In Praise of the King James Version

“Saturday Sermon”

The King James Version of the Holy Bible is my favorite book. Its poetry, stories, wisdom, inspiration and insights are unparalleled.

Early English Translations and William Tyndale’s Monumental Contribution

During Medieval times, the “Age of Faith,” the Roman Catholic Church proclaimed that the Latin Volgate Bible was the only authorized version. Translating the Bible into local languages was heresy. The penalty was death.

This gave the Catholic Church enormous spiritual and temporal power. Since the public did not know Latin, the only way to hear the “word of God” was to attend church. In church they not only heard the word of God, and they also “received wisdom” from the priests.  What the priest said was the word and will of God.

At great risk, John Wycliffe (1320-1384) translated the Latin Bible into English. Forty years after Wycliffe’s death, the Pope ordered his body dug up, burned, and tossed into a river.

William Tyndale (1494-1536) was the first to translate the Bible into English from the original Hebrew and Greek.  

He proclaimed, “If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy who drives a plough to know more of the scriptures than you [priests] do.” (A “plough boy,” like Joseph Smith?)

William Tyndale’s Execution

His spiritual depth and talent were boundless. His poetic style gave us hundreds of popular phrases.

Ultimately, Tyndale was betrayed by a friend and arrested.  He was strangled to death while tied at the stake, and then his dead body was burned. His last words were, “Lord! Open the King of England’s eyes.”

Tyndale’s writing style and poetry were so impressive that the King James translators borrowed heavily from it.  It is estimated that 83% of the KJV New Testament and 76% of the Old Testament came directly from Tyndale.

Greatest Gathering of Bible Scholars

In 1607, forty-seven of the leading Bible scholars in Britain were appointed to six committees to translate the Bible into English. This was the greatest gathering of Bible scholars in history. They translated the Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek.  They also referenced to other translations, especially Tyndale’s.

Preface to King James Version

Oxford. The two committees at Oxford University translated Isaiah to Malachi, and the Gospels, Acts, and Revelation.

Cambridge. The two committees at Cambridge University translated 1 Chronicles to Song and Solomon, and the Apocrypha.

Westminster. The two committees at Westminster translated Genesis to 2 Kings, and the Epistles.

(This division of committees explains why the Greek “agape” was translated “love” in the Gospels and “charity” in the Epistles. The same word was translated two different ways by two different committees. “Love” is the better rendering.)

After four years, the King James Version was published in 1611. In Britain, the King James Version (KJV) became the “Authorized Version” (AV). The Catholic Volgate Bible was no longer recognized.

Neutral and Objective Translators

Dedication to King James

Most modern Bible translations are “slanted” because of the translator’s religious beliefs and personal biases.

Some people believe the King James Version is the most accurate, non-biased, and only acceptable version of the Bible. They claim that later versions were rewritten to suit the biases of the publishers or are incomplete in significant ways.

There are dozens of modern translations of the Bible.  Different Christian denominations have different favorites.  Each version has strengths and weaknesses. 

Commonality: The Most Popular and Widely Accepted Version

The King James Version is the most popular and widely used Bible throughout the world.

In the United States, 55% of Bible readers use the King James Version. The New International Version is used by 19%. The other versions are used by fewer than 10% of Bible readers.

The KJV is “the most influential version of the most influential book in the world, in what is now its most influential language“, “the most important book in English religion and culture“, and “the most celebrated book in the English-speaking world.” (David Crystal)

“The Monument of English Literature” and the Most Quoted Book in History

The King James Version of the Bible is the Monument of English Literature.”

1613 Edition

The KJV was translated during the pinnacle of English poetry, drama, and language.  This was the age of: William Shakespeare, John Milton, John Donne, Ben Johnson, Edmund Spencer, Christopher Marlow, and Francis Bacon,

The KJV was quoted by Hemingway, William Faulkner, Herman Melville,  Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and in Handel’s Messiah,

It is estimated that 6 billion Bibles have been printed, the majority of those being the King James Version. The KJV has been printed in hundreds of languages.

Common Popular Phrases

The KJV contains hundreds of phrases that are common even today.  These popular phrases include:

Psalm 23
  • My brother’s keeper
  • The kiss of death
  • The blind leading the blind
  • Turn the other cheek
  • An eye for a eye
  • A wolf in sheep’s clothing
  • The apple of my eye
  • Sign of the times
  • A fly in the ointment
  • By the skin of your teeth
  • Charity begins at home
  • Eat, drink, and be merry
  • Holier than thou
  • Scapegoat
  • Labor of love
  • Go the extra mile
  • Put words in someone’s mouth
  • Wits’ end
  • The haves and the have-nots
  • Baptism of fire
  • Old as the hills
  • Casting pearly before swine
  • Head on a plate
  • A thief in the night
  • Sackcloth and ashes
  • Fight the good fight
  • Fall from grace
  • Out of the mouths of babes
  • The love of money is the root of all evil
  • The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak
  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
  • A drop in the bucket
  • A leopard cannot change its spots
  • A man after his own heart
  • Ashes to ashes dust to dust
  • Bite the dust
  • Give up the ghost
  • No rest for the wicked
  • Pride comes before the fall

(Sources: “Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language,” David Crystal, Oxford Univ. Press; “Bible” “Bible, English” “Canon” LDS Bible Dictionary; “King James Version,” “William Tyndale” “Tyndale Bible,” “John Wycliffe,” “Bible Translations into English,” “New International Version (NIV),” “New Living Translation (NLT),” “Today’s New International Version (TNIV),” “English Standard Version (ESV),” “New American Standard Bible (NASB),” “New Revised Standard Version (NRSV),” “Revised Standard Version (RSV),” “Common English Bible (CEB),” “HCSB Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB),” Wikipedia)

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