Wednesday, March 27, 2013

King James Version of the Bible - 402 Years Old

This post originally appeared on sometime in 2011, but I thought it was worth another look.

Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility is not the only book having a big anniversary this year. The Authorized King James Version of the Bible beats Austen out by 200 years. This translation of the Bible sponsored by the Church of England was begun in 1604 and completed in 1611 in response to problems with earlier translations as detected by the Puritans, a cranky lot who found fault with everything. The translation was undertaken by 47 scholars, all of whom were members of the Church of England. The New Testament was translated from Greek, the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew, while the Apocrypha were translated from the Greek and Latin.

Now for the interesting part. The Authorized Version’s acceptance by the general public did not happen overnight. Biblical scholar, Hugh Broughton, the most highly regarded English Hebraist of his time (but who had been excluded from the panel of translators because of his uncongenial temperament), chimed in with his opinion of the completed work: “I would rather be torn in pieces by wild horses than that this abominable translation should ever be foisted upon the English people.” Fortunately, for him, no one could find any wild horses.

A primary concern of the translators was to produce a Bible that would be appropriate, dignified and resonant in public reading. Hence, in a period of rapid linguistic change, they avoided contemporary idioms, tending instead towards forms that were already slightly archaic, like “thee and thou,” “verily” and “it came to pass.” The translators also tended to enliven their text with stylistic variation, finding multiple English words or verbal forms in places where the original language employed repetition. In other words, they used a thesaurus.

There are so many phrases that we use in everyday language that come from this translation. Here are a few of them from Matthew:

Man shall not live by bread alone. (4:4)
The salt of the earth (5:13)
The light of the world (5:14)
Turn the other cheek. (5:39)
O ye of little faith (6:30)
Seek and ye shall find. (7:7)
Every kingdom divided against itself shall not stand. (12:25)
The blind lead the blind. (15:14)
The signs of the times (16:3)
Take up the cross. (16:24)
Suffer little children (19:14)
The last shall be first, and the first last. (20:16)
Out of the mouth of babes (21:16)
The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. (26:41)

As a Catholic, I did not grow up with the Protestant King James’ Version of the Bible, but I know a stylistic masterpiece when I read it. British Theologian, F. W. Haber, said it best:  [The King James Version of the Bible] lives on the ear, like music that can never be forgotten, like the sound of church bells, which the convert hardly knows how he can forego. Scholars may argue about the accuracy of the translation of the King James's Version, but it would be hard to find a more beautiful one. Happy Anniversary!

Compiled from on-line sources including Wikipedia as well as The History of the English Language by Professor Seth Lerer, The Teaching Company.

1 comment:


    Which translation of the Bible is trustworthy? There are those who come dangerously close to labeling anyone who does not take the position, that the King James Version is the only reliable English version of God's word, as heretics. Some congregations only allow reading or teaching from from the King James Version.

    The first question you have ask, is, did God wait 600 years before He gave us a Bible we could trust?

    The King James Version was originally translated in 1611 and it included apocrypha books. Do the King James "only" advocates use the original 1611 edition? No, they do not. The original 1611 KJV is for all practical purposes unreadable. Most translations of the 1611 KJV found in Christian bookstores are in fact the 1779 KJV.

    The 1611 KJV has been changed or revised in 1612, 1613, 1629, 1638, 1744, 1762, 1769, 1833 to name a few. If you are a KJV "ONLY" advocate, how would you select which revision is the only trustworthy English version of God's word?

    For the serious Bible student I would suggest a word for word translation of the Bible; such as New American Standard Bible, English Standard Version, King James Version, or New King James Version.

    Can you read a word for word and thought for thought version; such as the New International Version and still understand the truth about the gospel of Jesus Christ? Of coursed you can. I have no doubt that you can read the NIV, as well as many other translations and still spend eternity with God.

    The problem with understanding the Bible does not come from reading the wrong translation, it comes from rejecting the simple truth found in Scripture. Just believe the translation that you read.

    1 Peter 1:23-25 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God ......25 BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER...

    It you believe God had the ability to create the heavens and the earth, why would you not believe that He has the power to give us more than one translation of His word that we can trust?

    (All Scripture quotes from: NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE)

    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY CHRISTIAN BLOG. Google search>>> steve finnell a christian view