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A Short History of the King James Version of the Bible — 22 Comments

    • Mike, there is no doubt a large number of good sources such as the one mentioned. Many have endorsements of very similar information. I am not a book worm, so I tend to pick and choose if possible. If it is understandable, I am interested.

      • I found it understandable. And challenging at times. But a fascinating insight into much of what was going on in England at the time.

  1. Thank you Maurice for sharing your extensive research. While we have newer translations for our time, just like the KJV was a new translation for its time, I appreciate what you shared about it literary value. Many people memorize Shakespeare because the literature is easy to memorize. Likewise many feel the KJV is easy to memorize. As much as I appreciate newer translations of the Bible, I notice as we get farther away from the KJV, the less and less we are actually memorizing Scripture. While some forget that the KJV is a version and not the original manuscripts, I believe the KJV is a classic that will always have a place in the English culture.

  2. Maurice, words fail me to express the amount of appreciation you have provided for the extensive volumes of information. Much more than I would ever be able to access such as a through and complete comprehensive historical background of the King James Bible. You are truly amazing. Thank you so much.

  3. I love the conclusion of the piece the kind gentleman presented. The bible is the clear record of how God is dealing with man!

  4. Maurice, I enjoyed and appreciate your posting. It is timely as I was searching for the most accurate and authentic version to use in my Bible studies. There are many views out there regarding which is the "right" version to use.

    The NIV is becoming very popular and it is recommended for easy reading. However, from the internet and friends, I was told it is not an ideal version to use for serious studies. Care to share your opinion?

    • I am not a theologian, nor am I a linguist Kelvin, so I cannot really say one is better or worse than another. I accept that all versions have some sort of mandate for their translation. I personally keep in mind John 5:39-40:

      Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. (KJV)

      or, as in a modern translation:

      You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (NIV)

      Both translations give the sense that it is quite possible for us to search the scriptures looking for eternal life yet fail to see Jesus.

      In my own personal Bible study I use the YouVersion app on my iPhone or iPad (simply because it is free) and have access to over thirty English translations or paraphrases. I use the KJV for searches because I am familiar with it, but use a variety for reading. I am often reassured by their similarities and enlightened by their differences.

    • Kelvin, I appreciate your wanting to use the "right" version. We must remember of course that the "right (= original)" version was written in Aramaic, Hebrew (for the Old Testament) and Greek (for the New). And there were numerous copies of numerous ancient manuscripts, many of which had small but occasionally significant differences. So we in the twenty-first century have a problem. What is "right" today? From a scholarly point of view the NRSV is considered "most accurate" - but even that one is not without its difficulties. The REV (Revised English Version) is considered very good by many. The KJV with its traditional language may be hard to set aside by older generations, but let's face it, it is very hard to to make sense of at times - especially Paul's letters. For me at least it is the content and meaning which is important and sacred, not the traditional language.

      I have discovered over the years that, as Maurice pointed out, it is valuable to read a variety of good quality translations (NRSV, REV, NKJV, RSV, NIV) comparing them along with other older ones as you feel you are able. I would also comment that prayerful study is what is needed most. Searching the scriptures is a good discipline. But searching with prayer will lead one closer to the truth. Of that I am convinced. It is good to know that you are searching for what is "right". May you be blessed as you "search the scriptures".

    • It is sort of a hit and miss according to your tastes, Kelvin. English Standard Version, New American Standard Bible, New Living Translation (really good for reading, more in the dynamic category of translations than formal). Today there is a host of word dictionaries and lexicons that one can easily access. Try www.BibleHub.com for some of those, along with commentaries and many versions you can compare with. It's free.

  5. One footnote to Maurice's article. Recent research (primarily original documents that have been found) suggest that the KJV translators did not function as a committee to the extent previously believed, but rather, different portions were parceled out to each for translation. The best translations involve dialog between members of a committee who bring different backgrounds and perspectives to the table.

    As for the "best" translation, as has been stated, there is no best translation. There are many good translations, but all are translated by humans and have some mistakes and biases. The use is a major factor. For devotional reading a dynamic translation (such as NIV or Living Translation) is generally best, because it reads the smoothest. For detailed study a more word literal translation, such as NASB is better. Personally, one of the best translations I have found is the NET Bible, a translation that was created for use online. I have a copy on my smart phone as part of Cadre Bible. I have found it in most cases to accurately reflect the original language and the many notes go quite deep into the challenges of translating. Anyone who has ever looked at NA Greek NT knows that often notes take up half the page. The NET Bible is the only translation I know of that provides a similar emphasis on quality of sources as well as meaning of words.

    • That is quite correct there were six committees, two at each of Oxford, Cambridge, and Westminster. The individual committees worked separately then compared their work with their paired committee. Finally all the work was brought together in one location and a final committee went through it during 1609-10. Lastly, the Archbishop of Canterbury made fifteen ex-committee changes of his own to the final manuscript before it was printed.

    • I really appreciate your comment, Wilton, perhaps because our experience mirrors yours.

      Just last year we read through the Chronological New Living Translation Bible< /em>, and we found it remarkably accurate for a version that followed the original "Living Bible" by Dr Kenneth Taylor, which was only a paraphrase. The current edition appears to be a solid translation that reads very well.

      I also use the NASB for reference and very much enjoy the NET Bible. I was impressed by the translators' goals in translation, and I particularly appreciate your comment on the NET use of sources.

      • My wife got a NLT a while back and we have been using it quite a bit. My perception, like yours is that it is actually a high quality translation. I can't say that I have found any more problems with it than with other translations I trust. She also recently got a Message Bible. It has proved interesting, bringing concepts to life. But I would not consider it highly accurate. It makes for interesting reading and can give useful insights, but if there is any doctrinal or theological intent when using it, a more trustworthy version should always be open beside it.

        I have about ten translations in Cadre Bible on my phone (including Greek NT). I do a lot of my reading and study using the phone. (I also have SS lessons and all EGW and the old and new hymnals on it).

        What many people don't understand is that KJV is not error free. We just have gotten to know its errors. Many consider it the standard to judge other translations by, but that is misguided. If a newer translation differs from KJV and their notion of what the text should say, the new translation is assumed wrong. But in just about every case I've looked at, it is the KJV that is wrong. It isn't really possible to make that judgement without referring back to the original language. Sadly most of those most vocal on this topic are the least qualified--they generally know nothing of the original languages and their theology training didn't go beyond Academy Bible class--but they are certain of their position. I'd love to show them the highly annotated NA27 Greek NT to give them a brief glimpse of what translators have to deal with. Ten manuscripts use one word, fifteen have a different word, five omit the word entirely. Some are older and presumed more accurate. Is it easier to see how a scribe could have omitted the word, or how a scribe could have accidentally added the word--or was the scribe deliberately trying to clarify something (according to his own theological understanding)?

        One translation that bothers me most is NKJV. Many Adventists use it, thinking that because it stays close to KJV it is more accurate than others. It is true that it is more familiar sounding, but as for accuracy, the translators specifically state that they did NOT avail themselves of any of the manuscripts that have been discovered since KJV was translated (including things like the dead sea scrolls) or any of the advances in understanding of the original languages. They simply updated the wording of KJV to more closely match current English usage, which is itself a benefit. But without considering the extensive material that is available now that wasn't available 400 years ago, NKJV must, by definition, be one of the less accurate translations available.

        • I really to enjoy the NLT, too. It is looser in some areas than maybe should be, but over all I love the flow of the language and sentence structures and still get an accurate enough presentation. I have been reading the ESV a good bit of late.

  6. Recent discoveries seem to indicate even more than that. Some of the committee members appear to have taken passages to their individual churches and worked on them alone. We don't know to what extent the committee reviewed the results, but the annotated working documents suggest that some, possibly most of the actual translation was not done in a group setting, but by individuals. Probably the largest continuity factor was actually the three translations you mentioned that hey had access too. The is a lot of commonality to Tyndale's work, in particular.

    • Tyndale's contribution to both Biblical translation and the English language should never be underestimated. He even invented words when no word was currently available. The fact that so much of his wording was retained in the Great Bible and the KJV is testament to the fact that he had done rather a good job of translating in the first place.

  7. Absolutely loved the article and the comments. While I am not a bible scholar I am so grateful that God would move on a kings mind to produce a bible the common man could have,hold,and read and protected it's existence through hundreds of years. It brings tears to my eyes to know how much God loves me, as I learn, in reading my bible in a modern day world that is full of strife and confusion. Whoever translated Isaiah 26:3 and Psalms 119:165 I will be forever grateful. We serve an AWESOME GOD!!! In Christian Love, david.

  8. My gratitude goes to God first, who in His infinite wisdom used finite, mortals to work through confusion and conflicts to produce the bible in its various forms. I applaud the writer of the article, as well as those who made comments, for the grace and professionalism they exercised. As a result, I have been fortified by their contributions. Now, I am more confident in my study of God's word; since in fact, it is the history of God's dealing with mankind.

  9. Brother Maurice is simply the best. Thanks for all that you do to help us on this Christian journey. Got to go order these books. God bless

    • It's a precious article for this particular subject, indeed! You won't be disappointed in the books!

  10. A treasure trove of information for anyone that desires to look into this issue of translations. Well done, Maurice! Thank you for this.

    I like the ESV and NLT, but in another post I have shared that there are many versions I like to go back to. There is no perfect version.


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