I didn't say reformers)decided that they, not Jesus, knew better as to what should be in the bible...pathetic
Sounds like you may be much more of a biblical scholar than I, but I don’t see it as a translation by King James himself.
Rather, I see it as King James commissioning some of the best Christian scholars of the time to undertake a painstaking process of translation into English in order to make God’s Word more readily accessible to all English-speaking people around the world, for the benefit of untold generations into the future.
I believe God can (and did in this instance) use “secular” entities to provide the resources to His servants/believers that enabled the accomplishment of His Purpose. In this regard, the King’s personal motivation (for self-glorification or whatever) is irrelevant in terms of whether the translation was accurate.
That the KJV has held up for over 4 centuries is a powerful testament to God’s Hand guiding those who undertook that particular translation, I believe.
Anyway, short of learning Hebrew and Greek (which I’ve never accomplished) and studying His Word in the original languages, I’m satisfied with the KJV. At this stage in my life, I don’t see myself ever “going” with any other “version” of God’s Word.
I would appreciate it if you or other readers would not consider this post as being argumentative, just adding my thoughts to the conversation.
2 Maccabees 12.44-45 speaks of prayers for the dead and atonement so that they might be set free from their sin. The Catholics used this passage to support the doctrine of Purgatory, which may be the reason Luther wanted this book excluded from the Bible.
The Book of Sirach was used so often for readings in church that it got to be called "Ecclesiasticus."
Unless you can provide the source for that quote, I’ll assume it’s phony. I see a lot of Roman Catholic apologists quote it, as though it is legit. But there is no original source ever given.
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
- Galatians 6:7
Familiarity and occasional partial usage in prayer language does not = sanctioning as the Divine Word.
That is why I like the Jerusalem Bible, which I find it to be one of the most beautiful translations.
KJV isn’t the word of God it is the word of a blasphemous heretic defrocked priest turned outlaw whom deliberately mistranslated and omitted some of the word of God and, as a result, has caused many to perish.
“So then, brethren, stand firm and hold the traditions that you have learned, whether by WORD or by letter of ours.” 2Thess 2:15
***The church did just fine for 1,600 years before the “revolters) (notice I didn’t say reformers)decided that they, not Jesus, knew better as to what should be in the bible...pathetic ****
Why should it be pathetic? The English wanted a better bible in their own language, even later saying in the preface to the 1611 KJV that the “Cahtolicks” were the best to do it.
The Catholic church dragged their feet so long the Reformers got together some real good “learned gentlemen” and translated their own, WITH THE APOCRYPHA in it.
BIOGRAPHIES OF THE
KING JAMES VERSION TRANSLATORS
I. The First Westminister Company—translated the historical books, beginning with Genesis and ending with the Second Book of Kings.
Dr. Lancelot Andrews
Dr. John Overall
Dr. Hadrian Saravia
Dr. Richard Clarke, Dr. John Laifield, Dr. Robert Tighe, Francis Burleigh, Geoffry King, Richard Thompson
Dr. William Bedwell
II. The Cambridge Company—translated Chronicles to the end of the Song of Songs.
Edward Lively, Dr. John Richardson, Dr. Lawrence Chaderton
Francis Dillingham, Dr. Roger Andrews, Thomas Harrison, Dr. Robert Spaulding, Dr. Andrew Bing
III. The Oxford Company—translated beginning of Isaiah to the end of the Old Testament.
Dr. John Harding, Dr. John Reynolds
Dr. Thomas Holland, Dr. Richard Kilby
Dr. Miles Smith, Dr. Richard Brett, Daniel Fairclough
IV. The Second Oxford Company—translated the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Revelation of St. John the Divine.
Dr. Thomas Ravis, Dr. George Abbot
Dr. Richard Eedes, Dr. Giles Tomson, Sir Henry Savile
Dr. John Peryn, Dr. Ralph Ravens, Dr. John Harmar
V. The Fifth Company of Translators at Westminster—translated all of the Epistles of the New Testament
The fifth company of translators at Westminster are all found at this link
Dr. William Barlow
Dr. John Spencer
Dr. Roger Fenton
Dr. Ralph Hutchinson
VI. The Sixth Company of Translators at Cambridge translated the apocryphal books. The King James translators did not consider the Apocrypha to be scripture and neither did King James—see, Alexander McClure on the Apocryphal committee and Why the Apocrypha is not is the Bible.
Dr. John Duport, Dr. William Brainthwaite, Dr. Jeremiah Radcliffe
Dr. Samuel Ward
Dr. Andrew Downes, John Bois
Dr. John Ward, Dr. John Aglionby, Dr. Leonard Hutten
Dr. Thomas Bilson, Dr. Richard Bancroft
And you know this how?
That’s not helpful. What is the specific ***source*** of that particular quotation?
“Hand me a Douay-Rheims Version please.”
The Douay-Rheims normally sold is a revision of the KJV done in the 1700s.
“Much of the text of the 1582/1610 bible, however, employed a densely latinate vocabulary, to the extent of being in places unreadable; and consequently this translation was replaced by a revision undertaken by bishop Richard Challoner; the New Testament in three editions 1749, 1750, and 1752; the Old Testament (minus the Vulgate apocrypha), in 1750. Although retaining the title DouayRheims Bible, the Challoner revision was in fact a new version, tending to take as its base text the King James Bible rigorously checked and extensively adjusted for improved readability and consistency with the Clementine edition of the Vulgate.”
It might be more accurate to say Challoner changed the translation to match his theology, since the underlying Greek text didn’t support the changes...but then, the Catholic Church says the Vulgate is more accurate than the original.
“My understanding is that the newer translations are more accurate UNTIL you hit the verses that people of a certain political bent found offensive and discriminatory. At those points they simply rewrote the passages to suit the feminist/homosexual/church-of-everything-goes agenda.”
Some translations (the NIV, take 10) did that. The ESV & NASB are both good, with the NASB being more literal. Or you can be radical and go with the Tyndale translation from 80 years prior to the KJV. The KJV was, after all, affected by the politics of the day. That is why King James insisted on translating elder as bishop: “No Bishop, No King!”
“KJV isnt the word of God it is the word of a blasphemous heretic defrocked priest turned outlaw whom deliberately mistranslated and omitted some of the word of God and, as a result, has caused many to perish.”
Not very up on history, are you...
Good info here
If the RC Church could do without their official sanction for 1100+ years, they weren't necessary.
That's a bit of an oversimplification.
I have to ask you not to keep posting that phony quote attributed to Martin Luther. There is no source for it, other than on Catholic apologetics sites.
Moderator — can you encourage Salvation to stop posting this made-up quotation? It reflects poorly on FR to promote such inaccuracies. Perhaps Salvation can defend RC with something besides fiction.
Do you have the original source of the quote?
Amen it is the only Bible I have ever had,
Thanks, AG — excellent research and excellent article.
Salvation — please don’t promulgate that quotation as though it’s accurate. To do so would be to dishonor Truth, and discredit FR. Thanks.