In 1604 King James I of England authorized a translation of the Bible into English, and 47 scholars from the Church of England set to work with the Bishop’s Bible as their guide. The translators also referred to the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic texts as needed, approving one another’s work as they aimed for accuracy in a translation that would promote church unity and meet church approval. Indeed, James instructed the team to use the word “church” instead of “congregation.”
To abide by other instructions provided by the king, the translators included no marginal notes unless a word or phrase in the original language needed further explanation. In addition, the translation included all of the books canonized by Jewish scholars as well as the deuterocanonical books written in Greek between the testament eras. Eventually referred to as the “Apocrypha,” which means “hidden,” those books remain clearly in sight in Catholic, Orthodox, and other Bibles but, a couple of centuries or so ago, were removed from most editions of the King James Version (KJV) published for Protestant readers.
With or without the deuterocanonical books aka apocryphal books aka Apocrypha, the poetic KJV has been a best-seller for four centuries, greatly influencing art, literature, and poetry in England, America, and other cultures too. A variety of editions (with or without the study articles and footnotes added in the last century or two) can be found in most bookstores, but I wanted a copy of the entire KJV as first published, so I purchased the one shown in the ad below.
Binding: This thick, slick-surfaced paperback has nice quality pages tightly affixed with glue. Since I use my copy for a desktop reference rather than straight reading, the pages have not separated, but then, they don’t get very rugged treatment.
Size: At 5” wide by 7.5” long, the book stand over 2” thick! And, it really does stand up on its own! The plump size, however, will not open flat or stay opened but works just fine when hand-held.
Font: Somewhat on the small side, the font provides clear black ink on stark white paper for easy reading.
Notes: In addition to upfront introductory information about the history of KJV and other English translations, this edition groups explanatory notes to each book of the Bible at the back of the book.
KJV: Most Christians of all church backgrounds know the KJV very well as a beautifully poetic translation with gorgeously quotable verses! Most also think of the KJV as being highly accurate since, unlike many new translations, scholars aimed for a word-for-word rendering into the contemporary language of the time. But times change, and so do the meanings of words.
To many readers the use of “thee” and “thou” for “you” is quaint and readable, but the unfamiliar verb forms with their “ith” endings can slow comprehension the way well-written poetry often does. Nevertheless, the KJV remains beloved to anyone who loves literature or grew up with this familiar version.
This particular edition, which includes all of the books of The Book, also provides Christians with a less familiar look at deuterocanonical books, such as one by Baruch – the scribe who assisted the prophet Jeremiah. Since Baruch wrote during the Babylonian captivity, he often addressed reasons for the exile, lamenting the misery of their predicament, but calling the people of God to repentance, praise, and prayer.
For example, Baruch 3 begins: “O LORD Almighty, God of Israel, the soul in anguish, the troubled spirit, crieth unto thee.”
After asking God to hear his prayer and the cries of his people, Baruch 3:4 continues with an unusual prayer I triple-checked to be sure I’d correctly quoted words and spelling: “O LORD Almighty, thou God of Israel, hear now the prayers of the dead Israelites, and of their children, which have sinned before thee, and not hearkened unto the voice of thee their God: for the which cause these plagues cleave unto us.”
Other books in this edition of the full KJV include wisdom sayings, inspiring stories, and additions to such books as Esther. You’ll also find the KJV translations of I and II Maccabees as well as other historical writings that fill the gap between testaments and provide an interesting “read.”
© 2012, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. If you share the article with your church, Bible study, or other group, please tell everyone where you found it. Thanks. For more Bible topics, see Blogs by Mary.