Editor, I have read with some interest the ongoing commentary in Sound off concerning the King James Bible. July 2011 marked the 400th anniversary of this translation of the Bible. There is no doubt that it is the bestselling book in the English language. Its lyrical beauty — especially in Psalms — is without equal. It is much-loved.
However, what many do not realize is that King James I of England and VI of Scotland authorized this work for political as well as religious reasons. James was looking for a way to bring unity to his reign and realized that a common Bible would be a step in the right direction. The Geneva Bible in use at the time was too radical for him because it had margin notes that were decidedly unfriendly to the Church of England and had other notes that seemed to say it was acceptable to remove unjust monarchs. James, believing in the divine right of kings, certainly would not tolerate such a notion in his kingdom. The Geneva Bible was the Bible the settlers at Jamestown and the New England Puritans brought with them.
The world hasn’t stood still in 400 years. Theologians have discovered manuscripts that were older than those available when the King James version was being compiled. These older documents, in many cases, do not include some of the passages that are found in the KJV. As a result, they are left out of the newer translations. Additionally, scholars have developed a better understanding of the cultural practices of the time and have a better grasp of the original Greek. These newer translations are more accurate, readable and understandable.
I know that this will not be of much interest to diehard KJV readers. I believe that the word of God is just that the true believer will find the word regardless of which version is read. While I prefer the NRSV, there are some passages that are definitely better in the King James version.
I would encourage all to become familiar with the history behind the need for newer biblical translations. After all, if you really want to be accurate, you have to read the Bible in original Greek or Hebrew. Most of us cannot do that.
— Charles R. Rogers