t is now four hundred years
since the King James Bible was first published and yet the Bible has the distinction
of being the best known and least understood book in the world. After four centuries
its story is one of talented translators, of political intrigue and intense arguments
over the revision of its text.
It is impossible to overstate the importance and influence of the King James Bible
in the English speaking world. In 2009 America’s new president took the presidential
oath of office on a copy of the King James Bible. It was the same Bible that had
been used by Abraham Lincoln in 1861. Similarly twentieth century presidents like
Dwight Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, and George Bush Senior chose to take their oath
on an earlier copy of the King James Bible.
The 1769 version of the Bible was similarly honored in the United Kingdom. In 1953
during the coronation year of Queen Elizabeth II the queen commanded that a copy
of the King James Bible be given to every child born in Britain that year.
Being the only book in the world with over a billion copies in print the King James
Version of the Bible is the most celebrated book in the English speaking world.
In other religious traditions it is the original language that is honored. In the
Islamic world for instance many Muslims memorize the entire Qur’an even though for
many their first language is not Arabic. Protestant Christians however place the
emphasis on understanding the meaning of the words rather than committing the words
In the century before 1611 at the time of the reformation Protestants fought against
being subordinated to the doctrine of the church. Instead new churches were formed
which nurtured the individual believer’s understanding of the Bible under the guidance
of the Holy Spirit. The resurgence of this doctrine in the late sixteenth century,
together with the ability of printers to make books available to an increasingly
literate public led to translations of the Bible into all of Europe’s languages.
In the case of English, in the century after the reformation, it was the King James
Bible that succeeded.
Generations of people have learnt the Christian morals of human relationships taught
in the Bible and in turn this has shaped our society. The contents of the Bible
reflect the politics and intrigue of life over two thousand years ago and yet with
each cycle of the generations it is as though life is destined to repeat its mistakes
over and over again. People still lust for power and influence and still there are
those that would tear it down in the name of religion. The only certainty is the
struggle between good and evil will continue its quest until the end times.
What does the future hold? The book of Revelation paints a harsh picture for those
who have not accepted Jesus into their lives. Despite the Bible’s warnings against
false prophets and trying to predict when the second coming of Jesus will take place
many Christians today are preoccupied with the prediction of when the prophesy will
The King James Bible has known both the height of respect and lows of criticism.
Despite all this it has endured to become a part of the history and culture of countries
the world over. It is known today by millions as the Authorized Version and the
cornerstone of Christianity.