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.

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]

40% Discount on KJB: The King James Bible – The Book that Changed the World (DVD)


Westminster Bookstore has a special deal on the DVD documentary: KJB: The King James Bible – The Book that Changed the World. This DVD is a first-rate and tells the story of the making of the King James Bible well. I have reviewed the DVD in full here.

At 40% off the regular retail price, this may be the time to pick up this DVD. You can also compare the price at ChristianBook.com and Amazon.com.

Here is the trailer:

King James Bible 1611 Commemorative Edition Giveaway


To continue our celebration of the 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible, we’re going to offer a giveaway of one copy of the King James Bible 1611 Commemorative Edition from Hendrickson Publishers to one of our readers. The contest details are below.

For the bonus question use one of these links (ChristianBook.com or Hendrickson.com), and view a sample chapter. You can also purchase your own copy of the 1611 KJB from those links or from Amazon.com as well.

 

Contest is now closed. Congratulations to Justin Matthews for winning the free KJB 1611 Bible.

In Honor of the 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible: A Video Review of A Visual History of the KJB

Today is the 400th Anniversary of the printing of the King James Bible. In honor of that, I tried my hand at my first video book review. Below, you’ll find a video review of A Visual History of the King James Bible by Donald L. Brake. While there are a few audio glitches, the stunning visual beauty of Brake’s book is put on full display. I hope you’ll consider picking up a copy of this book as a way of celebrating this momentous occasion.


A Visual History of the King James Bible — A Video Review from Bob Hayton on Vimeo.

The book can be purchased from these retailers: Christianbook.com, Amazon.com or direct from Baker Books. Also, be sure to check out Dr. Brake’s other book: A Visual History of the English Bible (Baker Books, 2008).

Disclaimer: This book was provided by Baker Books. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.

~cross-posted from my personal blog, FundamentallyReformed.com.

Dr. Donald Brake Interviewed on the 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible

At Haven Today, a nationally syndicated Christian radio show and podcast, Dr. Donald Brake was recently interviewed on the 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible. Dr. Brake is the author of A Visual History of the English Bible (Baker Books, 2008) and the recently released A Visual History of the King James Bible (Baker Books, 2011).

I just completed reading through this fascinating book and will be putting my review up soon. The 400th anniversary of the King James Bible is next week, May 2nd. Dr. Brake’s interview will be very informative. Here are the links to the interview: Part 1 (April 25, 2011), Part 2 (April 26, 2011). More information is available on the interview at HavenToday.org. These interviews are only about 15 to 20 minutes long minus the commercial breaks (which is just music on the web-player), but they’ll whet your appetite for this book.

To see an excerpt of Dr. Brake’s A Visual History of the King James Bible, click here. You can order the book through Amazon.com, Christianbook.com, or direct from Baker Books.

~cross-posted from my personal blog, Fundamentally Reformed.

Why the King James Bible Endures

This past weekend, The New York Times published an article by Charles McGrath on the King James Bible’s 400th anniversary. The print copy of the article was entitled, “Thou Shalt Not Be Colloquial.” The online copy which is expanded (I think), is entitled, “Why the King James Bible Endures”.

Here is an excerpt. I thought it was interesting how the archaic language adds to the appeal of the KJV today, especially as opposed to the wide array of translations now available. I encourage you to read the entire article.

…There are countless new Bibles available now, many of them specialized: a Bible for couples, for gays and lesbians, for recovering addicts, for surfers, for skaters and skateboarders, not to mention a superheroes Bible for children. They are all “accessible,” but most are a little tone-deaf, lacking in grandeur and majesty, replacing “through a glasse, darkly,” for instance, with something along the lines of “like a dim image in a mirror.” But what this modernizing ignores is that the most powerful religious language is often a little elevated and incantatory, even ambiguous or just plain hard to understand. The new Catholic missal, for instance, does not seem to fear the forbidding phrase, replacing the statement that Jesus is “one in being with the Father” with the more complicated idea that he is “consubstantial with the Father.”

Not everyone prefers a God who talks like a pal or a guidance counselor. Even some of us who are nonbelievers want a God who speaketh like — well, God. The great achievement of the King James translators is to have arrived at a language that is both ordinary and heightened, that rings in the ear and lingers in the mind. And that all 54 of them were able to agree on every phrase, every comma, without sounding as gassy and evasive as the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, is little short of amazing, in itself proof of something like divine inspiration.

Note: image borrowed from the New York Times online article page