A Look at the King James Bible as it Turns 400

Four centuries after being published for the first time, the King James Bible still retains a prominent spot in the hearts of many practicing Christians. A recent survey conducted by Lifeway Research found that 67 percent of all adults who own a Bible have a copy of the King James version. Out of those surveyed who read the Bible at least once a month, 82 percent read from the King James Bible.

Nothing can match the influence of the King James Bible on the English-speaking world. It has introduced the Bible to millions of people over the past 400 years and is the foundation many modern versions of the “good book” use in their translations of Christian scripture.

Here is a look at some key facts about the King James Bible:

* King James I of England commissioned 47 translators working in London, Oxford and Cambridge to produce a new translation from the original Hebrew and Greek texts. It took seven years to produce this definitive version of the old testament and new testament.

* Much of the text from the Bishop’s Bible published in 1568 is preserved in the King James Bible. The new testament produced by William Tyndale in 1526 also had a heavy influence on later bibles, including the King James version. An estimated 75 percent of Tyndale’s work was eventually incorporated into the final King James text. Other translations were consulted in producing the final product, including the Geneva Bible, the Coverdale Bible and Matthew’s Bible.

* It was the third English translation authorized by royal mandate. The first was the Great Bible, printed during the reign of Henry VIII, and the second was the Bishop’s Bible. The King James Bible supplanted both versions by the beginning of the 18th century and became the version of the Bible used by the Anglican Church and several other Protestant denominations.

* Originally, the team of English translators included the Apocrypha in their translation. This section of books was prominent in translations used by the Catholic Church, like the Vulgate or the Douay-Rheims Bible, but it was quickly dropped from the King James version.

* A number of verses included in the King James version are not continued in modern translations as they are considered to be interpolations by Biblical scholars, according to Bart D. Ehrman in his book “Misquoting Jesus.” Four verses apiece from Mark and Acts, for example, are omitted from the text of the New International Version (NIV) that originally appeared in the KJV.

* Verses found in the King James Bible that are omitted in some modern translations include: Matthew 17:21,18:11, 23:14; Mark 7:16, 9:44, 11:26, 15:28; Luke 17:36, 23:17; John 5:4, Acts 8:37,15:34, 24:7, 28:29 and Romans 16:24.

* Many modern English language translations modernize pronouns and verbs commonly used in the King James Bible. For example, the New American Standard Version does not use pronouns like “thou,” “thee,” “thy” or verbs like “art, hast, hadst, didst.” It replaces them with modern English equivalents and restructures wording to fit grammar rules of the modern English language.

* With the discovery of more ancient Hebrew and Greek Biblical texts in modern times, many translations since the King James Version rely on older manuscripts previously not available to translators who worked on the King James.

* Some Bibles, like the Revised Standard Version, have drawn ire from conservative Christian denominations for introducing gender neutral language not contained in the King James Version.

Sources:

Bart D. Ehrman, “Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why,” HarperCollins, 2005.