My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Of all English translations of the Bible, the King James Version is certainly the one which has stood the test of time. Four hundred years after it was first printed, the KJV is still loved by many. This book celebrates the accuracy, beauty, and influence of the King James Version of the Bible.
Ryken gives credit where it is due to both Tyndale and Wycliffe, whose translations laid the foundation for the King James Version. Their desire was to translate the Scriptures faithfully so that English speaking people could read and understand God’s Word. The King James Version stands upon the shoulders of these translations as well as a few others such as the Bishops Bible.
Ryken takes the time to give us interesting facts about the translation process. The work was divided among committees, and they were instructed to use the existing English translations and compare them. In fact, that King James Version is a revision of the Bishop’s Bible, which was also compared with the original languages to assure that it was as accurate as possible. The translators also consulted Luther’s Bible, the Latin Vulgate, the Syriac New Testament, Aramaic Targums, and various commentaries. This was indeed a great undertaking that was taken very seriously. Once it was published, it only took fifty years for the KJV to surpass the Geneva Bible in popularity.
Ryken gives a very timely warning to those who accept that there are more accurate Greek manuscripts than those used by the KJV translators. He reminds us that the ones that were used to translate the KJV were by no means bad texts, and that the difference between the Received Text and today’s Critical Text is actually minor. No one is in danger of being misled by the King James Version of the Bible.
The influence of the KJV is extensive. Although it is not named a “Standard Bible”, it is the standard for many English translations. The RSV, NKJV, and ESV are all in the stream of the King James tradition in that they seek to adhere to an essentially literal approach. Another thing that points to the King James Version as a standard is the fact that many who follow the dynamic equivalence translational philosophy find fault with the King James Version and try to show how theirs is in some way superior. This may be a back handed acknowledgement of the KJV as a standard, but it is indeed an acknowledgement that it is.
The KJV has permeated English culture, language, and literature. Billy Graham, one of the world’s foremost evangelists, preached from the KJV. Expressions that are in our everyday speech come from the KJV. Great literature either quotes or has language that is very similar to the KJV. Many writers acknowledge that they used, or are indebted to the KJV. Public inscriptions of Scripture are more often quotations of the KJV than not. Great musicals, poetry, and paintings have been influenced by the KJV. There is no area of English speaking culture that has not been influenced by the KJV.
Ryken calls the KJV the “gold standard for a literary Bible”. The language, cadence, and beauty all show the KJV to be an excellent translation. In fact, many consider the KJV to be a miracle of literary excellence. The one place where Ryken faults the KJV translators is in their printing of poetry as prose. In all, he holds the King James Version in high esteem, as well we all should. He makes an amazing statement when he says, “I do not remember ever having encountered a member of the literary establishment who preferred any English Bible other than the KJV.”
Today we have a proliferation of English Bible translations. One would think that would be a blessing. Ryken, who greatly loves and supports the work of the English Standard Version, declares that “biblical illiteracy has accompanied the decline of the King James Bible.” He states that this is widely acknowledged. He even quotes a colleague who said that even Christian students have become inept at seeing biblical references in literature, because they do not know the KJV and its influence. There is no greater praise to be given to the King James Version by one who is a great supporter of a modern version. In fact, Ryken recommends that Bible readers continue to read the KJV along with their modern version.
Time and space would fail me to say all that could be said about this book. Let it suffice to say that this book is a must read for all who care about literature, whether it be biblical or secular. In fact, I would highly recommend this book for those who are King James Version only believers as well as those who are King James Version critics. Both groups could learn much from this book.
This book provided for review by Crossway with no requirement of a positive review.