I had a question from a friend the other day about the King James Version of the Bible. Maybe like you, this person had read a sign that said, “If it ain’t King James it ain’t Bible” and wondered where that sentiment came from.
There are many people who believe that the King James Version is the version that Jesus used or that Paul used or the only one that true Christians should use. Here the brief rundown of how it came to pass. King James I of England put together a group to write an English version of the Bible due to some possible discrepancies. They started work in 1604 and finished in 1611.
Most advocates of the King James only version of the Bible are also rabid anti-Catholics, which is rather ironic. You see, the King James version was translated from Greek texts which use the Latin Vulgate version as a corrective. The Latin Vulgate was held in Roman Catholic hands for centuries. It is the Catholic version of the scriptures these KJV advocates defend! Yet these same anti-Catholics prefer the King James version to any modern version where Protestant scholars have actually gone back and found the most ancient texts that had none of the later Latin, Roman Catholic additions [not that there were many]. The point is, would you rather have a text held and passed down through monkish hands, dominated by the Roman hierarchy? Or would you rather have the most ancient Greek texts, untouched by Roman hands? -ScholarsCorner.com
This translation was finished actually before Protestants broke away from Catholics in the Protestant Reformation.
One reason the version is used so much is that it doesn’t have a copyright on it. So when the Gideons want to produce the Bibles in mass, they don’t have to pay copyright fees on the KJV where they would the NIV or another translation. The ministry is great, but some people have a hard time reading because our culture doesn’t easily understand “thee” and “thou” so much anymore.
Translations are translations. They are someone’s interpretation of a language. As I did studies on the biblical languages, I found that the most accurate texts that reflect literal, word for word translations are the New American Standard or the English Standard Version. For a great dynamic equivalent (trying to find parallels in a new language), I would recommend the New International Version. Free translations like the Message are great to serve as a commentary, but they are not as close to the actual wording of the original.
Hope you learned something new today, and just a reminder Body of Christ – keep the main thing the main thing.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Distinctive Discipleship. He is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. Travis graduated from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Christian Studies and earned his M.Div. and D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with his doctoral focus on family discipleship.