Lesson Seven: The Authorized Version
Where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What doest thou? (Ecc. 8:4)
The Authorized King James Version is the word of the King. It not only contains the name of the monarch who ruled England in 1611, but it speaks with royal majesty proclaiming the words of the King of Kings. No translation of the Bible has had a greater impact on the English-speaking people as has the KJV. This is not opinion, but fact. In literature, it stands immortal with the writings of Shakespeare and other great poets, even though its translators were not poets. In history, it has affected English-speaking nations as no other book has, and for many was the basis for learning to read and write. It has shaped our culture and thinking about ourselves and our God. In theology, it has stood as the very words of our God.
Of late, it has fallen under attack. Not by the skeptic who has always doubted God and His word, but by the scholar. Because of this, many have built faulty argumentation in order to discredit the KJV as the preserved words of God. It is, therefore, essential for us to understand the history of the Authorized Version in order to disavow the contentions of those who wish to discredit the work and word of God among the English peoples.
JAMES I OF ENGLAND (1566-1625):
Some have falsely thought that the King James Bible was the translation of King James I of England. Others have tried to discredit the KJV because of the King himself. One has nothing to do with the other. James did not translate the Bible, and his character has little to do with the translation which bears his name. He was the King of England in 1611 when the Authorized Version was completed, and it was under his authority that the translators began their endeavor.
James was born in Scotland and was the only son of Mary, Queen of Scots. His famous mother was a strict Roman Catholic; however, James was raised a staunch Protestant. He had a love for sports as well as for scholarship. King Henry IV of France referred to James as “the wisest fool in Christendom” (King James VI of Scotland: I of England by Lady Antonia Fraser, 1974. p. 9). And yet, the Christian should keep in mind the words found in 1 Corinthians 1:25-29.
Dr. Charles Ryrie says of King James, “Now this was. . . an odd king. By eight, it was said, he could translate any chapter of the Bible from Latin to French to English. He knew Italian, Hebrew, Greek, and had learned large portions of the Word. He was apparently an effeminate man; so one writer has called him, ‘Queen James who succeeded King Elizabeth’. He was undoubtedly a vain man, not really popular because he held to the absolute superiority of the king, and not the Parliament.” (“Oddities of the King James Bible,” cited from The Christian Librarian Vol. 18, No. 1 & 2 in Oct-Dec., 1974. p.14)
British author Caroline Bingham provides an interesting assessment of this English monarch. “At seventeen he was a remarkable youth who had already achieved an intellectual and political maturity; already he was recognizable as the canny and learned King who never achieved wisdom, who committed follies but was not a fool.” (The Making of a King, Doubleday and Comp., 1969. p.15).
Lady Antonia Fraser adds to our understanding of King James in the conclusion of her book. She writes, “Let us assess James by his own sonnet at the start of Basilikon Doron, when he laid down the precepts for a King: ‘God gives not Kings the style of Gods in vain, For on his throne his Scepter do they sway: And as their subject ought them to obey, So Kings should fear and serve their God again.’ Perhaps James did not have the style of a God, and erred in thinking that it had been granted to him. Nor did he create it for himself as Elizabeth had created the style of a Goddess. But he did fear God and attempt to serve Him by his own lights. As a result, his subject, even if they did not always obey him, were not so badly served by him after all.” (Fraser, p. 214).
Of his legacy, Sir Frederic Kenyon has written, “The Authorized Version may be put down as the best deed ever done by James I. . .” (The Story of the Bible, p. 40)
Shortly after James became King of England, he was approached by Dr. John Rainolds concerning various issues facing the English Church. Rainolds, a Puritan and later one of the translators, made the following proposal within his address to the king. He stated, “May your Majesty be pleased to direct that the Bible be now translated, such versions as are extant not answering to the original.” This delighted James, who responded with, “I profess, I could never yet see a Bible well translated in English, but I think that of Geneva is the worst.” This discourse occurred at Hampton Court on Monday, January 16th, 1604. Within a few short months Bishop Richard Bancroft was notified to appoint certain learned men, numbering about fifty-four for the purpose of translating the word of God. Although the actual number of translators who worked on the KJV remains a mystery (because some died before the work was completed), the following list of names survives as known translators. These men were divided into three groups located at Westminster, Oxford, and Cambridge. Each group was divided into two sections; one worked on the Old Testament, the other on the New Testament. Only the group at Cambridge had a team working on the Jewish Apocrypha.
Dr. Lancelot Andrewes, Dean of Westminster. Mr. William Bedwell, St. John’s College, Cambridge. Dr. Francis Burleigh, Pembroke Hall, Cambridge. Dr. Richard Clarke, Fellow of Christ’s College, Cambridge. Mr. Jeffrey King, Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge. Dr. John Layfield, Fellow of Trinity College. Dr. John Overall, Dean of St. Paul’s.
Dr. Hadrian Saravia, Canon of Canterbury. Dr. Robert Tigue, Archdeacon of Middlesex. Mr. Richard Thomson, Clare Hall, Cambridge.
Dr. William Barlow, Dean of Chester.
Mr. William Dakins, Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. Dr. Roger Fenton, Fellow of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge. Dr. Ralph Hutchinson, Archbishop of St. Alban’s. Mr. Michael Rabbett, Trinity College, Cambridge. Dr. Thomas Sanderson, Balliol College, Oxford. Dr. John Spenser, President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford.
Dr. Richard Brett, Fellow of Lincoln College. Dr. Daniel Featley (also know as Daniel Fairclough), Fellow of New College. Dr. John Harding, President of Magdalen College. Dr. Thomas Holland (no known relation), Rector of Exeter College. Mr. Richard Kilby, Rector of Lincoln College. Dr. John Rainolds, President of Corpus Christi College. Dr. Miles Smith, Canon of Hereford.
NT (Matt.-Acts and Revelation)
Dr. George Abbot, Dean of Winchester.
Dr. John Aglionby, Rector of Blechindon.
Dr. John Harmer, Fellow of New College.
Dr. Leonard Hutton, Bishop of Gloucester. Dr. John Perin, Fellow of St. John’s College. Dr. Thomas Ravis, Fellow of St. John’s College. Sir Hanry Savile, Provost of Eaton.
Dr. Giles Thomson, Dean of Windsor.
OT (1 Chron.- Ecc.)
Mr. Roger Andrews, Master of Jesus College. Mr. Andrew Bing, Fellow of St. Peter’s College. Mr. Laurence Chaderton, Master of Emmanuel College. Mr. Francis Dillingham, Fellow of Christ’s College. Mr. Thomas Harrison, Vice-Master of Trinity College. Mr. Edward Lively, Fellow of Trinity College. Mr. John Richardson, Master of Trinity College. Mr. Robert Spalding, Fellow of St. John’s College.
Dr. John Bois, Fellow of St. John’s College (later he edited Rom-Rev.). Dr. William Branthwaite, Master of Caius College. Mr. Andrew Downes, Fellow of St. John’s College. Dr. John Duport, Master of Jesus College. Dr. Jeremy Radcliffe, Fellow of Trinity College. Dr. Samuel Ward, Master of Sidney College. Mr. Robert Ward, Fellow of King’s College.
These translators were great scholars. Many laid the foundation for linguistical studies which followed. They spent most of their time in pursuit of knowledge and the development of Biblical languages. Some, while waxing eloquent in Latin or Greek, fared rather poorly with their native English. Gustavus S. Paine noted in his book, The Men Behind the King James Version, that these “men were minor writers, though great scholars, doing superb writing. Their task lifted them above themselves, while they learned firmly on their subject.” (p. vii). Alexander Whyte also notes about Dr. Lancelot Andrewes, who was the chairman of the translation committee, “All his days Andrewes never could write the English language with any beauty or purity or good taste,” (Lancelot Andrews and his Private Devotions, p. 3). Yet, they were able to reach beyond themselves. Again Paine makes the following assessment:
Though we may challenge the idea of word-by-word inspiration, we surely must conclude that these were men able, in their profound moods, to transcend their human limits. In their own words, they spake as no other men spake because they were filled with the Holy Ghost. Or, in the clumsier language of our time, they so adjusted themselves to each other and to the work as to achieve a unique coordination and balance, functioning thereafter as an organic entity–no mere mechanism equal to the sum of its parts, but a whole greater than all of them. (p. 173).
The translation went through a series of committees, all consisting of the translators themselves. Upon finishing the assigned portion given to him, a translator would meet with the first committee and read the work he translated. Those within the committee followed the reading from various sources, such as the original languages, early English translations, and foreign translations including German, French, Italian, and Spanish. If there were no differences concerning the translation the reader read on. If there were differences, the committee would reach a consensus before proceeding. The findings were then presented to the other two companies for their committees to review in like fashion. If these committees differed at any given point, the differences were compounded and presented to a third committee consisting of twelve members. This committee (known as the General Meeting) reviewed what the previous committees had produced and agreed upon the finished translation before presenting the work to two final editors, Bishop Thomas Bilson and Dr. Miles Smith.
Some have erroneously stated that the translators were paid for their efforts or rewarded with political advancements. This is, however, simply not the case. Dr. Jack Lewis has correctly stated that, “Though the king contributed no money to its production, and though no record of an official authorization of the finished product survives (if such were ever given), the Bible came to be known as the King James Bible.” (The English Bible: From KJV to NIV, p.29). This is in direct opposition to those, such as James White, who have claimed that the King paid for the translation and offered political advancement for those who worked on it. “Technically the KJV belongs to the English crown, which authorized and paid for its translation nearly four hundred years ago.” (The King James Only Controversy, p. 244). “Some, in fact, may have harbored less than perfect motivations for their work. Some hoped to gain favor with the king and advancement in their positions through their work on the translation itself. Some were far too enamored with the idea of royalty, a problem not too uncommon in that day.” (Ibid. pp. 70-71). The only evidence offered is a misstating of G. S. Paine’s book, The Men Behind the King James Version. At no time does Paine suggest the translators had any such motives. White tries to prove his claim with the example of William Barlow (White, p. 88) as one who sought the kings favor. However, this is not what Paine wrote. Instead Paine states, “About kings and queens, Barlow was always sound,” and that “King James greatly approved of him.” (Paine, p. 43). There is no hint in Paine’s book that Barlow, or any of the translators, sought to be on the translational committee in order to gain favor with the King.
The historical truth is that payment did not come from the crown, but from the Church. Funds were raised and received for the purpose of sustaining the translators during their work on the translation, but they were not given financial reward (John Dore, Old Bibles: An Account of the Early Versions of the English Bible, 1888, p. 325). It is true that several of the translators did advance within the Church after the translation was complete, but this was due to their ability, not as a reward for their effort. These advancement came from within the Church, not from the crown. Their greatest reward was in the fruit of their labor, the KJV itself. The translators wrote, “But among all our joys, there was no one that more filled our heart than the blessed continuance of the preaching of God’s sacred Word among us, which is that inestimable treasure which excelleth all the riches of earth; because the fruit thereof extendeth itself, not only to the time spent in this transitory world, but directeth and disposeth men unto that eternal happiness which is above in heaven.” (From the Dedicatory of the KJV).
THE CUM PRIVILEGIO:
Another common myth concerning the KJV is that it was under the sole printing authority of the crown. There were no copyrights in those days, but some have suggested that the KJV was the Cum Privilegio (i.e. with privilege) of King James and the English crown, and that only the royal printer could publish the KJV. In addressing the KJV Only advocates, James White states, “But we should point out that the KJV carries what is called the Cum Privilegio. Technically the KJV belongs to the English crown, . . .the KJV was first printed by the royal printer, and that for a hundred years no one else could print it. Does this not sound pretty much like a modern copyright? It would seem so. So again we find the KJV Only argument to be inconsistent, involving a double standard.” (White, p. 244).
This statement is totally in error. The Royal Printer was Robert Barker. However, we find that the KJV was printed both in England and outside the country by others, not counting Barker. Consider the following statements:
In the year 1642, a folio edition of King James’s Version was printed at Amsterdam by “Joost Broersz, dwelling in the Pijlsteegh, in the Druckerije.”. . . The notes of the King James’s Bible are omitted, and the arguments and annotations of the “Breeches” Bible are inserted in their place. (John R. Dore, Old Bibles: An Account of the Early Versions of the English Bible, p. 345)
In fact, Bibles with the KJV text but with Geneva notes were printed in Holland in 1642, 1672, 1683, 1708, 1715 and in England in 1649. (Jack Lewis, The English Bible: From KJV to NIV, p. 29).
A small octavo Testament was issued at Edinburgh, by the Heirs of Hart, in 1628 (the Anfro Hart whose “Breeches” Bible were so highly esteemed). This is the first Testament printed in Scotland of King James’s Version. (Dore, pp. 338- 339).
Although the Universities always claimed the right to print the Bible, Cambridge had not exercised that right since the year 1589; but in 1628 a duodecimo Testament was published at Cambridge, by the printers to the University, and the following year Thomas and John Buck issued the first Cambridge Bible. (Dore, p. 339).
The University of Oxford did not begin to print Bibles until the year 1675, when the first was issued in quarto size; the spelling was revised by Dr. John Fell, Dean of Oxford. (Dore, p. 346).
In England, the printing of the Authorized or King James Version of the Bible (KJV) and the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) of 1662 is the monopoly of the Royal Printer, by virtue of a patent first granted to Christopher Barker in 1577. Only the University Presses of Cambridge and Oxford are permitted by royal charter to override this monopoly; one other publisher, originally Scottish, is an accepted interloper. (M. H. Black, The Oxford Companion to the Bible, 1993, p. 617).
By its royal charter of 1534, the University of Cambridge had acquired the perpetual right to appoint three printers, who could print “all manner of books.” The right preexisted Barker’s patent, and was taken to cover Bibles, so Cambridge printed a Geneva Bible in 1591 and its first KJV in 1629. Oxford acquired a similar charter in 1636, and in the 1670s printed Bibles. (Black, p.618).
Once again, the evidence shows that the attacks against the KJV are unwarranted.
An objection to the KJV which often arises today is that when first printed the KJV contained the Apocrypha. It was placed between the Old and New Testament, which was common for English Bibles in those days. However, they did not consider the Apocrypha inspired scripture. They placed it between the Testaments as historical record and Jewish poetry. This is noted in the Preface to the Geneva Bible:
These books that follow in order after the Prophets unto the New Testament, are called Apocrypha, that is books, which were not received by a common consent to be read and expounded publicly in the Church, neither yet served to prove any point of Christian religion, save in as much as they had the consent of the other Scriptures called Canonical to confirm the same, or rather whereon they were grounded: but as books preceding from godly men, were received to be read for the advancement and furtherance of the knowledge of the history, and for the insurrection of godly manners: which books declare that at all times God had an especial care of his Church and left them not utterly destitute to teachers and means to confirm them in the hope of the promised Messiah, and also witness that those calamities that God sent to his Church, were according to his providence, who had both so threatened by his Prophets, and so brought it to pass for the destruction of their enemies, and for the trial of his children.
Likewise, the translators of the Authorized Version did not give the Apocrypha the respect they had given the Holy Scriptures. In addition to placing the Apocrypha between the testaments, the translators did not entitle it on the cover page as they had the Old and New Testaments. The cover page in the 1611 edition makes no mention of the Apocrypha whatever. The statement reads, “The Holy Bible, Conteyning the Old Testament, and the New.” When the Apocrypha is introduced between the two testaments, the introduction simply reads, “Books called Apocrypha.” Additionally, both the Old and New Testaments have elaborate engravings placed at the beginning of each testaments; the Apocrypha does not.
Furthermore, the translators of the Authorized Version did not malign the canonical books the way they did the Apocrypha. At 1 Esdras 5:5 the margin states, “This place is corrupt,” a marginal reading nowhere found in either of the testaments. In the addition to the book of Esther they noted, “The rest of the Chapters of the Booke of Esther, which are found neither in the Hebrew, nor in the Calde.”
A popular argument used to oppose the KJV is to ask which edition of the KJV is the preserved word of God. The thought is to assume that the text of the Authorized Version has been changed. If changes in the text have occurred, then there would be justification for additional revisions such as we have today. The truth of this is that the text has not really been changed at all. The revisions of the KJV dealt with the correction of early printing errors, or the formation of the text to reflect today’s style of writing and spelling. The verses, however, have remained the same.
There have been four major revisions of the Authorized Version. They took place in 1629, 1638, 1762, and 1769. Our current editions reflect the revision of 1769. The 1762 revision was the work of Dr. Paris of the University at Cambridge. The work of this revision laid the foundation for most modern editions of the text. He made extensive use of the italics and modernized most of the spelling. His edition also added several marginal references. The 1769 edition came from Oxford, and was the work of Dr. Balyney. In this edition several additional revisions were made in correcting earlier printing errors, spelling, and expanding marginal and introductory notes. This edition has become the standard by which modern texts are printed.
This can be illustrated by the following example from Galatians 1:1-5. However, some of the style of printing cannot be illustrated in the class as e-mail will not permit such changes in fonts.
King James Version
King James Version
|1. Paul an Apostle not of men, neither by man, but by Iesus Christ, and God the Father, who reised him from the dead,||1. Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)|
|2. And all the brethren which are with me, vnto the Churches of Galatia: 3. Grace be to you and peace, from God the Father, and from our Lord Iesus Christ;||2. And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: 3. Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,|
|4. Who gaue himself for our fins, that he might deliuer vs fro this present euil world, according to the will of God,&our Father. 5. To whom be glory for euer and euer, Amen.||4. Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: 5. To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.|
The difference between the early editions of the King James Bible and current ones would reflect the differences in both spelling and the way a word was written, and minor adjustments to the text. Thus *fro* becomes *from,* and *God,&our Father* becomes *God and our Father.* *Iesus Christ* becomes *Jesus Christ,* and *deliuer vs* is changed to *deliver us*. There are also changes in certain words as to capitalization. *Apostle* or *apostle,* and *Churches* or *churches.* Likewise, some words are italicized that were not italicized before; such as *be* and *from* in verse 3. The text, however, has not been altered.
Other revisions sought to correct printing errors. Sometimes a word was omitted by the printer, or words were printed twice. These were corrected in order to produce the text as the translators gave it. One edition, for example, left out the word *not* in a few of the Ten Commandments, thus earning it the nickname of *The Wicked Bible.* Even today with computerized checking of the text, printing errors can occur. This does not mean that there is no preserved word of God, nor does this mean that the text of the KJV is corrupt. It does mean that sometimes printers have made mistakes, and the four major revisions of the KJV have sought to correct such errors.
Again, it must be asserted that the text of the KJV has come to us unaltered. What has changed is the correction of printing errors, changes in punctuation and italics, orthography and calligraphy. This was verified by the American Bible Society in a report published in 1852 (after the fourth major revision of the KJV took place) entitled Committee on Versions to the Board of Managers. An additional report was issued in 1858 by the ABS entitled, Report of the Committee on Versions to the Board of Managers of the American Bible Society. Apart from the changes just listed, the reports stated that, “The English Bible as left by the translators has come down to us unaltered in respect to its text.” (1852, p.7. Also see the 1858 report, pp. 1-20).
This is further attested to by scholar and collector of early English Bibles, John R. Dore. In a study published by the Royal Printers in 1888, Dore stated, “That pearl of great price, the English Bible of 1611, remained so long without alteration, that many of us had forgotten that it was only one of a series of versions.” (Dore, p.iii). Notice that Dore stated that in all the revisions of the KJV, it has remained so long without alteration. It is with confidence that the Bible-believer can say that their Authorized Version is the same as it was in 1611.
For almost four-hundred years now God has blessed the King James Bible. It taught many of our forefathers to read, and most how to live. It was the Bible that united God’s people, regardless of their denomination. And, it has been responsible for sending more souls to heaven than any of its predecessors. Even though the NIV is reported to have outsold the KJV for the past few years, the Authorized Version still remains the Bible of the people. A recent poll conducted by the American Bible Society stated that nearly all Americans own at least one version of the Bible. Even with the variety of modern versions available to the English reader, approximately two-thirds of those surveyed claim the Authorized Version as their Bible. The King James Version still remains the most reproduced translation for the purpose of evangelistic outreach.
I close this section of the lesson with a listing of a few testimonies concerning the richness and value of this, the preserved word of God.
The Right Rev. Henry G. Graham (Catholic Historian): “Hence a large band of translators was appointed and in 1611 there was finished and published what has proved to be the best Protestant version that ever appeared–one which has exercised an enormous influence not only on the minds of its readers, but also on English literature throughout the world.” (Where We Got The Bible: Our Debt to the Catholic Church ; Tan Books and Publishers, Inc.; Rockford, Ill.;1911; 22ed. 1987, ; p. 140)
Alexander Geddes (Catholic scholar; 1786): “If accuracy and strictest attention to the letter of the text be supposed to constitute an excellent version, this is of all versions the most excellent.” (as quoted from the preface of the New King James Version; 1982; Thomas Nelson Publishers)
Sir Frederic Kenyon (Textual Scholar): “It is the simple truth that, as literature, the English Authorized Version is superior to the original Greek. It was the good fortune of the English nation that its Bible was produced at a time when the genius of the language for noble prose was at its height, and when a natural sense of style was not infected by self-conscious scholarship. The beauty of the language commended the teaching of the sacred books and make them dear to the heart of the people, while it made an indelible and enduring impression alike on literature and on popular speech.” (The Story of the Bible, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; 1936; 1967 ed. pp. 40,42).
Dr. Andrew Graham (Theologian): In reference to the Revised Version of 1881 “…the Authorized Version has probably sent more souls to heaven than its more accurate successors. The Revised Version is undoubtedly of help in the interpretation of its predecessor, but it has never superseded it.” (“The English Bible” from The Bible Companion, edited by William Neil; McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc. New York; 1960; p. 430)
Dr. F. F. Bruce (Biblical Scholar): “In literary quality it surpasses all its successors; for this reason it has maintained its popularity for over 350 years. The translators had an instinctive appreciation of prose rhythm and general euphony, hence it has been excellent for reading aloud.” (“Which Bible Is Best For You?” Eternity, April, 1974 ).
Dr. Charles C. Ryrie (Theologian): “Well, there are some odd things about what is still the greatest translation. And isn’t it amazing, after 360 years with all the good new translations, really none has supplanted the King James. Someday, someone will, perhaps, but I wouldn’t want to bet on which one, yet, because no one has really come to the fore. Still the work that these men did, started in the very peculiar way, by this rather peculiar king, has survived and became the cornerstone of our language, really. And it’s a great, great book.” (“Oddities of the King James Bible” in The Christian Librarian, Vol. 18, No. 1 & 2, October, December, 1974, p. 16).
Revised Version (1881): “…its simplicity, its dignity, its power, its happy turns of expression…the music of its cadences, and the felicities of its rhythm.” (Preface)
American Standard Version: “We are not insensible to the justly lauded beauty and vigor of the style of the Authorized Version, nor do we forget that it has been no part of our task to modernize the diction of the Bible.” (Preface)
The Modern Language Bible (New Berkeley Version): “We are in turn with the ‘Authorized Version’ of 1611 in fidelity to the Messianic Promise,..” (Preface)
New King James Version: “For nearly four hundred years, and throughout several revisions of its English form, the King James Bible has been deeply revered among the English-speaking peoples of the world. The precision of translation for which it is historically renowned, and its majesty of style, have enabled that monumental version of the Word of God to become the mainspring of the religion, language, and legal foundations of our civilization.” (Preface)
New Revised Standard Version: “In the course of time, the King James Version came to be regarded as ‘The Authorized Version’. With good reason it has been termed ‘the noblest monument of English prose’, and it has entered, as no other book has, into the making of the personal character and the public institutions of the English-speaking peoples. We owe to it an incalculable debt.”(Preface)
Dr. Bruce M. Metzger (Bible Scholar/Translator): “An outstanding merit of the King James Version is the music of its cadences. The translators were men experienced in the public reading of the Scriptures and in the conduct of public worship. Their choice of the final wording of a passage was often determined by a marvelously sure instinct for what would sound well when read aloud. Take as an example the…translation of Pr. 3:17…The King James Version gives to the verse a perfect melody:..” (“English Versions of the Bible”; The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha; RSV, Oxford University Press, Inc.; 1962; p. 1553)
Bishop Benjamin Westcott (of Westcott and Hort): “From the middle of the seventeenth century, the King’s Bible has been the acknowledged Bible of the English-speaking nations throughout the world simply because it is the best.” (“English Versions of the Bible”; RSV)
Dr. Keith R. Crim (OT Translator for TEV): “Another point of excellence is the natural rhythm of the great prose passages, a feature that made the King James Version especially well-suited for public reading. Sound and sense were blended in a happy combination. And so when the Bible Societies were founded in the early years of the nineteenth century there was a great translation ready for them to distribute, a translation that had proved its value.” (“Translating The Bible Into English: The First Thousand Years”; The Bible Translator; Vol. 25, No. 2; April 1974; p. 220)
The New Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia: “Early Jacobean prose is seen at its best in the Authorized Version of the Old and New Testaments (1611), the joint work of 47 scholars, which was not only the mainstay of the Protestant faith but a rich resource from which innumerable Englishmen have learned to use their native language.” (Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc., 1993 under English Literature, The 17th Century)
Compton’s Encyclopedia: “One of the supreme achievements of the English Renaissance came at its close, in the King James Bible…It is rightly regarded as the most influential book in the history of English civilization…the King James Version combined homely, dignified phrases into a style of great richness and loveliness. It has been a model of writing for generations of English-speaking people.” (Compton’s Encyclopedia, Online Edition. Downloaded from America Online, May 26, 1995)
Merit Students Encyclopedia: “The greatest English Bible is the Authorized, or King James, Version. Based on Tyndale’s translation and original texts, it was produced in 1611 by six groups of churchmen at the command of King James I. The King James Bible became the traditional Bible of English-speaking Protestants. Its dignified and beautiful style strongly influenced the development of literature in the English language. The influence can be seen in the works of John Bunyan, John Milton, Herman Melville, and many other writers.” (Merit Students Encyclopedia; Vol. 3; Crowell-Collier Educational Corporation; 1967, 1972 ed. p.p. 137, 138 Rev. Holt H. Graham; Rev. Joseph M. Petulla; Mr. Cecil Roth)
Ernest Sutherland Bates (Literary Editor): “As far as literary value is concerned, however, the King James Version, produced when the language was younger and more flexible, is unlikely ever to be superseded. Its position as a world classic seems to be as secure as that of Homer, Dante, or Shakespeare, and it is the only translation in all literature of which that can be said.” (The Bible: Designed To Be Read As Living Literature; Simon and Schuster Publishing, New York, NY.; 1936; 21st ed. 1965; p. 1236)
George Bernard Shaw (Author): “The translation was extraordinarily well done because to the translators what they were translating was not merely a curious collection of ancient books written by different authors in different stages of culture, but the word of God divinely revealed through His chosen and expressly inspired scribes. In this conviction they carried out their work with boundless reverence and care and achieved a beautifully artistic result…they made a translation so magnificent that to this day the common human Britisher or citizen of the United States of North America accepts and worships it as a single book by a single author, the book being the Book of Books and the author being God.” (The Men Behind the King James Version, by G. S. Paine; Baker Book House; Grand Rapids, Mich.; 1959, 1977ed., pp. 182-183).
Amy Clampitt (Poet): “If one lives to a sufficient age, the day is bound to arrive in discovering a kind of bedrock delight in the curmudgeonly I-told-you-so of the Hebrews prophets, when the rhetoric of the King James Version has the aspect not of a stumbling block but rather of a bulwark, and the ring of it becomes almost contemporary.” (Essay “The Poetry of Isaiah” from Out of the Garden: Women Writers on the Bible, ed. by Christina Buchmann and Alima Celina Spiegel; New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1994)
Lew Sarett (Author): “I have studied the Bible, King James Version, carefully. I was interested in its literary beauty, in the factors that contribute to the nobility, power, and economy of its expression.” (Our Roving Bible: Tracking Its Influence Through English and American Life, by Lawrence E. Nelson, Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, p. 262)
Maurice Hindus (Newsman of Russian-Jewish descent): “I have traveled far and wide over this earth, and I have never been without a King James Version of the Bible. Like thousands of men in my profession, I have found its lucid and majestic prose an inestimable help in my work.” (Ibid. p. 227).
Dr. James W. Peebles (African-American Theologian): “Many slaves who learned to read and write did so by using the King James Version as a basic textbook. This held true even after the slaves were freed. Most Blacks who were not able to attend school, which was the majority of the black population, especially in the South, learned to read by studying the words from the King James Version. . .Considering these momentous thoughts and occasions that have been for so long in the hearts and minds of black people is the reason why the King James Version was used for this translation. It is the most respected version among black people in the African diaspora. Regardless of its weaknesses and inadequacies, it is far more effective at addressing Africa than most of the newly revised modern editions.” (The Original African Heritage Study Bible)
Eudoro Welty (Southern Author): “How many of us, the South’s writers-to-be of my generation, were blessed in not having gone deprived of the King James Version of the Bible? Its cadence entered into our ears and our memories for good. The ghost of it lingers in all our books.” (cited by Barbara Binswanger and Jim Charlton, “Songs of the South,” from the July 1995 issue of Reader’s Digest; p. 73)
Sir Winston Churchill: “The scholars who produced this masterpiece are mostly unknown and unremembered. But they forged an enduring link, literary and religious, between the English-speaking people of the world.” (The King James Bible Translators; Olga S. Opfell; Jefferson and London: McFarland, 1982)
General Colin Powell (as cited by David Roth): ” ‘I’m a dyed-in-the wool, unreformed Episcopalian of the 1928 Prayer Book,’ Powell told an interviewer recently. For Powell this statement packs a lot of meaning. His point is not that he likes his religion dusty and old, without feeling, and steeped in hollow ritual. Rather it is a nostalgic comment. Powell finds recent reforms in the ancient, deeply rooted church of his childhood troubling. Yes, he loves the cadence of the King James translation. He finds the seemingly timeless and transcendent worship and traditional hymns spiritually stirring.” (Sacred Honor, pp. 132-133)
Charlton Heston (Actor; Moses in the 10 Commandments): “And of course there’s the King James translation itself. It’s been described as ‘the monument of English prose’ as well as ‘the only great work of art ever created by a committee.’ Both statements are true. Fifty-four scholars worked seven years to produce the work from the extant texts in Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and English. Such an undertaking can be expected to produce great scholarship, but hardly writing as spare and sublime as the King James. . .The authors of several boring translations that have followed over the last fifty years mumble that the K.J.V. is ‘difficult,’ filled with long words. Have a look at the difficult long words that begin the Old Testament, and end the Gospels: ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; darkness was upon the face of the deep.’ and ‘Now, of the other things which Jesus did, if they should be written every one, I suppose the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.’ Shakespeare aside, there’s no comparable writing in the language, as has been observed by wiser men than I. Over the past several centuries, it’s been the single book in most households, an enormous force in shaping the development of the English language. Carried around the world by missionaries, it provided the base by which English is about to become the lingua franca of the world in the next century. Exploring it during this shoot was one of the most rewarding creative experiences of my life.” (In the Arena: An Autobiography, pp. 554-555)
QUESTIONS FROM STUDENTS
Dr. Holland, Could you please supply me with some information and verses about the New King James Versions?
During the course of these lessons I have received several questions from students, as the one listed above, concerning the NKJV. It would seem appropriate to make comments about that translation at this time.
In 1979 the NKJV was released in the New Testament by Thomas Nelson Publishers. The whole Bible was published in 1982. Its goal was unique from other modern versions in that the NT was translated from the Textus Receptus, instead of the Critical Text as most modern versions are. Thus, many of the verses which have been omitted from modern versions can be found in the NKJV. Therefore, many who reject modern translations and favor the TR find the NKJV an acceptable modern version of the Bible.
When first published, the translators claimed the NKJV was the fifth revision of the KJV of 1611. Even the name, New King James, shows an association with the Authorized Version. However, as we have seen in this lesson, the revisions of the KJV which predate the NKJV were proper revisions which did not change the text. This cannot be said of the NKJV. In fact, it is not a revision at all. Instead, it is a new translation of the OT Masoretic Hebrew Text and the NT Traditional Greek Text based on the findings of modern linguistical scholarship from a conservative theological basis. A few differences between the NKJV and its predecessor are listed below.
|Son or Servant||The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; . . . (Acts 3:13 KJV)||The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, . . . (NKJV. Also in Acts 3:26; 4:27; and 4:30)|
|Deity Changed||And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; … (Rev. 1:6 KJV)||and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, . . . (NKJV)|
|God or Rock||Art thou not from everlasting, O LORD my God, mine Holy One? we shall not die. O LORD, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction. (Habakkuk 1:12 KJV)||Are You not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O LORD, You have appointed them for judgment; O Rock, You have marked them for correction. (NKJV)|
|Godhead or Divine Nature||Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, . . . (Acts 17:29 KJV)||Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, . . . (NKJV. However in Rom. 1:20 and Col 2:9 the NKJV switches back to Godhead)|
|Comforter or Helper||And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; (John 14:16 KJV)||And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, (NKJV. Also in John 14:26; 15:26; and 16:7)|
|Corrupt or Peddle||For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: . . . (2 Cor. 2:17 KJV)||For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; . . . (NKJV)|
|Satan or Accuser||Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand. (Psalm 109:6 KJV)||Set a wicked man over him, And let an accuser stand at his right hand. (NKJV)|
|Saved or Being Saved||For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor. 1:18 KJV)||For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (NKJV. Also in 2 Cor. 2:15)|
|Jesus or He||And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, . . . (Mark 2:15 KJV)||Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, . . .<<(NKJV)|
The NKJV is suppose to be easier to read than the KJV. Of the following verses, which do you find harder?
|Numb. 21:14||Wherefore it is said in the book of the wars of the LORD, What he did in the Red sea, and in the brooks of Arnon,||Therefore it is said in the Book of the Wars of the LORD: Waheb in Suphah, The brooks of the Arnon.|
|Acts 17:22||Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.||And Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious;|
|Matt. 27:27||Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers.||Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him.|
|Matt. 20:2||And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.||Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.|
|1 Kings 10:28||And Solomon had horses brought out of Egypt, and linen yarn: the king’s merchants received the linen yarn at a price.||And Solomon had horses imported from Egypt and Keveh; the king’s merchants bought them in Keveh at the current price.|
|Psalm 43:1||Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation: O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man.||Vindicate me, O God, And plead my cause against an ungodly nation: Oh, deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!|
|Acts 27:17||Which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, strake sail, and so were driven.||When they had taken it on board, they used cables to undergird the ship; and fearing lest they should run aground on the Syrtis Sands, they struck sail and so were driven.|
These are only a few examples of the differences between the KJV and NKJV. It should become clear that the NKJV is not truly the fifth revision of the Authorized Version, but is a retranslation of the texts.
Yours in Christ Jesus,