The Origin of the Title “The Authorized Version” for the KJV

I have long thought that the proper term for the King James Version is “the Authorized Version.” At times, I’ve wondered if that title isn’t more of a British title, since most Americans prefer “King James Version” or simply the “King James Bible.” But I recently read a historical essay by David Bebbington, professor of History at the University of Stirling, Scotland, in which he points out the fact that the King James Version was not always known as “The Authorized Version.” Bebbington’s essay, “The King James Bible in Britain from the Late Eighteenth Century,” appears in a collection of important historical essays published by Baylor University Press (2011) under the title, The King James Bible and the World It Made (edited by David Lyle Jeffrey).

Bebbington argues convincingly that the King James Bible did not enjoy universal acclaim in the eighteenth century until the very end of that period. In a post at my personal blog, I excerpted Bebbington’s conclusion, which argues that “the enthusiasm for the translation of 1611 rose and fell with the growth and decay of Romantic sensibility.” In the excerpt provided below, I would like to quote his description of how the title “the Authorized Version” came to be used for the King James Bible.

A fourth explanation of the rising tide of admiration for the translation of 1611 was its redefinition as “the Authorized Version.” The title emerged for the first time in a debate provoked by the creation of the [British and Foreign] Bible Society. Whereas the society’s evangelical supporters considered the new agency a bulwark of the existing social order, the High Church party thought it a sinister development. It threatened the work of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, the established Anglican organization for circulating the Scriptures. Furthermore, the timing was unfortunate. During 1804, the year of the society’s foundation, Napoleon’s forces were poised to invade the country, and in the heightened alarm, the equal presence of Dissenters alongside Churchmen on the society’s committee seemed poentially subversive. Had not Dissenters once killed an English king, Charles I? Thomas Sikes, the High Church vicar of Guilsborough, Northamptonshire, warned that, when the production of the sacred text was being entrusted to “sectaries,” nobody could be confident that they would not tamper with the translations. In order to calm such fears, John Owen, one of the society’s secretaries, replied that the organization was limited to producing versions “printed by authority.” When an opponent pointed out that this restriction had not been stated formally, the society hastened in May 1805 to revise its constitution so as to read, “The only copies in the languages of the United Kingdom to be circulated by the Society, shall be the authorised version, without note or comment.” Thus the phrase “the authorized version” was launched on the world as an apologetic device for the Bible Society. By 1819 the phrase had been heard so often that it crept for the first time into the Times newspaper, though still with a lowercase “a,” showing that it was not yet a title. The steady growth of the usage is documented in the number of times in each subsequent decade the phrase occurred in the Times: 1820s, 7; 1830s, 41; 1840s, 61; 1850s, 91. By the last of these decades, the expression was starting to be capitalized, demonstrating that it had emerged as a title. Thereafter “the Authorized Version” became the standard term for the 1611 Bible in Britain, where the phrase “King James Bible” was hardly ever used. The new title surrounded this particular text, as it was originally intended to do, with an aura of unique legitimacy. It helped forward the process by which the version became embedded more deeply in the national culture. (pg. 53-54)

You can pick up a copy of this book at any of the following online retailers: CBD, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Baylor University Press.

Disclaimer: This book was provided by Baylor University Press for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.

“The Best Cure for KJVOism: A Real 1611 KJV” by Doug Kutilek

The following article is reprinted with permission from “As I See It”, Volume 14, Number 6, June 2011, a free monthly newsletter published by Doug Kutilek. Subscription information is available here at the author’s website: KJVOnly.Org. Note: our posting of this article does not imply our complete endorsement of all particulars contained therein.


 

The Best Cure for KJVOism: A Real 1611 KJV

It has been widely publicized that the year 2011 is the 400th anniversary of the original publication of the so-called “Authorized” or “King James Version” of the Bible in English. This translation has historically been the most widely used, at least since it overtook the previous champion, the Geneva Bible of 1560 (chiefly, at least initially, as a result of the legal suppression of the printing of the Geneva Bible by the British monarchy, in favor of the KJV). It should be noted, however, that the great majority of the editions and copies of the KJV printed and read in the past 400 years have been revisions rather than reprints of the original form of the KJV, with literally tens of thousands of revisions in spelling, punctuation and the use of italics, plus many hundreds in the precise wording of the text, to say nothing of the switch from “black letter” (“Gothic”) type to Roman, the widespread omission of the Apocrypha in the 18th and later centuries, along with the omission of an extended calendar and charts of Biblical genealogies, and most unfortunately, the omission of the extremely important and informative introductory essay, “The Translators to the Readers,” which was in the original edition. In short, most KJV users, particularly those who claim to be “King James Version 1611 Only” in their beliefs, have never actually seen or used a real 1611 King James Version in the original form in which it was issued from the press in 1611.

In the past, there have been from time to time facsimile reprints of the 1611 KJV. In 1833, “The Holy Bible, an exact reprint page for page of the Authorized Version published in the year 1611” was printed at the University Press, Oxford; it was in Roman type (see A. S. Herbert, Historical Catalogue of Printed Editions of the English Bible 1525-1961. London: British and Foreign Bible Society, 1968; p. 377). In 1911, the University Press at Oxford issued two 1611 reprints–the first a facsimile (in black letter) in reduced size of the original 1611 KJV, the other an exact reprint page-for-page but in Roman type, of the 1611 edition, both with introductory essays by A. W. Pollard (see Herbert, p. 458). I have owned a copy of the 1911 Roman type reprint for almost 35 years.

This 1911 Roman type reprint was reissued in the 1970s (or early 1980s) by Thomas Nelson of Nashville, about the time they issued their New King James Version (and for a time Nelson sold the two volumes together in a slipcase). This reprint omitted the Pollard essay (and perhaps other features–I gave my copy to one of my sons a few years ago and cannot check it directly). Later–probably in the 1990s–, Hendrickson Publishing (the publishing arm of Christian Book Distributors) also reprinted the1911 Roman type edition (in precisely the form Nelson had). These two recent reprints are easy to find via the internet.

Besides these, there have been over the years several full-sized facsimile reprints of the 1611 KJV by various publishers; my brother has a copy of one made in the 1950s, for which he paid $350, used, a decade ago. Such full-sized facsimiles are rarely met with and are generally rather pricey (in the hundreds or even many hundreds of dollars)

Now, another edition, widely available and quite inexpensive, has appeared, this made by Zondervan and sold at Wal-Mart (and perhaps other retail outlets). The ISBN is: 978-0-310-44029-1. It is a facsimile–an exact reproduction in the original black letter script–of the 1611 edition, but in a reduced size, and with one feature of the original omitted–the thirteen books of the Apocrypha (as noted on p. viii of the Introduction to this new edition). That the 1611 KJV originally did have the Apocrypha can be visually confirmed in this edition on the page containing Malachi 4, where the “catch-word” at the bottom of the page is “APO-“ which points to “APOCRYPHA” which is at the top of the page in the original (and in my 1911 reprint), after which originally followed the complete text of those non-canonical books).

The printed retail price of this Zondervan 2011 facsimile reprint is $7.99, though I have bought several copies at Wal-Mart in Kansas for $4.97 and I have heard it priced about a dollar higher elsewhere (and I suspect they hope to make a profit on the publication of the KJV at that price). I would strongly urge EVERY PREACHER, EVERY CHRISTIAN READER and EVERY CHURCH AND CHRISTIAN COLLEGE LIBRARY to get a copy AT ONCE. If you have any KJVO friends, buy and give them a copy. There is no quicker cure for KJVOism that the direct and extended study of the 1611 edition, introductory material and all.

One finds in the actual, original, genuine 1611 KJV (no doubt “preserved in the form God wants us to have”) an introductory essay that states the translators’ perspective on their own and other translations (they, at least, were decidedly NOT “KJVOnly”). If I could do just ONE thing, I would make every KJVO partisan read carefully those 11 highly informative pages. The original translator’s English Bible text has literally thousands of variant marginal renderings (showing that they did not believe their translation as found in the text was infallibly correct), plus variant manuscript readings, showing that they did not believe that the manuscript reading given in their text was necessarily always right. One will also find numerous places where words are “omitted,” “added” or altered as compared with all modern editions of the KJV, to say nothing of a considerable number of printer’s errors (are these also part of the “perfect preservation” we hear so much about?). And one can discover on the title page of the NT those revealing words: “cum privilegio” (Latin: “with privilege”) which demonstrate the undeniable fact that this translation was COPYRIGHTED FROM THE DAY IT WAS FIRST PUBLISHED (contrary to the gross misrepresentation on this point that is part of the accepted KJVO “wisdom”).

I am quite sure that the quickest “cure” for the absurdity of KJVOism is the close and careful study of the actual original KJV itself. I would challenge–even dare–every KJVO partisan to get this facsimile of the original KJV and study it “cover to cover” and margin to margin, spending a year and more in the process, and try to prove me wrong.

—Doug Kutilek

© Copyrighted by the author. Reprinted by permission. Posted in full, with no alterations (other than adding the picture of the KJV 1611 reprint).


Note: You can purchase a copy of the Zondervan fascimile at the following online retailers: Amazon.com, Christianbook.com, or direct from Zondervan.

The King James Commentary Book Giveaway (week 4)

Week 4 Giveaway Details

This is the final week to enter for a chance at a free Zondervan King James Commentary set, compliments of Zondervan. There’s one more set waiting for one more lucky winner. I want to thank Andrew Rogers again for sponsoring the giveaway.

I wanted to have some fun though with the entry form this week. You’ll call me crazy, I’m sure. But filling out the form may be a bit more fun than the last three weeks. Thanks again for reading our blog, and putting up with everything around here! Oh, and there are ways to get extra entries in the contest this week again, just be sure to fill out the entire form and you’ll see the details.

For more info on the commentary set, go on over to Zondervan’s product page for the commentary set, and look around. To purchase a copy of the commentary, if you’ve given up hope for winning the contest, you can do so at Amazon.com or direct from Zondervan.

Thanks again, and I hope everyone had fun with the March King James Commentary Book Giveaway.

[If you’re in the mood for filling out giveaway forms and you like free books, you should bookmark Zondervan’s Koinonia blog, where they have at least one giveaway a month. Also this week, Christian Focus Publications’ new blog is giving away some theology books to two lucky winners.]

Contest closed. Congratulations to Tom White the winner of this week’s contest.

The King James Commentary Book Giveaway (week 3)

Week 3, Giveaway Details

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. This week, we have another 2 volume set of the Zondervan King James Bible Commentary to give away to one lucky reader.

Once again an extra credit question will earn you additional entries to the contest. Just go on over to Zondervan’s product page for the commentary set, and look around. You may want to search Zondervan’s site too, if needed.

If you can’t stand suspense, and you want to just purchase a copy of the commentary and forget about the contest, you can do so at Amazon.com or direct from Zondervan.

We’ll see who has the “luck of the Irish” and wins the contest this week. Once again, our thanks go to Andrew Rogers of Zondervan for sponsoring the contest.

Congratulations to Harrison Hamada for winning week 3’s contest. Stay tuned for the final contest details later this week. One last chance at this great commentary from Zondervan.

The King James Commentary Book Giveaway (week 2)

Week 2, Giveaway Details

We had a great turnout for the first week’s giveaway. This week, we have another 2 volume set of the Zondervan King James Bible Commentary to give away to one lucky reader.

This week, the extra credit for the contest will be more direct (and require a bit more work). Just go on over to Zondervan’s product page for the commentary set, and click on “Read Sample”. Then you’ll have be looking for Matthew 2 to find the answer for the question on the entry form below. There, I gave you the secret.

If you can’t stand suspense, and you want to just purchase a copy of the commentary and forget about the contest, you can do so at Amazon.com or direct from Zondervan.

One final word about entering the contest. Only one entry will be accepted into the contest. If double or triple entries are received from the same person, all their entries will be rejected.

Contest closed. Congratulations to David Spice for winning this week’s contest!! Stay tuned because we have two more commentary sets to give away, one each for the next two weeks.

The King James Commentary Book Giveaway (week 1)

Book Giveaway Details

I’m pleased to announce that Zondervan has sponsored a special giveaway here at KJVOnlyDebate.com to promote their new Zondervan King James Version Commentary, 2 volume set. Each week throughout the month of March, we will have a contest where one lucky participant will get a free copy of this excellent commentary shipped to their doorstep at no charge.

The Zondervan King James Bible Commentary (2 volumes)

Just in time for the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, Zondervan has released a two volume KJV Bible Commentary set. The team which provided the notes for the Zondervan KJV Study Bible, have worked on this commentary set. Most of the authors are connected with Liberty Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, VA.

This work again is bound in an attracive Zondervan hardcover. There is a two column format and each volume is quite large. The notes deal with the text paragraph by paragraph for the most part, expanding on the notes in the companion study Bible.

From what I’ve seen so far, controversy tends to be avoided and an irenic tone prevails. Explanation is the goal rather than dogmatic indoctrination. It looks to be quite the helpful commentary for most lay teachers. It may be too shallow a work for the expositionally minded pastor, however.

Visit the commentary set’s product page at Zondervan, to learn more and view samples. You can also pick up a copy there or from Amazon.com.

Enter this week’s contest

Contest closed. Congratulations to Kevin Fiske for winning this week’s contest!! Stay tuned because we have three more commentary sets to give away, one each for the next three weeks.