Wednesday, May 2, 2012

King James Authorized Version

The first English translations of the Holy Scriptures were undertaken in the fifteenth century. The Wycliffe Bible pre-dated the printing press (Gutenberg, c. 1440) but nevertheless had a wide circulation by way of manuscript production.

The work of William Tyndale in the first quarter of the sixteenth century, along with the work of Myles Coverdale resulted in the Great Bible of 1539 and under the auspices of Henry VIII became the standard for use in the Church of England. When Mary I ascended to the throne in 1553 she returned the Church to the fold of the Roman communion. Many of the English reformers left the country. Geneva, under John Calvin, became the center of Latin biblical scholarship, and the English amongst the followers of the reformed faith developed the Geneva translation of the Bible. It was a revision of previous English Bibles based on comparative studies of the original languages.

When Elizabeth I came to the throne the Church of England was reestablished as the church in England. It was determined that both the Great Bible and the Geneva Bible failed to conform to the ecclesiology and episcopacy favored by the Church of England, particularly with regard to its stance on the ordination of the clergy. Thus in 1568 a revision known as the Bishops’ Bible was introduced for use in the church. However, the Geneva Bible continued to be much more widely read, since it was more readily available in inexpensive copies.

When James VI of Scotland ascended to the English throne as James I he convened the Hampton Conference in 1604. His Majesty ordered that a new translation of the Holy Scriptures be made, and he gave specific instructions that certain words in the original languages would be translated in such a way as to conform to the structure of the Church of England.*  For example, “ecclesia” should be translated as “church” and never as “congregation.” The official Authorized King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible was published by the King’s printer, Robert Barker, on May 2, 1611.

Thus ends the necessary historical background which must precede my own observations. Or, as everyone says these days, “That being said...” (*growl*) I grew up reading the KJV, and I still find it the most satisfying. Although I read from many other translations and paraphrases of scripture, I suspect that I shall always prefer the King James. Or, as the old saw goes, “If the King James was good enough for Paul and Silas, it’s good enough for me.” There are those, I must say, who carry their preference for the King James to the extreme, going so far as to castigate and vilify other translations and translators. Say what one might about paraphrases, translators in prayerful good conscience make every effort to convey the original intent in language that the reader is familiar with. I have one friend who refers to the KJV as the “King Jesus Version.” Excuse me if I find this a bit extreme. After all, Jesus spoke and read Aramaic, and billions of people today read no English at all!)

What is important in all of this is that the Word of God (The Holy Bible) should be available, accessible, and read by all, for in it are the Words of eternal life!

*There is little doubt that James's efforts in this as in all his actions were designed to ensure his continued reign in England.  He famously said, "No bishop, no king."  On the matter of the Puritans' desire to reduce or eliminate certain conventions and ceremonies within the church, he is quoted as saying, " Shoes were worn when England was Catholic, so why don't Puritans go barefoot?"

1.  Grimm, Harold J.  The Reformation Era.  The Macmillan Company, New York, 1954.
2.  Wikipedia


Shelly said...

Your last sentence is spot on. I do rotate my reading among several translations, and my go to one this year is the NKJV. I love the way it reads aloud, also.

Vee said...

Using the designation "King Jesus Bible" seems a little extreme. I had never heard that one. The NIV and the NAB are the translations I use for devotional reading - the NIV for ease of reading and the NAB because it contains books not in Protestant versions. (No intention of introducing controversy here!)

I still prefer the KJV when I read the Psalms. The poetic language can't be duplicated with modern English.

Secondary Roads said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Secondary Roads said...

The problem with KJV, in my opinion, is that modern folk have no concept of what thee and thou meant in the time of King James I (familiar/intimate or formal?). Also, how do you deal with, "tender bowels of mercy?"

vanilla said...

Shelly, different versions give one an appreciation for the development of language. I like the NKJV, though one has to get used to some of the name variants.

Vee, I have a very old Bible that contains the Apochrypha, but it largely gathers dust. Agreed that the Psalms must be read in KJV.

Chuck, the Jamesian language is archaic and few there be that grasp its subtleties. Possibly part of my preference is based on familiarity.

Sharkbytes said...

I grew up with KJV, and was taught that it was THE Bible. I personally like the NIV a lot, but still have most of my memorized portions in KJV.
My fav volume is NIV/Living in parallel columns.

vanilla said...

Shark, BBBH favors ASV. What matters is that we stay in the Word! (I even read Gene Peterson's paraphrase The Message. Went to school with him ages ago.)