In Defense of the King James Version

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?

Also see:;

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5 Responses to In Defense of the King James Version

  1. Mormons revere the Bible as the word of God.The Holy Bible is one of the greatest gifts that God has given to man. English-speaking Mormons use the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

  2. rogerdhansen says:

    According to Time magazine (9 May 2011):

    “The KJV was not a book of poetry or philosophy or music or mystery but something of all these, which is one reason its rhythms remain embedded in our language 400 years after its publication on May 2, 1611. . .”

    “In 1604, England’s King James convened a group of scholars to translate Scriptures from the Hebrew and Greek into English as a way to consolidate his power; the Archbisop of Canterbury banned a competing version to help protect the interest of British printers. The KJB (or KJV) proceeded to dominate for centuries; even today, KJV purists say the new translations can’t compare. . .”

  3. roger hansen says:

    “It is not by chance or coincidence that we have the Bible today,” says Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorom of Twelve Apostles. He explains that the Bible exists because of the obedience of righteous individuals who followed the promptings to record sacred experiences and teachings, as well as the faith and courage of others who later sacrificed much to “protect and preserve” the Bible. Credit is also due, he says to men such as John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, and Johannes Gutenberg, who translated and published the Bible in languages that ordinary people could understand and read. “I believe even the scholars of King James had spiritual promptings in their translation work,” he says.

    May 2, 2011, marks the 400th anniversary of the first publication of the King James Version of the Bible.


  4. rogerdhansen says:

    According to a short piece in the “Ensign” (Aug 2011) titled “Joseph Smith and the King James Bible”:

    “Today, English-speaking Church members use the LDS edition of the King James Version of the Bible. Based on the doctrinal clarity of latter-day revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Church has held to the King James Version as being doctrinally more accurate than recent versions.”

  5. Pingback: The Jefferson Bible | Tired Road Warrior

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