"THE HOLY BIBLE,
Conteyning the Old Teſtament,
AND THE NEW:
Newly Tranſlated out of the Originall tongues: & with the former Tranſlations diligently compared and reuiſed, by his Maiesties speciall Comandement.
Appointed to be read in Churches.
Imprinted at London by Robert Barker, Printer to the Kings moſt Excellent Maiestie.
ANNO DOM. 1611 ."
At bottom is:
"C. Boel fecit in Richmont.".
|Full name:||Authorized Version
|Abbreviation:||KJV or AV|
|Complete Bible published:||1611|
|Textual basis:||NT: Textus Receptus, similar to the Byzantine text-type; some readings derived from the Vulgate. OT: Masoretic Text with Septuagint influence. Apocrypha: Septuagint with Vulgate influence.|
|Reading level:||US and Canada Grade 12, US and Canada Grade 8-10|
|Copyright status:||Public domain due to age, publication restrictions until 2039 in the United Kingdom
(See Copyright status)
The Authorized King James Version is an English translation of the Christian Holy Bible begun in 1604 and completed in 1611 by the Church of England. Printed by the King's Printer, Robert Barker, the first edition included schedules unique to the Church of England; for example, a lectionary for morning and evening prayer. This was the third such official translation into English; the first having been the Great Bible commissioned by the Church of England in the reign of King Henry VIII, and the second having been the Bishop's Bible of 1568. In January 1604, King James I of England convened the Hampton Court Conference where a new English version was conceived in response to the perceived problems of the earlier translations as detected by the Puritans, a faction within the Church of England.
James gave the translators instructions intended to guarantee that the new version would conform to the ecclesiology and reflect the episcopal structure of the Church of England and its beliefs about an ordained clergy. The translation was by 47 scholars, all of whom were members of the Church of England. In common with most other translations of the period, the New Testament was translated from the Textus Receptus (Received Text) series of the Greek texts. The Old Testament was translated from the Masoretic Hebrew text, while the Apocrypha were translated from the Greek Septuagint (LXX), except for 2 Esdras, which was translated from the Latin Vulgate.
While the Authorized Version was meant to replace the Bishops' Bible as the official version for readings in the Church of England, it was apparently (unlike the Great Bible) never specifically "authorized", although it is commonly known as the Authorized Version in the United Kingdom. However, the King's Printer issued no further editions of the Bishops' Bible; so necessarily the Authorized Version supplanted it as the standard lectern Bible in parish church use in England. In the Book of Common Prayer (1662), the text of the Authorized Version replaced the text of the Great Bible — for Epistle and Gospel readings — and as such was "authorized" by Act of Parliament. In the United States, the Authorized Version is known as the King James Version. The earliest appearance in print of the phrase "authorized version", to mean this particular version of the Bible, was published in 1824. The phrase "King James version" first appeared in print in 1884.
By the first half of the 18th century, the Authorized Version was effectively unchallenged as the English translation used in Anglican and Protestant churches. Over the course of the 18th century, the Authorized Version supplanted the Latin Vulgate as the standard version of scripture for English speaking scholars.
Throughout most of the world, the Authorized Version has passed out of copyright and is freely reproduced. In the United Kingdom, the British Crown restricts production of the Authorized Version per transitional exemptions from the Copyright Act 1775 (which implemented this clause) in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (Schedule 1, section 13(1)), which expire in 2039. Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, HarperCollins and the Queen's Printers have the right to produce the Authorized Version.
The followers of John Wycliffe undertook the first complete English translations of the Christian scriptures in the 15th century. These translations were banned in 1409 due to their association with the Lollards. The Wycliffe Bible pre-dated the printing press but was circulated very widely in manuscript form, often inscribed with a date earlier than 1409 to avoid the legal ban. As the text translated in the various versions of the Wycliffe Bible was the Latin Vulgate, and as it contained no heterodox readings, there was in practice no way by which the ecclesiastical authorities could distinguish the banned version; consequently many Catholic commentators of the 15th and 16th centuries (such as Thomas More) took these manuscript English Bibles to represent an anonymous earlier orthodox translation.
In 1525, William Tyndale, an English contemporary of Martin Luther, undertook a translation of the New Testament. Tyndale's translation was the first printed Bible in English. Over the next ten years, Tyndale revised his New Testament in the light of rapidly advancing biblical scholarship, and embarked on a translation of the Old Testament. Despite some controversial translation choices, the merits of Tyndale's work and prose style made his translation the ultimate basis for all subsequent renditions into Early Modern English. With these translations lightly edited and adapted by Myles Coverdale, in 1539, Tyndale's New Testament and his incomplete work on the Old Testament became the basis for the Great Bible. This was the first "authorized version" issued by the Church of England during the reign of King Henry VIII. When Mary I succeeded to the throne in 1553, she returned the Church of England to the communion of the Roman Catholic faith and many English religious reformers fled the country, some establishing an English-speaking colony at Geneva. Under the leadership of John Calvin, Geneva became the chief international centre of Reformed Protestantism and Latin biblical scholarship.
These English expatriates undertook a translation that became known as the Geneva Bible. This translation, dated to 1560, was a revision of Tyndale's Bible and the Great Bible on the basis of the original languages. Soon after Elizabeth I took the throne in 1558, the flaws of both the Great Bible and the Geneva Bible (namely, that the Geneva Bible did not "conform to the ecclesiology and reflect the episcopal structure of the Church of England and its beliefs about an ordained clergy") became painfully apparent. In 1568, the Church of England responded with the Bishops' Bible, a revision of the Great Bible in the light of the Geneva version. While officially approved, this new version failed to displace the Geneva translation as the most popular English Bible of the age - in part because the full Bible was only printed in lectern editions of prodigious size and at a cost of several pounds. Accordingly, Elizabethan lay people overwhelmingly read the Bible in the Geneva Version - small editions were available at a relatively low cost. At the same time, there was a substantial clandestine importation of the rival Douay-Rheims New Testament of 1582, undertaken by exiled Roman Catholics. This translation, though still derived from Tyndale, claimed to represent the text of the Latin Vulgate.
In May 1601, King James VI of Scotland attended the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland at St Columba's Church in Burntisland, Fife, at which proposals were put forward for a new translation of the Bible into English. Two years later, he acceded to the throne of England as King James I of England.
The newly crowned King James convened the Hampton Court Conference in 1604. That gathering proposed a new English version in response to the perceived problems of earlier translations as detected by the Puritan faction of the Church of England. Three examples of problems the Puritans perceived with the Bishops' and Great Bibles were:
First, Galatians iv. 25 (from the Bishops' Bible). The Greek word susoichei is not well translated as now it is, bordereth neither expressing the force of the word, nor the apostle's sense, nor the situation of the place. Secondly, psalm cv. 28 (from the Great Bible), ‘They were not obedient;’ the original being, ‘They were not disobedient.’ Thirdly, psalm cvi. 30 (also from the Great Bible), ‘Then stood up Phinees and prayed,’ the Hebrew hath, ‘executed judgment.’
Instructions were given to the translators that were intended to limit the Puritan influence on this new translation. The Bishop of London added a qualification that the translators would add no marginal notes (which had been an issue in the Geneva Bible). King James cited two passages in the Geneva translation where he found the marginal notes offensive: Exodus 1:17, where the Geneva Bible had commended the example of civil disobedience showed by the Hebrew midwives, and also II Chronicles 15:16, where the Geneva Bible had criticized King Asa for not having executed his idolatrous grandmother, Queen Maachah. Further, the King gave the translators instructions designed to guarantee that the new version would conform to the ecclesiology of the Church of England. Certain Greek and Hebrew words were to be translated in a manner that reflected the traditional usage of the church. For example, old ecclesiastical words such as the word "church" were to be retained and not to be translated as "congregation". The new translation would reflect the episcopal structure of the Church of England and traditional beliefs about ordained clergy.
James' instructions included several requirements that kept the new translation familiar to its listeners and readers. The text of the Bishops' Bible would serve as the primary guide for the translators, and the familiar proper names of the biblical characters would all be retained. If the Bishops' Bible was deemed problematic in any situation, the translators were permitted to consult other translations from a pre-approved list: the Tyndale Bible, the Coverdale Bible, Matthew's Bible, the Great Bible, and the Geneva Bible. In addition, later scholars have detected an influence on the Authorized Version from the translations of Taverner's Bible and the New Testament of the Douay-Rheims Bible. It is for this reason that the flyleaf of most printings of the Authorized Version observes that the text had been "translated out of the original tongues, and with the former translations diligently compared and revised, by His Majesty's special command."
The task of translation was undertaken by 47 scholars, although 54 were originally approved. All were members of the Church of England and all except Sir Henry Savile were clergy. The scholars worked in six committees, two based in each of the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, and Westminster. The committees included scholars with Puritan sympathies, as well as High Churchmen. Forty unbound copies of the 1602 edition of the Bishops' Bible were specially printed so that the agreed changes of each committee could be recorded in the margins. The committees worked on certain parts separately and the drafts produced by each committee were then compared and revised for harmony with each other. The scholars were not paid directly for their translation work, instead a circular letter was sent to bishops encouraging them to consider the translators for appointment to well paid livings as these fell vacant. Several were supported by the various colleges at Oxford and Cambridge, while others were promoted to bishoprics, deaneries and prebends through royal patronage.
The committees started work towards the end of 1604. King James I of England, on 22 July 1604, sent a letter to Archbishop Bancroft asking him to contact all English churchmen requesting that they make donations to his project.
Right trusty and well beloved, we greet you well. Whereas we have appointed certain learned men, to the number of 4 and 50, for the translating of the Bible, and in this number, divers of them have either no ecclesiastical preferment at all, or else so very small, as the same is far unmeet for men of their deserts and yet we in ourself in any convenient time cannot well remedy it, therefor we do hereby require you, that presently you write in our name as well to the Archbishop of York, as to the rest of the bishops of the province of Cant.[erbury] signifying unto them, that we do well, and straitly charge everyone of them ... that (all excuses set apart) when we prebend or parsonage ... shall next upon any occasion happen to be void ... we may commend for the same some such of the learned men, as we shall think fit to be preferred unto it ... Given unto our signet at our palace of West.[minister] on the 2 and 20 July, in the 2nd year of our reign of England, France, and of Ireland, and of Scotland xxxvii."
They all had completed their sections by 1608, the Apocrypha committee finishing first. From January 1609, a General Committee of Review met at Stationers' Hall, London to review the completed marked texts from each of the six committees. The General Committee included John Bois, Andrew Downes and John Harmar, and others known only by their initials, including "AL" (who may be Arthur Lake), and were paid for their attendance by the Stationers' Company. John Bois prepared a note of their deliberations (in Latin) - which has partly survived in two later transcripts. Also surviving is a bound-together set of marked-up corrections to one of the forty Bishops' Bibles - covering the Old Testament and Gospels, and also a manuscript translation of the text of the Epistles, excepting those verses where no change was being recommended to the readings in the Bishops' Bible. Archbishop Bancroft insisted on having a final say, making fourteen changes, of which one was the term "bishopricke" at Acts 1:20.
English-language Protestant Bibles in the 16th Century included the books of the Apocrypha—generally in a separate section between the Old and New Testaments—and there is evidence that these were widely read as popular literature, especially in Puritan circles. By the mid—17th Century, however, Puritan theologians were increasingly uneasy at the intermingling of Biblical scripture with popular culture in general, and with the Apocrypha in particular. Further, these theologians were also inclined to reject books which owed their inclusion in the Biblical canon to ecclesiastical authority. Starting in 1630, volumes of the Geneva Bible were occasionally bound with the pages of the Apocrypha section excluded. After the Restoration in 1660, Dissenters tended to discourage the reading of the Apocrypha in both public services and in private devotion.
And other Books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine
The Authorized Version included the Apocrypha; all the books and sections of books present in the Latin Vulgate's Old Testament — the translation of Jerome (Hierome) — but missing in the Hebrew. Indeed, the Book of Common Prayer specifies lectionary readings from the Apocrypha to be read in Morning and Evening Prayer in October.
The standardisation of the text of the Authorized Version after 1769 together with the technological development of Stereotype printing made it possible to produce Bibles in large print-runs at very low unit prices. For commercial and charitable publishers, editions of the Authorized Version without the Apocrypha reduced the cost, while having increased market appeal to non-Anglican Protestant readers. With the rise of the Bible societies, most editions have omitted the whole section of Apocryphal books.
That the funds of the Society be applied to the printing and circulation of the canonical books of Scripture, to the exclusion of those books and parts of books which are usually termed Apocryphal
The society revised its position in 1966.
While the Authorized Version was meant to replace the Bishops' Bible as the official version for readings in the Church of England, it was apparently (unlike the Great Bible) never specifically "authorized", although it is commonly known as the Authorized Version in the United Kingdom. However, the King's Printer issued no further editions of the Bishops' Bible, so necessarily the Authorized Version supplanted it as the standard lectern Bible in parish church use in England. In the 1662 Book Of Common Prayer, the text of the Authorized Version finally supplanted that of the Great Bible in the Epistle and Gospel readings - though the Prayer Book Psalter nevertheless continues to use the older version.
The case was different in Scotland, where the Geneva Bible had long been the standard Church Bible. It was not till 1633 that a Scots edition of the Authorized Version was printed - in conjunction with the Scots coronation in that year of Charles I. The inclusion of illustrations in the edition raised accusations of Popery from opponents of the religious policies of Charles, and of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury. However, official policy favoured the Authorized Version, and this favour returned during the Commonwealth - as London printers succeeded in re-asserting their monopoly of Bible printing with support from Oliver Cromwell – and the "New Translation" was the only edition on the market. F.F. Bruce reports that the last recorded instance of a Scots parish continuing to use the "Old Translation" (i.e. Geneva) as being in 1674.
The Authorized Version's acceptance by the general public took longer. The Geneva Bible continued to be popular, and large numbers were imported from Amsterdam, where printing continued up to 1644 in editions carrying a false London imprint. However, few if any genuine Geneva editions appear to have been printed in London after 1616, and in 1637 Archbishop Laud prohibited their printing or importation. In the period of the English Civil War, soldiers of the New Model Army were issued a book of Geneva selections called "The Soldiers' Bible" (1643, Herbert #577). In the first half of the 17th Century the Authorized Version is most commonly referred to as "The Bible without notes", thereby distinguishing it from the Geneva "Bible with notes". There were several printings of the Authorized Version in Amsterdam - one as late as 1715 (Herbert #936) - which combined the Authorized Version translation text with the Geneva marginal notes; one such edition was printed in London in 1649. During the Commonwealth a commission was established by Parliament to recommend a revision of the Authorized Version with acceptably Protestant explanatory notes, but the project was abandoned when it became clear that these would be nearly double the bulk of the Bible text. After the English Restoration, the Geneva Bible was held to be politically suspect and a reminder of the repudiated Puritan era. Furthermore, disputes over the lucrative rights to print the Authorized Version dragged on through the 17th Century, so none of the printers involved saw any commercial advantage in marketing a rival translation. The Authorized Version became the only current version circulating among English speaking people.
Slowest of all was acceptance of the text by Biblical Scholars. Hugh Broughton, the most highly regarded English Hebraist of his time (but who had been excluded from the panel of translators because of his utterly uncongenial temperament), issued in 1611 a total condemnation of the new version, criticising especially the translators' rejection of word-for-word equivalence. Walton's London Polyglot of 1657 disregards the Authorized Version (and indeed the English Language) entirely. Walton's reference text throughout is the Vulgate. The Vulgate Latin is also found as the standard text of scripture in Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan of 1651, indeed Hobbes gives Vulgate chapter and verse numbers (i.e. Job 41:24; not Job 41:33) for his head text. In Chapter 35: 'The Signification in Scripture of Kingdom of God' , Hobbes discusses Exodus 19:5, first in his own translation of the 'Vulgar Latin' , and then subsequently as found in the versions he terms "...the English translation made in the beginning of the reign of King James", and "The Geneva French" (i.e. Olivétan). Hobbes advances detailed critical arguments why the Vulgate rendering is to be preferred. For most of the 17th Century the assumption remained that, while it had been of vital importance to provide the scriptures in the vernacular for ordinary people, nevertheless for those with sufficient education to do so, Biblical study was best undertaken within the international common medium of Latin. It was only in 1700 that modern bilingual Bibles appeared in which the Authorized Version was compared with counterpart Dutch and French Protestant vernacular Bibles.
In consequence of the continual disputes over printing privileges, successive printings of the Authorized Version were notably less careful than the 1611 edition had been – compositors freely varying spelling, capitalisation and punctuation – and also, over the years, introducing about 1,500 misprints (some of which, like the omission of "not" from the commandment "Thou shalt not commit adultery" in the "Wicked Bible" (1631, Herbert #444), became notorious). The two Cambridge editions of 1629 and 1638 attempted to restore the proper text – while introducing over 200 revisions of the original translators' work, chiefly by incorporating into the main text a more literal reading originally presented as a marginal note. A more thoroughly corrected edition was proposed following the Restoration, in conjunction with the revised 1662 Book of Common Prayer, but Parliament then decided against it.
By the first half of the 18th Century, the Authorized Version was effectively unchallenged as the sole English translation in current use in Protestant churches, and was so dominant that the Roman Catholic church in England issued in 1750 a revision of the 1610 Douay-Rheims Bible by Richard Challoner that was very much closer to the Authorized Version than to the original. However, general standards of spelling, punctuation, typesetting, capitalisation and grammar had changed radically in the 100 years since the first edition of the Authorized Version, and all printers in the market were introducing continual piecemeal changes to their Bible texts to bring them into line with current practice - and with public expectations of standardised spelling and grammatical construction.
Over the course of the 18th Century, the Authorized Version supplanted the Latin Vulgate as the standard version of scripture for English speaking scholars and divines, and indeed came to be regarded by some as an inspired text in itself – so much so that any challenge to its readings or textual base came to be regarded by many as an assault on Holy Scripture. A key milestone in this process was the publication in 1737 of Alexander Cruden's Complete Concordance to the Holy Scriptures, in which the English words of the Authorized Version were analysed with no regard to the original tongues.
In most of the world the Authorized Version has passed out of copyright and is freely reproduced. This is not the case in the United Kingdom where the rights to the Authorized Version are held by the British Crown under perpetual Crown copyright. Publishers are licensed to reproduce the Authorized Version under letters patent. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the letters patent are held by the Queen's Printer, and in Scotland by the Scottish Bible Board. The office of Queen's Printer has been associated with the right to reproduce the Bible for centuries, the earliest known reference coming in 1577. In the 18th century all surviving interests in the monopoly were bought out by John Baskett. The Baskett rights descended through a number of printers and, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Queen's Printer is now Cambridge University Press, who inherited the right when they took over the firm of Eyre & Spottiswoode in 1990.
Other royal charters of similar antiquity grant Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press the right to produce the Authorized Version independently of the Queen's Printer. In Scotland the Authorized Version is published by Collins under licence from the Scottish Bible Board. The terms of the letters patent prohibit any other than the holders, or those authorized by the holders, from printing, publishing or importing the Authorized Version into the United Kingdom. The protection that the Authorized Version, and also the Book of Common Prayer, enjoy is the last remnant of the time when the Crown held a monopoly over all printing and publishing in the United Kingdom.
The original printing of the Authorized Version was published by Robert Barker, the King's Printer, in 1611 as a complete folio Bible. It was sold looseleaf for ten shillings, or bound for twelve. Robert Barker's father, Christopher, had, in 1589, been granted by Elizabeth I the title of royal Printer, with the perpetual Royal Privilege to print Bibles in England. Robert Barker invested very large sums in printing the new edition, and consequently ran into serious debt, such that he was compelled to sub-lease the privilege to two rival London printers, Bonham Norton and John Bill. It appears that it was initially intended that each printer would print a proportion of the text, share printed sheets with the others, and split the proceeds. Bitter financial disputes broke out, as Barker accused Norton and Bill of concealing their profits, while Norton and Bill accused Barker of selling sheets properly due to them as partial Bibles for ready money. There followed decades of continual litigation, and consequent imprisonment for debt for members of the Barker and Norton printing dynasties, while each issued rival editions of the whole Bible. In 1629 the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge managed successfully to assert separate and prior royal licences for Bible printing, for their own university presses – and Cambridge University took the opportunity to print revised editions of the Authorized Version in 1629, and 1638. The editors of these editions included John Bois and John Ward from the original translators. This did not, however, impede the commercial rivalries of the London printers, especially as the Barker family refused to allow any other printers access to the authoritative manuscript of the Authorized Version.
Two editions of the whole Bible are recognized as having been produced in 1611, which may be distinguished by their rendering of Ruth 3:15; the first edition reading "he went into the city", where the second reads "she went into the city." However, Bibles in all the early editions were made up using sheets originating from several printers, and consequently there is very considerable variation within any one edition. It is only in 1613 that an edition is found, all of whose surviving representatives have substantially the same text.
The original printing was made before English spelling was standardised, and when printers, as a matter of course, expanded and contracted the spelling of the same words in different places, so as to achieve an even column of text. They set "v" for initial "u" and "v", and "u" for "u" and "v" everywhere else. They used long "ſ" for non-final "s". The letter "j" occurs only after "i," as in the final letter in a Roman numeral. Punctuation was relatively heavy, and differed from current practice. When space needed to be saved, the printers sometimes used ye for the, (replacing the Middle English thorn with the continental y), set ã for an or am (in the style of scribe's shorthand), and set "&" for "and". On the contrary, on a few occasions, they appear to have inserted these words when they thought a line needed to be padded. Current printings remove most, but not all, of the variant spellings; the punctuation has also been changed, but still varies from current usage norms.
The first printing used a black letter typeface instead of a roman typeface, which itself made a political and a religious statement. Like the Great Bible and the Bishops' Bible, the Authorized Version was "appointed to be read in churches". It was a large folio volume meant for public use, not private devotion; the weight of the type mirrored the weight of establishment authority behind it. However, smaller editions and roman-type editions followed rapidly, e.g. quarto roman-type editions of the Bible in 1612 (Herbert #313/314). This contrasted with the Geneva Bible, which was the first English Bible printed in a roman typeface (although black-letter editions, particularly in folio format, were issued later).
In contrast to the Geneva Bible and the Bishops' Bible, which had both been extensively illustrated, there were no illustrations at all in the 1611 edition of the Authorized Version, the main form of decoration being the historiated initial letters provided for books and chapters - together with the decorative title pages to the Bible itself, and to the New Testament.
The original printing of Authorized Version used roman type instead of black letter to indicate text that had been supplied by the translators, or thought needful for English grammar, but which was not present in the Greek or Hebrew. In the first printing, the device of having different type faces to show supplied words was used sparsely and inconsistently. This is perhaps the most significant difference between the original text and the current text. When, from the later 17th century onwards, the Authorized Version began to be printed in Roman Type, the typeface for supplied words was changed to italics.
The original printing contained two prefatory texts; the first was a rather fulsome Epistle Dedicatory to "the most high and mighty Prince" King James. Many British printings reproduce this, while a few cheaper or smaller American printings fail to include it.
The second, and more interesting preface was called The Translators to the Reader, a long and learned essay that defends the undertaking of the new version. It observes that the translators' goal was not to make a bad translation good, but a good translation better, and says that "we do not deny, nay we affirm and avow, that the very meanest translation of the Bible in English, set forth by men of our profession... containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God". Few current editions include this text, but it is to be found in higher quality Cambridge editions and the Oxford World's Classics edition.
The first printing contained a number of other apparatus, including a table for the reading of the Psalms at matins and evensong, and a calendar, an almanac, and a table of holy days and observances. Much of this material has become obsolete with the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar by the UK and its colonies in 1752 and thus modern editions invariably omit it.
So as to make it easier to locate a particular passage, each chapter was headed by a brief precis of its contents with verse numbers. Later editors freely substituted their own chapter summaries, or omit such material entirely.
One curious feature is the presence of pilcrow marks in the printed text, indicating the commencement of groups of verses. These largely coincide with the scheme of daily lectionary readings used in the Orthodox Churches, so it must be surmised that when the Authorised Version was translated, Greek texts were used and the pilcrow marks in those texts (which would have been essential for lectors and deacons in the Orthodox rites) were unthinkingly transferred to the Authorised Version even though by and large they do not correspond to the Anglican scheme of liturgical reading.
Like Tyndale's translation and the Geneva Bible, the Authorized Version was translated primarily from Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic texts, although with secondary reference both to the Latin Vulgate, and to more recent scholarly Latin versions; two books of the 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 distinct type (albeit inconsistently), but otherwise the translators explicitly rejected word-for-word equivalence. F.F Bruce gives an example from Romans Chapter 5:
2 By whom also wee haue accesse by faith, into this grace wherein wee stand, and reioyce in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not onely so, but we glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience:
The English terms "rejoice" and "glory" stand for the same word in the Greek original. In Tyndale, Geneva and the Bishops' Bibles, both instances are translated "rejoice". In the Douay-Rheims New Testament, both are translated "glory". Only in the Authorized Version does the translation vary between the two verses.
In obedience to their instructions, the translators provided no marginal interpretation of the text, but in some 8,500 places a marginal note offers an alternative English wording. The majority 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 derive from alternative editions in the original languages, or from variant forms quoted in the fathers. More commonly, though, they indicate a difference between the original language reading and that in the translators' preferred recent Latin versions: Tremellius for the Old Testament, Junius for the Apocrypha, and Beza for the New Testament. A few more extensive notes clarify Biblical names, units of measurement or currency, and in a very few places (e.g. Luke 17:36) record that a verse is absent from most Greek manuscripts. Modern reprintings rarely reproduce these annotated variants - although they are to be found in the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible. In addition, there were originally some 9,000 scriptural cross-references, in which one text was related to another. Such cross-references had long been common in Latin Bibles, and most of those in the Authorized Version were copied unaltered from this Latin tradition. Consequently the early editions of the KJV retain many Vulgate verse references - e.g. in the numbering of the Psalms. At the head of each chapter, the translators provided a short précis of its contents, with verse numbers; these are rarely included in complete form in modern editions.
The translators render the Tetragrammaton YHWH or the name Yahweh by the use of small capitals as LORD or occasionally JEHOVAH, or Lord GOD (for Adonai YHWH, "Lord YHWH"), denoting the divine name. Jesus is referred to as Lord with a capital "L" and lower case "-ord" as the example of the scripture in Psalm 110:1 "The LORD said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool".
For their Old Testament, the translators worked from editions of the Hebrew Rabbinic Bible by Daniel Bomberg (1524/5), but adjusted the text to conform to the Greek LXX or Latin Vulgate in passages to which Christian tradition had attached a Christological interpretation. For example, the reading "They pierced my hands and my feet" was used in Psalm 22:16 (vs. the Masoretes' reading of the Hebrew "like lions [they maul] my hands and feet"). Otherwise, however, the Authorized Version is closer to the Hebrew tradition than any previous English translation – especially in making use of the rabbinic commentaries, such as Kimhi, in elucidating obscure passages in the Masoretic Text; earlier versions had been more likely to adopt LXX or Vulgate readings in such places.
For their New Testament, the translators chiefly used the 1598 and 1588/89 Greek editions of Theodore Beza, which also present Beza's Latin version of the Greek and Stephanus's edition of the Latin Vulgate. Both of these versions were extensively referred to, as the translators conducted all discussions amongst themselves in Latin. F.H.A. Scrivener identifies 190 readings where the Authorized Version translators depart from Beza's Greek text, generally in maintaining the wording of the Bishop's Bible and other earlier English translations. In about half of these instances, the Authorized Version translators appear to follow the earlier 1550 Greek Textus Receptus of Stephanus. For the other half, Scrivener was usually able to find corresponding Greek readings in the editions of Erasmus, or in the Complutensian Polyglot. However, in several dozen readings he notes that no printed Greek text corresponds to the English of the Authorized Version, which in these places derives directly from the Vulgate. For example, at John 10:16, the Authorized Version reads "one fold" (as did the Bishops' Bible, and the 16th century vernacular versions produced in Geneva), following the Latin Vulgate "unum ovile", whereas Tyndale had agreed more closely with the Greek, "one flocke" (μία ποίμνη). The Authorized Version New Testament owes much more to the Vulgate than does the Old Testament; still, at least 80% of the text is unaltered from Tyndale's translation.
Unlike the rest of the Bible, the translators of the Apocrypha identified their source texts in their marginal notes. From these it can 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 Latin Vulgate text, and to Junius's Latin translation. The translators record references to the Sixtine Septuagint of 1587, which is substantially a printing of the Old Testament text from the Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1209, and also to the 1518 Greek Septuagint edition of Aldus Manutius. They had, however, no Greek texts for 2 Esdras, or for the Prayer of Manasses, and Scrivener found that they here used an unidentified Latin manuscript.
The translators appear to have otherwise made no first-hand study of ancient manuscript sources, even those which – like the Codex Bezae – would have been readily available to them. In addition to all previous English versions, including the Douay-Rheims Bible, they also consulted contemporary vernacular translations in Spanish, French, Italian and German. They also made wide and eclectic use of all printed editions in the original languages then available, including the ancient Syriac New Testament printed with an interlinear Latin gloss in the Antwerp Polyglot of 1573.
The translators took the Bishop's Bible as their source text, and where they departed from that in favour of another translation, this was most commonly the Geneva Bible. However, the degree to which readings from the Bishop's Bible survived into final text of the King James Bible varies greatly from company to company, as did the propensity of the King James translators to coin phrases of their own. John Bois's notes of the General Committee of Review show that they discussed readings derived from a wide variety of sources and versions, including explicitly both Henry Savile's 1610 edition of the works of John Chrysostom, and also the Rheims New Testament, which was the primary source for many of the literal alternative readings provided for the marginal notes.
A primary concern of the translators was to produce a Bible that would be appropriate, dignified and resonant in public reading. Hence, in a period of rapid linguistic change, they avoided contemporary idioms, tending instead towards forms that were already slightly archaic, like verily and it came to pass. They also tended to enliven their text with stylistic variation, finding multiple English words or verbal forms, in places where the original language employed repetition.
The Authorized Version is notably more Latinate than previous English versions, especially the Geneva Bible. This results in part from the academic stylistic preferences of a number of the translators – several of whom admitted to being more comfortable writing in Latin than in English – but was also, in part, a consequence of the royal proscription against explanatory notes. Hence, where the Geneva Bible might use a common English word - and gloss its particular application in a marginal note - the Authorized Version tends rather to prefer a technical term, frequently in Anglicised Latin. Consequently, although the King had instructed the translators to use the Bishops' Bible as a base text, the New Testament in particular owes much stylistically to the Catholic Rheims New Testament, whose translators had also been concerned to find English equivalents for Latin terminology. In addition, the translators of the New Testament books habitually quote Old Testament names in the renderings familiar from the Vulgate Latin, rather than in their Hebrew forms (e.g. "Elias", "Jeremias" for "Elijah", "Jeremiah").
While the Authorized Version remains among the most widely sold, modern critical New Testament translations differ substantially from it in a number of passages, primarily because they rely on source manuscripts not then accessible to (or not then highly regarded by) early 17th Century Biblical Scholarship. 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 Ancient Hebrew vocabulary or grammar by the translators. For example, in modern translations it is clear that Job 28: 1-11 is referring throughout to mining operations, which is not at all apparent from the text of the Authorized Version.
By the mid-18th Century the wide variation in the various modernized printed texts of the Authorized Version, combined with the notorious accumulation of misprints, had reached the proportion of a scandal, and the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge both sought to produce an updated standard text. First of the two was the Cambridge edition of 1762 (Herbert #1142), edited by F.S. Parris. This was effectively superseded by the 1769 Oxford edition, edited by Benjamin Blayney (Herbert #1196), which became the Oxford standard text, and is reproduced almost unchanged in most current printings. Parris and Blayney sought consistently to remove those elements of the 1611 and subsequent editions that they believed were due to the vagaries of printers, while incorporating most of the revised readings of the Cambridge editions of 1629 and 1638, and each also introducing a few improved readings of their own. They undertook the mammoth task of standardizing the wide variation in punctuation and spelling of the original, making many thousands of minor changes to the text; although some of these updates do alter the ostensible sense - as when the original text of Genesis 2:21 "in stead" ("in that place") was updated to read "instead" ("as an alternative"). In addition, Blayney and Parris thoroughly revised and greatly extended the italicization of "supplied" words not found in the original languages by cross-checking against the presumed source texts. Unfortunately, Blayney assumed that the translators of the 1611 New Testament had worked from the 1550 Stephanus edition of the Textus Receptus, rather than from the later editions of Beza; accordingly the current standard text mistakenly "corrects" around a dozen readings where Beza and Stephanus differ. Like the 1611 edition, the 1769 Oxford edition included the Apocrypha, although Blayney consistently removed marginal cross-references to the Books of the Apocrypha wherever these had been provided by the original translators. Altogether, Blayney's 1769 text differed from the 1611 text in around 24,000 places. Since that date, only six further changes have been introduced to the standard text - although 30 of Blayney's proposed changes have subsequently been reverted. The Oxford University Press paperback edition of the "Authorized King James Version" provides the current standard text, and also includes the prefatory section "The Translators to the Reader".
The 1611 and 1769 texts of the first three verses from I Corinthians 13 are given below.
1. Though I speake with the tongues of men & of Angels, and haue not charity, I am become as sounding brasse or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I haue the gift of prophesie, and vnderstand all mysteries and all knowledge: and though I haue all faith, so that I could remooue mountaines, and haue no charitie, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestowe all my goods to feede the poore, and though I giue my body to bee burned, and haue not charitie, it profiteth me nothing.
1. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
In these three verses, there are eleven changes of spelling, nine changes of typesetting, three changes of punctuation, and one variant text - where "not charity" is substituted for "no charity" in verse two, in the erroneous belief that the original reading was a misprint.
For a period, Cambridge continued to issue Bibles using the Parris text, but the market demand for absolute standardisation was now such that they eventually fell into line. Since the beginning of the 19th Century, almost all printings of the Authorized Version have derived from the 1769 Oxford text - generally without Blayney's variant notes and cross references, and commonly excluding the Apocrypha. One exception to this was a scrupulous original-spelling, page-for-page, and line-for-line reprint of the 1611 edition (including all chapter headings, marginalia, and original italicization, but with Roman type substituted for the black letter of the original), published by Oxford in 1833. Another important exception was the 1873 Cambridge Paragraph Bible, thoroughly revised, modernised and re-edited by F. H. A. Scrivener, who for the first time consistently identified the source texts underlying the 1611 translation and its marginal notes. Scrivener, however - as Blayney had done - did adopt revised readings where he considered the judgement of the 1611 translators had been faulty. In 2005, Cambridge University Press released its New Cambridge Paragraph Bible with Apocrypha, edited by David Norton, which modernized Scrivener's spelling again to present-day standards and introduced quotation marks, while restoring the 1611 text, so far as possible, to the wording intended by its translators, especially in the light of the rediscovery of some of their working documents. This text has been issued in paperback by Penguin books.
From 1769, the text of the Authorized Version remained unchanged - and since, due to advances in printing technology, it could now be produced in very large editions for mass sale, it established complete dominance in public and ecclesiastical use in the English-speaking Protestant world. Academic debate over the next hundred years, however, increasingly reflected concerns about the Authorized Version shared by some scholars: (a) that subsequent study in oriental languages suggested a need to revise the translation of the Hebrew Bible - both in terms of specific vocabulary, and also in distinguishing descriptive terms from proper names; (b) that the Authorized Version was unsatisfactory in translating the same Greek words and phrases into different English, especially where parallel passages are found in the synoptic gospels; and (c) in the light of subsequent ancient manuscript discoveries, the New Testament translation base of the Greek Textus Receptus could no longer be considered to be the best representation of the original text.
The Authorized Version maintained its effective dominance throughout the first half of the 20th Century. New translations in the second half of the 20th Century displaced its 250 years of dominance (roughly 1700 to 1950), but groups do exist - sometimes termed the King-James-Only Movement - that distrust anything not in agreement with ("change") the Authorized Version.
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Translated out of the original tongues: and with the former translations diligently compared and revised by the King of England's special command, appointed to be read in churches.
The King James Bible was first published in 1611, as a standard English Bible to be used in the services of the Church of England according to the Book of Common Prayer. It gradually supplanted all other English bible versions, to become by the 19th century, the standard Bible text for English-speaking Protestants whether inside or outside the Anglican tradition. Almost all printings since the late 18th century have used this Oxford Standard text of 1769, which radically updates and standardises the spelling and printing of the original edition.
The Inter-Testament books are not now recognized as canonical by many Protestant and Para-Protestant Christian religious groups, which consider and call them "the Apocrypha". Nevertheless, they are recognized as a constituent part of the Biblical canon by the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Christian Churches, and the Oriental Christian Churches, which consider and call most of them "the deuterocanonical books"; meaning "the books from the second canon". (The Catholic defintion of deuterocanonical books excludes the two books of Esdras and the Prayer of Manasses.) The Church of England and other churches in the Anglican tradition continue to specify readings from the Inter-Testament books in their lectionaries; and hence bibles printed for use during worship in these churches must necessarily include these books.
These books came from the Greek version of the Old Testament called the Septuagint, the sacred text collection used by Greek-speaking Jewish communities, and by most of early and historical Christianity. They are included in the King James Bible, and all other vernacular versions of the Reformation era, but their canonical status was increasingly questioned by various Protestant traditions from the late 17th Century onwards. Since the early-19th century, the Inter-Testament books have tended to be rejected by Protestant churches, and most editions of the King James bible printed for personal use since then have omitted them. Israelite communities used the Greek Septuagint until about the 2nd century AD, but Orthodox Judaism does not recognize either the Inter-Testament books or the entire New Testament as part of its own sacred text collection, which is known as the Tanakh.
The King James Version is also known as the Authorized Version. In most of the world, it has passed out of copyright and can be freely reproduced. In the United Kingdom, however, it is still copyrighted and is subject to an eternal Crown copyright. Permission to publish in England and Wales can be obtained by following the guidance in A Brief Guide to Liturgical Copyright, third edition (RTF file); permission to publish in Scotland requires contacting the Scottish Bible Board.
|This work is in the public domain outside the
United Kingdom because the author has been deceased at
least 100 years.