The King James Version, translated 1611, has been a cherished and favorite of millions of Bible readers. Some claim that the KJV alone is "authorized" -- that this version is the only true Word of God. (Some groups even make reading the KJV a matter of salvation!) The following podcast (29 minutes) explores the history, strengths and weaknesses of the KJV, and challenges us to be aware of the options when it comes to English Bible versions.

Problematic words & phrases (samples)

  • Conversation
  • Charity
  • Uswards
  • Thou & thee
  • Peculiar
  • Peradventure
  • Bowels & reins
  • Mite & mote
  • "The like figure whereunto, euen Baptisme, doth also now saue vs, (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answere of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Iesus Christ" (1 Peter 3:21).


  • Standardization of the English Bible
  • Not the Bible of the American pilgrims. (That was the Geneva Bible.)
  • The translators worked 1605-1611.
  • Based largely on the Tyndale version of the 1500s.
  • People became very fond of it.  (Parallel: 1200 years earlier, the Latin Vulgate.)
  • "Extra verses," like John 5:4...  Marginal notes being incorporated, for example. All harmless, but the expansions in scripture needed to be removed. This of course led to various conspiracy theories.
  • God's Secretaries, by Adam Nicholson. An interesting book on the translation of the KJV.
  • Also very well done: Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible, by Mark Ward. (Watch this short video.)

The original KJV?

  • 500 errors removed in the 2nd edition!
  • Included the O.T. Apocrypha -- removed many years later.
  • Unicorns (!) etc. (Dragons and the Bible podcast.)

Manuscript base

  • KJV translated from relatively late mss: Hebrew OT mss from 900 or 1000 AD; Greek NT mss from the 1400s & 1500s!
  • The translators did not benefit from the discover of the Dead Sea Scrolls (1947+), which include many biblical mss and commentaries.
  • Nor did they have access to the 1000s of koine (common) Greek mss discovered from the late 1800s+.
  • Modern scholars have access to the Dead Sea Scrolls (typically from the 2nd or 1st c. BC), and to Greek mss going back to the 2nd century AD. What an advantage!
  • The stronger textual base illustrates life, culture, idioms, how words are used, etc -- vital background info for translators.


  • Early Modern English quite a different dialect than modern English. KJ English is too far removed from modern English to be fully understood by any modern person -- except perhaps by those with advanced degrees focusing on Elizabethan English!
  • Bible versions need to keep in step with the vernacular.
  • Don't get a rut. And certainly let's not become "NIV only" people!
  • Be informed about the range of available translations!
  • The Lord intends to communicate his word to us in our language. Just as the Word became flesh (John 1:14), coming down to our level, so the written word (scripture) needs to be in our vernacular, if we are to understand.