Which Words Were The Right Words
The translators provided marginal notes to inform the reader what choices had been made to convey the original. They were not always sure which word was the best choice, but they did their best to arrive at a consensus among the 47 experts who worked on this translation. After all, it was Augustine who said that a variety of translations is profitable for finding out the sense of the Scriptures.
Bill Combs, a professor at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, made these points clear in a series of articles on the DBTS website. He made note: Prior to the KJV, there had been many English translations of Bible: Wycliffe , Tyndale , Coverdale , Matthews Bible , the Great Bible , the Geneva Bible , the Bishops Bible , and the Douai-Rheims . The many translations speak not of the insufficiency of the previous versions, but the recognition that there are many audiences with different preferences whose educational experiences and dialects vary.
Combs quoted a pithy although lengthy passage from the KJV Preface. For clarity, I will paraphrase this portion of the Preface. Readers are encouraged to review The Preface themselves but will find the vocabulary and style difficult hence the paraphrase here, and an object lesson in why modern versions are a necessary endeavor to equip the Saints for good works.
King James Only Movement
The King James Only movement advocates the belief that the King James Version is superior to all other English translations of the Bible. Most adherents of the movement believe that the Textus Receptus is very close, if not identical, to the original autographs, thereby making it the ideal Greek source for the translation. They argue that manuscripts such as the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, on which most modern English translations are based, are corrupted New Testament texts. One of them, Perry Demopoulos, was a director of the translation of the King James Bible into Russian. In 2010 the Russian translation of the KJV of the New Testament was released in Kyiv, Ukraine. In 2017, the first complete edition of a Russian King James Bible was released. In 2017, a Faroese translation of the King James Bible was released as well.
Rogers Cranmer And Coverdale
John Rogers, who completed and edited Tyndale’s version, foundhimself in great trouble when bloody Mary came to the throne.It was not long before he was imprisoned by that enemy of Godand His Word. For half a year he remained a prisoner in his ownhouse and during all of 1554 he was confined to Newgate prisonwith thieves and murderers. He was very harshly and cruelly treated.All that time he was refused permission to see his wife and tenchildren. It was not until he was led to the stake on Jan. 4,1555 that they met him. There he was burned alive to become thefirst victim of the wicked Mary.
Thomas Cranmer, who exerted a great deal of pressure to get theBible into the hands of the people, could not escape the wrathof Queen Mary either. He was tried and convicted of heresy withothers of like Faith. Before he was executed, he was forced towatch the burning of Latimer and Ridley who were also of the Faith of the Reformation.Mary thought that she had won the day when Cranmer signed a recantationof his Protestantism. But when the fire was put to him, he repudiatedhis retractions and held the offending hand, which had signedthe recantation, in the flame until it was consumed. In his deathhe did not forsake the Faith.
Although Coverdale did not die at the hand of Mary, he did sufferpersecution with the rest. He was imprisoned for two and a halfyears. Several times he was examined by the Inquisitors and wasin extreme danger of losing his life.
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Is More Polishing A Good Idea
And so, to complete the thought, allow me to share the actual wording of the translators for comparison:
Yet for all that, as nothing is begun and perfected at the same time, and the latter thoughts are thought to be the wiser: so, if we building upon their foundation that went before us, and being holpen by their labours, do endeavour to make that better which they left so good no man, we are sure, hath cause to mislike us they, we persuade ourselves, if they were alive, would thank us.
Combs conveys that this is the answer to those who insist that the KJV should not be changed neither should other translations be ventured. All translations are completed by flawed human beings. The translators would have applauded the efforts to make their words more accessible to modern ears in the centuries ahead. For by this means it cometh to pass, that whatsoever is sound already the same will shine as gold more brightly being rubbed and polished also, if anything be halting, or superfluous, or not so agreeable to the original, the same may be corrected, and the truth set in place.
For Combs, It is obvious the KJV translators would be horrified at the thought their work was perfect and would be the first to commend later improvements and corrections of their work.
Combs, Bill. The Embarrassing Preface to the King James Version. DBTS.edu. April 9, 2012. Retrieved November 15, 2018, from http://www.dbts.edu/2012/04/09/the-embarrassing-preface-to-the-king-james-version/.
The Cultural Legacy Of The King James Bible
From Handels Messiah to Coolios Gangstas Paradise, the King James Bible has inspired a wide swath of cultural expression across the English-speaking world over generations. Writers from Herman Melville to Ernest Hemingway to Alice Walker have drawn on its cadences and imagery for their work, while quoted the King James Version of Isaiah in his famous I Have a Dream speech.
Beyond the countless artists and leaders inspired by the King James Bible, its influence can be seen in many of the expressions English speakers use every day. Phrases like my brothers keeper,the kiss of death,the blind leading the blind,fall from grace,eye for an eye and a drop in the bucketto name only a fewall owe their existence, or at least their popularization in English, to the KJV.
From the early 20th century onward, mainstream Protestant denominations increasingly turned toward more modern Bible translations, which have been able to provide more accurate readings of the source texts, thanks to the use of more recently discovered ancient Semitic texts unavailable in 1611. Still, the King James Version remains extremely popular. As late as 2014, a major study on The Bible in American Life found that 55 percent of Bible readers said they reached most often for the King James Version, compared with only 19 percent who chose the New International Version, first published in 1978 and updated most recently in 2011.
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How Many More Languages Does The Bible Need To Be Translated Into
As of September 2020 the full Bible has been translated into 704 languages, the New Testament has been translated into an additional 1,551 languages and Bible portions or stories into 1,160 other languages. Thus at least some portions of the Bible have been translated into 3,415 languages.
New To The Kjv Here’s What To Expect
Since 1611, Christians have turned to the King James Version of the Bible for a faithful and beautiful rendering of Gods Word. Its rich tradition has guided generations of pastors, authors, and scholars, while its reverent language continues to shape our words today.
The KJV was translated in the beginning of the 1600s. The scholars translating it were among the top scholars of their day, and most were deeply familiar with literature and poetry as well as with theology and ancient languages. They were also intent on creating a translation that would last for generations, so they avoided recent changes to the language, often using words and phrases that sounded formal even then to ensure the dignity and longevity of the translation.
That said, the KJV is remarkably readable for a four-hundred-year-old book. This reflects the translators original goals, which were written down in the preface to the first edition: We desire that the Scripture may speak like itself, as in the language of Canaan, that it may be understood even of the very vulgar.
For clarity, translators favored simple words, especially one-syllable words. This helps to keep the translation understandable today, as well as contributing to its stately cadence.
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The Kjv Has Been Through Several Editions
Some King-James-Only Christians believe that the King James Bible perfectly preserved the Scriptures for all time. If this is the case there would have been no need for further edits. The current edition of the KJV is different from the original 1611 translation and several other early editions. The KJV Bible we use today is actually based primarily on the major revision completed in 1769, 158 years after the first edition.
Interestingly, the 1611 version, and all other editions of the KJV that were published for the next fifty years, contained the Apocrypha. Protestant Christians do not regard the apocryphal books as uniquely inspired and authoritative. The 1666 edition was the first edition of the KJV that did not include these extra books.
So Who Wrote The King James Bible
Well, the answer isnt in the question. While King James ‘authorised’ the work of the 1611 translation, he didnt write a word of it. Certainly, he wanted to see an accurate English Bible, but his chief concern was for a text that leaned neither toward the Latin Bible nor the Puritan ‘Geneva’ Bible.
So who translated dusty Greek and Hebrew texts into the vibrant, living English of the KJV? Surely not the 47 scholars and theologians, appointed by the King. Learned men, they were, but not poets, and surely incapable of the rhythm of Psalm 23, the imagery of 1 Corinthians 13, the concise Beatitudes and universally memorable words of The Lords Prayer. So who, then?
“Do you know who Bill Shakespeare was, sonny? Hes the fella that wrote the King James Bible.” – Walter ‘Monk’ McGinn .
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Religious And Political Impact
Meanwhile, back in England, the bitter religious disputes that had motivated the new Bible translation would spiral by the 1640s into the English Civil Wars, which ended in the capture and execution of King Jamess son and successor, Charles I.
If James had hoped to quash any doubt of his divine right to power, he clearly hadnt succeeded. Meyers points out that the King James Bible gave people access to passages that were not ordinarily read in churchpassages that limit the power of secular rulers like James. As an example, she cites Deuteronomy 17, which reads, One from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee. But it also suggests that the king should not acquire too many horses, wives or silver and gold for himself and that he, like anyone else, should be subject to the laws of God.
King James wanted to solidify his own reputation as a good king by commissioning the translation, Meyers says. Maybe he didn’t know about those passages about the limits of the king’s powers, or think making them available to all might threaten his divine right as king.
A copy of the King James translation of the Bible seen in the Bible Baptist Church in Mount Prospect, Illinois.
Working From A Base Text
The KJV committees worked from the Bishops Bible, cross-checking with original language texts. The goal of this translation was not to create a new Bible from scratch, but to improve previous English translations. The committees consulted prior translations and Greek and Hebrew texts as they saw problems. Seven years later, they finished the work, calling it The Holy Bible. We know it as the Authorized Version, or the King James Version.
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The Translation May Have Seriously Backfired On The Monarchy
With the debut of the King James Bible, though it would be some time until the translation really began to take hold, at least King James himself could rest a little easier knowing that something had been accomplished in his name. Too bad his son couldn’t feel the same way.
That’s because, despite snipping out those worrisome annotations that could be found in the Geneva Bible and perhaps massaging other translations to be more favorable to rulers, the King James Bible didn’t fully quash the anti-royal sentiment. According to History, because the faithful could now more easily read passages for themselves, they happened upon verses that still managed to question the British monarchy and certainly didn’t lead the country away from a looming civil war. Consider Deuteronomy 17, which acknowledges the necessity of rulers, but also notes that they need to reign it in, saying that “neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.” Pretty awkward for the notoriously fancy and oftentimes spendy rulers of Europe.
King James Bible: Not
Many Bible readers who prefer modern English translations consider the King James language old-fashioned, even archaic. But like Shakespeare, the KJV translators were not afraid to use and even invent completely new words, such as ‘contentment’. The KJV is the first recorded appearance in print of the word ‘amazement’ .
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How Important Was The King James Bible
The commissioning of the King James Bible took place in 1604 at the Hampton Court Conference outside of London. The first edition appeared in 1611. The King James version remains one of the greatest landmarks in the English tongue. It has decidedly affected our language and thought categories, and although produced in England for English churches, it played a unique role in the historical development of America. Even today, many consider the King James Bible the ultimate translation in English and will allow none other for use in church or personal devotions. However, the story behind the creation of this Bible translation is little known and reveals an amazing interplay of faith and politics, church and state. To understand what happened, we need to go back to the world of the early 17th century.
Try to imagine what it was like to live in the England of 1604. Theirs was not a world like ours where speed, change, and innovation are consciously cultivated and thoughtlessly celebrated. Their world moved at a much slower pace and continuity was prized over change. In their world, the crowning of a new monarch was a grand event that deeply affected the life and identity of the nation. The monarch would rule for life. There was no continuous cycle of election campaigns in their world as there is in ours.
James Comes To The Throne
As James prepared to take the throne, strong stirrings of discontent caused him grave concern. Elizabeth died on March 24, 1603, after ruling 45 years. James received word of his cousin Elizabeth’s death and his appointment to the throne, and on April 5, he began his journey from Edinburgh to London for his coronation.
James’ journey south was marked by an important interruption. A delegation of Puritans presented James a petition that outlined their grievances and the reforms they desired. The document was known as the Millenary Petition and had over 1,000 clergy signatures, representing about ten percent of England’s clergy. This petition was the catalyst for the Hampton Court Conference. From the beginning, the petition sought to allay suspicions regarding loyalty to the crown. It treated four areas: church service, church ministers, church livings and maintenance, and church discipline. It also set forth objections that perhaps sound rather frivolous to us today, but were serious matters to the Puritans. Among the things they objected to were the use of the wedding ring, the sign of the cross and the wearing of certain liturgical clothing. However, the Millenary Petition contains no mention at all of a new Bible translation.
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It Didn’t Exactly Start With King James
While the King James Bible now stands out as the granddaddy of English Bible translations, it was far from the first. By the time King James I took the throne of England in 1603 , quite a few translations had debuted and generated seemingly endless controversy. According to History, these included two especially prominent Bibles: the Geneva Bible, favored by Protestant rabble rousers, and the more church-sanctioned Bishops’ Bible. And even seemingly mild differences in translations could cause dramatic and life-altering consequences.
One translator, William Tyndale, became so hopelessly embroiled in Biblical controversy that it cost him both his home and, eventually, his life. According to Britannica, Tyndale was one of the growing group of scholars who thought that the Bible ought to be read by everyone in their own language, making translation key to spreading the word of Christianity.
But his attempts at translation were met with serious resistance, to the point where he had to leave town multiple times. First, he fled to Germany in 1524, where he began publishing his translation of the New Testament and then moved from town to town as he kept releasing new editions. He never finished his Old Testament translation, however, given that he was apprehended in Antwerp, Belgium and strangled, then burned at the stake in 1536. Still, with his translations already circulating in England and beyond, Tyndale’s mark had been made.