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King James Version (KJV)

What is the King James Version (KJV)?

The King James Version (KJV), commonly known as the Authorized Version (AV), is an English-language translation of the Christian Bible that was originally produced for the Church of England begun in 1604 and completed in 1611. The KJV is the most popular English Bible of all-time and it's still the most widely read translation today. It's often noted for its artistic prose and for its influence on the English language. (See more about the Church of England here. See more about the New Testament here)

The KJV was the third English translation of the Bible to be approved by the Church of England. The first was "The Great Bible," which was commissioned in the reign of King Henry VIII. The second was "The Bishops' Bible," produced in 1568. In January 1604, King James I organized the Hampton Court Conference where a new English version of the Bible was born out of the perceived problems of the earlier English translations as detected by the Puritans, a faction within the Church of England. (See King Henry VIII here.)

Translation philosophy

King James gave the Bible translators instructions, which were aimed at making sure that the new English version would conform to Church doctrine, reflect the structure of the Church of England, and uphold the Church's belief in ordained clergy. The translation was accomplished by 47 scholars, all of whom were members of the Church of England. (Learn more about the New King James Version here.)

The New Testament in the KJV is translated from the original Greek text and the Old Testament is translated from the the original Hebrew text. The so-called "Deuterocanonical Books" by Catholics or so-called "Apocrypha" by Protestants were translated from Greek and Latin texts. (See Deuterocanonical Books / Apocrypha here.)

Translation history

Approximately a century after its publication, the KJV was the most popular English translation in Anglican and Protestant churches. During the 1700's, the KJV replaced the Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Bible. The title of the first edition of the translation was,

"THE HOLY BIBLE, Containing the Old Testament, AND THE NEW: Newly Translated out of the Original tongues: & with the former Translations diligently compared and revised, by his Majesties special Commandment."

"King James's Bible" is used as the name for the 1611 translation in Charles Butler's Horae Biblicae, published 1797. Other works from the early 1800's reveal the popular use of this name in Europe and in America. The phrase "King James's Bible" is used as far back as 1715, although in this case it is not clear whether this is a name or merely a description. The use of "Authorized Version" or "Authorised Version," capitalized and used as a name, is found as early as 1814. The Oxford English Dictionary records a usage in 1824.

The 1611 translation is generally known as the "Authorized Version" in England today.

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