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  Holy Bible King James version

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.






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Holy 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 reading!

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.

More Rick Hill Articles


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