410 years ago, despite the best efforts of William Tyndale (the excellent biography by David Daniell, is a must), King James VI of Scotland decided – after attending the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland at St Columba's Church in Burntisland, Fife – that a new translation of the Bible into English was the order of the day. Two years later, James acceded to the throne of England.

According to wikipedia, the "newly crowned King James convened the Hampton Court Conference in 1604. That gathering proposed a new English version in response to the perceived problems of earlier translations as detected by the Puritan faction of the Church of England... The translation was by 47 scholars, all of whom were members of the Church of England. In common with most other translations of the period, the New Testament was translated from Greek, the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew text, while the Apocrypha were translated from the Greek and Latin."

In 1611, the new (KJV) Bible was printed.

It is surely redundant to say that the new Bible's affect on both written and spoken English was – and is – profound. Along with Shakespeare's First Folio (published just over a decade later in 1623), the KJV changed English for ever, not least because it codified it, allowing countless idiots subsequently to be able to claim that what wasn't codified (ie regional or dialect English) wasn't proper English...

Anyway, all of that preamble, merely to announce that OUP published two excellent KJV-related titles at the end of last year, and both are books of the week here on RSB: Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language by the prolific David Crystal, and Bible: The Story of the King James Version 1611-2011 by Gordon Campbell.

Readers Comments

  1. Thanks! A big surprise tied into the 400th anniversary of the 1611 King James Version Bible:

    Two scholars have compiled the first worldwide census of extant copies of the original first printing of the 1611 King James Version (sometimes referred to as the "He" Bible). For decades, authorities from the British Museum, et al., have estimated that “around 50 copies” of that first printing still exist. The real number, however, is quite different!

    For more information, you're invited to contact Donald L. Brake, Sr., PhD, at or his associate David Sanford at

    You’re also invited to visit the website for more information.

  2. Andrew Maclarty Sunday 20 March 2011

    With the KJV came much greater freedom to read the Bible. Unfortunately it contains many errors, some from the poor texts that were the only ones available when Erasmus cobbled together the text used by Tyndale. Today we reaad the thoughts of Tyndale in the words of Miles Coverdale, revised again and again until the KJV. When the Codex Alexindrinus became available it at once confirmed what many scholare had been saying, and there were many calls for a revision. In 1645 John LIghtfoot made a speech to the Long Parliament detailing there were over 30,000 errors in the KJV. Most of these were of little consequence but around 200 were serious. Most of these were not corrercted until the 1881 revision, though even then many were left uncorrected. The more significant new translations are almost unheard of, due to the preference for tradition over accuracy. e.g. Rotherham, Young, The Concordant Literal New Testament, and the English version of the German Dabhar version. These last two are outstanding as to accuracy but not so easy to read as the more simplistic versions. Only a few sincere folks have made the effort to read these, but they are of great benefit. There are actually web sites dedicated to attacking these versions !! The people to whom we owe the greatest debt are the textual critics who spent lifetimes researching the Greek and Hebrew texts. Andrew Maclarty.

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