The Story of the King James Version

Bible: The Story of the King James Version, 1611–2011

Monthly book review

—Reviewed by Patrick Boyle, MA, a retired pastor living in Watford, Hertsferdshire, United Kingdom

 

The most significant book ever published in the English language, the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, celebrates its 400th birthday this year. Its importance cannot be overstated.

Gordon Campbell, professor of renaissance studies at the University of Leicester and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, wrote Bible: The Story of the King James Version. It makes for absorbing reading—concentrating on the story of the text in printing and its history to the present day.

A vigorous discussion on the role of the KJV exists among many denominations. More than 1,000 churches subscribe to an evangelical statement of faith that includes “We believe the King James ‘Authorised’ version of the Bible to be the perfect and infallible Word of God.” He has an illuminating discussion of some absurd claims made for the KJV and the supposed infallibility of its text. Campbell concludes, “Other translations may engage the mind, but the King James Version is the Bible of the heart.”

Among other things Bible: The Story of the King James Version is beautifully printed and easy to read. There are more than 30 illustrations throughout the text with two useful and informative appendices, along with an extensive bibliography and index to the contents.

The reader will be impressed with the understanding that God, in His providence, has preserved the Scriptures throughout thousands of years, and the influence of the Sacred Writings remains. However, there is a very relevant fact that all who wish to communicate the truths of God’s Word have to recognize. The vocabulary of the KJV is not the same as that of contemporary society. To most non-Christians, much of the language of this revered Book is, at best, difficult to understand and at worse unintelligible. There remains an argument for modern translations to make the gospel known and understandable.

Having said that, no one with a feeling for words and good literature will be disappointed with Campbell’s book—and certainly not with the King James Version.

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—Reviewed by Patrick Boyle, MA, a retired pastor living in Watford, Hertsferdshire, United Kingdom

May 2011

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