New books herald world’s most famous Good Book

(RNS) Anyone who watched the recent royal wedding in Westminster Abbey heard words and phrases found in the King James Version of the Bible: “vouchsafed” and “thee” and “asunder.” It was a fitting setting as the world celebrates the 400th anniversary of the Bible commissioned by King James I, the successor to Queen Elizabeth I. Commissioned in 1604 and published in 1611, the Authorized Version, known as the King James Version, or KJV, has become one of the most influential books in the English language. It went through several revisions over the years, most recently (and permanently) in 1769. Nashville-base Christian publishing giant Thomas Nelson, one the world's leading publisher of KJV Bibles, has produced a number of commemorative Bibles and books for the celebration, as well as a traveling exhibit of important KJV editions. The exhibit can be seen via virtual tour at

Lofty language of KJV is more common than you might think

(RNS) Twelve phrases believed to have originated in the King James Bible, which celebrates its 400th anniversary this year: “Fight the good fight” (1 Timothy 6:12) “What comes out of the mouths of babes” (Psalms 8:2) “How are the mighty fallen” (2 Samuel 1:19) “To every thing there is a season” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) “Beat their swords into plowshares” (Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:3) “Set thine house in order” (2 Kings 20:1, 2 Kings 20:1) “A still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12 ) “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20) “Suffer little children” (Matthew 19:14, Luke 18:16) “Turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) “A thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7) “Let us now praise famous men” (Sirach 44:1, from the Apocrypha) Source: “Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language,” by David Crystal.

Oops! Printing errors in the original KJV

(RNS) In the days before spell check, printer errors occasionally crept into the King James Version of the Bible. Here are some of the most notable: — In a 1612 edition, Psalm 119:161 read “Printers have persecuted me without cause,” instead of “princes.” Perhaps a Freudian slip by the copy editor. — A 1631 edition now called the “Wicked Bible” had Exodus 20:14 as “Thou shall commit adultery.” The printers were heavily fined for this lascivious mistake.

Chances are thou keepest a KJV in thy house

(RNS) If thou hast a Bible in the house and readeth it at least once a month, chances are strong it's the majestic King James Version of the Bible in Elizabethan English, according to a recent survey. Of the 89 percent of U.S. adults who own at least one Bible, two-thirds of them own a King James, which marks its 400th anniversary this year, according to LifeWay Research, a Nashville-based Christian research agency. Although there are two dozen English-language Bibles in many contemporary translations, the King James Version reigns even more supreme among those who actually read their Bibles: 82 percent of those who read the Good Book at least once a month rely on the translation that first brought the Scripture to the English-speaking masses worldwide. Age makes a difference. Three out of four Bible owners 55 and older have a King James, compared with 56 percent of those under 35, according to the survey of 1,004 adults, conducted March 2-6.

How didst the KJV come to be?

(RNS) The King James Bible, translated from ancient Greek and Hebrew in 1611, is, by virtually all accounts, the most awe-inspiring work of English prose ever written. Over the past four centuries, the KJV has sold more than 5 billion copies. Its exquisite English text has circulated the globe in the hands of missionaries and graced the homes of kings, pastors and peasants. Its lofty language has been repeated over pulpits and podiums, in prayers and poetry, by teachers and travelers. The words are so familiar that some believers may think that's how God actually talks.

Mormon embrace of KJV didn’t come early, or easy

(RNS) Though many early Mormon texts and speeches mirror the English prose of the King James Bible, it was not always the Mormons' only authorized version ofHoly Writ. In fact, Mormon founder Joseph Smith had so many reservations about its language that he stated his new Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believed the Bible to be the word of God “as far as it is translated correctly.” It took more than a century and a half after the church's 1830 founding for the Utah-based LDS Church to make exclusive use of the King James Version “official.” The KJV's move from “commonly used” to “official” began in the 1950s with the leadership of J. Reuben Clark, then a member of the LDS Church's governing First Presidency, explains Philip Barlow in his book, “Mormons and the Bible,” and in an essay in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. In 1952, the New York-based National Council of Churches issued a new translation known as the Revised Standard Version.

For many blacks, there’s only one Bible, and it’s the KJV

(RNS) On Sundays, C. Elizabeth Floyd, shows up for worship at Trinity Baptist Church of Metro Atlanta, with her Bible in hand. But the large, black leather Bible with dog-eared pages and hand-written notes in the margins isn't just any Bible: It's the King James Version. And Floyd, like many African-Americans, wouldn't have it any other way. It's more than mere tradition. A civil rights veteran called the KJV's thees and thous “romantic,” and a scholar spoke of black churches' “love affair” with the king's English.