The King James Masterpiece


In 1604, King James I of England authorized that a new translation of the Bible into English be started. It was finished in 1611, just 85 years after the first translation of the New Testament into English appeared (Tyndale, 1526). The Authorized Version, or King James Version, quickly became the standard for English-speaking Protestants. Its flowing language and prose rhythm has had a profound influence on the literature of the past 400 years. The King James Version present on the Bible Gateway matches the 1987 printing. The KJV is public domain in the United States.

National Geographic magazine published the marvelous history involving the creation of the Old King James Bible (December, 2011). The article was written by Adam Nicolson, enhanced with beautiful photographs by Jim Richardson. The story opens with, "The Bible of King James. First printed 400 years ago, it molded the English language, buttressed the 'powers that be'—one of its famous phrases—and yet enshrined a gospel of individual freedom. No other book has given more to the English-speaking world." You can read more of what Nicolson  wrote here.

I found history fascinating, because of my bible study experiences many years ago. The easy to read modern bibles were uplifting, but lacked something. There seemed to be a familiar thread that ran through the teachings that was repeated by theologians, but didn't make the creation. Adam was the first human being. He was lonely so God created the woman Eve out of his rib. Then Eve listened to a snake in the forbidden apple tree who convinced her to talk Adam into eating the God forbidden apple if he wanted to become smart. That started the blame game. When God caught up with Adam and Eve (who were now ashamed of being naked), Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the snake. Yeah, it  symbolizes human nature to always blame someone else for the consequences of our personal choices.

Then I discovered the King James Bible. An old friend of my parents heard about my interest and brought me one that he picked up at a used book sale. It had both Hebrew and Greek translations (in English) and cross-references that literally unraveled a big story that made sense. It was like an ancient computer that took you to this or that book in which specific scriptures altogether created a mental picture. Taking the time to unravel the original comment was similar to meditation. This is why John said that "You need not that any man teach you, but rather the Holy Ghost within you." Eventually,  I was noticing more. That's why I call it the living book. The Old Testament that was repulsive in the beginning proved to be a necessary, fascinating  history of where we've been. Here's another look at Adam, Eve and the Serpent.  I'll never forget how surprised the elderly minister of our church was when he learned I knew how to do the cross-reference study. He didn't think anyone knew how anymore.

Adam Nicolson wrote a wonderful story about the King James Bible that puts biblical symbolism into perspective; a view of the past, and glimpse into the future. Times and faces change, but human nature is the same, and tends to repeat mistakes. You might enjoy watching Nicolson's  KJB history video.

King James I and his royal progeny by Willem van de Passe.