By The Librarian
The King James Version (KJV), also known as the Authorized Version (AV) or King James Bible (KJB), is an English translation of the Christian Bible for the Church of England that begun in 1604 and completed in May 1611.
James was born in 1566 and was crowned in 1567 as James VI of Scotland. When he was crowned King James I of England in 1603, he became the ruler of both countries. In 1604, he took the title “King of Great Britain.”
He endorsed the making of a fresh Bible translation. He stipulated that it should commend itself to all by omitting any offensive notes or comments as did other previous versions in circulation.
King James promoted the project. Eventually, 47 scholars in six separate groups across the country prepared sections of the text. Making use of the work of both Tyndale and Coverdale, these Bible scholars basically revised the Bishops’ Bible. However, they also drew from the Geneva Bible and the Roman Catholic Rheims New Testament of 1582.
James himself was a respected Bible scholar, and the translation’s dedication to “the most high and mighty prince, James” acknowledged his initiative. As head of the Church of England, James was seen to be exerting his authority to bring the nation together.
As the British Empire expanded throughout the world, Protestant missionaries spread its use. Since many who translated the Bible into local languages were unfamiliar with Biblical Hebrew and Greek, the King James Version in English became the basis for these local translations.
The Cambridge History of the Bible concludes: “Its text acquired a sanctity properly ascribable only to the unmediated voice of God; to multitudes of English-speaking Christians it has seemed little less than blasphemy to tamper with the words of the King James Version.”
Today, according to the British Library, “The King James, or Authorised, Version of the Bible remains the most widely published text in the English language.” Some estimates put the number of copies of the King James Version produced in print worldwide at over one billion!
Over the centuries, many have believed that the King James Version is the only “true” Bible. In 1870, work on a full revision of it started in England. Later a minor American revision of the resulting English Revised Version was published as the American Standard Version.* In a more recent revision, in 1982, the preface to the Revised Authorised Version says that effort was made “to maintain that lyrical quality which is so highly regarded in the Authorised Version” of 1611.
It is not that the divine name, Jehovah, does not appear at all in the King James Version. It does appear in four places, namely Exodus 6:3; Psalm 83:18; Isaiah 12:2; and Isaiah 26:4. The American Standard Version of 1901, however, restored the name to some 7,000 of its rightful places in the Bible.
In 1907 a Bible Students Edition of the King James Version was published in the United States of America for the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. It included an extensive appendix called the “Berean Bible Teachers’ Manual.” Later, Jehovah’s Witnesses printed the King James Version on their own presses. By 1992 the Witnesses had produced 1,858,368 copies.
Without question, the King James Version is a literary masterpiece, appreciated and valued for its unparalleled beauty of expression.
King James was gay. (This was news to me by the way)
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