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]

The King James Bible Trust


This being the year of the King James Bible’s 400th anniversary, celebrations of the enduring legacy of the King James Bible are planned all over the world. In England, the King James Bible Trust has been founded, and they are trying to educate the people of England about the literary treasure that is the King James Bible.

If you haven’t already been to the King James Bible Trust’s website, you really should give it a look. There is a wealth of historical information, and several interesting projects they are doing. The YouTube Bible Project seems especially intriguing. They are hoping to get video clips of people reading thorugh each chapter of the King James Bible uploaded to YouTube. I might have to try my hand at that and share my entry here with you all. [As a complete sidenote, I noticed that the University of Michigan’s website for the King James Bible text is what the Trust recommends to readers for their project. As a big Michigan fan, I thought that was great!]

Here are the stated aims of the Trust from their PDF brochure, available for free download.

The King James Bible is the book that changed the world. For 400 years its words have rung out across the length and breadth of Britain – its phrases on the lips of millions, its cadences the music of English literature. In America it inspired the rhetoric of politicians from Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King, and has thus been a potent weapon in the struggle for freedom and social justice.

Yet the King James Bible has become – in its own telling phrase – ‘a prophet without honour’ in the country of its birth and one of the most important books in the English Language has practically disappeared from state schools.

Our aim is to raise awareness of what has been, for too long, one of Britain’s best-kept secrets. It is impossible to understand the history and culture of this country without a knowledge of the King James Bible, and so we intend not only to re-awaken memories among the older generation, but to lay down new memories for the young.

There will be many celebrations through the year, but we also want to leave a legacy to ensure that the King James Bible lives on for future generations.

Education will play a key role in achieving these aims. We have already funded the development of 3 modules for the Religious Education curriculum, and we also want the King James Bible to take its proper place elsewhere in the curriculum, so that children from all backgrounds will have the chance to encounter its power and beauty.

A Question Regarding the KJV and “Eis”

I am curious as to why the King James Version translators translated eis as into, unto, for instead of consistently using one word.

For example, when reading verses about baptism, John baptized unto (eis) repentance and preached the baptism of repentance for (eis) the remission of sins.  Peter preached that people should be baptized for (eis) the remission of sins.  Paul said we are baptized into (eis) Christ, and that Israel was baptize unto (eis) Moses.

I cannot see that the word actually has a wide variety of meaning from one of these texts to  another.  It would have been helpful, I think, for it to have been translated with a little more consistency.

Perhaps someone could help me on the whole issue.

Follow Up to the James White–Jack Moorman KJV Debate

Last week’s televised debate between James White and Jack Moorman is now available to watch on demand. I was able to watch it this weekend and was really impressed with White, I thought he won the debate hands down.

White could have also pointed out that other languages beside Greek provide support for many Alexandrian readings, and only limited support for Byzantine readings. Also, the dearth of Greek study in general prior to the Renaissance helped ensure the Byzantine Text (being secreted into Europe with the onslaught of the Muslims against Byzantium) would be the primary text available for Erasmus and his like in the early period of recovering the Greek New Testament text.

I also thought Moorman should have had a better answer handy on the Revelation 16:5 point, which was repeatedly stressed. White did dodge some bullets, but the format makes it hard to address everything carefully.

Care to share your thoughts on the debate? Or did you (like me), miss it the first time round? Give it a watch and then chime in here. UPDATE: A better quality video surfaced on YouTube here.

For those who don’t know, while I’m evaluating the Majority Text position, currently I still am persuaded by the general tenor of the arguments for the modern Greek text behind modern versions, as shared by White and others. I believe our modern text can be refined and should be, but for the most part it is better than the Textus Receptus which preceded it. That’s my personal opinion and not necessarily the opinion of most of my fellow bloggers here at KJVOnlyDebate.com.

James White and Jack Moorman Debate the KJV Live on Revelation.Tv

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James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries and author of The King James Only Controversy will be debating Dr. Jack Moorman, author of Forever Settled and other books defending the King James Bible. The debate will be live on British cable TV and online at www.revelation.tv. It is to be held at 9pm local UK time Feb. 2nd, which translates to 4pm Eastern time here in the US.

You can watch for free online. Click here for more details. I’ve been asked to encourage those interested to send in their email comments or text messages during the debate as a measure of knowing which side is the winner. If you watch the debate, consider chiming in here in the comments and let us know who you thought had the most convincing position and why.