National Geographic Features the King James Bible and Its Legacy

This month, the King James Bible is featured in National Geographic Magazine. You can read the entire article here. The article is written by Adam Nicolson, author of God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible.

For some reason the global impact of the KJV morphs into a discussion of Rastafarianism. But the article is a worthwhile read, nonetheless. My thanks go to James Snapp for alerting me to this article.

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Christianity Today on the Legacy of the King James Bible


The latest issue of Christianity Today features a cover story on the influence of the King James Bible. Mark Noll, the noted evangelical historian, authored the article entitled: “A World Without the King James Version: Where we would be without the most popular English Bible ever”.

The article explores an interesting question. Along the way you will learn things you didn’t know about the KJV. Here’s an excerpt which reveals that the problem of multiple and competing Bible translations is no new problem. Be sure to read the entire article, and check out this interesting quiz.

From about 1650 to 1960, when Protestants memorized the Twenty-third Psalm, they would always recite the last verse this way: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” But if the KJV had not become the favored translation, the memorized words would have depended on translation preference.

For at least 50 years after the KJV’s completion in 1611, various editions of the Geneva Bible, published in 1560, were just as popular. Geneva’s adherents liked the down-home flavor of the translation and its helpful marginal notes. They would have memorized, “Doubtless kindness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall remain a long season in the house of the Lord.” Protestants who wanted to connect with their Catholic neighbors would have memorized this, from the Douay-Rheims translation: “And thy mercy will follow me all the days of my life. And that I may dwell in the house of the Lord unto length of days.”

But Bible readers who wanted to use an officially authorized text—which the KJV never was—would have memorized the Bishops’ Bible of 1568: “Truly felicity and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of God for a long time.”

Of course, Protestants would have continued memorizing Scripture even with several popular translations in existence. But they would have done so privately, sincepublic recitation with several translations could be haphazard—much like it is today. And we would have lost some small sense of connectedness in the church and the broader culture.

~cross posted from my personal blog, Fundamentally Reformed