2nd May 2011

Happy Anniversary, KJV!

The first of a series

“Iesus answered, and saide vnto him, If a man loue mee, he will keepe my words: and my Father will loue him, and wee will come vnto him, and make our abode with him. He that loueth mee not, keepeth not my sayings, and the word which you heare, is not mine, but the Fathers which sent mee.”
John 14:24 (original KJV of 1611)

Much will be written this year about the King James Version—the Authorised Bible for British people—which is 400 years old this year. There will be stories about how it came into being, how the bishops and academics were appointed by king James I, how they proceeded, and the years it took to completion. Even discussion about some of the mistakes—one version was called the ‘Wicked Bible’ because the seventh commandment was printed as “Thou shalt commit adultery”, omitting the highly important ‘not’.

All of that is interesting, but it is not the real importance of this translation for Christians. Consider how many generations of Christians have come to Christ through the words of the KJV. The aim of the translators was to make the word of God clear to ordinary people. And they succeeded, possibly beyond their wildest imaginations.

Its simplicity in vocabulary and use of plain English—it deliberately was kept to the fewest number of different English words possible—yet sublime in how the English was used to convey subtle nuances contained in the original, is masterly—and important for arriving nearer to the truth than any translation before that date.

This was the first English translation that does not have blood on its hands, in that those who translated it did not do so with fear for their lives ever before them as they worked. But still it incorporated much of the words that earlier translators had used, Tyndale, Wycliffe and others.

Today we have many bible translations, even a ‘New’ King James Bible (though that is now nearly 30 years old!). But take an hour out from your busy life sometime this year—why not May 2, which is the actual date marking its debut back in 1611—and read a passage. Take your time; preferably read it aloud, because the KJV was designed to be read aloud; and marvel that for 400 years God’s word has been told in the ringing cadencies and telling phrases first penned four centuries ago, but still bristling with meaning today.

Most merciful Father, thank you for the men who set themselves the task of producing the Word of God so that all could understand. They could have no idea of the harvest their labours allowed, riches that spread all around the world to your glory. In Jesus’ name we pray.

Study by John Stettaford 

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