Bible King James Version
by Richard Hill, Ph.D.
The Holy Bible, King James version was first published in 1611. Although not the first translation into the “vulgar [i.e.,
not Latin or Greek] tongues” of the Holy Bible, King James
version eclipsed all earlier efforts. Four-hundred years later,
it is still the most-read rendition of the scriptures in English.
Why is it still so popular?
In a word, the language. A labor of love by fifty-four of Britain’s
then most eminent scholars, The King James version is elegantly
poetic. Some scholars believe Shakespeare, well-known and admired
by King James himself, had a hand in the final draft.
If the writing is so good, why did further translations appear?
1. Accuracy is most often cited for the Revised English version
that appeared in the late 19th century. Older manuscripts than
those available to the King James translators were discovered.
Also, translations closer to the meaning of the original Greek,
Latin, and Hebrew were agreed upon by committees of Bible scholars
whose stated aim was not to “modernize” but rather
be truer to original intent.
2. Clarity became a larger issue in the first half of the 20th
century, when various publishers “simplified” and/or
clarified scriptures to reflect modern English usage. Even conservative
Christians like C.S. Lewis saw the need for a Bible that could
be read and understood by the “common man.” They argued
not only that the Holy Bible, King James version contains hundreds
of archaic words and phrases, but also that the actual meaning
of words has changed from 17th century usage.
3. Readability is the word of the age since the mid 20th century.
Starting with J.B. Phillips’ Letters to a Young Church (a
translation of the New Testament), and the Revised Standard version
(which both C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot had a hand in), many “plain
language” versions of scripture have appeared.
What other more “accessible” versions challenged the
Holy Bible, King James Version?
To name just a few, Today’s English Version was published
in 1966, and the Living Bible, a “paraphrase” in modern
speech, debuted in 1971. Further translations of scriptures into
idiom and even Hawaiian pidgin ensued, and in recent years, annotated
versions of the Bible have found marketing niches with children,
women, and a wide array of cultures and subcultures.
If I like the Holy Bible, King James Version, is it okay to stick
with it? I don’t want to be misled . . .
Many take strong positions on this issue, but I favor a practical
approach. Over a lifetime of daily reading, the serious lay student
of the Bible has time to read and compare different versions.
For the past several years, I’ve read from various editions
of The Bible in One Year, a publishing venture that helps a busy
person stick with daily study of the scriptures. One year I read
the King James version, the next year the New International version,
and so on.
But here’s the bottom line: If for whatever reason the Holy
Bible, King James version (or the Holy Bible, Hawaiian pidgin
version for that matter) is what you feel most comfortable with,
by all means keep reading it. We don’t want to be so fastidious
about what version we trust that we end up arguing rather than
Is the Holy Bible, King James Version, still readily available?
Definitely! You can buy it in stores or on line in a seemingly
infinite variety of packaging, from tiny pocket versions to gold-inlaid,
leather bound official family Bibles with pages to record births,
baptisms, and deaths. While perusing the internet, I even saw
advertised “exact replicas” of the King James Bible
distributed in Shakespeare’s day. Hundreds of websites offer
these and more, and since the material is no longer copyrighted,
you can get the complete text online for free at several sites.