This year is the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible. Mormon are particularly attached to this particular translation. According to Dallas Robbins writing in Dialogue (Mar 2011), for Latter-day Saints
the ‘concise solid stamp’ of the KJV is not only accommodated by mainstream Mormon life but so thoroughly integrated that we often speak in Elizabethan English with little thought of this linguistic inheritance.
Robbins makes several points for staying connected to the KJV.
- It has a rich linguistic heritage. For example, certain idioms have had a tremendous influence on our vernacular.” See David Crystal’s book: Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language.
- It has had a marked aesthetic influence on American fiction, notably on Herman Melville, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Saul Bellow, Marilynne Robinson, and Cormac McCarthy. See Robert Alter’s book: Pen of Iron: American Prose and the King James Bible.
- It has a complex history of how the translation was commissioned, who the translators were, and how it all came together in the end. See Gordon Campbell’s book: Bible: the Story of the King James Version, 1611-2011.
Robbins ends by providing two quotes from Campbell’s book:
For secular readers, it is a repository of cultural values, a great work of literature, and a realization of the power and beauty of the English language. For believers, it is much more, because it renders into English content that is inspired.
(It) is the fountainhead of Bible translations into English, and, although the finest modern translations are models of good scholarly practice, they are admired rather than loved. It is the King James Version that has been loved by generations of those who have listened to it or read it to themselves or others; other translations my engage the mind, but the King James Version is the Bible of the heart.
I’m not sure what Robbins’ point is. Is he against replacing the KJV as the Mormon translation of choice, or is he just arguing that we keep the KJV as an icon of history? Since Mormons love to quote from the Bible to make their doctrinal points, isn’t it important that we use the most accurate translation available? I love the KJV of the Bible, but if we are quoting Christ, shouldn’t we also care about what he really said?