That the King James Version is still being published 380 years after it first arrived in history is amazing. Since its introduction, there have been dozens of new "Bibles" put on the market to replace it, but none have succeeded. This alone is strong evidence that it is the version God has placed His stamp of approval on. One time a person of prominence asked a Christian for one reason why he should believe the Bible is the word of God. The believer responded with two words: "The Jew." His reasoning was since the Jewish people have been severely persecuted for most of their history, and many other nations have targeted them for complete annihilation, the fact they still exist with the same religion, culture, and language they began with proves the Bible to be true. This can be said of no other ancient nation. The Bible predicted in several places that the Jews would never be completely wiped from the face of the earth, and it also predicted their return to their land (Jeremiah 30:11, Ezekiel 34:13, 36:24, etc). Unlike the Philistines, Moabites, Amorites, and many other cultures which were once neighbors with Israel, the Jew remains unto this day.
The same can be said about the King James Version. Much like the Jew it has undergone persecution, slander, attempted corruption and annihilation, constant criticism, and the like since the day it was first proposed. That it has endured through the centuries unscathed has much to say about the authority behind it. The Revised Version, which came out in 1885, was published primarily to replace it as the English Bible. To my knowledge, no publisher prints it today! The American Standard Version (1901) is an "Americanized" version of the RV, and it has nearly passed into obscurity also. Why has the King James Version endured while others published to replace it fall by the wayside? What is so special about it? In this chapter we will examine some reasons why we consider it the "King" of Bibles.
When the King James Version was translated the English language was at its peak. By the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries English had already passed through its formative years and had become one of the richest and most expressive languages the world has ever known. The book, The Story Of English, written by Robert McCrum, William Cran, and Robert MacNeil says on page 91 concerning this period:
It is fascinating that English language experts, who make no claim to Christianity, have in some respects a higher regard for the King James Version than many saved Bible scholars! Though these men may not consider the Authorized Version the pure word of God (they may not believe God's word ever existed), they do consider it a "masterpiece" of supreme influence. And who in his right mind would attempt to correct, revise, or in any way tamper with such a masterpiece? One that millions past and present believe to be the very word of God? No one but a professional Bible corrector (Genesis 3). In universities, seminaries, and Bible colleges all over the world there are "scholars" and teachers who systematically tear apart the King James Version and revise it (many of the new versions claim to be a revision of it), claiming to be correcting its (supposed) errors. They would never think of changing or revising the masterpieces of Shakespeare, Bacon, Jonson, or other masters of literature of the period, but they butcher the King James Version under the guise that it does not accurately translate the "original Greek," or that it is based on corrupt manuscripts. As we have pointed out before, there is no "original Greek" in existence, and the manuscripts they charge as "corrupt" represent the majority and are covered with the blood of countless believers. Clearly the Bible corrector's excuses for "improving the King James Version" are nothing but more opinionated HOT AIR!
At this point you may be thinking: "Am I to believe the King James Version is the pure, preserved word of God just because of its richness, vitality, and literary excellence?" No, not entirely, but the fact it was translated when the English language was at its climax is a very strong indication that God was behind it. Who knew that in the early seventeenth century the English language would peak? Who knew that after this period it would become weaker and less able to convey the meaning of Greek and Hebrew words? Why no one but God! Let's take this a step farther. Who knew in 1611 that English would later become the predominate language of the world when in that year less than TWO PERCENT of the world's population spoke it? Again, no one but God (Acts 15:18). The translators themselves did not realize that God was using them to prepare a standard Bible in the "universal language" of the future. Now, English is spoken by one-fifth of the earth's population—over one BILLION people!
In fact, English is not only the standard for absolute truth (KJV), but also the standard for absolute timeabsolute location (longitude and latitude), and absolute temperature (Kelvin system). So the final authority for time, temperature, location, and TRUTH is ENGLISH! The little island country of England has, by God's favor and grace, supplied man with standards to show him his standing in relation to other people, to the world, and most importantly, with God. (Greenwich, England; the prime meridian),
Nowhere in the scriptures does God make any statement or implication that there must be a perfect Bible in every language. He has promised to preserve His word for every generation as we have seen, but He has not promised to preserve it in every existing language. Let's look at the language of the original autographs for a moment. Nearly all of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, however, no nation spoke Hebrew except the Israelites. God was not obligated to give His word in Egyptian, Syrian, Chaldian, or any other language. His word was available to the people in these nations also, but they had to go to the Jews to get it. To the Jews were committed the oracles of God (see chapter 2), and there were provisions in the law to allow strangers (foreigners) to convert to Judaism. Look at Ruth the Moabite for example. She was David's great-grandmother, an ancestor of Jesus Christ.
The same can be said about the New Testament language, Greek. Though it was a more widespread language than Hebrew, there were still millions of people who could not understand it when the New Testament was written. Again, God was not then, or now, obligated to give His word in every existing language, and those who argue He must are ignorant of history and of the scriptures.
God, who will not be intimidated by modern "scholarship," decided to combine His word into one universaldiplomacy, finance, and airlines, as well as of absolute time, temperature, and position. By his grace, God has made His word more available, readable and understandable by putting it in English; much more than it ever was in the "original languages." language to make it more accessible to all men. He knew how English would circle the globe under the British empire and American influence. He knew how in the twentieth century English would be the second language for millions. He knew how it would become the world language of
Another thing we should note here is the King James Version was translated before the great movements of unbelief swept the world. German rationalism, French skepticism, and English deism were not yet in force to affect the mentality of the translators. These philosophies have since then done more harm to the cause of Christ than will be known this side of Heaven. They have turned the majority of educated people into practical atheists. That nearly all the Bible translators since 1611 have been infected by these viruses can be seen by the doubt ("Yea hath God said") they spread by saying there is no infallible Bible on earth. This is one reason why God had His word put in the future universal language in 1611. The King James Version translators had a much more Biblical outlook on God and His word than the translators of today, and this will become apparent in the next section.
Before we move on, let's look at something Dr. William Lyon Phelps, Professor of English Literature in Yale University said as found in the book, Which Bible, edited by David Otis Fuller:
Now as the
English-speaking people have the best Bible in the world, and as it
is the most beautiful monument erected with the English alphabet, we
ought to make the most of it, for it is an incomparably rich
inheritance, free to all who can read. This means that we ought
invariably in the church and on public occasions to use the
Authorized Version; all others are inferior.
Many Christians today are lead to believe that the scholarship behind the new translations is superior to that of the King James Version. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Authorized Version translators were of unparalleled ability, and one would be hard pressed to find a group of translators today of any size who could even equal the ability of FIVE of the men King James selected. It is said of one of them: "his memory and reading were near to a miracle" (John Reynolds). Another was called "mighty in the scriptures" as Apollos was (Thomas Holland). Another was disinherited by his father for leaving the Roman Catholic Church and becoming a Protestant (Laurence Chaderton). One began to read Hebrew at the age of five and attended college at fourteen (John Boys). He sometimes studied in the library from 4 a.m. until 8 p.m. Even while suffering from smallpox he would not neglect his studies. Another (Lancelot Andrewes) had advanced knowledge of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, Arabic, plus fifteen modern languages. He accomplished all of this while "a great part of five hours every day he spent in prayer." This only begins to mention the great ability, accomplishments, and devotion of these men.
Great ability and education can be a curse, however, without
meekness and humility, and the translators had these virtues also.
They were not men who were "puffed up" and who flaunted their
education, but men who were governed by a pious and humble spirit.
This can readily be seen in the dedicatory of the Authorized
Version written by Miles Smith:
So that, if on the one side we shall be traduced by Popish persons at home or abroad, who therefore will maligne us, because we are poor Instruments to make God's holy Truth to be yet more and more known unto the people, whom they desire still to keep in ignorance and darkness: or if on the other side, we shall be maligned by self-conceited brethren, who run their own ways, and give liking unto nothing but what is framed by themselves, and hammered on their anvil: we may rest secure, supported within by the truth and innocence of a good conscience, having walked the way of simplicity and integrity, as before the Lord....
He also says in the translators to the reader (preface):
Not only were the translators of great ability and character, but many of them knew what it meant to suffer for Christ. They endured persecution, hardships, and mistreatment by the hands of the enemies of the gospel. This, however, only refined them, making them more like their Saviour. They not only BELIEVED the words of comfort in the scriptures, they KNEW they were true. As the biographer of William Tyndale (a man of like character who translated an earlier English Version) said as found in, Which Bible, page 259:
But now what piety without truth? What truth (what saving truth) without the word of God? What word of God (whereof we may be sure) without the Scripture? The Scriptures we are commanded to search....
Truly (good Christian
Reader) we never thought from the beginning, that we should need to
make a new Translation, nor yet make of a bad one a good one...but
to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one
principle good one, not justly excepted against; that hath
been our endeavour, that our mark.
So Tyndale thought; but God had ordained that not in the learned leisure of a palace, but amid the dangers and privations of exile should the English Bible be produced. Other qualifications were necessary to make him a worthy translator of Holy Scripture than mere grammatical scholarship... At the time he bitterly felt what seemed to be the total disappointment of all his hopes; but he afterwards learned to trace in what appeared a misfortune the fatherly guidance of God; and this very disappointment, which compelled him to seek his whole comfort in the Word of God, tended to qualify him for the worthy performance of his great work.
One qualification that modern day translators cannot meet is this qualification of suffering. Compared to Tyndale and the Authorized Version translators, they DO assemble in the "learned leisure of a palace" with no threat of persecution to "qualify" them.
Furthermore, in 1611 there were none of the "modern conveniences" such as radio, television, and telephones, to steal the translators time (not to mention corrupt their minds). They were able to meditate and study upon the word without many of the distractions believers endure today. They used their time to carefully examine every variation between the Greek texts and to consider every possible translation for each word. All is clear, God knew what He was doing when He chose the time for His word to be perfected in English and the men to do it.
Furthermore, Dr. Smith states that the intention of the
translators was to make a good translation better so the
English-speaking people could have "one principle" copy of the
scriptures. Also, in a previous quotation from the preface we saw
that they wanted to help the common man out of "ignorance and
darkness" by making the Bible more accessible and understandable.
The aforementioned book, The Story Of English, also mentions
this on page 113 from a secular viewpoint:
The King James Bible was published the year Shakespeare began work on his play, The Tempest. Both the play and the Bible are masterpieces of English, but there is one crucial difference between them. Whereas Shakespeare ransacked the lexicon, the King James Bible employs a bare 8000 words—God's teaching in homely English for everyman.
In this the humility and integrity of the translators is seen. Their goal was not to impress people with their vast learning, or "brow-beat" the less fortunate with their superior intellect, they only wanted to produce a version of the Bible that was as accurate, readable, and simple as possible. How God has blessed their labors. (The translators of the "new Bibles" try to use this same reasoning to justify their "perversions," but later we will see this is not their primary motive at all).