We are living in an era when, as English speakers, we have a multitude of choices when it comes to translations of the Bible. Throughout the history of my Christian journey, I have used many translations for my daily reading, including the New International Version (NIV), New American Standard (NASB), and English Standard Version (ESV). However, the older I get and the longer I’ve studied the Bible, the more I have grown to prefer the King James Version (KJV) and New King James Version (NKJV). Here’s why…
I have come to believe that they are based upon the best collection of ancient manuscripts, known as the Byzantine family of texts. I acknowledge that this is the minority position among conservative Bible scholars today. Yet the fact remains that the Byzantine family is that which has been preserved and cherished by most Christians for the entire history of the Christian church.
Hear me clearly: If you are using a Bible based upon the Alexandrian family of manuscripts (like the NIV, NASB, ESV or NLT), you have a Bible that presents the Gospel clearly and has all the major doctrines of the Christian faith. I am not KJVO (King James Version only).
That said, I like having a Bible in my hand that does not omit certain verses or phrases or question the legitimacy entire sections of the Scripture.
When it comes to the many thousands of manuscripts upon which our English New Testaments are based, there are basically two major “families” of manuscripts: the Byzantine family and the Alexandrian family.
The predominant view among conservative Bible scholars today is to prefer the ALEXANDRIAN family of manuscripts…
My friend George Guthrie, author of Read the Bible For Life, has three worthwhile podcast lectures about the manuscripts behind the King James Version (each lecture is 15-20 minutes):
Last week I completed my reading of the King James Bible. My brief reflections:
1. At times it is amazingly poetic and beautiful. On more than one occasion I thought, “You just cannot improve upon that way of wording it!”
2. At times it is remarkably archaic and difficult. Several times I would have to reread a passage or phrase or consult a dictionary. A few rare times I would sigh and think, “I can’t wait until I finish this project and return to the ESV.”
3. At all times it is inspiring and profitable. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3.16-17).
All in all, I’m VERY glad I took on the challenge of reading the KJV on its 400th anniversary.
May 2, 1611 – The King James Version Bible (KJV) was first published. No other book in the history of the world has had a greater impact than this edition of the Bible. The KJV is a masterpiece from both a literary and a scholarly perspective. Over fifty scholars collaborated in producing this monumental work that has ministered truth to millions over four centuries. Praise be to God for His Word!
I took a quick snapshot of four of my King James Bibles:
Top to Bottom – Calfskin Royal Ruby (Trinitarian Bible Society), Calfskin Windsor Text (Trinitarian Bible Society), Genuine Leather Pilgrim Study Bible (Oxford), Calfskin Executive Series Large Print (Local Church Bible Publishers).
Some of you might be thinking that perhaps you should go buy a new King James Version since this year is the 400th anniversary of the KJV. I recommend you do. But I also recommend that you do not go anywhere to do it. Instead do your homework on the internet and then order one online. The best editions are attained through the mail rather than found in stores. The Bibles you find in your average Christian bookstore are medium to low quality. I recommend you purchase one that will last a lifetime and, therefore, can be passed down to your children and grandchildren. If you want a KJV with that kind of quality binding, you need to choose one of the following: Cambridge (England), R. L. Allan (Scotland), Trinitarian Bible Society (England), or Local Church Bible Publishers (Lansing, Michigan). The former two will require a substantial amount of money, but the latter two are amazingly affordable for the quality of their bindings. Make sure you get a calfskin or goatskin leather binding.
As for my preferences, although I do not have a Cambridge KJV, I do have several Cambridge Bibles and love them. I have one R. L. Allan; it is fabulous. Trinitarian Bible Society (TBS) Bibles are basically reliable workhorses at incredibly low prices. Local Church Bibles are a nice combination of both endurance and luxury. Cambridge and Allan are the cream of the crop, and the pricetag on their Bibles reflect that (and increasingly so with the plunging American dollar vs. the British pound).
If money is no object, then I recommend (based on research from reputable sources) that you look at the goatskin R. L. Allan Long Primer or the R. L. Allan 5c. But be ready to hand over $150-200. Testimonies from owners say that they are worth every penny. I have yet to own a Long Primer, but the 5c I have and it is an amazing little Bible. For about the same amount of money as one Allan Long Primer, you can equip yourself with the same stack of Bibles I’ve pictured above.
Even if you don’t buy a new KJV, if you are a parent, why don’t you take some time today to teach your children about the KJV and it’s impact? I plan to do that this evening. If you need some ideas, try these websites:
As for where to buy a good copy of the KJV online, try these websites:
One of my goals for 2011 is to read 52 books, which, of course, is one book per week. This shouldn’t be too difficult, but considering the fact that I also am attempting to continue my regimen of reading 10 chapters of the Bible per day, it becomes a little more challenging. The first book I read this year was Majestie: The Man Behind the King James Bible by David Teems. I was sent a free copy of this book from Michael Hyatt, President of Thomas Nelson Publishers. 2011 is the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible, so it is probably appropriate that I started the year off with this particular work. I actually finished this book the first week of January, but am just now getting around to posting a short review here on my blog.
The strength of this book is the ability of Teems to tell the story. I found it to be a very entertaining read. Teems does a great job of selecting aspects of the story that keeps the reader engaged, as well as employing the literary tool of foreshadowing to create a hunger for more and to build momentum. He also has a keen ability to make the story light and humorous.
Teems does not have the typical background for a history author. Most Christian history books I read are written either by history professors or pastors with strong history backgrounds, but Teems is a musician by trade with a degree in Psychology and Philosophy. Perhaps this is the reason I found myself disagreeing at times. For example, throughout the book Teems presents the Puritans in a most negative light. This is by no means out of step with most modern historians, but I think a closer look at the evidence reveals that most modern historians are wrong when it comes to assessing the Puritans. If you want a different perspective on the Puritans, a positive one, check out the writings of Leland Ryken, J. I. Packer, and Stephen Nichols on the subject.
In spite of my disagreements with Teems, which are few, I recommend this book as a good one to read this year to get a good portrait of the man who was most influential in seeing the King James Bible come to reality…James Stewart. I’ll give it 4 stars.
Thomas Nelson and the History Channel have teamed up to produce a website celebrating the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible. It includes a Bible Verse of the Day, a daily podcast, and other helpful features. Check it out HERE.