Four Hundred Years of the King James Bible


1611 King James Version cover-page

1611 King James Version cover-page

Four hundred years of the King James Bible.

2011 marked the 400th anniversary of the Authorized King James Version of the Bible, making it the longest used English translation ever produced.

Does God’s inspiration of the Bible extend to translations?

Today, some Christians are criticized for believing the King James Version translation is “inspired” by God. Most Christians believe the “original” Hebrew and Greek manuscripts of the Bible were inspired, but not translations from these.

I found some interesting Bible trivia related to this. Did you know that the belief that God could “inspire” translations as well goes back to the 1st century?

When Alexander the Great conquered Judea in 332 B.C., he treated the Jewish people and their religion with respect. He also spread the Greek culture and language throughout the Middle-east. The Jews, in return, translated the Hebrew Old Testament into the Greek language. They translated the Septuagint, which means “the Seventy” for the 70 Hebrew scholars who translated it.

In the New Testament era, there were Helenistic Jews who could no longer read or speak Hebrew. These Helenistic Jews had to use the Greek Septuagint Old Testament in order to read God’s Word. They came to believe that God, according to His foreknowledge, had “inspired” the Greek Septuagint just for them! Strangely enough, most of the Old Testament scriptures quoted in our New Testament are from the Septuagint.

Do I believe that God “inspires” translations of His Word? No. But I do believe in God’s providence. Anyone who reads the history of the translation of the Bible into English has to be totally blind not to see God’s providential hand at work in bringing His Word to the English speaking world.

Whether the KJV is “inspired”, I do not know, but I do believe the text underlying the King James Version was providentially preserved by God to our generation. What I mean by “text” is, even those parts not found in the most ancient surviving manuscripts and ommitted from most modern translations, i.e., the ending of Mark 16:9-20; Jesus sweating blood in Luke 22:43-44; the woman taken in adultery in John 7:53-8:11; the Trinitarian rendering of 1 John 5:7; the longer ending to the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:13 (which is actually a quote from David’s prayer in 1 Chronicles 29:11); and the reference to the angel stirring the water in John 5:4 are true historical records preserved to our generation by the Holy Spirit in the majority of surviving manuscript copies.

True, these may have been “oral traditions” inserted by scribes, but even the Old Testament shows obvious signs of editing, such as in the record of Moses’ death. Yet, the Jews do not omit this historical record just because Moses could not have written about his own death.

The goal of most modern translations of the Bible is, through the science of Textual Criticism, to produce a purer form of the Biblical text (i.e., closer to the original) than the supposedly edited text we have received through scribal traditions.

However, in the publication of any literature, it is highly unlikely that any author’s original manuscript will get published as is, without editing. The editorial process is crucial to the final publication of any literary work. I believe this was true in the formation of what we now call The Holy Bible. Who knows what oral traditions and fragmented historical records Moses had to resort to in compiling the Genesis record?

Psalm 12:6-7 in the NKJV says this “The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. You shall keep them, O LORD, You shall preserve them from this generation forever.” What is meant by “purified seven times”?

Is it possible that the text of the Bible handed down to us through scribal tradition is the final revised, edited and updated edition that God providentially preserved to our generation? I would never teach this as a “doctrine”, but I do believe it could be a historical possibility.

Because of this, I personally rely on the New King James Version for personal study and memorization. But I do read and respect the scholarship behind other modern translations such as the New American Standard Version, the New International Version and the English Standard Version.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: