The Once and Future Bible: Why We Still Need the KJV

by Stan Guthrie

In 1611, English explorer Henry Hudson, his son John, and six members of the crew faced a mutiny and were set adrift around what is known today as Hudson Bay and were never heard from again. William Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest, was performed for the first time at Whitehall Palace in London. Denmark attacked neighboring Sweden. Two scientists discovered sunspots.

But probably the most significant event of the year, and perhaps in the last half-millennium, has nothing to do with science, exploration, international relations, or theater—though it has much to do with English literature. It is the May 2, 1611, publication by printer Robert Barker of a new Bible translation. Hardly anyone except a few specialists remembers Barker’s name in connection with the project, however. The name that has come to be inextricably linked with it is that of its royal patron, James, addressed by the translators as the “most dread Sovereign.”

In their dedication to the King James Bible, the translators declared their purpose: “the blessed continuance of the preaching of God’s sacred Word among us; which is that inestimable treasure, which excelleth all the riches of the earth; because the fruit thereof extendeth itself, not only to the time spent in this transitory world, but directeth and disposeth men unto that eternal happiness which is above in heaven.”

Called the Authorized Version because it had received the royal imprimatur, what we call the King James Version, or KJV, had a reach that extended down from heaven and did much to transform the earth, touching both prince and pauper. “No other book of any kind ever written in English, perhaps no other book ever written in any other tongue, has ever so affected the whole life of a whole people has this authorized version of the Scriptures has affected the life of the English-speaking peoples.” Thus said Teddy Roosevelt, and the president with his visage carved on Mount Rushmore can be forgiven if he understated the matter just a bit…

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RECOMMENDED RESOURCES:  The Legacy of the King James Bible: Celebrating 400 Years of the Most Influential English Translation / In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture / The King James Study Bible: 400th Anniversary Edition / More suggestions…