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400th Anniversary of KJV Bible

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400th Anniversary of KJV Bible

May 2011 marks the 400th Anniversary of the publishing of the King James Authorised version of the Bible.


On the death of the first Queen Elizabeth of England, her distant cousin, James VI of Scotland, became James I of England in 1603. He became the monarch of England Scotland and Ireland. He also became the Head of the Church of England. The Church of England had been basically “Roman Catholic” but separated from Rome. The Protestant Reformation of Europe had impacted the Church of England, but it had not become fully Protestant. King James I inherited a divided Church. The Conformists continued many of the aspects of their Roman Catholic past, while the Puritans wanted greater Protestant changes. Virtually, as James ascended the Throne of England, he was petitioned for changes in the Church by Puritans. (See details of the Millenary Petition:;

James I convened a conference at Hampton Court to unite the various Church factions in January 1604. While the conference did not achieve the hoped for results, it was at the conference that James was asked to promote and officially support the translation of the Bible into the vernacular (common English) for all the people. There was a stilted English version known as the “Bishop’s Bible” used in the Church of England, while the Geneva Bible (an unofficial English Bible that was small in size, more readable, and full of comments and explanations that were based on the work of John Calvin) was increasingly in use in the general population.

King James agreed to authorise and sponsor the translation work and listed specific guidelines. He loathed the Geneva Bible with its notes and explanations, at least in part because it could lead people to question the power of the Church and the Monarchy. James ardently believed in the “Divine Right of Kings” and refused to countenance any challenge to his authority. His guidelines to the translators ensured that there was no threat to his authority or the authority of his state church. (See the list detailed:

Fifty four leading Church scholars were selected to work on the translation, but only forty seven actually ended up doing the work. They were divided into six groups working in three locations: Westminster, Oxford and Cambridge. They were instructed to consider available texts in Hebrew and Greek, as well as Latin texts. They were to also use and compare English versions available - even though these had previously been banned and people burned at the stake for their possession - including Tyndale’s Bible (1526), Coverdales’ Bible (1535), Matthew’s Bible (1537), Great Bible (1539), Geneva Bible (1560), Bishop’s Bible (1568). Translations in other languages were also considered. A great deal of the New Testament language comes straight from the formerly banned Tyndale translation with many of its phrases and expressions permanently entering into the English language.

The translators took seven years to complete their work, in spite of opposition, lack of funding (the King did NOT pay the translators - he approved their work but provided not funds for the project - that support came through the Church). There is NO evidence that King James actually authorised this version to be read and used in his State Church - the Church of England, though he did authorise the translators to produce it.



A remarkable discovery was made in March this year (2011) in the small Anglican village church of St Laurence, in Hilmarton, Wiltshire, England.

On a table, near the last row of pews, was an old Bible that had been there, on display, for as long as members could remember. It was a large old Bible and no one had really shown much interest in it or examined it - even though a notice above the Bible declared that it was a 1611 Bible discovered in a Parish chest in 1857. The notice also stated that the cover had been added and that it was the second of two impression of the original 1611 King James Bible.

It seems that no one knew whether or not to take the notice seriously, but because this year was the 400th Anniversary of the 1611 King James Bible being published, it was decided to check it out. The Bible was taken to Rev. David Smith, at the Museum of the Book in London. Smith confirmed the information that had been on the notice above the Bible in the Hilmarton church. It WAS a second impression 1611 edition of the King James Bible!

Scholars believe there were two impressions or print runs in 1611 of the first edition of the KJV/Authorised Version. Some printing errors were discovered after the first print and were corrected in the second print, but then some other errors were made.

The first and second print or impressions were referred to as the “She” and “He” Bibles - relating to an error in the Book of Ruth: Ruth 3:15 wrongly printed as, “and she went into the citie” in the first printing and corrected to read: “and he went into the citie” in the second printing. However, there was an error in the second printing not present in the first, in Matthew 26:36, which read: “Then commeth Judas with them” instead of, “Then commeth Jesus with them.” This apparently was the reading identified in the old Hilmarton church Bible. For some 150 years a most treasured, valuable Bible had been lying on the table - in full view, but largely ignored. That has all changed!



Well-known atheist, Christopher Hitchens, has come out in praise of the impact of the King James Bible version. He hasn’t changed his atheism, but in a 3-page (online) article in Vanity Fair, When the King Saved God, he gave a sound background of the history of KJV’s development, and particularly, William Tyndale’s contribution to it. He describes the language of the King James version as having a timeless quality, illustrating his article with appropriate examples of the literary quality of this Bible version, regarding some of the modern versions as “flat” and inadequate by comparison.

“Though I am sometimes reluctant to admit it, there really is something “timeless” in the Tyndale/King James synthesis. For generations, it provided a common stock of references and allusions, rivaled only by Shakespeare in this respect. It resounded in the minds and memories of literate people, as well as of those who acquired it only by listening...A culture that does not possess this common store of image and allegory will be a perilously thin one.”

Hitchens went on to reflect: “At my father’s funeral I chose to read a similarly non-sermonizing part of the New Testament, this time an injunction from Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” As much philosophical as spiritual, with its conditional and speculative “ifs” and its closing advice—always italicized in my mind since first I heard it—to think and reflect on such matters: this passage was the labor of men who had wrought deeply with ideas and concepts.”

He also made a passing reference to Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses and their use of the King James Bible.

While we may not agree with everything Hitchens had to say, his article was well presented and thought-provoking, as well as informative. (Read the whole article at:



In contrast to Christopher Hitchen’s honest appraisal of the King James Bible in its historical and culture context is the rather pathetic and cynical effort of another British atheist, Anthony Grayling.

Jumping on the 400th Anniversary “bandwagon” he decided to produce his own “Bible”. Apparently unable to come up with anything unique of his own, he plagiarised material and concepts from all over the place, cobbled it all together and called it: The Good Book - A Humanist Bible. He mimicked the title of Christianity’s sacred writing, calling his book, a Bible; copied the KJV and subsequent presentation styles with two columns per page, chapters and verses; and he even used some of the titles (and close to) of some of the sections of the Bible in his twelve sections: Genesis, Histories, Wisdom, The Sages, Parables, Consolations, Lamentations, Proverbs, Songs, Epistles, Acts.

Philosophy professor A.C. Grayling lacks any originality, except in some of his, rather arrogant, claims. He has failed to impress others with his book, which apart from borrowed styles and titles, consists of “non-religious” quotes and texts from classical writers of the past (ignoring the religious beliefs that many had in numerous deities, and sometimes mentioned in other parts of some of the texts). He has annoyed other academics (and non-academics) by having no references in his book for all his quotes.

His book received some scathing reviews from “thinking” reviewers.

David Sexton, writing for the London Evening Standard, commented: “Grayling, a long-haired professor of philosophy at Birkbeck, has manufactured a parody Bible all by himself. He has said that the only difference in the making of his Good Book and the real Bible is that his (in which the source texts are all secular) was "put together by one person in one lifetime whereas the Bible emerged from editing done by many people over many centuries". He seems to have the fantastic hubris to think that this fact makes his version better...The Good Book is unreadable, not merely just because it is boring but because it is nauseating. Grayling has selected all the great texts from the past he can find that do not have any religious aspect to them whatsoever...But then Grayling has pureed them all. He has supplied no way for the reader to tell what’s what - no references whatsoever. Moreover, he has meddled, recasting them in his own banal modern English. "I don’t think there is a line in the whole thing that hasn’t been modified or touched by me," he says proudly. It’s the disco-remix from Hell. You suddenly realise that what you are reading is nothing other than a dud translation of a poem you know well - by Horace, Leopardi, Goethe or Li Po - as channelled by Grayling himself, far from an inspiring writer at the best of times. The Good Book is dogged pastiche. All of the main divisions of the Bible are emulated, from Genesis, through Lamentations and Proverbs, to Acts, Epistles and a last chapter titled simply The Good, which Grayling admits is "largely me". The parts where he appears to have made up the gospel of AC all by himself are even worse...”
(See Sexton’s full article:

Genevieve Fox, writing for the British Telegraph, comments: “If one of our most virulent public opponents of organised religion – and, it was announced yesterday, the next president of the British Humanist Association – could be accused of a sin, pride might spring to mind. "If I hadn’t acknowledged that I had edited the sources and counted myself among them," counters Grayling, "it would have been disingenuous. It is not out of a vaunting sense of being up there with them. I am a humble member of the team."
(See - reprinted in Perth’s The West Australian, April 21, 2011, p.20)

Michael Giltz attempts to give Grayling’s book a positive spin, but also comments: “rayling does himself no favors with his foreword, here called an Epistle, which is written in such a grand, high-flown style and with such immodest ambition ("its aspiration and aim the good for humanity and the good of the world") that a casual reader might even call it a sin of pride. (Ha!)...I do wish he’d offered at least a select bibliography of the works he has culled his text from, rather than just a list of names.”

Grayling has visited Perth, Western Australia, and was speaker at the Perth Writers’ Festival of 2010. He speaking at the University of WA Extension programme during May this year (2011)

A small, old, booklet: Incidents, Anecdotes and Facts Concerning A Wonderful Old Book, recounts a brief story that fits in with Grayling’s poor substitute: “An infidel [atheist] publisher sent a young man a packet of agnostic literature. The young man replied, returning the literature, as follows:- “Dear Sir -- If you have anything better than the Sermon on the Mount, the parable of the Prodigal Son, and that of the Good Samaritan; or if you have any code of morals better than the Ten Commandments, or anything more consoling and beautiful than the 23rd Psalm or, on the whole, anything that will throw more light on the future and reveal to me a Father more merciful and kind than the New Testament reveals -- send it along.” He has not received anything further from the infidel!”

As Genvieve Fox concluded in her article: “The Bible remains a remarkable book and I am going to go on reading it.”

(TACL Mar-Apr - 2011 Vol. 32 No. 2)