- King James version of the Bible
- The Protestant Reformation, appealing as it did to biblical authority, spurred the development of better and more accurate translations of the Bible. As Protestantism gained ground in England, an initial English translation was completed by William Tyndale (New Testament, 1525) and Miles Coverdale (Old Testament, 1535). Coverdale's Bible became the basis of the 1539 Great Bible, an official translation issued by the British government in the name of King Henry VIII. British Puritan exiles issued the infamous Breeches Bible (or Geneva Bible, 1560). The nickname came from the rendering of Genesis 3:7 in which Adam and Eve are said to have clothed themselves in "breeches" made from fig leaves. Anglicans issued the Bishops' Bible (1568) during the reign of Elizabeth I.By the end of the century, a consensus emerged that a new common translation was justified by the accrued linguistic knowledge, but a bill before Parliament to such an end was laid aside until the early years of King James I (r. 1603-25). At the Hampton Court Conference of 1604, a Puritan leader, John Reynolds (15491607), won the new king's approval to move forward. A committee of scholars from both Oxford and Cambridge Universities was chosen. They were then divided into work teams: 10 scholars at Westminster Abbey were assigned Genesis through 2 Kings (Old Testament), and seven others Romans through Jude (New Testament). From Cambridge University, eight were assigned 1 Chronicles through Ecclesiastes (Old Testament), and seven others worked on the intertestamental Apocrypha. seven Oxford scholars translated Isaiah through Malachi (Old Testament), and eight others worked on the Gospels, Acts, and Revelation (New Testament).The finished product was to be sent to the king for his approval. There was some concern that James, known to favor Catholicism, would stop this project of Anglican and Puritan churchmen. Among the tactics to ensure his support was to render the Hebrew word ob, apparently a kind of pagan Canaanite medium, as witch, to take advantage of James's notorious support of the contemporary antiwitch craze in the British Isles. Thus came about the famous quote from Exodus 22: 18, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live."Calvinist theology appears to have affected the translation. For example, in Psalm 8:5, the word elohim, commonly translated "God," was translated as "angels." Thus, "Thou has made him [man] a little lower than God," became "Thou has made him a little lower than the angels." The literal rendering of Psalm 8:5 seemed to some Protestants to challenge their affirmation about the sovereignty of God and the depravity of humanity.These several problems aside, the King James Version was far superior in accuracy and style to those that preceded it. The finished copy dedicated to the king was presented to James and with his approval published in 1611. It would have a significant effect upon the development of post-Elizabethan English.The King James Version put an end to any further attempts to translate the Bible into English until the 19th century, though some minor revisions were made in 1629, 1638, 1762, and 1769. The King James Version was the Bible of English-speaking Protestants for the next 300 years.Eventually, the study of biblical texts, including the discovery of an increasing number of Greek texts older than those available to the King James scholars, and the obvious changes in the English language itself, prompted new attempts to translate the Bible. A new translation by some 50 scholars in England was begun in 1879 and published in 1885. An American group issued a similar revision in 1901. By this time, there were hundreds of Protestant churches, most of which did not participate in the revision activity. Many Christians rejected the modern language that replaced what had become the "sacred" and familiar language of the King James Version. Thus, in the 20th century, a number of denominations chose to continue to use the King James Version as their official translation. Among those groups was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.in the Fundamentalist-Modernist debate, the King James Version became another divisive issue. in the mid-20th century, a number of prominent Bible scholars associated with the larger liberal Protestant denominations published the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. Defenders of the King James Version complained about changes to familiar passages often used in Bible memorization exercises, and changes that were said to undermine essential Christian affirmations. some Fundamentalist spokespersons have argued that the underlying Hebrew and Greek texts used by the translators of the King James Version are superior to the ones used by the modern versions. Some even believe that the Textus Receptus, upon which the King James Version was based, was inspired and inerrant. A small vocal group maintains that the English King James Version was itself divinely inspired and inerrant.Defenders of the primacy of the King James Version include Bob Jones University; Henry Morris of the institute for Creation Research; Jack Chick, founder of Chick Publications; Regular Baptist pastor David otis Fuller; and independent Baptist pastor Peter s. Ruckman.The arguments for the special role of the King James Version can be traced to Benjamin G. Wilkinson (d. 1968), a Seventh-day Adventist theologian and college president. In 1930, he wrote Our Authorized Bible Vindicated. His attack on modern biblical scholarship was picked up in the 1950s by J. J. Ray and hence passed to Fuller and Ruckman in the 1970s. Fuller and Ruckman have forced Baptist Bible scholars to defend their use of more recently discovered texts and especially the Hort-Westcott text, a modern edited Greek text of the New Testament commonly used for Bible translation.See also Bible translations.Further reading:■ The Interractive Bible "The King James Version Inspired?" Available online. URL: http://www.bible.ca/b-kjv-only.htm\#bloodline. Accessed on March 15, 2004■ Sakae Kubo and Walter Specht, So Many Versions? Twentieth Century English Versions of the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1975)■ Jack P. Lewis, The English Bible from KJV to NIV: A History and Evaluation (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 2nd ed., 1991)■ Bruce Metzger, The Bible in Translation: Ancient and English Versions (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2001)■ Peter Ruckman, King James Onlyism versus Scholarship Onlyism (Pensacola, Fla.: Bible Believers Press, 1992)■ F H. A. Scrivener, The Authorized Edition of the English Bible (1611), Its Subsequent Reprints and Modern Representatives (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1884).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.