Why I love the King James Bible

I was asked yesterday if I was a King James Version (KJV) (of the Bible) man. The clue that I could be is that I frequently quote from the KJV. My response is Yes but not slavishly so. Let me explain …

I was lucky enough to be sent to Sunday School from an early age. The teachers there were very much into the Bible and for us (the scholars) they wanted us to know and love it. Sword drill, memory verses and Bible readings formed an essential part of every lesson. And it was all done using the KJV. While a few other versions were around in my growing up period (e.g. RSV, NEB and, for more serious study, the Amplified) the KJV was the version of the Bible invariably used when the Bible was taught or referred to. Later, when I became a Christian, the KJV was the version I was encouraged to use, although I did sometimes use paraphrased versions of the Bible e.g. the Living Bible and the Good News Bible. After that many new versions of the Bible appeared on the scene and the one I particularly liked during my 20’s and 30’s was the New American Standard Version (NASB). I suppose if I were to pick the best of the current bunch, it might be the English Standard Version (ESV) and if I were starting out again that could well become my favoured version. I have also found in recent years many churches, including my own, switching to the New International Version (NIV), although this is not one I favour, especially the more recent editions.  I must confess though that I have a superb NIV study Bible with helpful cross references and concordance incorporated and when not online (when I use Biblegateway with its many Bible versions) this is what I use. The fact that that unlike the KJV the NIV is copyrighted still makes me feel uncomfortable. If starting again, I would learn Greek and Hebrew and study the Bible in the original languages. I regret that choice of versions, like a number of less essential matters, can be a falling out matter among Christians.

As to why I love the Bible, I can think of three (at least) important reasons. It is the Word of God in a way no other books are (although the Bible is 66 books). It tells me important things I need to know, especially about God and His requirements for my life and for those I wish to influence. It contains important wisdom and insights that help me better understand the world in which I live. As for versions, it should be said at that no version is perfect as to fully accurately translate another language is an impossibility and the best one can hope for is to get close. An additional problem is the original manuscripts do not exist and what we have is over 100 years after the text was originally written down. There are many manuscripts and they do not agree. This becomes an issue when deciding which ones to use. The translators of the KJV used the limited set available at the time but later versions usually use other manuscripts, and the fruits of textual criticism, some of which are older than used for the KJV. For some diehard KJVers this is an important issue, especially as some important passages are omitted in the text of these later versions or give a different slant to the original meaning. This is a big subject and not one I wish to explore now. The one thing I do know is the KJV translators used the best manuscripts available at the time and made best efforts to translate into the English language used of the day, and in a beautifully reverent way. The methodology in which scholars of different theological outlooks were involved resulted in meticulous study of the words and multitudinous peer reviews of what was produced, was highly commendable.

As to why I love (and also favour) the KJV Bible, I should say firstly the translation is not perfect (no translation is), and in the light of later findings and research it may be seen as falling short. I am not convinced they used the best manuscripts (although they were constrained by what was available) to base their translation on and the English language has changed in the over 400 years since the KJV was produced. Speaking personally, I prefer the KJV because it is the version of the Bible I am most familiar with and when I hear texts quoted from other versions these often do not sound right. If we are to encourage memorizing scripture (and we should), the KJV is still best (imo). The rich poetic language used by KJV translators has not been bettered in other versions. Many (but not all) do not do justice to the original text. I recognize, I may be in a minority expressing these views and am like the dinosaurs that eventually became extinct, recognizing we KJV lovers will also die off.

I do worry when I see the later version of the NIV (with the earlier version being phased out and made unavailable) and its further watering down and political correctness e.g. gender neutrality, vying to be that adopted by churches, when there are better versions e.g. the ESV that should be at least considered. I fear the battle is far from over and I doubt a consensus will ever be reached, which has obvious practical implications. While what version to use matters, more importantly the Bible needs to be studied, cherished and applied, and that is what I will do and encourage others to do.

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