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The title page of the first edition of the King James Bible

EDITORIAL: Incredible influence of KJV

When King James of England authorized the English Bible of 1611, who could have imagined the incredible influence that translation would have on the world? This year marks the 400th anniversary of one of the most significant books ever printed.
In his new book “Bible: The Story of the King James Version,” Gordon Campbell calls the King James Version the most important book in the English language. Indeed, the KJV’s influence provides a cornerstone for English culture, literature and language.
Many phrases in daily use entered the English language through the KJV. We speak of the “signs of the times” (Matthew 16:3), a “drop in the bucket” (Isaiah 40:15) and a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7) without recognizing how many common English phrases originate in words these translators used four centuries ago.
The KJV had its origin in controversy. In 1604, King James I of England called the Hampton Court Conference to address the tension among the serious religious factions of England.
The conference failed to meet that goal, but when John Reynolds, president of Corpus Christi College at Oxford University, suggested that a new translation was needed, the king liked the idea and commissioned the process to produce the KJV.
Some scholars believe the king saw the new Bible as a way to pacify the Puritans, who were unhappy with the Bible then in use.
The king wanted the most skilled language scholars of England to produce a new Bible that would be widely accepted.
He appointed 54 scholars from a wide spectrum of religious beliefs to work in six translating companies. Of the 54, 47 men actually served. Two translating companies were established at Oxford, two at Cambridge and two at Westminster. Their work has endured through the years.
Millions of copies of the KJV have been printed, bought, sold, given away and read since 1611. The first edition of the KJV was folio size, 11-by-16 inches, had 1,500 thick pages and was large and heavy, intended primarily for lecterns in the churches. The type imitated Gothic script, which made it difficult to read.
Today, the KJV is available in a huge variety of fonts, bindings, sizes, covers and editions.  
Indeed, the current edition of the KJV is not the same as the one that came out in 1611. Jack P. Lewis observed in “The English Bible: From KJV to NIV” that “a currently circulating King James Bible differs in significant details (though not in general content) from the one issued in 1611.”
With all of its majesty and beauty of expression, the King James Version, like every other Bible version and book, falls victim to a fast-changing and ever-evolving English language, in which the usage and meaning of words change constantly. New translations for new generations are a necessity.
Professor Albert Cook of Yale University commented, “The King James Version is universally accepted as a literary masterpiece, as the noblest and most beautiful book in the world, which has exercised an incalculable influence upon religion, upon manners, upon literature and upon character.”
Regardless of a person’s preferred translation of the Bible, most of us have memorized familiar passages from the KJV, such at the 23rd Psalm, the Lord’s Prayer, the Beatitudes, Proverbs and John 3:16.
Consider the remarkable history of the King James Version:
• It carried the Gospel to every country in the world.
• European explorers brought the KJV to the new world on ships.
• For years the King James was the only reading primer for millions of schoolchildren.
• Many learned to read English using the KJV.
• Pioneers carried it in covered wagons across America.
• American presidents take the oath of office with their hand on the KJV.
• Soldiers took pocket copies of the KJV into both World Wars.
• In courtrooms thousands have sworn to “tell the whole truth” with their hand resting on a KJV.
• Verses from the KJV are chiseled into church buildings and university structures all over the English-speaking world.
With great respect and gratitude, The Christian Chronicle recognizes the incredible, worldwide influence of the King James Version on its 400th birthday.

  • Feedback
    Yes, indeed the KJV is the Bible on whose language most preachers of the gospel speak and utter in their sermons. It makes the reading sound ancient, and as if Christ is speaking, just as it was in the ancient. Thank God for the KJV.
    March, 4 2011

Filed under: God's Story Staff Reports

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