The King James Bible (KJV, Authorized Version (AV) or King James Bible (KJB)) is an English translation of the Bible. It was first published in 1611 and has had an enormous impact on subsequent English translations of the biblical text and on English literature in general. The works of famous writers, such as John Bunyan, John Milton, Herman Melville, John Dryden and William Wordsworth, show a strong influence of its lexicon and syntax.
It was written in Early Modern English, even though some of the linguistic and grammatical structures used in it were already considered archaic at the time it was published.
In addition to being referred to as the 1611 Bible, in the United States it is commonly called the King James Version, while in the United Kingdom it is called the Authorised Version. It owes its name to the monarch James I of England.
The Greek text used by the translators of the King James Version is commonly called Textus Receptus, which in turn had its beginnings in the early 1500s, when the first printed Greek texts were made. The Complutensian Bible was a polyglot Bible, published in several volumes. The fifth volume, which included the Greek text of the New Testament, was printed in 1514. However, the Greek text of Erasmus, printed in 1516, was the first to be marketed. For this reason and others, the text prepared by Erasmus surpassed the Complutensian text in popularity and exerted the greatest influence on all the texts that emerged during the following centuries.
After Erasmus” text had faced several revisions, Robert Estienne, commonly called Stephanus, published successive editions of the Greek text. His first two editions were composites of Erasmus” text and the Complutensian text. However, the third edition (1550) was based mainly on the fourth and fifth editions of Erasmus” text. This 1550 edition gained wide acceptance in England, and for many is synonymous with the Received Text.
However, it was not until 1624 that the appellation Received Text, or in Latin Textus Receptus, was actually coined, but then this was from the prologue to the third edition of the Greek text published by Bonaventure and Abraham Elzevir. The words were, as described by Bruce Metzger, part of “a more or less causal phrase announcing the edition (what modern publishers might call the ”blurb”).” The phrase boasted in Latin that the text presented was “the text that is now received by all.” Thus was born the phrase Textus Receptus, or Received Text.
The text published by the Elzevir brothers was taken mainly from the text published by Theodore Beza in 1565. Beza”s text showed its inheritance from that of Estefanus, and, finally, from that of Erasmus. On this basic text, common to Erasmus, Stephanus, Beza and the Elzevir brothers, rest all the Protestant English translations that were made from the Greek language before the 19th century, including the King James Version. According to Schaff-Herzog”s New Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, “The Textus Receptus…. resolves itself essentially into that of the later edition of Erasmus”.
As we stated earlier, no translation is due the reverence that many have for the King James Version. Moreover, even if the King James Version represents the scholarly translation of the Greek, because of the Greek text that lies behind it, it is perhaps even somewhat less deserving of such high esteem than some other translations. Bruce Metzger writes:
“So superstitious has been the reverence accorded to the Textus Receptus that in some cases attempts to criticize or amend it have been regarded as akin to sacrilege. Although its textual basis is essentially a handful of tiny manuscripts collected recently and at random, and in a dozen passages its interpretation is supported by unknown Greek witnesses” (The Text of the New Testament, p. 106).
The vast majority of textual variations between the Textus Receptus and later texts (which are largely based on older manuscripts that have been discovered or made available only in the last 150 years) are of no significance whatsoever. Often, the variants are such that they are not distinguishable at all after they have been translated into English. In former times, variants represented some scribe”s effort to supplement a synoptic record with a detail legitimately provided in the record of some other synoptic. Occasionally, however, variants are more serious.
Although much credit is due to Erasmus of Rotterdam for actually making the Greek text available, the text he presented was not of good quality. Half of the dozen or so manuscripts used by Erasmus were all of recent origin. Most, if not all, were from the 14th century, even though two may have been produced as early as the 12th. He had only one manuscript containing the book of Revelation, and this was missing the final leaf, which contained the last six verses of Revelation. For these verses, Erasmus turned to the Vulgate, a Latin translation of the scriptures. Erasmus translated the Latin back into Greek. Thus, for these verses, the Greek text was devised which in the future came to be translated into English in the King James Version. Even though his assumption may be close, it will not be exactly correct. Thus, some words that have never been found in any Greek manuscript of Alexandrian type, were incorporated in the text of Erasmus, and in turn, in the Textus Receptus and in the King James Version. For example, in Revelation 22:19, the phrase “book of life” in the King James Version should be “tree of life”, according to all known Greek manuscripts.
In other passages Erasmus also placed in his text words and phrases found in the Latin Vulgate, but not supported by virtually any Greek manuscript. Thus, in Acts 9:5-6, the King James Version inherits from the Vulgate by way of Erasmus the following words:…. it is hard for you to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said to him…
We should note that these words indeed rightfully belong to Paul”s record of his conversion as recorded by Luke in Acts 26 (verses 14-15), and, therefore, no factual error has been introduced in this instance.
An earlier version was the Geneva Bible. It was the main Bible of 16th century English Protestantism and used by William Shakespeare, Oliver Cromwell, John Knox, John Donne and John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim”s Progress (1678). It was one of the Bibles taken to America on the Mayflower (Pilgrim Hall Museum has collected several Mayflower passenger Bibles). The Geneva Bible was used by many English dissenters, yet was respected by Oliver Cromwell”s soldiers at the time of the English Civil War, in the pamphlet “The Pocket Bible of Cromwell”s Soldiers.” It competed until the Geneva edition was banned for the King James Bible to be the only one in England in 1644.
The New King James Version (NKJV) is a modern translation of the Bible published by Thomas Nelson, Inc. The New Testament was published in 1979. The Psalms in 1980. The complete Bible came out in 1982. It took a total of 7 years to complete. The Anglicized edition was originally known as the Revised Authorized Version, but the title NKJV is now universally used.
Like William Tyndale”s translation and the Geneva Bible, the Authorized Version was translated primarily from Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic texts, though with secondary reference to both the Latin Vulgate and more recent scholarly Latin versions; two books of Apocrypha were translated from a Latin source. Following the example of the Geneva Bible, words implied but not actually in the original source were distinguished by being printed in a different type (albeit inconsistently), but otherwise the translators explicitly rejected word-for-word equivalence. FF Bruce gives an example from Romans chapter 5:
2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only so, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation worketh patience:
The English terms “rejoicing” and “glory” represent the same word in the original Greek (Χααριε). In Tyndale, Geneva and the Bishops” Bible, both instances are translated as “rejoicing.” In the Douay – Rheims New Testament – both are translated as “glory.” Only in the Authorized Version does the translation vary between the two verses.
In obedience to their instructions, the translators did not provide a marginal interpretation of the text, but in some 8,500 places a marginal note offers an alternative English wording. Most of these notes offer a more literal rendering of the original (introduced as “Heb,” “Chal,” “Gr,” or “Lat”), but others indicate a variant reading of the source text (introduced by “or”). Some of the annotated variants are derived from alternative editions in the original languages, or from variant forms cited in the parents. More commonly, however, they indicate a difference between the literal original language reading and that of the recent Latin versions preferred by translators: Tremellius for the Old Testament, for the Apocrypha. In thirteen places in the New Testament (e.g., Luke 17:36 and Acts 25: 6) a marginal note records a variant reading in some Greek manuscript copies; in almost all cases reproducing a counterpart textual note in the same place in Beza”s editions. Some more extensive notes clarify biblical names and units of measure or currency. Modern reprints rarely reproduce these annotated variants, although they are found in the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible. In addition, there were originally some 9,000 Scripture cross-references, in which one text was related to another. These cross-references had long been common in Latin Bibles, and most of those in the Authorized Version were copied without alteration from this Latin tradition. Consequently, early editions of the KJV retain many verse references from the Vulgate, for example, in the numbering of the Psalms. At the beginning of each chapter, the translators provided a brief description of its contents, with verse numbers; these are rarely included in full in modern editions.
Also in obedience to his instructions, the translators indicated words ”supplied” in a different typeface; but no attempt was made to regularize the cases in which this practice had been applied in the different companies; and especially in the New Testament, it was used much less frequently in the 1611 edition than in the future. In one verse, 1 John 2:23, a complete clause was printed in Roman type (indicating a reading derived chiefly from the Vulgate, though one for which the later editions of Theodore de Beza had provided a Greek text.
In the Old Testament, translators translate the Tetragrammaton YHWH by “the LORD” (in later editions in capital letters as “the LORD”), or “the LORD God” (for YHWH Elohim, יהוה אלהי), except in four places by ” IEHOVAH ” ( Exodus 6: 3, Psalm 83: 18, Isaiah 12: 2 and Isaiah 26: 4) and three times in a combined form (Genesis 22:14 , Exodus 17:15, Judges 6:24). However, if the Tetragrammaton occurs with the Hebrew word adonai (Lord), then it is translated not as the “Lord Jehovah” but as the “Lord God” (Psalm 73:28, etc.). In later editions as “Lord GOD” with “GOD” in small capitals indicating to the reader that God”s name appears in the original Hebrew.
For their Old Testament, the translators used a text that originated in Daniel Bomberg”s editions of the Hebrew rabbinical Bible (1524
Unlike the rest of the Bible, the translators of the Apocrypha identified their source texts in their marginal notes. From these it can be determined that the books of the Apocrypha were translated from the Septuagint, primarily from the Greek Old Testament column in the Antwerp Polyglot, but with extensive reference to the counterpart text of the Latin Vulgate and the Latin translation of Junius. The translators record references to the Sistine Septuagint of 1587, which is substantially an impression of the Old Testament text of the Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1209 , and also to Aldus Manutius” 1518 edition of the Greek Septuagint. However, they had no Greek texts for 2 Esdras, or for the Prayer of Manasseh, and Scrivener discovered that here they used an unidentified Latin manuscript.
The translators apparently made no first-hand study of ancient manuscript sources, not even those which, like the Codex Bezae, would have been readily available to them. In addition to all earlier English versions (including, and contrary to their instructions, the Rheimish New Testament, which in their preface they criticized); they made extensive and eclectic use of all printed editions in the original languages then available, including the Old Syriac New Testament printed with an interlinear Latin gloss in the Antwerp Polyglot of 1573. In the preface, the translators acknowledge the translations and consulting commentaries in Chaldee, Hebrew, Syriac, Greek, Latin, Spanish, French, Italian, and German.
The translators took the Bishops” Bible as their source text, and where they departed from that in favor of another translation, this was most commonly the Geneva Bible. However, the degree to which the Bishop”s Bible readings survived into the final text of the King James Bible varies greatly from company to company, as does the propensity of King James translators to write their own sentences. John Bois”s notes from the General Revision Committee show that they discussed readings derived from a wide variety of patristic versions and sources; explicitly including both Henry Savile”s 1610 edition of the works of St. John Chrysostom and the Rheims New Testament, which was the primary source for many of the alternative literal readings provided for the marginal notes.
Several Bible verses in the King James Version of the New Testament are not found in more recent Bible translations, where they are based on modern critical texts. In the early 17th century, the Greek source texts of the New Testament used for the production of Protestant Bible versions relied primarily on manuscripts of the late Byzantine text type, and with minor variations contained what became known as Textus Receptus. With the later identification of much older manuscripts, most modern textual scholars value the evidence of manuscripts belonging to the Alexandrian family as the best witnesses to the original text of the biblical authors, without giving it, or any family, automatic preference.
One of the main concerns of the translators was to produce a Bible that was appropriate, dignified and resonant in public reading. Although the written style of the Authorized Version is an important part of its influence on English, research has found only one verse, Hebrews 13: 8, for which the translators debated the literary merits of the wording. While they stated in the preface that they used stylistic variation, found multiple English words or verb forms in places where the original language employed repetition, in practice they also did the opposite; for example, 14 different Hebrew words were translated into the English word “prince.”
In a period of rapid linguistic change translators avoid contemporary expressions, tending towards forms that were once already slightly archaic, as indeed they were and became. The pronouns thou
The Authorized Version is noticeably more Latin than earlier English versions, especially the Geneva Bible. This is partly due to the scholarly stylistic preferences of several of the translators, several of whom admitted to being more comfortable writing in Latin than in English, but it was also, in part, a consequence of the royal prohibition against explanatory notes. Thus, where the Geneva Bible might use a common English word and gloss its particular application in a marginal note, the Authorized Version tended to prefer a technical term, often in Anglicized Latin. Consequently, although the King had instructed the translators to use the Bishops” Bible as the base text, the New Testament in particular owes much stylistically to the Catholics. The Rheims New Testament, whose translators had also been concerned to find English equivalents for the Latin terminology. In addition, the translators of the New Testament books transcribe the names found in the Old Testament in their Greek forms rather than the forms closer to the Hebrew of the Old Testament (e.g., “Elijah” and “Noe” for “Elijah” and “Elijah.) Noah “, respectively).
While the Authorized Version is among the best-selling critical translations of the modern New Testament, it differs substantially from it in several passages, mainly because they are based on original manuscripts that were not accessible (or not as highly regarded) in the early 17th century. In the Old Testament, there are also many differences from modern translations that are based not on manuscript differences, but on a different understanding of the vocabulary or grammar of ancient Hebrew by the translators. For example, in modern translations, it is clear that Job 28: 1-11 refers to mining operations, which is not at all clear from the text of the Authorized Version.
The King James Version contains several mistranslations; especially in the Old Testament, where knowledge of Hebrew and related languages was uncertain at the time. Most of these are minor and do not significantly change the meaning compared to the source material. Among the most commonly cited errors is the Hebrew of Job and Deuteronomy, where רֶאֵם “Re”em” with the probable meaning of “wild-ox, aurochs,” is translated in the KJV as “unicorn”; following in this the Vulgate unicornis and several medieval rabbinic commentators. The KJV translators note the alternative rendering, “rhinocerots” in the margin at Isaiah 34: 7. On a similar note, Martin Luther”s German translation also relied on the Latin Vulgate at this point, consistently translating רֶאֵם using the German word for unicorn, “Einhorn.” Otherwise, translators on several occasions misinterpreted a Hebrew descriptive phrase as a proper name (as in 2 Samuel 1:18, where ”the Book of Jasher” סֵפֶר הַיׇּשׇׁר properly refers to a work by an author by that name, but should be rendered as “the Book of the Upright”.