Was the King James Bible Published on May 2nd, 1611?

I have a confession, I depended on Google to verify the publication date of the King James Bible when I posted my recent video review of Dr. Donald Brake’s A Visual History of the King James Bible. I had heard the date May 2, given for the publishing of the KJB from the Haven Today radio interview of Dr. Brake. I Googled and found that several other sites were saying May 2 was “the date”.

I came across this blog post, where the blogger directly asked Dr. Brake if May 2nd was the date. Here’s an excerpt from his post and I think this answers the question.

David Norton in his book A Textual History of the King James Bible says “The printing history of the KJB is plagued throughout by inadequate publishing records. Presumably because it was considered a revision rather than a new book, the first edition was not entered on the Stationers’ Registers, so we do not know when in 1611 it appeared.” (page 46)

Norton’s book was published in 2005 so I thought maybe some new evidence had surfaced which fixed the date to May 2nd. I immediately thought of Donald Brake. After reading his first book, A Visual History of the English Bible, I had emailed him a couple of questions and he quickly provided me with answers. Since he just published a book specifically on the history of the King James Version (A Visual History of the King James Bible) I thought I would try him again. Two days later came his reply. Here’s what he wrote:

“The actual date of the publication is unknown. Tradition has placed it in May but no specific date can be verified. We know it was being sold in November from a diary of a resident in England, a Mr. Throckmorton. I believe David Norton is correct and I too am puzzled by the fact it was not in Stationer’s Registers. They were generally disciplined to include all new publications. I question the reason ‘because it was considered a revision rather than a new book.’ While it was designed to be a revision of the Bishops’ Bible as clearly stated in the Introduction, few would consider it an actual revision of the Bishops’. The translators consulted most of the 16th century Bibles (as set forth in the 15 rules for translators) plus the Greek and Hebrew texts. Having said that, I don’t have a better explanation. Perhaps it was released over a period of time as the copies were sold.”

As it turns out Brake was in DC during May 2nd and 3rd for a celebration of the KJV anniversary. The date, he said, was a “date the anniversary committee decided as the official day.”…

[Read the whole post]


The King James Bible Trust

This being the year of the King James Bible’s 400th anniversary, celebrations of the enduring legacy of the King James Bible are planned all over the world. In England, the King James Bible Trust has been founded, and they are trying to educate the people of England about the literary treasure that is the King James Bible.

If you haven’t already been to the King James Bible Trust’s website, you really should give it a look. There is a wealth of historical information, and several interesting projects they are doing. The YouTube Bible Project seems especially intriguing. They are hoping to get video clips of people reading thorugh each chapter of the King James Bible uploaded to YouTube. I might have to try my hand at that and share my entry here with you all. [As a complete sidenote, I noticed that the University of Michigan’s website for the King James Bible text is what the Trust recommends to readers for their project. As a big Michigan fan, I thought that was great!]

Here are the stated aims of the Trust from their PDF brochure, available for free download.

The King James Bible is the book that changed the world. For 400 years its words have rung out across the length and breadth of Britain – its phrases on the lips of millions, its cadences the music of English literature. In America it inspired the rhetoric of politicians from Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King, and has thus been a potent weapon in the struggle for freedom and social justice.

Yet the King James Bible has become – in its own telling phrase – ‘a prophet without honour’ in the country of its birth and one of the most important books in the English Language has practically disappeared from state schools.

Our aim is to raise awareness of what has been, for too long, one of Britain’s best-kept secrets. It is impossible to understand the history and culture of this country without a knowledge of the King James Bible, and so we intend not only to re-awaken memories among the older generation, but to lay down new memories for the young.

There will be many celebrations through the year, but we also want to leave a legacy to ensure that the King James Bible lives on for future generations.

Education will play a key role in achieving these aims. We have already funded the development of 3 modules for the Religious Education curriculum, and we also want the King James Bible to take its proper place elsewhere in the curriculum, so that children from all backgrounds will have the chance to encounter its power and beauty.

Kevin Bauder Celebrates the 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible

Kevin Bauder, who is no friend of King James Onlyism, nevertheless explains why he thinks the King James Bible is the best available translation and the one he chooses to use. His thoughts on the King James Bible are shared in light of the 400th anniversary of the publishing of the King James Bible this year. I have excerpted his thoughts below, but encourage you to read the whole thing over at Sharper Iron. There are some interesting thoughts shared on the subject in the comments there too, which may be of interest to our readers.

The clarity of a translation is important—especially for Holy Scripture. Clarity, however, must not be reduced to mere “readability.” If the tradeoff for clarity is a significant loss of precision, then the price may well be too high. We should not feel obligated to make the Scriptures more clear than God Himself did.

The translator helps nothing when he attempts to resolve vagueness or ambiguity by making interpretive decisions for the reader. To assert that “God says” is miles away from humbly suggesting that, “I think this means….” Translators necessarily do the former, which means that they must resist the temptation to insert the latter.

The King James Version strikes a very good balance between accuracy and clarity. In spite of occasional failures (largely enforced by King James’s own dictates), the translation is remarkable both for its precision and for its intelligibility. Anyone who can understand Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book can understand the text of the King James Version.

The translators of the King James Version went beyond balance, however. What they produced is not merely a good translation. Their work is critically regarded as one of the great literary masterpieces of the English language. By translating at a high literary level, they have followed biblical writers such as Asaph and Isaiah, who were themselves masters of literary excellence. The glories of the Psalms and Prophets must not be lost to abecedarian translational technique. In the King James Version, they are not lost. Indeed, the cadences and locutions of the King James Version have seeped deeply into the heart of the English-speaking world.

Translations should reflect the literary level of the original text, and even the Greek of the New Testament was not really ordinary speech. It was not the Greek that one would hear in the shambles or even that one can read in the papyri. It was more formal, and at times it was crafted carefully according to literary considerations (the writer to the Hebrews is a master of literary technique).

Some are bothered by archaisms in the text of the King James Version. They need not be. Most of those archaisms are fairly easy to decipher. By performing that task, contemporary readers are imitating the original readers of many biblical documents. What is more, the archaisms serve a valuable purpose. They teach us that Scripture did not just come into being yesterday. They underline the truth that Scripture provides enduring answers to permanent questions. The Bible is not a book to be perused for momentary amusement, but one to be studied for life.

In the case of truly obsolete language, the King James Version can and should be updated. It has been before. It can be again. The work should be undertaken with reverence, not merely for the content of what is revealed, but for the locutions of the King James Version itself. No more should be changed than is really necessary. The people who would perform this task would place all readers of English in their debt.

It will never happen. The New King James Version fails by making changes that are unnecessary and sometimes banal. It is the worst of all possible worlds. No other translation, however, is likely to do better. The problem is that a version incorporating only necessary changes could never obtain an exclusive copyright. No publisher could hold exclusive rights to it. With no large sums to be made from a gentle revision, the printing houses will distribute and the pious will receive only a continuing stream of translations du jour.

Therein lies the real problem with the proliferation of modern translations. Few of them are objectionable in their own right. Most of them contribute something, and most are worthy of being consulted by readers who cannot understand the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. In the multiplication of translations, however, today’s Christians have lost significant intelligibility in sharing the Scriptures with one another.

Worse, the comparison of versions has made the Word of God into a consumer commodity. In order to attract the purchasing public, every new translation, paraphrase, and amplification has to have its own signature features. Its publisher must convince readers of the in-sufficiency of all previous versions. The purchase of a Bible becomes akin to the selection of a designer tie or perfume. One chooses a version like one chooses a flavor of soda. How can the transitory nature of modern versions not cast aspersion upon the enduring nature of God’s Word, and, consequently, of His character?

In sum, a good version of the Bible will be accurate, but it will not oversimplify. It will choose elevated language because it aims to shape feeling as well as thinking. It should be widely used and readily shared. It must leave the reader with the impression that the book wasn’t just written yesterday. It ought to be just a bit archaic.

In my opinion, the King James Version is the only translation of Holy Scripture into English that meets these criteria. It is not just a good version, it is a great one. It is both a great translation and a great work of literature. For me, the use of the King James Version is not simply a matter of nostalgia or sentimentality. It is unsurpassed for use in the corporate church setting, and it is as good as any for private devotional reading.

If others think differently, then they may use any faithful version without offending me. If I am preaching in their church, I will honor the church’s choice of Bible. At one level, it is a joy to have many good versions at our beck and call. All the same, I wonder how many of those versions will be celebrated four hundred years from now.

Don’t forget to read Bauder’s entire piece: “Four Hundred Years”.