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The King James Version

Lesson #20

Victor M. Eskew




A.    The first edition of the King James Version (KJV) was issued in 1611.


B.      The KJV continues to be a very popular version of the Bible.  NOTE:  It usually tops out as one of the top three best-selling Bibles each year.


C.     Many believe that this English version is the standard by which all other versions should be judged.  One, however, stated:  “But it is not the original Bible.  The translators worked neither by inspiration nor with special divine approval” (The English Bible from KJV to NIV, Jack P. Lewis, p. 68).


D.    There were English Bibles before the KJV.

1.      1526:  William Tyndale’s New Testament

2.      1535:  Myles Coverdale’s Bible (OT, NT, and Apocrypha)

3.      1537:  Tyndale-Matthews Bible

4.      1539:  The Great Bible

5.      1560:  The Geneva Bible

6.      1568:  The Bishop’s Bible




A.    At the Hampton Court Conference in 1604, John Reynolds, the Puritan president at Corpus Christi College asked King James VI for a new translation of the Bible.


B.      A resolution came forth for a new translation.


C.     In July of 1604, James wrote Bishop Bancroft asking him to appoint 54 men to make a translation of the Bible.  Although 54 were appointed, only 47 took part in the work of translating.


D.    Four years were spent in preliminary translation by six groups.


E.      Following this, nine months were spent at Stationer’s Hall in London to review and revise the work by two men each from Westminster, Cambridge, and Oxford Companies.


F.      The final revision was completed by Myles Smith and Thomas Bilson, with a Preface supplied by Myles Smith.


G.     The completed work was issued in 1611.


H.    This work was revised numerous times throughout the years:  1612, 1613, 1616, 1629, 1638, 1659, 1660, 1683, 1727, 1762, 1769, 1873, 1932, and 1962.

1.      Our current KJV differs from the 1611 edition in many details.

2.      The 1611 edition included the Apocrypha.

a.      The 1629 edition was the first to drop the Apocrypha.

b.      The Apocrypha was officially removed in the KJV in 1885.

3.      We would have a little difficulty reading the English of the 1611 edition.

a.      “The original 1611 A.D. text, written in Early Modern English, shows the language with its Latin influence. Spelling was in Jacobean style which was not entirely standardized, but could be read phonetically. The original typeface was in Gothic style” (https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/King-James-Bible-English/ 

b.      Example:  John 3:16 - 16 ¶ For God so loued þe world, that he gaue his only begotten Sonne: that whosoeuer beleeueth in him, should not perish, but haue euerlasting life.




A.    It is not completely intelligible to all readers.


B.      There have been discoveries of additional manuscripts since the KJV was translated.

1.      Of the five primary uncial manuscripts now received for the purity of the next of the New Testament, only one Codex existed for the KJV translators, the Codex Bezae.

2.      Papyrus discoveries came 300 years later.

3.      The King James scholars could have known fewer than 25 late manuscripts of the Old Testament.


C.     Biblical archaeology has shed light on the Biblical text since the KJV was translated.


D.    The development of comparative Semitics


E.      Changes in the English language




A.    “Additions” to the text  (NOTE:  These additions are viewed as omissions from the modern translations of the Bible).

1.      Matthew 7:21, 18:11; 23:14; Mark 7:16; 9:44, 46; 11:26; Luke 17:36; 23:17; John 5:4; Acts 8:37, 15:34; 24:7 28:29, Romans 16:24

2.      Partial additions:

a.      Openly (Matt. 6:4, 6, 18)

b.      Without a cause (Matt. 5:22)

c.       Him that liveth for ever and ever (Rev. 5:14).

d.      Of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 3:14)

e.       Who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (Rom. 8:1)

f.        For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever (Matt. 6:13).

g.      The italicized word “unknown” before “tongue” (I Cor. 14:2, 4, 13, 14)


B.      Word and phrases omitted from the KJV:

1.      Nor the son (Matt. 24:36)

2.      By the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:25)

3.      The Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7)

4.      Judge (I John 2:23)


C.     Poor renderings in the KJV:

1.      Unicorn (Deut. 33:17; Ps. 22:21)

2.      Witch instead of sorceress (Exo. 22:18; Deut. 18:10)

3.      Hades is always translated as “hell.”

4.      The word for demons is translated as “devils.”

5.      “God save the king” (I Sam. 10:24), a British expression, is better, “Let the King live” (Cf. I Kings 1:31).

6.      “Give up the ghost” (Gen. 25:8) is better “to expire.

7.      Easter (Acts 12:4) should be “Passover.”

8.      The word “doulos” is translated as “servant” and is better translated “slave.”

9.      The Greek word “agape” is translated “charity” in 26 of his 312 occurrences.


D.    Multiple spellings of names and places:

1.      Seth and Sheth

2.      Agar and Hagar

3.      Noe and Noah

4.      Jonah, Jona, and Jonas

5.      Judas, Judah, Juda, and Jude

6.      Tyrus and Tyre

7.      Sina and Sinai

8.      Phoenicia and Phenice

9.      Kidron and Cedron


E.      Coinage, when it is not transliterated, is British in the KJV:  pound, pence, penny, mites, shekels, and talent.


F.      Lack of uniformity in translation:

1.      Miracles put for signs

2.      Soul and life

3.      Serve and worship

4.      Reckon, impute, account

5.      Coming, appearing, manifestation

6.      Dabhar is rendered by 84 English words

7.      Katargein appears 27 times and is rendered 17 different ways.


G.     Some phrases are not easily understood:

1.      And Jacob sod pottage (Gen. 25:29)

2.      Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing (Ps. 5:6)

3.      I trow not (Luke 17:9)

4.      Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels (II Cor. 6:12)

5.      The word of the wise are as goads (Eccl. 12:11)


H.    Some words are difficult:

1.      Ouches of gold (Exo. 28:11)

2.      Meteyard (Lev. 19:35)

3.      Wimples (Isa. 3:22)

4.      Sottish (Jer. 4:22)

5.      Cast clout (Jer. 38:12)

6.      Others:  chode, shapt, habergeon, hosen, kob, knob, ligure, nard, neesed, raca, fry, cracknels, musings, mufflers, corban

7.      “Mean man” (Prov. 22:29) meant common man, but now it means cruel man.

8.      Coasts now means the borders of the sea, but it used to mean district (Matt. 16:13).

9.      Suffer means to permit (Matt. 19:14).

10.  Conversation means our speech, but in times past meant manner of living (Phil. 1:27).




A.    In short, the truth is that the reader of the KJV reads into it the meaning he has been taught to receive.  Its expounders read its words and then say, ‘Now the real meaning is…’” (The English Bible, Lewis, p. 67).  (NOTE:  It is important to note that this is done with all translations, but not to the extent of the KJV because the English is older).


B.      Do we understand what we read because we understand the actual wording of the KJV, or because someone told us that this is what the words mean?  “Would it not be simpler and better to have a translation which would at the first reading, without comment, suggest what the writer intended?” (The English Bible, Lewis, p. 61).